If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?
If you ‘Google’ Psalm 11:3, you will find several ideas ranging from the patriotic to the eccentric to even the absurd, appealing to this very popular verse of the Old Testament. Many a well-meaning, and not so well-meaning persons, have used this verse as a springboard to justify their own ideas about how the foundations of our world, nation, government, businesses, or the church are crumbling and what the righteous can do about it. Some point to the removal of prayer from the public school classroom in 1962 as the ruin of our nation’s foundations. Others point to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, or the legalization of gay marriage. Many pastors of various denominations have asked the same question of their churches, following decisions such as permitting woman preachers or the ordination of homosexuals. ‘What can the righteous do?’ is a question that many Christians in the United States have been asking in the wake of the recent presidential election. Radical Christian groups have proposed the idea of gathering in Texas , South Carolina , or Alaska and subsequently seceding from the United States ; others have advocated fleeing the country completely.
Indeed the destruction of any national, business or church entity is the result of their being built upon a faulty foundation. Many a nation that have been built upon the sand of human reason and ingenuity have fallen; many a business built upon greed, have gone bankrupt; many a church built upon the sand of pragmatism, liberalism or psychology are crumbling as a result. However, to ask, ‘what can the righteous do?’ under such circumstances while a good question, is not really what the text of Psalm 11 does.
On the contrary Psalm 11 does not advocate that the righteous do anything, except take refuge in God. Though David’s antagonist in the Psalm is telling him to ‘flee like a bird to the mountain’ (v. 1), David knows better. Rather than being shaken into some extreme action, he knows that his foundation cannot be destroyed. As God told Isaiah (28:16), “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.” Psalm 118:22 reveals that our foundation stone is Christ, “the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” 1 Corinthians 3:11 tells us that, “no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The whole world was made for Him and by Him, and it exists because of Him. In Him we live, move, and have our being. If this foundation were destroyed all things would cease to be. But the righteous can rest in Christ because He is the solid rock foundation of our very lives, who cannot even be shaken, let alone be destroyed. It is this kind of confidence the Psalmist intends to convey to his audience.
Scripture teaches that the foundation of the church is Christ and His Word. Christ and His Word, we are told, are eternal, and will endure forever; they cannot be destroyed (Ps 119:89, Is 40:8, Mt 5:18, 24:35, Jn 12:34); so His church may go weak for a season, which could be God’s chastisement for sin and indifference, but Jesus declares (Mt. 16:18), “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He does not say that the church will not be tried, but that it would remain.
David knows most certainly, that if the foundation be destroyed, there is nothing anybody can do, because the foundation determines everything. The argument He makes in Psalm 11:3 is not that there is a chance that the foundation may be destroyed, so we need an escape plan just in case it happens. Rather this is what is called, Reductio ad absurdum (Latin for “reduction to the absurd”), or reductio ad impossibile, (“reduction to the impossible”). In this type of logical argument, which appears on occasion in Scripture, one assumes a claim for the sake of argument and derives an absurd or ridiculous outcome, (If the foundations are destroyed) and then concludes that the original claim must have been wrong as it led to an impossible or absurd result (What can the righteous do?). Indeed, if Christ, our foundation could possibly be destroyed, then, where can we run? – the mountains, the hills, Texas , South Carolina , perhaps Alaska ? No. Pull our foundation out from under us and we are a people completely without hope. Perhaps that is why the question posed in Psalm 11:3 is unanswered. It is a rhetorical, even absurd proposition. Instead, take heart for even under the worst conditions on earth, the Psalmist assures us, The LORD is in His holy temple, The LORD’s throne is in heaven (Ps 11:4).
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