Psalm 11 TALK: Like a Bird: Trusting God When Facing Difficulty

 

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

 PSALM 11 & ISAIAH 40 : 28 -31 TALK

 LIKE A BIRD : TRUSTING GOD WHEN FACING DIFFICULTY

 INTRODUCTION :

 No matter who we are or how strong our faith is there will come a day and a time that our faith will be really tested. We might even crumble like Peter did on the night when Jesus was arrested. Before such a time comes we should be prepared to face our opposition with the kind of confidence in God David showed in this Psalm.

Before we read Psalm 11 lets get sense of the kind of difficult situation the author David probably faced. King Saul had become a troubled man and he used David and his harp player to calm him down but David had become very successful and popular and Saul’s mad fits of rage were often directed at David lets read 1 Samuel 19 : 1 to 10.

Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David 2 and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. 3 I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.”

4 Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. 5 He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?”

6 Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death.”

7 So Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation. He brought him to Saul, and David was with Saul as before.

8 Once more war broke out, and David went out and fought the Philistines. He struck them with such force that they fled before him.

9 But an evil spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the harp, 10 Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape”.

Over a number of years David lived his life as a fugitive with the power and might of Saul directed at trying to kill him. In this context David writes many Psalms and probably Psalm 11.

This Psalm mentions not being like a bird, the meaning of which I will explain soon but this concept also reminds me of another famous passage that uses the image of a bird in another way and so I will also open this up and make it’s obvious connection to the message of this Psalm. The other passage is Isaiah 40 : 28 – 31.

Lets read Psalm 11 first and work out what it is all about.

Psalm 11: 

1 “In the LORD I take refuge.

How then can you say to me:

“Flee like a bird to your mountain.

2 For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot

from the shadows at the upright in heart.

3 When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do  ?”

4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; 
his eyes examine them.

5 The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.

6 On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.

7 For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; 
upright men will see his face.

This Psalm and the passage in Isaiah will be broken up in the following three parts :

1. FLEE LIKE A BIRD                                                                   (PSALM 1 : 1 – 3)

2. TAKE REFUGE IN THE RIGHTEOUS LORD                          (PSALM  1 : 4 – 7)

3. SOARING LIKE EAGLES                                                   (ISAIAH  40 : 28 – 31)

 PART 1 :  FLEE LIKE A BIRD ( Verses 1 -3)

 From the passage in two Samuel we learn that after David killed Goliath, Saul brought the young David into his court to probably initially keep an eye on him and to use him as a form of therapy to his obvious mental illness. You see David was a great harp player and singer and as David played for Saul in his times of deep dark moods of depression and rage. David’s playing seemed to give Saul some temporary relief but this relief did not last long.

David, after his victory over the Philistine Goliath became a well known popular person and Saul saw him as a threat to his rule. This twisted view of David and his obvious onslaught of mental illness, drove Saul to rage and hate against David, causing David to have to run in fear of his life.

At some point David stops running and makes a remarkable claim of faith. That, “In the  LORD I take refuge.” Here David is saying if God is with me he will look after me, he will shelter me from the murderous intent of Saul. David had been saved from many a wild animal out in the fields looking after the sheep. He had developed many incredible fighting techniques, including the ability to use the sling to deadly effect. God used this skill in David to kill the giant, Goliath and now his knowledge of the back waters of Israel helped him evade the clutches of Saul. However David doesn’t mention his fighting skill and local knowledge as his source of security but God or as he calls him, “His Lord”. David knew you see that even his skills as a fighter and evader came from only one source, God himself. We will look at how we get and should use our gifts and abilities in one of our three New Testament applications later in this study.

Then David makes another amazing but at first puzzling statements of faith in God, “How then can you say to me:  “Flee like a bird to your mountain”.

What is David speaking about here ?

A commentator by the name of H.C. Leupold, explains that,

“Birds flee to the forests when they are in danger. The forests of Palestine were on the mountains”.

So David is using an image most people in Israel would have understood. In Australia in our hot dry summers we often have terrible bush or forest fires and our birds flee out of the forests in the mountain areas and often head for the safety of the cooler coastal areas. If I said, then, in Australia, “ I’m not going to be like a bird fleeing a bush fire in the mountains flying to the coast”, then I would be saying something similar to what David is saying.

This seems like a very foolish thing to say and in fact David is saying, what seems natural or logical to do, I’m not going to do, as I believe God will look after me and keep me safe.

In the next verse David paints a picture of the kind of danger he is facing, “For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart”.  In my study of this verse I came across a different translation of this verse, it comes from a bible translation called, “God’s Word” and it reads, “Wicked people bend their bows. They set their arrows against the strings to shoot in the dark at people whose motives are decent”. David is then telling us that he is an innocent man and yet he is being hunted down by wicked men who are aiming their arrows at him with the intent of killing him. Today we might say “evil people have their sights set on us to mow us down in a hail of bullets and we have not done anything wrong”.

David concludes this first section of the Psalm by saying, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? David is speaking here of how his world is being turned upside down and how normal forms of justice and fair play in Israel are just not happening anymore. King Saul has turned on him and he has not done anything to deserve this. In fact David had been and would continue to be a loyal subject of Saul. On many occasions in the story of Saul’s hunt for David, David had many chances to kill Saul but on every occasion David does not do it as he sees Saul as his King and even though he is out to kill him, under God’s law and rule he cannot and will not kill him.

We to are under constant attack not necessarily from some earthly power but from a great and terrifying spiritual power called the Devil. In another of our new testament applications we will look at Peters description and advice on how we fight the devil in 1 Peter 5 verse 8 and 9. However here I will point out that even David faced the same problem because who was now controlling the mad king Saul and causing him to act in such an evil manner? Yes, it was the devil, who, Saul had not resisted but to who he turned to as he faced problems in his life. I have not time to tell you the sad tale of Saul’s fall from grace but what I can tell you is, that bit by bit Saul goes from serving God to serving the devil. At the end of his life as he faced the battle that would claim his life, instead of going to God in prayer he goes to an satanic medium for advice and help.

 PART 2 : TAKE REFUGE IN THE RIGHTEOUS LORD  (Verses 4 – 7)

 In the final section of this Psalm David gives us three things he basis his confidence in for his Lord to keep him safe from the might and power of King Saul , they are :

  1. HE HAS EVALUATED HIS LORD
  1. HE KNOWS HOW HIS LORD ACTS
  1. HE KNOWS WHAT HIS LORD HAS PROMISED TO DO FOR HIM IN THE FACE OF DIFFICULTIES.
  1. HE HAS EVALUATED HIS LORD

David’s unbelievable statement of faith in his Lord is not based on some kind of wishful thinking but rather it is based on firstly who he has come to know his God to be. Verses 4 and 5 present a clear and powerful picture of the God David trusts and believes in.

His God sits in heaven on a throne, a throne much greater than his enemy Saul as God’s throne is the throne of thrones for God is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He looks down on puny , insignificant and powerless human beings and sees right into their hearts and knows what they are really thinking. This is what is meant by David’s words, “He observes the sons of men, his eyes examines them”.

The prophet Jeremiah speaks of this as well when he writes,

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17 verse 10.

Jeremiah is saying the same thing only with much more clarity that God looks into the hearts of men and knows us better than we even know ourselves. That is a very disturbing thought but it is also a sobering one as well. Saul thinks he can do what he likes, that he is a free man to hate and kill the innocent David. However David knows that God knows what Saul is up to and he will not fail to act upon that and therefore help him escape his evil clutches.

David also knows that his God loves righteousness and hates wickedness. He also knows that God will uphold those who stand for right living and will bring down those who live evil lives. He knows that does not mean that the wicked might seem to defeat the righteous but ultimately wickedness cannot win and will be judged. This leads to our second point on what David basis his confidence in God on :

  1.  HE KNOWS HOW HIS LORD ACTS

In verse 6, David tells us, “On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot”. Here David is telling us he knows what God is going to do to the wicked. Because God loves justice and hates evil and because God will judge the wicked and evil men like Saul who will be caught up in God’s terrible judgment. Here David sees the judgment being like that that fell on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, let me read to you what happened there,

“By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” Genesis 19 : 23 – 26.

This means that if God or as David calls him, The LORD is on his side he has nothing to fear but fear itself.

  1. HE KNOWS WHAT HIS LORD HAS PROMISED TO DO FOR HIM IN THE FACE OF DIFFICULTIES.

David concludes his Psalm on his determination to trust God no matter what. With words that reveal where his determination and confidence comes from. He says, “For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; 
upright men will see his face”.

David believed that God had promised over and over again that people who believed in God have been promised by God to be kept safe and secure. David speaks of seeing God’s face. In ancient times direct and personal access to a King was only given to a chosen few. This means that those who got access to a King were those the King thought had a reason to do so. This means the King and his advisers chose who would see the kings face. Here David says that those who will know God and his help are those who love God and his justice.

Therefore God has promised him access, through prayer to the God who sits on the throne of heaven even in the face of difficulties.

3.  SOARING LIKE EAGLES  : ISAIAH 40 : 28 – 31

 The words of David in verse 1 of this Psalm,“In the LORD I take refuge.

How then can you say to me:  “Flee like a bird to your mountain”. Reminded me of another famous reference to birds and faith in God. However this reference to birds is not to be not like them but rather to be like them. Let me read to you Isaiah 40 verses 28 to 31,

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

These verse’s offer great hope and comfort to all Christians who face any kind of trail or trouble and I have not got a lot of time here to go into every thing I could say about them. What I would like to come down on are those words about being like a bird, about soaring on wings of eagles if we put our faith in the everlasting God of the universe.

Andrew Read speaking about the main idea before the famous eagle soaring words says, “God’s ways may not always be understood but he can be trusted. He doesn’t get tired, take holidays or drop his commitments”. So if that is true what then will God do for us if we really trust and believe in him?

According to the prophet Isaiah he will give us strength and power, especially if we are feeling weak and powerless and this strength and power will be so great we will not stumble and fall but rather soar like and eagle. I looked around on the web to find out what this expression of soaring like eagles really means and found this extract from a sermon on it by a man called, Matthew Mc Donald, Let me read what Matthew said,

“Now my friend, let me take you on a journey, of how the eagles are taught to fly. Imagine, if you will, that there are three baby eaglets, in the nest. In as little as ten to twelve weeks, they grow up and their feathers develop. It is then that the parent eagle will begin to stir up the nest. As the eaglets look on, they are wondering to themselves, “What are they doing, our home, our comfort zone, is being taken away, bit by bit”, whilst the parent eagles are saying, “Children you might not like what is happening right now, but it is for your own good”. The parent eagle then flies around and around, to show them how to fly. Then it flies back to what is left of the nest and where the three eaglets are huddled together. Today we are going to fly! Stretch out your wings and take that step of faith.You were born for a purpose. You were born to fly. As the first one, nears the edge, it starts to look over the edge nervously. Then in one leap of faith, it goes over the edge. It starts to fall, and clumsily it tries to stretch out its wings, but before it hits the bottom, the parent swoops down, catches it on its back and brings it back up to the cleft. With its little heart beating, the eaglet says ” Thank you, but I never want to go through that again “. The next day however, the parent goes to the cleft were the three eaglets are, and says ” Now watch me “. The parents eagle goes to the edge of the cleft, then takes a leap off the edge, as it spreads its wings and flies. Now its one of the eaglets turn. It goes to the edge and takes a leap off the cleft. It starts to head towards the bottom, but this time something amazing happens. As it opens up its wings, and moves them up and down, it begins to soar up, higher and higher, until it soars with the wind beneath its wings. When the two other eaglets see what is happening, they follow the lead.

We like the eagle, make our home in the cleft of the Rock of Ages, where there is safety and security. Like the eaglets God has to stir up our nest and we might not like it, but it is for our own good. He does this to break us out of our comfort-zones. He wants us to see that we were born for the purpose-to soar with the wind of the Holy Spirit beneath our wings, lifting us up to new heights in God.

The Bible says in Isaiah 40 v 31 (NIV) ” They will soar on wings like eagles “ My friend may you soar on the wings of eagles. And as you take that leap of faith may the wind of the Holy Spirit beneath your wings, cause you to rise to new heights-of service in God”.

THREE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATIONS OF PSALM 11 AND ISAIAH 40 : 28 – 31

  1. HOW WE GET AND USE OUR GIFTS FOR GOD’S SERVICE

 David had many unigues gifts from God and used them in his service to the Lord. What about gifts for us? , what are our gifts? And how do we get them?

Paul speaks about this in a number of places but I like what he has to say in Romans 12 : 3 – 8,

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to hisfaith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Spiritual gifts are often  misunderstood by most Christians and many of us don’t know what gifts we have or how we even get them. Dr. Jack L. Arnold, describes spiritual gifts this way, “A spiritual gift is a God-given ability or capacity for the purpose of service. Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pet. 4:10). Many Christians have more than one, “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.” (2 Tim. 1:11)”.

Arnold goes on to point out that it is God who gives us the gift or gifts we have and that we should seek God in prayer if we want to seek further spiritual gifts. Paul gives us just a sample of the gifts we could have from God and his list here and in 1 Corinthians 12 should not be considered the only gifts a Christian could have. I would like to note just a three more things from the Romans passage.

  1. God gives gifts out of his Grace.

Grace of course is God’s undeserved love and just as we are saved by grace so we are equipped for service by God’s Grace.

  1. Gifts are not to be used to show off but to serve one another.

Paul says “do not think of yourself more highly than you ought”, it seems the Christians in Rome, like those in Corinth used peoples gifts to rank them and maybe people who had certain gifts used them to show off and look down on others who didn’t have what they had. Paul says here in Romans and in 1 Corinthians 12 that the gifts we have are for service to Christ and each other, “just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” Romans 12 : 4 -5 and 1 Corinthians 12 : 7, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good”.

  1. Paul goes on to say that love is the answer to how we should use our gifts.

Paul follows up this short list of spiritual gifts and how we get them with some words on love, love for one another and it is as we seek to love and help each other that our gifts revealed and wonderfully used, Romans 12 : 9 – 13, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality”.

  1. HOW TO COMBAT THE DEVIL IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

In Psalm 11 David speaks of the intense and enormous battle he faced as Saul chased him all over Israel to take his life. This battle led him to ask, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do ?”

David’s world was turned upside down by the evil intent of King Saul and this of course was inspired and made possible by the devil’s power, using Saul as his instrument of power. We to face daily battles inspired and made possible by the devil. In 1 Peter 5 verses 8 and 9 we read,

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings”. Just as David trusted and believed in God and resisted the temptation to do the wrong thing , like killing Saul when he had opportunity to so must we.

Peter tells us four things to do that will help us not fall victims to the Devils power. They are simply, 1. Be Self Controlled, 2. Be Alert, 3. Resist the devil (probably temptation) and 4. Stand firm in faith.

James has similar advice as well when he says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. resist the devil, and he will flee from you”.

3.   JESUS IS THE YES TO ALL THE PROMISES OF GOD

David trusted in God’s character and promises when he was in a very difficult situation. We too have many wonderful promises of God that we could call upon when we are faced with difficult circumstances in our lives. Isaiah gave us a wonderful promise of help and strength when we read of how we can soar like eagles if we trust in God when we feel weak and powerless. In 2 Corinthians 1 : 20 Paul says,

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God”.

What Paul is telling us here is that we only need to look to Jesus when we need help in our lives because he is the way all the promises of God are for filled. As the famous Gospel song says, “Jesus is the answer for the world today”.

CONCLUSION 

 In what situations have you faced difficulty as a Christian in the past?

Did you crumble and fall? Or Did you prove God in your life in a new way”

Like those llittle baby eagles, Matthew Mc Donald spoke of, we all need to venture out of our nests and take that step of faith into the great unknown and “Soar like eagles”, knowing God in our lives in a far greater way than we could have ever imagined.

Let me read you my poem these two passages inspired me to write :

LIKE A BIRD

(Based on Psalm 11 & Isaiah 40 vs. 31)

Like a bird they say flee away

Away from the trials of life

I am not a bird for I trust in God

Who helps me through my strife.

Like a bird I’ll fly

Into God’s arms

For when I’m close to him

He heals and calms

Yes I long to be

Like a bird.

 

Like a bird I feel hunted down

Fixed in the sights of guns

I am not a bird for I trust in God

He protects his chosen ones.

Like a bird I’ll fly

Into God’s arms

For when I’m close to him

He heals and calms

Yes I long to be

Like a bird.

 

Like a bird I feel frail and small

For the world seems all so great

I am not a bird for I trust in God

Who’s help is never late.

Like a bird I’ll fly

Into God’s arms

For when I’m close to him

He heals and calms

Yes I long to be

Like a bird.

 

Like a bird in God’s telescope

God’s eyes are upon us now

I am not a bird I trust in God

Free from his judgement power.

Like a bird I’ll fly

Into God’s arms

For when I’m close to him

He heals and calms

Yes I long to be

Like a bird.

 

Like a bird struck down to the ground

By God’ great burning might

I am not a bird I trust in God

Others are blown from his sight.

Like a bird I’ll fly

Into God’s arms

For when I’m close to him

He heals and calms

Yes I long to be

Like a bird.

 

Like a bird given wings to fly

Are those who know God’s love

I am that bird for I trust in God

I’ll fly to God Above.

Like a bird I’ll fly

Into God’s arms

For when I’m close to him

He heals and calms

Yes I long to be

Like a bird.

Jim Wenman (2008)

 

PRAYER:

Father in heaven please give me the courage and boldness to not  to  be  like a bird that flies from difficulties when people oppose  me  Lord for serving you. However   help  me to be like a bird soaring  high  in the midst of life’s problems because  trust  in  you.  In Jesus  name I pray Amen .

 

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