What Can the Righteous Do?

David raises the question, “… if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do” (Psalms 11:3, ESV)? His advisors seem to give him the solution, “Flee like the bird to your mountain” (Psa 11:1). There may be times when flight is a sensible precaution. I suspect we all wish at times for a place to hide when the world seems like it’s falling apart. But David’s answer has less to do with location and more to do with devotion.

Psalm 11 is a chiasm. Chiasm refers to its literary structure. In chiasms, the author addresses topics leading to the center of the poem which is the most important part and then does the parallel topics as the movement of the psalm goes from the center to the end. This leads to a pattern of topics that go like this: A, B, C, C, B, A. It is instructive to see the structure of Psalm 11. A corresponds to A, B corresponds to B, and C is the central, most important thought of the psalm.

A — God is refuge, 11:1
B — The righteous suffer, 11:2-3
C — God is still ruler of all, 11:4
B — The wicked will be punished, 11:5-6
A — God is righteous, 11:7

David acknowledges the crumbling foundations and suffering of the righteous. But the answer to his question, “what can the righteous do?,” is found in the center of the poem.

The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man. (Psalm 11:4 ESV)

The reason that devotion is more important than location is that David still has faith that God is on his throne. God is still sovereign. He is in control of history even in those times when it doesn’t seem like it. Yes, there is wickedness, but it will not ultimately escape judgment. And the upright will see God’s face. (11:7).

What do the righteous do when the foundations are destroyed? We are to remember that God is still on his throne. He hasn’t abdicated. The wicked can’t overcome God. Judgment will ultimately come. And we, the upright, have a promise: we will see God’s face.

— Russ Holden

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