What can the righteous do?

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? Psalm 11:3 NIV

I don’t know about you, but I find this to be very unsettling and thought provoking question. It comes in the context of a prophetic Psalm that was penned by David, but inspired by the Holy Spirit, describing the very days in which we are now living. It refers to a crisis situation where the moral foundations upon which a society or a nation has been built are being systematically overthrown and destroyed.

The scenario which Psalm 11 describes is one in which demonic forces of darkness are launching wicked and violent attacks specifically targeting God’s people and the righteous ways of God they represent. Does that sound familiar? Any God fearing person who has any awareness whatsoever of what is going on in their community, the nation and the world cannot help but acknowledge that we are presently under such concerted assaults. As a consequence, we can certainly identify with Lot who while living in Sodom and Gomorrah experienced his righteous soul being vexed daily by “the lawless deeds he saw and heard” (2 Peter 2:8 ESV).

What then should the righteous do when confronted with such unsettling, perplexing, and ruinous circumstances that threaten our very existence? Right at the outset in verse one David suggests that we have two alternatives, either take refuge in the Lord or flee to the mountains for safety. He offers the idea of fleeing with the phrase “How then can you say to me: ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain?’” It is obvious, from the way he says this that fleeing to “your” mountain, wherever or whatever that may be, is not a viable option.

It is noteworthy that these two options in the face of harm are a recurrent theme in the Scriptures, with the “mountains” typically representing a self-reliant, God-rejecting choice. We see this also in Psalm 121and in Revelation 6. Fleeing to the mountains without really taking refuge in God is a prescription for disaster. That is exactly what happened to Lot and his family (Genesis 19).

That poses an important consideration – what then are “your” mountains, to which you as a flitting bird tend to flee? Truth be told, we all have them – mountains of our own choosing to which we are prone to retreat. It is critical to identify them because that can go a long way toward helping us avoid fleeing there, rather than turning to the Lord as our refuge. Often they are a form of escapism where we medicate our stress or pain or fears with behavior that is at best self-serving and at worse sinful. Sometimes our mountains are places where we choose to hide in a cave and go about our business pretending as if nothing is at peril anywhere. Such behavior may be bliss, but it does nothing to prevent, prepare for, or prevail over evil.

The answer of course is to make it our lifestyle and confession, just like David, that “in the Lord I take refuge” (Psalm 11:1). That is great advice, but how practically does a person do that? One of the simplest explanations of what it means to take refuge in the Lord comes from the Lord Jesus Himself just days prior to His arrest and crucifixion. It is found in the Gospel of Luke where He describes the perilous times that will mark the last days before His return. Here with sobering detail He predicts shakings in the heavens and on the earth, wars, persecution, anguish and perplexity that will affect every living being. He also warns against deception, anxiety, and escapist sinful excess. Then with urgent clarity Jesus spells out what it means to take refuge in Him. “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36 NIV).

Watch and pray! Could it be any clearer? Three simple words, describing how to take refuge in the Lord, spelled out by the Master Himself. But this is not the only time Jesus said this. He also gave this same advice to Peter as He agonized in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He specifically called out Peter with this warning: “watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38 NIV). These words undoubtedly had a dramatic and lasting effect on Peter, who heard them twice within days but failed to heed them. We know this because years later in his first epistle, he reiterates this exact same advice to all the believers scattered throughout Turkey and to us also upon whom the end of the ages has come! Peter wrote “But the end of all things is at hand: be therefore sober minded, and watch unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7 KJ2000).

In summary, it has been readily established that the moral foundations of society are being destroyed all around us; and that the mandated response of the righteous, as spelled out by Jesus, is to watch and pray. It is comforting to know that being a person of prayer is the very best way to prepare for and position ourselves for the dark days that are coming upon us.

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