I had thought I would move on to Psalm 12 when I realized that there was an incredibly important truth in Psalm 11 that I had only really mentioned briefly in passing. That was the remarkable words of verse 4 which states:
“The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.”
Just stop for a moment, as I did, and meditate on these words.
These words are teaching us about the God we worship. These words are a revelation concerning the One who created all things and the One who sustains all things. The One who rules, who is everywhere, knows everything and is all-powerful. And the psalmist suggests here that this One “is in his holy temple…on his heavenly throne.” Words that gave him great comfort and the courage to not run from his troubles or his troublemakers.
Why? Are these just nice words or does God really “sit on his heavenly throne” ruling over his creation?
Rather than going first to see what commentaries say, I checked out some very interesting cross-references to verse 4 as follows:
Solomon in his prayer to Yahweh, the “Sovereign Lord” (I Kings 8:53), asks that when he and his people call out to him that “from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause.” (1 Kings 8:49)
Prior to this, Solomon’s father David, “sang to the Lord…when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies…” and said these words:
“In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his [heavenly] temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6)
Then there is that remarkable vision of Isaiah’s when he “saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim …3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:1-3)
Later on he quotes this same Lord as saying:
“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” (Isaiah 66:1)
Micah speaks of “the Sovereign Lord … bear[ing] witness against you,
the Lord from his holy temple.” (Micah 1:2)
And then Habakkuk has a serious suggestion for us all:
20 The Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him. (Habakkuk 2:20)
When we turn to the NT, the writers confirm what their OT counterparts wrote about. For example, Matthew, quoting Jesus, says,
34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool.” (Matthew 5:34) – A quote from Isaiah 66:1 above.
But then to top all this off is the Revelation of John chapter 4-5, tiltled “The Throne in Heaven” in the NIV. If you have time, read it now. Here are just a few snippets:
“After this I looked … 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders … In the centre, around the throne, were four living creatures … Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.” (Revelation 4)
What John saw was what the psalmist had mentioned when he said, “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.” And this is our God!
So, I guess, these are not just nice words to bring some comfort in trouble. Not just nice words to give courage against those who oppose us. But, the reality! The OT writers understood this. Some of them had a vision of God on his “heavenly throne”. Jesus in the NT affirms its truth and he should know! Then we have John’s vision just to complete the picture.
Of course, the point is not where this heavenly throne is, because we don’t know, and we don’t know because we aren’t told and most probably we are too earthbound to understand anyway! As Wilcock comments, “it is not a matter of location; it is a matter of function…heaven…is where God welcomes all to his eternal presence and governs all by his eternal power.” (see references # 5)
Remember, according to the psalmist, it is from here that God “observes the sons of men, his eyes examine them…the Lord [who] is righteous, [who] loves justice…[and whose face] the upright ones will see…” (Psalm 11:4-7)
A couple of other thoughts from commentators are:
In verse 3 the psalmist draws our attention to “foundations [that] are being destroyed”. Broyles suggests that the psalmist then points to “a building whose foundations will never be destroyed. It is the supreme image of stability and order….this statement does not merely locate God’s presence ; rather it affirms that he has assumed his role as universal Judge and is about to exercise that role. There is the sense that the entire world stands before him in his court.” He continues, “In the minds of the ancients the earthly temple was an immanent symbol participating in the transcendent reality.” (see references # 4)
And finally, Longman suggests that the psalmist “explains why he has such confidence in God in the face of armed attackers. [He] simply states that God ‘is in his holy temple’. In other words, he has made his presence known among his people…[and He is] ‘on his heavenly throne’. The temple is an earthly manifestation of a heavenly reality….[and the point being] that God the King rules from heaven. From this heavenly vantage point, he observes everyone [the ‘righteous’ and the ‘wicked’].” (see references # 30)
One day, we too, if we can be described as “righteous” (11:4) and “upright” (11:7), will “see his face” as we enter the heavenly throne room. How that is possible is found in John’s revelation chapter 5.
John here describes what he saw next, which was “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders… [and] the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. … And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!”
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honour and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”
Thanks be to God that Jesus, here described as “The Lamb who was slain”, is the only way we will ever enter into God’s presence and “see his face”!
Father, this is all a bit too much to take in, but that doesn’t mean that it is any less the reality. Thank you that you reign supreme and “love justice”. Help us to also “act justly…love mercy and to walk humbly with [you] our God.” (Micah 6:8) Amen