If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?
I once sat under the most intriguing sermon series. It was called, “Psalms for the Postmodern Man” through a collection of the Psalms, naturally. I must confess that at the time, it didn’t really resonate with me. Probably because I was insulated by my books on Hebrew and History. Recently, however, I read through that same collection of Psalms and came to the same conclusion: they speak directly and almost impatiently to the crying need of the hour.
Psalm 11 begins the inquiry with a question in verse 3, “If the foundation are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The rest of Psalm 11, along with Psalms 12, 13 and 14, outlines the disaster that comes when the foundations are destroyed. But first things first, what are the foundations? The Old Testament concept of ‘foundations’ refers to the truth that forms the support structures of society. Like a pillar that holds up the building. Charles Spurgeon comments, “Can God be so long asleep, yea so long a lethargy, as patiently to permit the ruins of religion?” That’s what is in view here, the ruins of biblical religious exercise. If the foundations are destroyed, what happens?
Psalm 11:5-7 tells us what happens: men grow to love violence. David is seeking to take refuge in the living God, but his friends are compelling to him seek revenge upon his oppressor. Everywhere the gospel has gone, the peace of that society has increased. Conversely, where the gospel is absent, violence reigns. That’s what natural man does, he loves violence.
Psalm 12:2 tells us, ‘every man utters lies to his neighbor.’ When the foundations are destroyed, every man does what is right in his own eyes and therefore, he lies to neighbor. This becomes the native tongue of the world, because the world, dwelling amid the rubble of foundations, speaks the native language of the ruler of the age.
Psalm 13:2 tells us that wickedness will be exalted over righteousness, “…how long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” In Romans 1 the heart and mind of sinful man is revealed insofar as he not only goes along with unrighteousness, but he gives his hearty approval of those who do so. To many, wickedness prevails over righteousness. Far more Americans, for example, give themselves to the women of the Internet than the Christ of the church. That’s the enemy exalted over righteousness when the foundations are destroyed.
Psalm 14:1 completes the descent of foundationless postmodernity, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’”
But if you were to look at the same Psalms in order, and I hope you will do so, you will also find that each Psalm comes packaged with the power of God in His victory. “The Lord is in His holy temple” (11:4), “You O Lord will keep [Your pure words] and will guard us from this generation forever.” (12:7), “I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (13:6), “The Lord is his refuge…the Lord restores the fortunes of His people.” (14:6-7).
When the foundations are destroyed and the entire culture seems to have its feet planted firmly in mid air, What can the righteous do? They can fix their eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of their faith who, for the joy that was before him endured the cross, despised its shame and sat down victoriously at the right hand of God. If that is true, then we have a foundation that can never be destroyed. It belongs to us, then, to build His church through His word and spirit, to restore the foundations and advance His purposes.