When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? … For the LORD is righteous and loves justice; upright men will see his face. (Psalm 11:3,7)
Throughout the history of the world there have been many times when justice has been neglected, when wrong has been celebrated above right, when dishonesty was rewarded above honesty, and when good people were caught in a seemingly helpless situation.
In many ways, this has always been the case because of the fallenness of the world. The evil one is at work in the children of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), seeking to drag human beings down in morality and values. Though there have been and will be again “seasons of refreshing” (Acts 3:19), that is, periods of revival, even the greatest revivals never completely destroyed the work of the devil. Only when Christ returns will the devil be chained and then ultimately destroyed (Rev. 19-20).
The word “foundations” means moral foundations of society, “the principles of morality, which are the foundation of society” (Ellicott’s Commentary). The text paints a picture of the individual believer, David in this case, seeing the moral and ethical decay of his beloved nation under King Saul. Dishonesty was rewarded and righteousness was punished. Worship and the teachings of God’s word were neglected. God’s divine revelation was cast off, the vision was lost, and the people perished.
What can one man do? Or what can a group of men and women together do? The psalm expresses the feeling of utter hopelessness that surrounds the hearts of believers in times such as ours. Today unborn human babies are cast out in the garbage as though they were nothing. Homosexuality is celebrated. The God-given institutions of Fatherhood and Motherhood are neglected. Discipline and respect are forgotten, and authority is abusive in many instances, and sexual immorality is accepted.
Actually, even in such times as these, the righteous can do much.
The righteous may pray and worship
The psalm ends with the affirmation paraphrased by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). No matter how evil the times are, we may have the full experience of intimacy with God in personal worship. No culture or society can take this away from us. It is a sacred covenant between God and the believer.
The believer may pray for revival, pray for an awakening spiritually of society. We do much when we pray and this ministry of prayer precedes all great movements of the Spirit. Rather than complain and bemoan and be negative, we should lift up the needs of the world today and pray for the Lord to move in a fresh way to renew the wrld spiritually.
The righteous may set the right example
And the righteous have a powerful witness in the world by being people of Godly principles, by doing the right thing and by doing it graciously. We should oppose evil, wherever it reveals itself, as God gives us the ability to see it as evil. Self-righteousness is not winsome in its nature. It puts people off. But gracious integrity, true fairness and morality, are attractive and leave a legacy.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This quote has been attributed to many people — Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mills, and others. But it is a well-attested truth in the world. In fact, some translators have understood Psalm 11:3 as saying, “What have the righteous done?” Too often that is the truth, that good men and women have built shelters to hide from the world, rather than means to interact with and influence the world.
James described true worship and true religion as consisting of visiting the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, that is, the needy and vulnerable victims of the immorality of the world, while keeping himself from being polluted by the world’s fallen values (James 1:27).
The righteous may continually hope in God
We are not a defeated people, and never shall be, because the kingdom to which we belong is an eternal kingdom. God shall ultimately defeat every enemy and force that rises against Him. So we believers should not hang our heads in defeat or hopelessness. Rather we should go about our business every day with confidence in the ultimate victory of God in Christ.
“How great are His signs And how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom And His dominion is from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:3).