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How to Respond when the Foundations are Removed

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Psalms 11–12

When the foundations of society crumble away, God’s people should not despair. Indeed, only they will have a true foundation for life and hope, and that foundation is the Lord.


Many years ago, the Veterans of Foreign Wars put up a cross far out in the Mojave Desert as a memorial to soldiers killed during World War I. In 2001, a former state employee sued the government, demanding that the cross be removed. In the meantime, a judge ordered that the cross be covered with a plywood box so that it ended up looking like some kind of billboard instead of a cross. But even that was not good enough for some people.

After the Supreme Court finally ruled by one vote that this little white cross could stay where it was, someone went out there and cut the mounting bolts and took the cross away. Even out in the Mojave Desert, where almost no one ever saw it, the cross just had to go.[1]

As a believer, what do you do when your culture wants to remove the foundation of our faith—when the cross is just too offensive, when biblical virtues are considered out of date? How do you respond in a world that wants to erase from public view any foundational truth about God?

That is actually the question King David deals with here in Psalms 11 and 12. In fact, he handed these poems to the choir director because he wanted them arranged musically so that everyone would know the question—and the answer—in song.

His question appears now in Psalm 11:3: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Well, let me tell you ahead of time, the crumbling sandstone foundations of man’s opinions have underneath them an eternal, granite foundation of God’s sovereign plans.[2]

We don’t know the exact context of this psalm and what David is referring to here, but from verses 1 and 2 we get the idea that this time of trouble for David and his nation relates to the foundations of society being destroyed by evil people. Everything from law to morality is under attack. And David asks, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

David is going to answer that question. It won’t necessarily change your culture, but it will encourage your heart in the midst of a corrupt culture.

Let me summarize David’s poetic answer with five statements The first is this: God is totally undisturbed in His sovereignty. David says here in verse 4, “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven.”

Now he is not telling us to sing about God being far away—distantly removed. The Lord’s heavenly throne doesn’t refer to inactivity, but supremacy.

Beloved, when you are living in circumstances where it seems everything is falling apart, your faithfulness has everything to do with your focus. Do you concentrate on the crumbling foundations around you? Is that all you see—and complain about? Or do you concentrate on the granite foundation underneath all that is—the undisturbed rule of God? God is never unsettled, and He is never going to be unseated.

So, you can look around and say, “I give up.” Or you can look up and say, “God is on the throne.”

Second, God is totally aware of His creation. David writes further in verse 4, “His eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.” In other words, God sees—He is not asleep.

Now in Psalm 12, David describes the situation in greater detail. Everyone seems to be a liar (verse 2); people are plundering the poor (verse 5); the wicked are prowling around, and vile behavior is being applauded (verse 8).

Is God aware of all of this? Oh yes! The reference back in Psalm 11:4 to God’s eyelids is a figure of speech in the Hebrew language for somebody squinting to see closely. It has the idea of scrutinizing something. David is saying God not only sees people but He is also taking a close look at them.[3]

Here’s the third answer from David: God is totally just in His rejection of the unrepentant. He says here in verse 5: “[God’s] soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”  

This word “hate” carries the idea of rejection; God has rejected unrepentant sinners. Why? Because of their lives, their actions, and their defiance of God.

Yes, God loves the world but not at the expense of His justice. Think about that the next time you are around your unbelieving family, friends, coworkers, or neighbors. They are heading toward the judgment of God.

Fourth, David informs us that God is totally terrifying in His judgment.

Verse 6 says, “Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.”One biblical archaeologist who studied the cities in the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah found evidence of an eruption of petroleum; it seems that God sent burning showers of ignited gas and oil down on these unrepentant cities.[4]

The apostle Peter warns in 2 Peter 3:7: “The heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment.” David is doing the same thing—issuing a warning. In so doing, he is reminding you, if you’re a believer, that when the foundations crumble and people reject God and even persecute believers, the only suffering you will ever have is in this brief lifetime; but the judgment of the unbeliever will last forever.

Think about it this way: the only heaven the unbeliever will ever experience is the best of earth; and the only hell the believer will ever experience is the worst of earth.

Fifth, David ends by telling us God is totally delighted in His beloved. He writes here in Psalm 11:7, “For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.”

The upright are not perfect people; they are forgiven people. Upright people are those who are right with God through Christ.

Present circumstances might be dark, but your future is unbelievably bright.[5] The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers these amazing words: “Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

Paul is referring to the custom of a victorious Roman general arriving home to a celebration. The crowds would line the streets as the defeated army was marched in front of the parade. Next, would come the victorious general in his chariot and his army marching behind him. They would all be chanting, “Victory!” over and over again.

It was the custom for people to wave censers filled with special incense. The streets of Rome literally would be filled with the aroma of victory. With that in mind, listen again to what Paul writes:

Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

What do you do when the foundations are destroyed? Look to God for your security. He is in control. His hand is still underneath the crumbling foundations of culture and state and kingdoms and world events. His throne is undisturbed; He reigns over even the chaos of our world. 

And one day, we are told, “the upright shall behold his face” (Psalm 11:7). We are going to see Him one day face to face.

So, when the foundations crumble, it is not so much what you do but where you look. Look to Him, trust Him, and sing to Him like never before.

[1] Michael Youssef, When the Crosses Are Gone (Kobri, 2011), 1.

[2] W. L. Watkinson, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary on the Book of Psalms: Volume 1 (Baker Reprint, 1978), 46.

[3] John Phillips, Exploring the Psalms: Volume One (Loizeaux Brothers, 1988), 90.

[4] Arthur G. Clarke, Analytical Studies in the Psalms (Kregel Publications, 1979), 54.

[5] Phillips, 90.

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