Psalm 11: Lessons Regarding What God Offers You When You Are Filled With Fear or Worry

Introduction: At a time when David’s enemies were pursuing him, David’s friends became filled with fear and told him to flee. As a great man of faith, David responded by encouraging his friends to have faith in God to protect them. From David’s words of encouragement, God reveals seven truths about Himself to encourage you when you are afraid. When you or others around you are filled with fear, you can remember that God offers you His: (1) protection, (2) faithfulness, (3) sovereignty, (4) omniscience, (5) sanctification, (6) justice, and (7) love.

First, David rebuked his friends when they told him to flee from an enemy. He proclaimed that he would instead take refuge in God. When you are attacked, God also offers you His refuge and protection. Second, David’s friends worried that his enemies would attack him in secret where the foundations of his faith would allegedly offer him no protection. When you worry or feel fear, you can meditate on God’s faithfulness to you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Third, in response to David’s friends’ fear, David reassured them that God was still on His throne. When you worry, you can also trust that God is sovereign and in control. Fourth, David also reassured his friends by promising that God was watching over them. When you are fearful, you can also trust that God is watching over you. Fifth, in response to their trial, David stated that God tests both the righteous and the wicked. He tests you to show you what is in your heart and to refine you. When you experience a trial, you can also trust that God is refining you and perfecting your faith. Sixth, David also reassured his friends by promising that God would judge their enemies. They did not need to take matters into their own hands. When your enemies attack you, you can also leave your vengeance to God alone. In his timing, He will judge every act. Finally, David encouraged his friends with the promise of God’s love and that they would one day dwell with Him. When you feel fear, God also promises you His love and salvation.

1. Protection: When You Are Attacked, God Offers You Refuge and Protection. Ps. 11:1.

  • David rebuked his friends for encouraging him to flee from his enemies. At a time when David’s friends told him to flee from his enemies, David stated that God was his refuge: “For the music director. A Psalm of David. 1In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, ‘Flee as a bird to your mountain?”’ (Ps. 11:1). It is possible that David received this bad advice to flee when King Saul pursued him. This advice may have also occurred when his son Absalom tried to seize control of the throne. The Bible is silent regarding the exact timing. What was important was David’s response to this bad advice.

  • God will bless those who take refuge in Him. David frequently sought to encourage God’s people to take refuge in Him: “How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Ps. 2:12b). “Taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Ps. 34:8). He also encouraged others to follow his example: “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” (Ps. 56:3). “The righteous person will be glad in the LORD and take refuge in Him; and all the upright in heart will boast.” (Ps. 64:10). “For my eyes are toward You, GOD, the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave me defenseless.” (Ps. 141:8). During your trials, do you place your trust in God or others?

You never need to fear evil when you take refuge in God1

  • God is also a shield for those who take refuge in Him. Among the blessings that come from taking refuge in God is His promise to be your shield when you are attacked: “As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the LORD is refined; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.” (2 Sam. 22:31). “For You bless the righteous person, LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.” (Ps. 5:12). Believers are told to put on the armor of God: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (Eph. 6:11). This is only possible when you take refuge in God. Are you going into battle against the enemy with the full armor of God?

  • When God is your shield, you never need to fear your enemy. David was not the first leader to face fearful followers. At a time when the Egyptians were seemingly ready to crush the Jews at the Red Sea, Moses encouraged the Jews to have faith while God fought their battle for them: “13 But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Ex. 14:13-14). God repeatedly told His people not to fear when they faced trouble (e.g., Gen. 15:1; 46:3; 20:20; 1 Sam. 11:13; 12:16; 2 Kin. 6:16; Is. 7:4, 41:10-13). The battle against the enemy always belongs to Him: “The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,” (Dt. 1:30; 3:22). “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.” (Dt. 20:1). ‘“Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’” (2 Chron. 20:15; 32:7-8). He always wants you to rely on Him, regardless of what lies behind you or in your past. He will be your rear guard: “But you will not go out in haste, nor will you go as fugitives; for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (Is. 52:12). There is an analogy to this in the armor of God. His armor has no protection for your back because He will protect you (Eph. 6:10-18). Do you trust God to protect you?

2. Faithfulness: When You Worry, Meditate on God’s Faithfulness to You. Ps. 11:2-3.

  • David’s friends failed to believe that God would act if his enemies secretly attacked him. Lacking in their faith, David’s friends worried that God would not stop a secret attack: ‘“For, behold, the wicked bend the bow, they have set their arrow on the string to shoot in darkness at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?’” (Ps. 11:2-3). David’s friends had only a superficial faith. They believed that Satan was capable of concealing his wicked plans from God. It is true that Satan will frequently attack believers in secret to try to kill or harm them: “The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow to take down the afflicted and the needy, to kill off those who are upright in conduct.” (Ps. 37:14). But he can only succeed if God allows it.

  • Be watchful for ungodly advice from people of faith. Like David’s friends, the Bible is filled with examples of people of faith offering ungodly advice. As one commentator observes: “The advice given to David is well meant, but ungodly. It is like when Peter advised Jesus to not go the way of the cross (Matthew 16:22-23). Peter meant well, but he was really being used by the devil! We must always be careful with the advice we give to others. First, we must always mind our own business and not be busybodies (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 1 Timothy 5:13). Second, we can be too confident in our own perception of a situation. Job’s friend confidently said ‘I will tell you, hear me; what I have seen I will declare’ (Job 15:17), but he was wrong . . . here, David’s friends are trying to make him afraid of a secret attack. When we fear the things we can’t see, we are really walking in fear! David’s friends may have been using an element of manipulation here. They may have reasoned like this: ‘Look, for his own good we have to get David to get out of here. It’s justified for us to exaggerate things a little bit to get him to do what is right.’ But it wasn't justified. Manipulation is never right, even if it is for a good cause.” (David Guzik on Ps. 11).2

  • Fear only God. Moses told the people “fear not.” (Ex. 14:13). Jesus later quoted Moses when He told the disciples in the stormy sea: ‘“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’” (Matt. 14:27; Mk. 6:50; Jo. 6:20). You are to only fear God (Prov. 1:7). You fear Him when you hate evil (Prov. 8:13). When you are walking with Him, you should never fear your enemies: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.” (Lk. 12:4). Peter sank in the sea when he took his eyes off Jesus and became afraid of the waves around him (Matt. 14:30). Has your fear of some challenge or adversary taken your eyes off Jesus?

  • Give thanks for God’s faithfulness. You can thank God that He is faithful to keep His promises: “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His faithfulness to a thousand generations for those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Dt. 7:9). “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will do it.” (1 Thess. 5:24). Among His many promises, God is faithful to keep His promise to never forsake His people: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6; 4:31; Heb. 13:5; Is. 43:25). You can also give thanks that His faithfulness is not conditioned upon our faithfulness: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13; Nu. 23:19). Have you given thanks that God will not use your sins to void any of His many promises to you?

3. Sovereignty: When You Worry, Trust That God is Sovereign and in Control. Ps. 11:4a.

  • David proclaimed in faith that God was on the throne and in control. Because David’s friends felt abandoned, David reassured them that God remained seated on His throne: “4a The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lords throne is in heaven;” (Ps. 11:4a). God was not going anywhere. Even when David’s enemies appeared to have the upper hand, God was in full control and would cause all events to work together for good (Ro. 8:28).

Jesus sits on His throne as the sovereign King of Kings3

  • David knew that God would use His power to fulfill His promises to David. How could David be so confident that God would intervene to protect him from his enemies? God promised that David’s line would lead to the Messiah, who would reign forever: ‘“He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. . . Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’ (2 Sam. 7:13, 16). “I will establish your descendants forever and build up your throne to all generations.” Selah” (Ps. 89:4). The Messiah will also reign with eternal justice and righteousness: ‘“Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The Lord our righteousness.’”’ (Jer. 23:5-6). “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Is. 9:6-7). “A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; moreover, he will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness.” (Is. 16:5). The Old Testament gives us proof that God is faithful to keep His promises.

  • Jesus sits on the throne in heaven and is sovereign over all. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to David and the prophets. He was born into the line of David (Matt. 1:1). He came to fulfill God’s covenant with David as the eternal King of Kings: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” (Lk. 1:32-33). “And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.’” (Rev. 19:16). You can also give thanks that you will forever live under His righteous reign where you will be protected from any evil. “What plots can men devise which Jesus will not discover? Satan has doubtless desired to have us, that he may sift us as wheat, but Jesus is in the temple praying for us, and how can our faith fail?” (Charles Spurgeon on Ps. 11).4

4. Omniscience: When You Are Fearful, Trust That God is Watching Over You. Ps. 11:4b.

  • David proclaimed that God was watching out for them. Because his friends worried that they might be secretly attacked, David reassured them that nothing escaped God’s eyes: “4b His eyes see, His eyelids test the sons of mankind.” (Ps. 11:4b). While it is true that an all-knowing God knows our sins, it is the devil and his angels who need to fear God’s omniscience. If you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, all your sins will be forgiven. You can then take comfort that the enemy’s plans are all known to God. He can protect you from an attack before it ever happens. He can also guide your every step for good.

  • No sin can be concealed before the omniscient Creator. God is omniscient (all-knowing). This includes the Father (Ps. 147:5), the Son (Jo. 16:30), and the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10). Like David, Job also declared that God is infinitely wise and knows each person’s actions: “For His eyes are upon the ways of a person, and He sees all his steps.” (Job 34:21). Solomon also proclaimed that nothing could be hidden from God: “then hear in heaven, Your dwelling place, and forgive and act, and give to each in accordance with all his ways, whose heart You know—for You alone know the hearts of all mankind—” (1 Kgs. 8:39). “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good.” (Prov. 15:3). “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”’ (2 Chr. 16:9(a)). “For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their wrongdoing concealed from My eyes.” (Jer. 16:17; Ps. 130:3). “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer.” (Heb. 4:13). Are you living life knowing that nothing is hidden from God?

  • Praise Jesus for using His omniscience to guide and help you. In His perfect knowledge, Jesus has given you His Word to guide your steps: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). If you study the Word, the Holy Spirit can then cause you to remember it to light the right path for you: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). You can trust that Jesus uses His perfect knowledge out of love to protect and guide you: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (Ps. 37:5). “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Ps. 62:8). “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” (Is. 12:2). Are you trusting in Jesus and praising Him for watching over you, guiding you, and answering your prayers?

5. Sanctification: When You Experience a Trial, Trust That God is Refining You. Ps. 11:5.

  • David reassured his friends that their trials were part of God’s greater plan for them. To encourage his friends, David stated that God was using their trials to test their faith: “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and His soul hates one who loves violence.” (Ps. 11:5). “Please let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; for the righteous God puts hearts and minds to the test.” (Ps. 7:9). God tests your faith to perfect it. A faith that is never tested cannot be trusted.

  • God tests you to show you where your faith is lacking or where your heart is evil. God cannot tempt you (Ja. 1:13-14). He does, however, test you: “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” (Jer. 17:10; 20:12). Just as He did with David, God allows Satan to test you. He tests you to show you where your heart is evil (Jer. 17:9). He also tests you to show you where your faith is lacking. Or, He may use testing to show that you are dependent upon yourself and not God. Or, He may allow you to be tested and suffer so that you can comfort others. When He does test you, rejoice in knowing that His testing is designed to build up your faith: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (Jam. 1:2). David was a sinner. Yet, he invited God to search his heart to expose his sins: “Search me, God, and know my heart; put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts;” (Ps. 139:23). His openness to learning from his sins is what made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Are you inviting God to test your heart?

  • God tests your faith to perfect it. God also molds you through His testing into the righteous person of faith that you were meant to be: “But He knows the way I take; when He has put me to the test, I will come out as gold.” (Job 23:10). “For You have put us to the test, God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” (Ps. 66:10). “so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” (1 Pet. 1:7). “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (Jam. 1:12). Are you allowing God to mold you through your trials?

6. Justice: When Your Enemies Attack You, Leave Vengeance to Him Alone. Ps. 11:6.

  • To reassure his friends, David promised that God would one day judge their enemies. In response to their enemy’s attacks, David promised that God would judge their enemies: “He will rain coals of fire upon the wicked, and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.” (Ps. 11:6). Because God would judge their enemies, David and his friends did not need to take matters into their own hands. They could leave their vengeance to God. You can also trust God to judge any wrongs against you.

Leave vengeance to God, and trust that no evil will escape His judgment5

  • God will one day judge the wicked. David repeatedly stated that God will destroy the wicked: “The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind blows away. . . the way of the wicked will perish.” (Ps. 1:4, 6b). “Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them on.” (Ps. 35:5; 83:13; Is 29:5). Yet, this will again happen in God’s timing. Solomon also prophetically proclaimed: “For there will be no future for the evil person; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” (Prov. 24:20). “The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked goes out.” (Prov. 13:9). Yet, the time of final judgment is up to God. He may delay His judgment to give the wicked a chance to repent. He may also allow evil to temporarily dominate to cause His people to draw closer to Him and depend upon Him in faith.

  • Trust God to be just and fair. It is often hard to see God’s greater plan when evil seems to be prevailing at a particular moment. The Psalms are again helpful to turn your focus on God when this happens. The Psalms are filled with praises for God’s just and fair character in judging good and evil: “And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples fairly.” (Ps. 9:8). “Your throne, God, is forever and ever; the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice.” (Ps. 45:6). “May the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge the peoples with fairness and guide the nations on the earth. Selah” (Ps. 67:4). “Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples fairly.’ . . . Before the LORD, for He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in His faithfulness.” (Ps. 96:10, 13). “Before the LORD, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with fairness.” (Ps. 98:9). “[B]ecause He has set a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all people by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31). Even though evil may at times appear to be rampant, God will ultimately judge every evil act. But you need to have patience for God to act in His timing, not yours.

  • Be a source of God’s justice in the world. Seeing evil in the world does not mean that a believer needs to simply accept it. You can turn to God in prayer. God also calls upon believers to be His source of justice for the oppressed: “Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, obtain justice for the orphan, plead for the widow’s case.” (Is. 1:17). “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.” (Ps. 82:3). “This is what the LORD says: ‘Do justice and righteousness, and save one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. And do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”’ (Jer. 22:3). “May he vindicate the afflicted of the people, save the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor.” (Ps. 72:4). “The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor; the wicked does not understand such concern.” (Prov. 29:7). “Arise, LORD; save me, my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.” (Ps. 3:7). This is also part of the definition of true religion: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (Jam. 1:27). Are you advocating for the oppressed and those in need?

7. Love: When You Feel Fear, God Promises You His Love and Salvation. Ps. 11:7.

  • David encouraged his friends with the promise of God’s love and their salvation. Finally, David promised his fearful friends God’s love and that they would one day be with Him: “For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; the upright will see His face.” (Ps. 11:7). Our God is not distant and uncaring. He instead uses His incredible power out of love to guide and protect His people before the day when they dwell with Him in heaven.

Through faith in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, you live with Him in heaven6

  • God loves you and will never abandon you. The Psalms are filled with promises of God’s love for you: “Love the LORD, all His godly ones! The LORD watches over the faithful but fully repays the one who acts arrogantly.” (Ps. 31:23). Because He loves you, He will not abandon you to the wicked: “For the LORD loves justice and does not abandon His godly ones; they are protected forever, but the descendants of the wicked will be eliminated.” (Ps. 37:28). Thus, you should never feel unimportant to God.

  • Out of love, God sent His only begotten son to die for you to give you eternal life. David promised that the upright will see His face.” (Ps. 11:7; Matt. 5:8). Out of love for you, Jesus died on the cross to fulfill God’s promise to David that you will one day see God in heaven and have spiritual intimacy with Him: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jo. 3:16). Jesus loved you even when you were a sinner in rebellion against Him (Ro. 5:8). While the devil will one day perish, you will receive a crown of life in heaven: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10).

  • In your worship, give thanks for Jesus’ love and compassion during your trials. When you face a trial, you may feel alone. When you feel this way, turn to Jesus in your worship by giving thanks for His love and compassion: “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;”’ (Ex. 34:6). “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” (Ps. 86:5). “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (Ps. 103:8). “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yes, our God is compassionate.” (Ps. 116:5). Are you thanking Jesus for His love for you?