Don’t Fly Away
In the Lord I take refuge [and put my trust];How can you say to me, “Flee like a bird to your mountain; For look, the wicked are bending the bow;They take aim with their arrow on the string To shoot [by stealth] in darkness at the upright in heart. “If the foundations [of a godly society] are destroyed, What can the righteous do?” The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes see, His eyelids test the children of men. The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, And His soul hates the [malevolent] one who loves violence. Upon the wicked (godless) He will rain coals of fire; Fire and brimstone and a dreadful scorching wind will be the portion of their cup [of doom]. For the Lord is [absolutely] righteous, He loves righteousness (virtue, morality, justice); The upright shall see His face.
The Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane sits near the bottom of the Kidron Valley. It’s done has the most unusual artistic representation: two stags tethered to the cross. I have adopted my own version of what they represent based on the events of the night in which the Lord there prayed and was betrayed.
In that last evening before His death, Jesus was free to crest the Mount of Olives beyond which lay the Judean wilderness and safety. Yet He willingly chose not to take the escape, but to remain at the base of the hill earnestly yielding to the will of the Father.
How alluring must have been the tempter’s voice: “Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.” Psalm 11 is a Scripture passage to use when we need strength to remain and not fly away. Perhaps you have a very trying home situation, problems have arisen in your church, your work or school environment is extremely difficult, or you feel trapped. You hear the siren call of temptation: “Flee like a bird to your mountain.” Flight seems all the more attractive because danger lurks. You know you are helpless within your own strength to deal with the danger. When asked, “When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” you are tempted to answer, “Nothing!”
Remember who asks the question. It’s the tempter. He seeks you to leave the battlefield before the fight ever begins.
In times of danger we have two choices, flight or fight and usually the easiest choice is flight. Numbers of people decide to run away from their problems or at least attempt to in some form. There are those who spend additional hours at work so they don’t have to face a difficult home situation. Others choose to respond by some form of pain killers- prescribed or street, drugs or alcohol. Others create busyness so they don’t have to address the real issues.
In this psalm, David is facing strong enemies who are seeking his death. The first response is to fly away to an isolated place-the mountains- where there seems to be safety. But then David tells us that even the mountains offer no safety when their “foundations are destroyed.”
When we feel helpless within our own strength and danger lurks, flight becomes attractive. When everything-besides God- seems to be crumbling and our world is shaken, when the giants of life have roared their challenge, the tempter comes and says, “Run and hide. You can’t win this battle.” The devil wants to talk you into leaving the battlefield before the fight begins. He is aware that his real battle isn’t against you but against God. Remember David’s words to Goliath? “You come against me with a sword and shield, but I come in the name of the Lord.”
In Psalm 11 David has already made his choice, “In the Lord I take refuge.” His security was in the Lord’s care.
George Wood says, “The Holy Spirit calls you to resist the thought that your safety lies in escaping. Your true security is in God. He is in His holy temple on His heavenly throne. He can be counted on to act justly toward evildoers and the upright.”
As we consider the opportunity that Jesus had to flee the cross and we read of the agony and prayer in Gethsemane, we need to be aware that the tempter was trying to convince Him to withdraw from the battle. Earlier at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the devil offered Him the kingdoms of the world without suffering and dying. The devil’s strategy has never changed. “Run away, don’t stay and run the risk of hurt, you can’t win, the odds are to high against you, give up and give in,” he says.
“[looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].”
The humanity of Christ shied away from the pain and suffering. His holiness resisted His “becoming sin.” Even though He knew that the crucifixion and death would not be the end and that such would be swallowed up in victory through His resurrection and ascension, He had to face the temptation of running away. And He did that for us and to teach us how to face our battles when we too are tempted to flee.
George Wood says, “What kept Him there in the Garden that night when it would have been easy for Him to fly away? He was tethered to the cross- not with a rope, but with the cords of commitment and devotion to duty. Love for the Father and for us tied Him to responsibility. He chose not to flee because our eternal life depended on His remains put.
I think the image of the two stags at the Church of All Nations is a picture of us and Christ. Jesus as our companion, tethered to the cross by love calls us to deny ourselves and to take up our cross with joy. George Wood says, “The ropes that bind me to His cross are not externally imposed by others, but are cords of commitment from my free choice to remain faithful to Him.”
Psalm 11 encourages us to remain faithful even when we’re tempted to run away. If we choose to run at all let it be that we run to Jesus- our city of refuge and strong tower- for in Him alone is true safety.
Dr. John Thompson