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  • Writer's pictureDwight Smith

What Do The Righteous Do When Lawlessness Increases?

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

We live in an evil world. As a result, many Christians live in a politically hostile environment. All of us live in a spiritually hostile environment.

Environmentally we live in a hostile context. Some of this is the result of the way in which we have collectively treated the world. The world’s degradation is the direct result of our rebellion. And the world “feels” it. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:22)

The earth groans because, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21)

In spite of the evil and hostility that surrounds us, we can live free from the debilitating anxiety that this can create. But, what are we to do when the hostility gets out of control?

I am one who believes that God has already nestled in His word answers to every significant question that He knew we might ask. It might come by way of historical tracing of how He dealt with others in past generations. It might come in direct statements that He makes through those He has inspired. He has answers. Not always comfortable to us, nor easy, but always in the center of His perfect wisdom.

David was one who knew hostility and danger. In Psalm 11 we find one of the most difficult moments of his life. Midway through the psalm, he asks this question, “if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

When public life events are out our control, maybe out of the control of anyone, where do the righteous turn? Related questions immediately come to mind. “When I am extremely uncomfortable with life out of the norm?” “When the political, or health, or economic realities overwhelm what is normal?

What are the righteous to do? When war, famine, persecution, recession, threatened poverty, even death, invade our life? There is nothing that we can apparently do to “protect” ourselves? The situation is desperate. Where do we turn?

The context of Psalm 11 presents a number of potential focal points. We could start with David and his confidence in his rightness. He had done nothing wrong. He had not threatened Saul, instead he had been a support to Saul and His Kingly position. But, Saul wanted to kill him. And, now, here, David finds himself trapped in a cave, surrounded by Saul’s men and no path of escape. To put into today’s words? “What do the righteous do? Where is God?

We could focus on Saul and His lawlessness. He was King but even King’s don’t have a right to ignore the law and take murder into their own hands. Saul recognizes this when he at one point tells David, “And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the LORD put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the LORD reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.” (1 Samuel 24:17-19). Where is God?

Instead let’s focus upon this key question that holds across generations for so many of God’s children in the world. What do the righteous do when my circumstance are out of control? A thought that it would seem God the Holy Spirit puts in the mouth of David......(3) if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

In the world? What do we do when rightness is turned upside down? When morality is declared immoral? What do we do when lawlessness takes root in the legal institutions?

But equally also in the church. What do we do when the concept of God is corrupted by unbelievers or high jacked by heretics? One Christian author states, “God has now come to rest lightly and inconsequentially upon the Church.”

What do we do when the pervading impact of sin (disobedience) is diminished by those who say that they lead us? We are inundated with a christianized form of “your ok, I’m ok!”

What do we do when the full extent of salvation, from sin, to God, for transformation and healing is lost to a rising corruption of the power God effected in the resurrection? What do we do when the reliability and importance of the Word of God is cast off?

What do we do when the incarnational role of the church in the world is exchanged for self help and good works rather than a message of hope, and/or promise of judgement!

2 Corinthians 2:14-16

David’s answer is simple and maybe for many less than satisfying.

Flee to the Lord! (Verse 1). David could not physically flee without many of his men being killed, and probably himself. From the human point of view, desperate! There are unjust dangers all around! No matter the results that could come from the “threats” we live in, David reminds us that the true place of safety is only in the Lord. So get to Him as fast as you can!

Count on God’s sovereignty (Verse 4). God is always sovereign even when we think that the context is most hopeless. God’s sovereignty over ALL things was not just a bold statement. He is always watching. And, in His watching He (even) tests the righteous because He ultimately hates evil. God never makes a mistake with our lives. And, how we need to be reminded with the question: “for the follower of Jesus, what is the absolute worse that can happen?” Of course, we must be willing to embrace His sovereignty even it is the end of our journey here on earth. For us, His sovereignty ALWAYS comes wrapped in His love.

The evil will suffer God’s judgement

in this world and the next (Verse 6). One might think that God is simply waiting for the end of time. That this world has been set in place and it spins on its own. In which case, David’s anxiety about his uncontrollable situation is one without any hope. But, he confesses that his confidence is not so cheap. For God is indeed active, watching, looking for evil, protecting those who belong to Him.

Before all else God is righteous (Verse 7). David was confronted with danger created by an unjust and illegal act on the part of Saul. Since God is righteous, He will always take note of evil, for He hates it. In simple statement, evil stands for the opposite of who God is and all that He intended in the beginning. And so David understood that God’s love is the enigma. His care extends to the righteous and only the upright will see His face.

It is helpful I think to look at some concluding thoughts that support David’s view and confidence in God. It is important for those of us who belong to God in His Son, Jesus Christ, to remember the long point of view. Even if God had not rescued David from that moment, still David’s confidence is just. For as David says, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10)

  1. God’s righteousness comes first, never alone but always first.

  2. God’s love is the mystery

  3. Judgement and mercy have been twice made available to those who have been chosen before the foundation of earthly time. We were judged sinners in our first father, Adam. We have been judged children of God in the last Adam, Jesus Christ.

  4. God is first holy, righteous , just. 1 Peter 1:1. Only then, surprising us with love. 2 Peter 3:9. The great oxymoron of scripture is not God’s right, indeed obligation to judge, but His love appearing: CHOOSING to take the full extent of His own wrath upon Himself in His Son.

  5. Habakkuk 3:17-18. “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herds in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

The only answer to those moments when we find ourselves in situations where we have no control, no alternatives to survive or escape, we are invited to join David and His reminder to “Flee to the Lord!”


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