When Foundations Are Destroyed
By the Rev. S. Randall Toms, Ph.D.
St. Paul’s Reformed Episcopal Church
July 4, 2010
In the LORD put I my trust: How say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? 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. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. (Ps. 11:1-4)
The eleventh Psalm describes a time in David’s life when he was in a trouble so severe that some people thought the wisest course of action for David to take would be to run and hide in a safe place. There are often times in our lives when we are tempted to run from the dangers and trials we face. What is one to do when everything around us begins to crumble, and it seems that there is no place of refuge? This Psalm describes for us the proper response to this particular kind of predicament. This Psalm is not so much a prayer, as it is a confession of faith in God even when we are in the middle of troubles, so David begins this Psalm by saying, “In the Lord I put my trust.”
As you look at this Psalm, you realize that David is addressing someone when he makes this confession that his trust is in the Lord. Someone has said to David, “You are in danger. Flee as a bird to the mountain.” David is saying, “How can you ask me to run away? I have put my trust in the Lord.” But these people who are his advisers remind him that there are people who are at this very moment aiming arrows at his heart. Furthermore, this is a time when the foundations have been destroyed, and the question is asked, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do.” The foundations that are spoken of in this verse are the foundations of justice and order that support a society—those foundations that keep a culture from crumbling. But David is living in a time when these foundations have been destroyed. In other words, David is living in a period of time when that particular society was in chaos. The nation and the community are totally corrupt. If it is true that David is living in such a time, what can righteous people do when they find themselves living in a period of such disorder and confusion? What can the righteous accomplish when the whole fabric of society has come unraveled?
These are very relevant question for us in these days, because, as Christians, we are facing exactly the same situation that David is facing in this Psalm. We live in a nation where the foundations are being destroyed. We are witnessing an all-out assault to remove the foundations on which this country was founded. Though not all of our founding fathers were Christians, the vast majority of them were. Even those who were not Christians were basing their ideas for a new nation on those Christian principles that we find in the word of God. Our founding fathers based their ideas of justice, equality, and freedom upon those teachings that we find in Holy Scripture. Those foundations are being destroyed, for in this age of religious tolerance and pluralism we are told that no one religion should influence the decisions of those in political power. As a matter of fact, we are told that those in authority should not be influenced any kind of religious beliefs when they are making political decisions. One of the foundations of this country was a morality based upon the word of God, but since we have rejected the word of God as the foundation of morality, one person’s concept of what is right and wrong is as good as the next person’s. When such a situation exists, eventually there will be no basis for determining what is right or wrong other than what is decided upon by a majority, or by those who have the most political or military power. One of the foundations of this country was a strong family, but our families are being destroyed because the Biblical concepts of father, mother, husband, wife, marriage, and children are no longer followed. We no longer build our families on the solid rock of God’s word, but on the ever-shifting, ever-changing sands of public opinion.
How do we live in a culture when these foundations have been destroyed? Do we flee as a bird into the mountains, run in fear because the ungodly are in authority and power, or is there some other response that is more appropriate for the people of God? Day by day, more and more foundations are being shaken in this country and in our lives. Political and economic changes appear to be on the horizon that will threaten our way of life. What can we do if the economic foundations of our country are destroyed? As we look at how laws are interpreted, how the Constitution of the United States is being reinterpreted to mean things totally different from what the founding fathers intended, we see that the foundations of our government itself are being destroyed. What can the righteous, the believers in Jesus Christ do, when the foundations of a society are destroyed?
This is a very important question, because Christians are the only people who have the answer. When the foundations are destroyed, it goes hard for many people, and they fall apart. They feel the world has come to an end. They fall into deep despair and depression. But there is an answer to this question, “What can the righteous do?” This question does not end in hopeless resignation, but in a bold reaffirmation of faith.
First, the righteous can face even the disorder and the chaos with a holy serenity. The great saints of the Bible have always been able to say with Job, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Whatever we might not have that we once had, God has seen fit at this particular time to allow us to be deprived of it. God has holy reasons for even allowing the foundations to be destroyed. But even if the foundations are destroyed, look at what David says in verse 4: “The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven.” Even if the foundations of our society are destroyed, the foundation of God’s sovereign rule and reign, the foundations of his government can never be destroyed. If all the banks fail and our life savings and our life’s work is snatched away from us, the Christian can still be serene through it all because his treasure is not on earth. His treasure is in heaven where moth and rust cannot corrupt, where thieves cannot break in and steal. Therefore, while the Christian can experience hurt at the loss of many things, he looks to heaven and sees his treasure there, eternally safe and secure, and that holy serenity calms his mind and his fears. So many times we behave exactly like the people of the world, don’t we? We experience loss and we say, “I am ruined.” But the Christian can never be ruined. The people of this world lose this world’s goods and say, “I have lost everything.” The Christian can never make that statement. The Christian can never say, “I have lost everything,” because if you are a Christian, Christ is your everything, and there is no way that you can lose him. Your everything is seated on his throne, a throne that has a foundation that can never be shaken. What can the righteous do? The righteous can trust put their trust in the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, even when foundations of our society are crumbling.
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The righteous can look cheerfully toward the future. If there is a person who ought to be able to see something good, even in the darkest hours, it is the Christian. I know that we get irritated with those people who can look on the bright side, those people who can see the silver lining in every cloud, but the Christian certainly ought to be able to find something to be thankful for even in the midst of the most terrible troubles. We know that all things work together for good, for those who love God, for those who are the called according to his purpose. The destruction of the foundations of our society is not a good thing, but God can cause even that destruction to eventually work together for good. Perhaps upon the ruins of this society, God is going to erect something even better, something nobler, and something that will last and stand the test of time. Even when the foundations are being destroyed, we see, as the writer to the Hebrews put it, the “removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb. 12:27). If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? We can look forward to receiving that kingdom which cannot be moved (Heb. 12:28). We can look forward to that city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10).
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The righteous can do their duty. Just because the world is crumbling and the social order is deteriorating, that does not absolve us of our responsibility to do all that we can to right the wrongs, to rebuild the foundations. It is tempting in these days to flee to the mountains, to give up on the world and everyone in it. Nevertheless, we must continue to teach and spread the word of God in a world that is hostile to it. We must live in such a way as to show others how right it is to live according to God’s word. Even if the judicial system becomes corrupt, we have a responsibility to try to live according to the law, to uphold just laws, to see to it that godly men are elected who will work for and uphold just laws. The world may follow the devil, but we still have the responsibility to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. Christians have often found themselves in those places where the foundation had been removed, but they did not hibernate and give up. They continued to struggle, to fight, to overcome in the name of Christ. It is easy to be obedient and upright when the whole society is supportive. The testing ground of our faith is when we are living in a world where the foundations have been destroyed. In such an hour we are tempted to give up the fight, to yield to the immorality of the world, to give up on spreading the kingdom of God. The foundations have been destroyed. What can the righteous do? They can do what that little band of Christians in the upper room did 2,000 years ago. They can turn the world upside down. If the foundations are destroyed, what the righteous do? The righteous can fight to rebuild the foundation, even lay a better foundation.
After all, these other things that we look upon as the foundation of our lives and our society are not really a firm foundation at all. The law, economics, justice, concepts of freedom, not even the Constitution of the United States itself, can be firm foundations. The only firm, lasting, foundation is our Lord Jesus Christ himself. Jesus said, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it”(Matt. 7:24-27). Any nation, any family, any person that does not build on the foundation of Christ and his word is doomed to destruction. That nation, that family, that person, may stand for awhile, but when the times of great testing, when evil and trials come in like a flood, they will not stand. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The righteous can build their lives on Christ and his word. On this Fourth of July, we give thanks for those foundations that were laid in place for our nation, but we mourn as we see those foundations being destroyed. In such a time, what can the righteous do? The righteous can trust in God, and they can labor and fight with all their might to see that all people and nations have Christ and his word as their solid foundation. Amen.