“When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”
You will notice a note in your text that suggests a possible alternative reading to this verse: “When the foundations are being destroyed, what is the Righteous One doing?” The ancient Hebrew manuscript is unclear as to which reading is exact, but the preferred choice of the modern editors of Scripture was to choose the rendering I’ve printed in the title.
However, both readings are correct! Whatever reading is chosen, whether it is “the righteous” who are looking for guidance in times of trouble or it is “the Righteous One” we are wondering about, the question is answered in the rest of the psalm, especially the very next verse, verse 4. When the foundation are being destroyed,
“The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD is on his heavenly throne.”
That’s the confidence we have in times of insecurity and instability: God is in the unshakeable place; He is the Unshakeable One. He is the One we run to for “refuge” (v. 1) when the foundations are being destroyed.
I lived in the Bay Area for several years, where fault lines run throughout the area like fingers branching off your hand. My home was literally just a few blocks off the Calaveras Fault Line. During our time there, we endured a few minor shocks—enough to keep you reminded of the possibility of the “big one.” Everybody, in theory at least, knew the preferred place to go when one of those infamous California earthquakes hit.
So do the righteous! When big ones and little ones hit, we go the Unshakeable One. When the foundations are being destroyed, he is in the place where the foundations are eternal. They were here before the earth was even created, and they will be here long after this old earth fades from view. And we have this promise (v. 7) that is as sure as God himself:
“For the LORD is righteous,
he loves justice;
upright men will see his face.”
Next time you experience a tremor, go where you are supposed to go. Go to the Unshakeable One and claim your place of safety.
“Our extremity is God’s opportunity.”
— George Whitefield