Shelter When Foundations Shake
By Lee Jones
It’s safe to say that all people crave stasis. They want stability and safety, and the backwardness of the sinful heart is displayed in the fact that pagans seek refuge in things or people rather than in God who alone provides true refuge. David praises this attribute of God in this psalm.
By now, we’ve seen that petitions to YHWH out of perilous circumstances have been common. David recognizes that faith in YHWH doesn’t prevent difficulties, but provides the open ear of the One Holy God.
Only by being clothed in Christ’s righteousness can we be called righteous, so receiving that standing by grace we will certainly behold the face of YHWH in the New Jerusalem.
Verse 4 is rock solid, more solid than the foundation of the Temple that David mentions. It is intriguing to see that David makes a distinction in his poetry between the Temple and the Throne. The Temple was not God’s throne because an earlier psalm described the earth as God’s footstool. Rather, His throne is in heaven, and the Temple is merely the doorway to His throne room, so to speak. The true Temple, Jesus Christ, would soon take on flesh and replace that shadow with substance and enable us to boldly approach God’s throne in prayer, but at this point God in His grace provided the Temple.
Then David uses a curious phrase: “His eyes behold, his eyelids test the sons of men.” Of course, no one believes that God has a physical eye and eyelid with which he views the goings-on of the whole world. So what does David mean here? He uses the Hebrew word “aphaph” which can be translated several ways...eyelids/gaze/dawnlight. The same word is used in Job 16:16, “my face is flush from weeping, And deep darkness is on my eyelids,” and also Job 41:18, “His sneezes flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of morning.”
A plain reading would tell us that YHWH keeps close tabs on the whole earth, both the righteous and the wicked. He doesn’t sleep like mankind, and the wicked often fool themselves into thinking He doesn’t notice them as they sin (perhaps they believe His eyelids are closed).
Rather He sees and tests. He sends snares on the wicked, violence-lovers. In fact, He is ready to pour out three things into their cups: fire, brimstone, and burning wind. These are all symbols of judgment, entirely deserved.
Yet David has no poetic language for YHWH’s blessings, he describes them plainly. Verse 7, “For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face.”
That is the highest promise God gives to His children. Over the course of redemptive history, YHWH promised many things to His covenant people: lands, children, freedom from exile, a Messiah. And yet it was through the last promise that every promise of God would have its Yes and Amen. Jesus would deliver on the greatest promise ever made: that the righteous would see the Father’s face. Only by being clothed in Christ’s righteousness can we be called righteous, so receiving that standing by grace we will certainly behold the face of YHWH in the New Jerusalem.
We will behold the face of Jesus Christ, who redeemed with His blood a people for His own possession. We will behold the face of God The Father, who is pleased to look on Christ and pardon and adopt us. And we will fellowship with the Holy Spirit, having no more need for Him to translate our spiritual groanings, as we will be glorified and no longer groan for any reason.
This promise is too good to not be held out and displayed even now before the wicked. Be reconciled to God, we implore you, by the repentance of your sins and belief in Christ. Receive his righteousness, turn from your sin, and be filled with anticipation for the ultimate fulfillment of every divine promise. To my fellow believers, I pray that you never tire of anticipating an eternity of face to face fellowship with our God.
That’ll keep you from falling when the foundations seem to crumble beneath you, and you remember that your house is built on the Rock and Redeemer of His covenant people.
Glory to God alone.