In the Psalms, we can hear the Psalmist speak to his soul, ‘why are you cast down…’ and in many ways these words like the words of David in Psalm 11:1 ‘In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul,’Flee like a bird to your mountain’ address our identity. These words are spoken by David in a time of crisis and they express how the faithful may have confidence in a crisis because they belong to the Lord. David expresses that the thought or comment from another to flee to the mountain in a time of crisis does not improve our situation since we belong to the Lord. It is in the LORD that we take our refuge because that is where we find it.
Fear and Faith
The feeling of fear causes the thought to flee to the mountain, but his faithfulness teaches him that this would have been a sign of distrust. In other words, he is saying ‘as’ one who belongs to the Lord I must respond to this crisis in faith, not fear. As Calvin points out ‘we ought nevertheless to continue steadfast at our post, that we might not deprive ourselves of the right to lay claim to God’s promises. However much we may be harassed, we ought always to continue firm and unwavering in the faith that we have been called of God’. In other words, belonging to God makes a big difference to us and how we cope with a crisis. David is opposed to unwise counsel, whether that comes from his fears or from others, the Lord is his refuge and the mountain is but an illusion of safety. When the disciples woke Jesus out of fear as they faced the storm in the boat, Jesus did not encourage them out of fear but rebuked them for their lack of faith. Also, what kind of witness would this have been to all the others on their boats at the time, who didn’t have the Lord with them?
What do we do when we don’t know what to do? The Lord alone has taken care of such a question, by providing the answer in a gift, the gift of wisdom. When a person states what they believe concerning the things of God they may not act accordingly. This is because there is a big difference between stating a belief and being wise. Wisdom is given to those who fear God and lean not on their own understanding. If David was to lean on his own understanding, he would have fled to the mountain, but that is neither wise nor faithful to God and what God has promised those who belong to Him. In short, fear in this crisis is also a lack of faith, whereas faith in God is an act of faithfulness. Fear seeks to cause us to reject the promises of God and cause us to lean on our own understanding. It would not have been right said Calvin, ‘for David to separate himself from the people of God, nor separate himself from the body of the church. It would have been wrong to have yielded to fear…’.
David is demonstrating what it means to belong to the Lord. He is saying that ‘as’ one who belongs to the Lord it would be wrong to make a decision to based on my fears. It is not David’s confession about God which is under attack, the crisis is not about defending the faith as such, it is about those who want to take the life of David. David stays where he is and thus demonstrates faith in God but he does so knowing that what is under threat is not his confession (though there is the matter of witness) but his life.
As a believer, I must go and worship God with the people of God. In other words, since I belong to God the decision is already made for me. since my identity is one who belongs to God I must live according to who I am in Christ Jesus. So the church continues to gather in worship, to worship God because ‘as’ people who belong to God this is what we do. We have a wonderful opportunity to thank God for His people and encourage those who have made the wise decision to be faithful rather than act out of fear. However, those who have acted out of fear must be called upon to reflect greatly on God and His promises, for this is how David acted out of faith, rather than fear, for him to even consider running to the mountain would have been contrary his identity as one who belongs to God.