We all have elements in our lives that, for us, make life work. Let’s call them “molecules of control.” The elements that make up those molecules might be friends, family, work, hobbies; it’s different for everyone yet the same too because, like I said, our molecules of control are what we use to make life work.
What we don’t like to admit to ourselves is how a minor change in any element can turn our molecule into an unstable compound. (My apologies if that’s a bad chemistry metaphor.) How many times have we turned on the news to hear about some “Average Joe” just losing it and going on some kind of rampage where people get hurt or even killed? When the media go and interview Joe Average’s friends, they’re just as shocked as everyone else: “That’s not the Joe I know.” “Joe was a pillar of the community.” “What? No way! Joe wouldn’t hurt a fly!”
Let’s bring it a little closer to home. How many of us have had our world, our little molecule of control, come crashing down because of the loss of a job or, even worse, the loss of a loved one? It doesn’t take much to destabilize our molecule – if the elements that make it up only include man-made materials.
In Psalm 11, a favorite of mine and one I’ve commented on before, David’s world was coming apart at the seams and everyone was panicked…except David. This psalm is a conversation between David and his well-meaning friends. We’re dropped into the middle of it as David makes an affirmation of faith as his friends panic:
“In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain” (Psalm 11:1)?
David’s friends respond to him with a statement that can essentially be boiled down to the words: “Oh, c’mon, David! Get real!”
(2) For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart.
(3) If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
These are legitimate observations. David and his friends were in real trouble. And their question is a legitimate one, too: “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
The short answer is “nothing.” If the foundations are destroyed, there really is nothing the righteous can do. David is not living in denial of this. He’s just arguing that his friends are looking at the wrong foundations. The institutions of man fail all the time. Our self-made molecules of control can fall apart under the slightest stress. David maintained his peace by holding onto the most stable element in his molecule: the abiding and stabilizing presence of God. His argument was that not only were his foundations not being destroyed, they were indestructible:
The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. (Psalms 11:4)
David had enemies who were literally trying to kill him. David knew he had a God Who was literally working to sustain him. David’s enemies and his contrary circumstances didn’t stand a chance.
For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright. (Psalms 11:7)
I suppose if we were David and we were writing this psalm it would be a lot longer than seven verses as we agonized over all the things that were blowing up our little molecule. For David, trusting in God, seven verses were plenty. Because with God a potentially volatile mix becomes nothing more than a tempest in a teapot. It isn’t even vinegar on baking soda.
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Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash