Psalm 12

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

March 3, 2014


Tom Lowe


Psalm 12

Title: To the chief Musician. Upon the Sheminith*, A Psalm of David.

*Sheminith (eighth), a musical term found in the title of (Psalms 6:1). A similar direction is found in the title of (Psalms 12:1) Comp. 1Chr 15:21. It seems most probable that Sheminith denotes a certain air known as the eighth, or a certain key in which the psalm was to be sung. (Smith's Bible Dictionary)


Psalm 12 (NKJV)
1 To the Chief Musician. On an eight-stringed harp. A Psalm of David. Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
2 They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
3 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, And the tongue that speaks proud things,
4 Who have said, "With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us?"
5 "For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, Now I will arise," says the Lord; "I will set him in the safety for which he yearns."
6 The words of the Lord are pure words, Like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times.
7 You shall keep them, O Lord, You shall preserve them from this generation forever.
8 The wicked prowl on every side, When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.


Introduction

The opening words suggest that this psalm is an appeal for help during bad times when evil men dominate. There are times when sin seems rampant, sweeping all before it like a tidal wave. The great and godly men are taken away one by one, and the ungodly reign supreme, and no help is available from man. It is then that we must turn to God and cry out with the shout that broke from Peter’s lips as he began to sink in the sea. It is a very practical cry, both from its brevity and its comprehensiveness—Help Lord! The Prophet Micah may have had this psalm in mind when he wrote these words:“The faithful man has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; every man hunts his brother with a net” (Micah 7:2).

Although this psalm belongs to the large group of laments over the success of evildoers (e.g. Ps. 7; 10; 17; 25; 37), its theme is more specialized than some. The activity of the wicked is primarily felt by the innocent and godly and occurs in the realm of speech, that is, the falsification and perversion of the gift of language. Hence, the intervention of the Lord must be not only in deeds but in words. The poem sets the effective purity of God’s Word over against the bogus claims of vain lips, and adds yet further testimony to the serious view the Bible takes on sins of speech.

This psalm expresses David’s confidence in the untarnished words of God that assure him that He will deliver those who seek His salvation. This expression of confidence came in the midst of a culture that oppressed the weak with deception. The setting of the psalm is unknown, but many events in the life of David could have prompted such a psalm (1 Sam. 23:11, 19; 26:19), and the language of the psalm is general enough to fit several situations.

In politics, new taxes are “revenue enhancements,” and in military jargon, “retreat” is “backloading of augmentation personnel.” If, while you’re backloading, you get shot, the bullet hole is “a ballistically induced aperture in the subcutaneous environment.” This kind of artificial evasive language is known as “double-speak” and its popularity in almost every area of human life is evidence that language and communication are in serious trouble. Our ability to speak and write words is a precious gift of God, and this psalm deals with the right and wrong use of that gift.

This psalm will have its final fulfillment in the days of the Tribulation which will come upon Israel’s godly remnant—also upon godly Gentiles—in that day. In the opening verses we will find a description of the apostasy in those days. You see, there is to be an apostasy in Israel as well as in the church.


Commentary

1 Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.

Society had become totally corrupt. Worthless and base men were in positions of influence and power, so that wickedness was openly approved of. There seemed to be no trustworthy, honest people on whom the psalmist could trust. Forget God and you get a society in which men cannot trust each other, and which therefore ultimately collapses.

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 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. Elijah thought he was the only faithful servant left (1 Kings 18:22; 19:10, 18), and the prophets Isaiah (Isa. 57:1) and Micah (Mic. 7:1-7) expressed their concern at the lack of righteous leaders. See also Psalm 116:1, Ecclesiastics 10:5-7, and Jeremiah 5:1. When he wrote 1 Timothy, Paul lamented over what “some” were doing in the church (1:3, 6, 19; 4:1; 5:15; 6:10), but in 2 Timothy that “some” had become “all” (1:15; 4:16). However, God is never without witnesses, and what the godly often need is a reminder of this fact and the power of the faithful and a voice to call them out of their gloom. It is easy to develop an Elijah complex today and say, “I am the only one left. I am the only one standing for God these days.” Many people develop that complex. It is not accurate, but it can happen when you see godlessness on every side. 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 become leaders.

2 They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

Those who practice deceit on their neighbors whom they should love are said to have a double heart. God’s Word, though, stirs us to do quite the opposite, that is, to put away lying and speak truth to our neighbors—“Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25; also Col. 3:9).Truth is trampled underfoot in a corrupt society, and words are only tools of self-interest. A flatterer gives to the flattered a false opinion of himself, so that a society is formed which degenerates in its standards and output.

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 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 5:9; 28:3; 34:13; 55:21; 14:13). The extent to which the corruption has spread among his own people prompts the psalmist to believe that it is universal.

Saul used lies to deceive his leaders about David, and Absalom used lies to poison the minds of the naïve people of Israel against David. Flattery is not communication, it is manipulation (See Prov. 26:28; 28:23). Flattery plays on the ego and especially influences people who want to appear important (Jude 11). You can flatter yourself (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 deception, 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 (86:11; 1 Chron. 12:33, 38; Rom. 16:17-18).

In this verse three specific charges are leveled against the faithless generation:

Lies—they are guilty not only of blatant forms of deceit, but of white lies, half-truths, exaggerations and broken promises.
Flattery—they heap insincere complements on others. Praise is not the same as flattery; it only becomes flattery when it ascribes virtues to a person which he is known not to possess. And flattery usually has some sinister or selfish motive.
Two-facedness—they think one thing and say something quite different; they practice deception and intrigue.

3 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, And the tongue that speaks proud things,

Here is a call for death in the light of sin. On the obnoxious sin of lying lips, we have these verses:

For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue. (Ps. 5:9)
Who say to the seers, "Do not see," And to the prophets, "Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. (Isa. 10:30)
Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. (Dan. 11:32)
"Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips" (Rom. 3:32)

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