Psalm 12 is about the proud and lying words of people versus the true and pure words of God. A call for protection against those who try to manipulate us.
The Righteous—Despairing Words
Help, Lord, for no faithful one remains; the loyal have disappeared from the human race.
Psalm 12:1 (HCSB)
In Psalm 11, the foundations of society were shaking (v. 3), but here David cried out for help (salvation, deliverance) because the godly remnant of faithful believers was getting smaller and smaller.
This wasn’t the complaint of a crotchety old man longing for “the good old days.” It was the cry of a truly faithful servant of God who wanted to see his nation Israel fulfill her divine purposes on earth. The faithfulness of Israel involved bringing the Savior into the world and blessing all the nations (Gen. 12:1-3). David wasn’t alone in his concern.
Living for God in a deceitful world can be difficult and lonely. At one time the great prophet Elijah felt so lonely he wanted to die. But god told him that there were 7,000 other faithful servants (1 Kings 19:4, 14, 18). We are never alone in our battle against evil. When you feel alone, seek out other believers for strength and support.
One of the tragedies today is that a new generation of believers doesn’t seem to know what it takes to be a godly leader, so they borrow leadership ideas from secular society and all kinds of unequipped and unqualified people to be leaders.
The Wicked—Deceptive Words
Neighbors lie to each other,
speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts.
May the Lord cut off their flattering lips
and silence their boastful tongues.
They say, “We will lie to our hearts’ content.
Our lips are our own—who can stop us?”
Psalm 12:2-4 (NLT)
One mark of a Spirit-filled believer is the ability to detect lies and liars and avoid them (1 John 2:18-29), and David knew that he was living in a society controlled by deception. It wasn’t that only a few people were telling lies; deception was a major characteristic of the whole generation. (See Ps. 5:9; 28:3; 34:13; 55:21; 141:3.
What would David say if he were alive today and witnessed the propaganda and promotion that make up what we casually call “the media”?
He would probably describe today’s “communication” as he did centuries ago: empty and useless words (“vanity”), smooth talk (“flattery”), double-talk from double hearts, and boastful talk or “proud words.”
Saul used lies to deceive his leaders about David, and Absalom used flattery to poison the minds of the naive people of Israel against David. Flattery is not communication; it’s manipulation (see Prov. 26:28; 28:23).
Even in Christian ministry it’s possible to use flattery to influence people and exploit them (1 Thess. 2:1-6; Acts 20:28-31). Flattery plays on the ego and especially influences people who want to appear important (Jude 11). You can flatter yourself (Ps. 36:2), others (5:9; 12:2), and even God (78:34-37).
Of course, what the lips speak comes from the heart (Matt. 12:33-37), and that’s why David accuses these liars of duplicity, which is a divided heart (literally “a heart and a heart”). This is the opposite of the “perfect heart,” total loyalty to God and His truth (Psalm 86:11; 1 Chron. 12:33, 38; Rom. 16:17-18).
As for “proud words,” this describes boastful speech that impresses people by its oratory and vocabulary. “Great swelling words” is the phrase used in 2 Peter 2:18 and Jude 1:16. Daniel (7:20, 25) and John (Rev. 13:2, 5) both tell us that the Antichrist will speak in this way and rule the world. This kind of speech is motivated by pride and is used by people who think they’re in control and will never need to answer to anybody, including the Lord. Their lips are their own, and they can speak just as they please.
We may be tempted to believe that some lies are relatively harmless, even useful at times. But God does not overlook lies, flattery, deception, or boasting. Each of these sins originates from a bad attitude that is eventually expressed in our speech. The tongue can be our greatest enemy because, though small, it can do great damage (James 3:5-6). Be careful how you use yours.
The Lord—Delivering Words
The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless,
and I have heard the groans of the poor.
Now I will rise up to rescue them,
as they have longed for me to do.”
The Lord’s promises are pure,
like silver refined in a furnace,
purified seven times over.
Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed,
preserving them forever from this lying generation,
even though the wicked strut about,
and evil is praised throughout the land.
Psalm 12:5-8 (NLT)
God cares for the helpless and the poor. Here he promises to protect the downtrodden and confront their oppressors. We should identify with God’s attitude. His work is not done until we care for the needs of the poor.
Sincerity and truth are extremely valuable because they are so rare. Many people are deceivers, liars, flatters; they think they will get what they want by deception. As a king, David certainly faced his share of such people who hoped to win his favour and gain advancement through flattery. When we feel as though sincerity and truth have nearly gone out of existence, we have one hope – the Word of God. God’s Word is as pure and flawless as refined silver. So listen carefully when he speaks to you through his Word.
But can the Lord’s promises be trusted?
Yes! Unlike the worthless words of the deceivers, the Word of the Lord is like precious silver (Ps. 19:9-10) that is heated seven times in the crucible before it is poured out into the mold. His Word is flawless and can be trusted; His Word is precious and must be valued (119:14, 72, 127, 162).
How paradoxical that society today sees the Scriptures as something relatively worthless and yet pays great sums of money to the people who manufacture deception and flattery. No matter how many lies this generation tells, God’s Word is safe, for He said, “I am watching over My word to perform it” (Jer. 1:12, nasb).
Furthermore, God is able to protect His godly people from the lies of the enemy. God’s people are “the generation of the righteous” (Psalm 14:5), the generation that seeks God (24:6), the generation of His children (73:15), the generation of the upright (112:2). If God’s people will saturate themselves with God’s Word, they won’t be seduced by “this lying generation.” When the church adopts the techniques and motives of the world system, the church ceases to glorify the Lord.
The final verse issues a call to action, for “the wicked strut about, and evil is praised throughout the land”. Vileness (“cheapness”) is promoted and exalted in the media:
- The love of money,
- The abuse of authority.
The things that God condemns are now a means of universal entertainment, and the entertainment industry gives awards to the people who produce these things. People boast about things they ought to be ashamed of (Phil. 3:18-19).
Is there a way to restrain and overcome this national decay?
Yes! God’s people are salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). If there were more light in the land, there would be less darkness, and if we had more salt, there would be less decay. As God’s people worship God, pray, and share the Gospel with the lost, more people will trust Christ and increase the salt and light in the land.
We must also share the truth of the Word with the next generation (2 Tim. 2:2) and prepare them for the battles and opportunities to come (Psalm 78:1-8; 102:18). The church is always one generation short of extinction, so we must be faithful to win the lost and teach the believers, or vileness will conquer the land.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
God’s word to me is flawless. It is like silver refined in a furnace. He will not turn from His promise to protect me. From this day unto eternity, my heavenly Father will keep me safe from the plans, purposes, and pursuits of the wicked.
I pray this declaration of faith in the name of Jesus Christ! Amen.
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Worshipful
NLT Chronological Life Application Study Bible