Psalm 11 – Have You Ever Wanted to Fly Away?

 February 20, 2018

Have you ever wanted to fly away, get away from all of your problems or hide where no-one can find you? I know I have. As a single mother when I was raising three small children I would dream of running away to some place where I could sleep non-stop. Hiding can seem like an attractive way to escape the problems of the world, or the problems of daily life; however I realized that while running away would provide temporary relief, it could create more or greater problems than it was worth, so I held fast.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Still the appeal of running away remains, if not physically then mentally. There are ways a person can hide without leaving a room, ways to mentally detach and run away. It can be a useful defense mechanism to help someone survive terrible turmoil or an unbearable circumstance, but it can also be a trap. As an introvert on Myers Briggs, when overwhelmed by too many people, too much conversation and experiencing emotional/people overload, I need to withdraw and retreat. If I can’t physically withdraw, I withdraw through closing up, shutting down, and making myself unavailable through silence.

Over the past few years I’ve been learning about the Enneagram. The Enneagram goes back thousands of years with roots in numerology, the study of sacred numbers. The nine points of the Enneagram point to nine ways in which we tend to sin, based on the seven deadly sins: sloth, greed, pride, anger, envy, lust, gluttony with the addition of deceit and compulsive fear. The desert fathers and mothers used this to help individuals grow spiritually.

Each of us has our own weakness, tendency to sin. As a five on the Enneagram, I can be prone to sin through withdrawal, withholding myself rather than engaging others. So I can be especially prone to temptation to run away and hide.

Psalm 11

In Psalm 11, the writer is under attack. We don’t know the historical situation, whether the conflict is a personal, social, religious or a national one. We just know the writer is in imminent peril. In the face of this peril, his supporters are encouraging him to flee, fly away like a bird to the mountains, a common place to hide during this time. Continuing the metaphor of a bird, they say the enemy has the arrow in the bow, ready to shoot. Then they shift to the image of robbers coming in the night in order to impress upon him the danger of the situation and the need for immediate action.

In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to me, “Flee like a bird to the mountains; for look, the wicked bend the bow, they have fitted their arrow to the string, to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart. (1-2)

The very foundation upon which he put his trust is being destroyed. They insist in verse 3:  If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? His cause is tumbling down in pieces and he will be destroyed along with it if he doesn’t act quickly.

David Fleeing Saul

If written by David, as many of the psalms are commonly attributed to him, then David certainly knows about being on the run as he spent many years fleeing Saul. King Saul was determined to kill David because he saw David as a rival to his throne. David hid in the mountains seeking them out as a place of refuge, so the suggestion to flee to the mountains is nothing new. What is new is the writer’s response. A closer translation of verse 1 is to flee “as a little bird.” The writer states, how can you ask me to fly away like a little bird? He insists on staying, putting his trust in the Lord. He states:

The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold, his gaze examines humankind. The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence. . . . For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. (4, 5 & 7)

The Lord is not asleep or indifferent. He sees what’s going on and will uphold the righteous. The wicked will receive what they deserve, the portion of their cup, or their destiny. On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and sulfur; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. (6)

So even though he is being tested now, the writer is standing firm and putting his trust in the Lord.

There are times to run away, when the wiser course is to flee in order to fight again another day. There are other times when we are to stand firm – this is one of those times.

Today’s Situation

As we look at what is going on in the world, it can seem like the very foundation upon which our nation has been founded has been shaken. There is so little civility found in society across political parties, amidst people. Individuals take pot shots at others through social media, rather than engaging in a civil discourse and seeking together the common good. It can be tempting to flee all of the infighting and violence that has become part of our society today rather than stand firm and work for change.

The Psalmist is standing firm, his trust is in God, not people. He trusts that those who do evil will receive their just rewards, their allotted cup. And so he stands firm.

What’s important is that we do what our God wants us to do and do that with confidence, not fear. There will be a day when we will fly away, fly away to our home with our God in heaven, but until then, let us lead lives of confident trust in our God, our refuge, who is righteous and protects those who put their trust in him.

How are you being tested this Lent? Are you being called to retreat or stand firm? How can we engage with others in ways that are non-combative, that are respectful of others, and yet speaks our own truth?


This post is part of a series on the Psalms. Click on the button to follow the blog and receive a free copy of the book, Dancing on a High Wire, book 1 of the Dancing Through Life Series!   click here to follow blog



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