Psalm 11

Psalm 11 
1 In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain, 2 for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; 3 if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” 4 The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man. 5 The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. 6 Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. 7 For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.

All kinds of images come to our minds when reading the psalms. For me this psalm sounds like David as one of those bratty, rich, prep school kids mouthing off to the fifth graders how his dad is a lawyer and will sue their pants off if they touch him. I remember such kids in school and they were always irritating because they never seemed to have “real” problems that couldn’t be solved by just throwing money at any of them—money they weren’t lacking. Another way to look at this, though, is to see the kind of faith and confidence he has in his rich, caring, competent father. “Just wait till my daddy gets you,” may sound like a kid who needs to be taken to the woodshed, but it is also a kid who believes his dad loves him and will advocate for him. That is, they have a kind of relationship where the child's dependence and the father’s benevolence are both understood and appreciated. David isn’t wondering if the Lord will come through; he is sure of it. Because the I Am is his refuge, he will be fine. Others can talk and threaten all they want, but in the long run, his daddy will get the better.

The immediate question I have is, do I see my relationship with the Father like this? Do I have the confidence in God that David had? Or like Jesus had? Yes, let’s go there for just a minute. What kind of confidence must he have had to be passed out on a sinking ship with twelve full grown men screaming and barking orders, “Get the sails down! Everyone on the starboard side!! Bail, men, BAIL LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!!” (Mk. 4:35ff) No doubt the screaming woke him up and he just rolled over and buried his head in the pillow again. Either Jesus has narcolepsy or he practices what he preaches–”do not be anxious about your life.” (Mt. 6)

Here’s where I go wrong in this. I first feel guilty because I don’t have this confidence. I often don’t believe my Father to be a loving father; I think of him more as an absentee landlord who occasionally shows up if I make enough noise about the running toilet and remind him that he’s paying the water bill after all. Or I think of him as a father who’s always a little disappointed or annoyed that I can’t just stand on my own two feet and fix the toilet myself without becoming a nag. Sadly, I often think of him as a father like, well, me. So after pounding on myself for my stupidity both as a son and a father, I up and try even harder to summon some strength deep inside of me. “I will do better,” I think, and it works for about an hour or maybe a day, but no matter how far I drop the bucket down the well of my innards, I cannot get that strengthening tonic. I just don’t have it.

Maybe you don’t think you’re as far gone as that. Or perhaps you’re wondering if I have any business in ministry–a question I have often pondered. I think the last verse is really what gets us all here: “the upright shall behold his face.” Can any of us really say that we fit into the category of “the upright?” Just a hint if you’re still wondering: ask your spouse, or anyone who’s seen your driving, or heard what comes out of your mouth when you hit your finger with a hammer.

Thank Jesus that the answer to both the problem of our lack of uprightness and the problem of our skewed vision of the Father is not our bootstrapping, but Jesus. David didn’t gain confidence in God by the constraint and discipline of his will, like an olympic wrestler successfully staring down a dozen doughnuts that separate him from making weight. No, David knew God as his refuge by being a refugee and experiencing his protection and sufficiency. He had received the Fathers love and been penetrated by it. I cannot make myself believe all this stuff with mental push ups; I have to let the Holy Spirit convince me through the experience of receiving forgiveness, by experiencing the Father’s tenderness and gentleness again and again and again.

Fear of his disapproval keeps me from exposing myself, from admitting I need him again (that whole annoyed dad, thing). Yet that cosmic wagging finger in my mind’s eye is as fictitious as the next Marvel movie. In truth, the finger doesn’t wag, because it can’t–not with the hole in the hand it is attached to. That is the sign of his invitation; it beckons for my confession and exposure because this is the very way that I will have these lies about him scraped from my heart like plaque in a quadruple bypass. No matter how good a theological diet we have, we’ve all ingested the spiritual cholesterol of this world and it’s hanging on. Better still, there’s no shame in this weakness because when we are weak, then we are strong. Luther was right in the first of his 95 theses which says, “when our Lord and master said, ‘Repent,’ he intended that the whole Christian life be one of repentance.’”

Here’s what’s so beautiful, and what hacks away at this lie about the Lord’s cosmic disappointment with us: I don’t have to give myself the open heart surgery. That uprightness required to see his face, that’s a gift straight from the Lord of glory and straight to us right now, not just some theoretical time in the future when we’ve proven we’re worthy of it. While we get a glimpse of God and his heart through the life of Jesus, it is through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we get his uprightness. That is his marriage proposal. He married us for good even while we’re too bald or overweight or selfish or addicted to shopping and running up credit card bills. His “I do” means that every barrier is removed, including those we imagine.

What is required of us to see God’s face has all been done. I have full access, not because I have blazed the trail through the jungle and survived the onslaught of mosquitos and malaria, not because I’ve ascended the slippery cliffs and scaled the glacier's edge, not because I’ve summeted the coveted mount, not because I’ve slain the dragon of my own sin or rescued anyone else, but because HE has. And when that truth gets through my noodle and into my heart, that’s when I can joyfully surrender and become a spiritual trust fund baby, like David.