To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
1 In the Lord I put my trust;
How can you say to my soul,
“Flee as a bird to your mountain”?
2 For look! The wicked bend their bow,
They make ready their arrow on the string,
That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.
3 If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?
4 The Lord is in His holy temple,
The Lord’s throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold,
His eyelids test the sons of men.
5 The Lord tests the righteous,
But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.
6 Upon the wicked He will rain coals;
Fire and brimstone and a burning wind
Shall be the portion of their cup.
7 For the Lord is righteous,
He loves righteousness;
His countenance beholds the upright.
Psalms 9 and 10 having portrayed the Lawless One, Psalms 11-14 describe the lawlessness which will characterize his kingdom, and the consequent oppression and suffering of the righteous. — Williams, page 304.
This psalm is thought by some commentaries, to have been written when David was pursued by Saul.
Though no historical event is mentioned in the heading, the imagery of David’s words in verse 1 (“Flee as a bird to your mountain”) bear a close similarity to his words in 1 Samuel 26:20 (the king of Israel has come out … just as one hunts a partridge in the mountains”), suggesting the latter as a likely venue. — Wechsler, pages 45-46.
After opening with a statement of his faith in God, David tells of the counsel he is receiving beginning with the final line in verse 1 — “Flee as a bird …” — and continuing through the end of verse 3. This may have been the counsel of friends or of David’s own heart (1 Samuel 27:1). The final four verses return to the subject and David’s reason for it — he knows that God is watching and will punish the wicked and reward the righteous with His presence.
bird (v.1) = sparrow — the littlest of birds
wicked (v.2) — plural — a multitude of wicked
foundations (v.3) — a metaphor for the order of society and the authorities (see Psalm 75:3; 82:5; Ezekiel 30:4)
holy temple (v.4) — referring not to the earthly temple (since this term for “temple” [lit. “sanctuary”] is used in the Old Testament for the fixed structure later built by Solomon in Jerusalem, not for the tent-tabernacle), but to God’s heavenly temple, of which the earthly one was only “a copy and shadow.” This point is further driven home by the parallel statement, “the Lord’s throne is in heaven” (v.4), which also indicates God’s dual role — embodied and eternally fulfilled in the Son of God — as both king (per the reference to His throne) and priest (per the reference to His being in the holy temple), which combination was otherwise forbidden among the Israelites. — Wechsler, page 46
tests (v.5) = tries — used for refining (making purer and better) metals
violence (v.5) = the Hebrew word used here always refers to wicked violence — not that which God does to the wicked for instructs His people to do
His countenance beholds the upright (v.7) — Among the monotheistic religions of the world this is a unique (and perhaps the greatest hope), according to which the believer looks forward not simply to worshiping an eternally transcendent and intangible God, but One who, consistent with His initial desire at creation, seeks to relate to man in all the ideal ways that we were made to exist and relate. It is in Jesus, specifically, that God’s “face” — that is, Hes person and presence — is revealed, and it is He whom the Christian, with Paul, looks forward yearningly to behold “face to face” and “know fully” even as we are “fully known” by Him (1 Corinthians 13:12). — Wechsler, page 47