Psalm 12: Words and Their Significance: Part I
The Destructive Words of the Wicked
Introduction: This two-part series: Psalm 12 Words and their Significance focuses on the contrast between the false, misleading words of the wicked and the trustworthy words of God. Communication is God’s gift and by it he communicates His Being. Psalm 12: Words and their Significance helps put God’s gift into proper perspective.
Psalm 12 is found in book I and it is written by David. The historical situation is not known but the tone fits book I. Times were difficult for David, the messianic king who was on the run from foes within and without the kingdom. David was God’s agent to by which God would demonstrate His covenantal faithfulness to his people. He would do this through kingdom and dynasty building. Yahweh was establishing a king and kingdom of peace and righteousness, a dynasty and dominion for David and his descendants. All of this pointed to the greater David, Jesu Christ who was the fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7:12-16.
However, in both the lesser David’s and the greater David’s live, there was much conflict, confrontation, and resistance as both faithfully, Jesus perfectly and David imperfectly, fulfilled their God-ordained mission. Psalm 12 is one of the five psalms from book I (3-41) that have no singular personal pronoun – I (others are Psalm 14, 15, 24, and 29). Given its position in the Psalter we should not be surprised that the psalms in book I are often communications between the psalmist and God. In this way they are reminders and point to Christ who often prayed and communicated with His Father regularly He would not entrust Himself to any man (John 2:24-25). David was able to make accurate assessments of the reality of his situation, his God, and himself. In this sense as well, he followed the footsteps of the greater Messiah, Jesus Christ.
v.1: Help Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished among men
v.2: Everyone lies to his neighbor; their faltering lips speak deception;
David in his prayer gives an honest assessment from his perspective. He is very much aware that his perspective and God’s perspective were not always in sync. He desired them to be! In this psalm they were.
David had learned not to take matters into his own hands (see his response when Saul was at his disposal in 1 Samuel 24 and 26). I don’t think his approach to God in verse 1 resembles Elijah approach to God as given in 1 Kings 19. Seemingly, Elijah had missed the mark. David had not. David had the long view. Some may say that David was beside himself. Rather, he was aware of the reality of his circumstances. I think Paul’s comments as recorded in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 fit David in his situation.
David was practicing and developing confidence in the Lord. He was learning and practicing God-consciousness and God-reliance in contrast to self-reliance. He did not know the specifics but knowledge of God and His purpose motivated his confidence in God and His covenantal faithfulness. Therefore, David desired to be covenantal faithful.
He was able to accurately describe God’s enemy, Israel’s enemy, and his enemy via their words. The description of Israel in verse 2 described one of the reasons for the exile (see Jeremiah 5 and 9; Amos 5:10-12; Micah 2:1-5; 3:1-3; 6:10-11). Godliness had left the people! There was no fear of the Lord. Their words could not be trusted. The series Psalm 12: Words and their Significance helps the believer follower such New Testaments commands as given in Ephesians 4:25-32.
v.3: May the Lord cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue
v.4: that says, “We will triumph with our tongues, we own our own lips – who is our master?
David was grieved and angered at the ignorance and arrogance of these wicked people (…we own our own lips..) which was displayed by their speech vain, insincere, deceptive, and arrogant. In their misuse of the gift of language, they had functionally reversed the roles of God the Creator, Owner and Victor of His world with that of the creature – themselves. They were living the lie, playing God, and doing a terrible job. David called an end to both ignorance and arrogance. It was not so much that he was personally offended. Rather Israel’s enemies and his enemies were God’s enemies. They were proud people using the gift of words to attack God and His people.
The words of the wicked (verses 1-4) were distortions of the truth – they speaking were empty and vain words. Their words were words of flattery which Solomon and Daniel decried (Proverbs 26:28; 28:23; 29:5; Daniel 1132). Flattery is the way of the ungodly (Jude 16).
David knew that only a divine inside-out activity would accomplish a change in these people. David leaves justice in the Lord’s hands. That is where it belongs (Romans 12:17-21). Vengeance belongs to the Lord. David stilled himself because he knew that God was God (Psalm 46:10). God would avenge his name and His people in His time and on His schedule.
1. As do other psalms, Psalm 12 has both a personal and redemptive historical setting. Both must be considered in order to properly interpret the Psalms.
2. Psalm 12 has no know personal setting but it is in book I. How does that help you understand the psalm?
3. How does David open the Psalm and what is its significance (v.1)?
4. David is a confident man.
a. What is the source of his confidence?
b. What does he do as a confident man?
Psalm 12: Words and Their Significance: Part II
God’s Words are Faithful and Truth
v.5: Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise, says the Lord
v.6: And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.
v.7: Lord you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.
v.8: The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among me
David contrasts the words of man described in verses 2-4 with those of God as given in Scripture. The same concept is given Psalm 18:30 and Proverbs 30:6 but with the use of a different word. Both words emphasize a finished product from a refining process such that the product is without impurities and fit for a King because the King is the Refiner. It is a remarkable and interesting contrast.
In verse 5, God announced a more robust display of His activity and intervention as reassurance for David and any believer (…I will now arise). Arrogant and ignorant people believe their words are clean as a whistle and carry as much weight and freight as God’s words. They are wrong.
In verse 6, I suspect David is referring to God’s words in general but he may also be referring to a previous now-action by God (see v.5). God says He will arise. I am sure David leaped for joy in his heart. He knew God was actively engaged and on the scene. God’s words are flawless because they have stood the scrutiny of the Triune God Himself from eternity past. They need no further refining. God has revealed His finished product and recorded His words in the Bible which is His personal, purposeful, and powerful self- revelation.
Man is to enjoy God and His word. One way to do that is use speech well! The Bible teaches that God is trustworthy and He acts on His schedule and keeps His promises. David took delight and drew strength from this kind of God. David equated God’s word with the very Person of God. God had revealed Himself to David along the way. David was no stranger to intrigue, conflict, and uncertainty (the theme of book I). Yet he was growing in his appreciating and enjoying his personal relationship with God. He had a mission to complete. Who else was he to trust other than his trustworthy and honorable Deliverer?
Verses 7-8 (O Lord keep us safe and protect us such people forever. The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.) are David’s concluding expressions of confidence. He closed his communication with and to God in similar fashion in Psalm 3:8 (From the Lord comes my deliverance. May your blessings be on your people.).
Again he focused on himself and Israel. David has changed. The wicked had not. David opened the Psalm with a cry for help. He closed with confidence that God’s words are trustworthy and true. He trusted God’s word. God’s words are unlike those of man. God and His word are to be reckoned with and enjoyed. David confidently declares his loyalty to God. David looked beyond his circumstances at his God and God’s promise-making and promise-keeping. It was David’s most logical action.
In Psalm 3, David went to sleep and here he closes on a confident note. David did not make the same mistake as Asaph did as described in Psalm 73. David was a man who was not sinless but he focused on the end result (destiny) as well as the steps to the end. In that sense he modeled Christ, the greater David. Jesus kept His origin and destiny in perfect synchrony and looked forward to returning to heaven (Hebrews12:1-3). Pleasing His Father motivated and drove Jesus. The psalms help us capture David’s Christlikeness and encourage believers today to do the same.
1. Words matter. What is the contrast behind the words of wicked men and God?
2. God’s stands firm (v.7). What is the significance of that verse to you?
3. In what ways have you grown to the love the law/the Word of God, to mediate on it, and to apply it (Psalm 119:9-11, 24, 97-104, 105-106)?