Psalm 12: Part 2 of 3 (series: Lessons on Psalms)
by John Lowe
We are in Jerusalem in post exilic times. We are to picture a small colony of the Lord’s people in great distress, sighing under the oppression of their neighbors on all sides and suffering primarily from their offensive speech. It is easy to imagine the proud Judeans in this “occupied area,” where foreign enemies, probably the Chaldeans, are the ruling class. We can also realize how the proud attitude of the Jews toward them will tend to arose bitter verbal clashes and provoke their foreign overlords to make deceitful and insincere assertions. It leads to a strong accusation against them from the poor and needy of the congregation because of their rash and heartless words.
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 this way and rule the world. This kind of speech is motivated by pride and is used by people who think they are in control and will never need to answer to anybody, including the Lord. Their lips are their own, and they can say whatever they please. We are seeing that apostasy in the church is noted by pride like this. Jude predicted the coming apostasy, “These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage” (Jude 16). In other words, those in apostasy are a bunch of liars. David wanted God to destroy them and end their arrogant boasting.
4 Who have said, "With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us?"
The evils of which the psalmist speaks come to their fullest expression among men in places of authority and power. They are arrogant and self-confident; what they cannot obtain by flattery or plausible lying or by slandering one’s character, they mean to take by more direct methods. They have a tongue that makes great boasts (v. 3), and the substance of their boasts is “Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us?” or, more freely translated, “with our lips as our allies, who can stop us?” They take as great a liberty in their speech as they would if there was no God or man superior to them. Neither the fear of God, nor reverence for man, can keep them from saying whatever they please, nor what they suppose is in their best interest.
They boasted, “With our tongue we will prevail” by inventing slanders and evil reports concerning him, which enraged Saul against David, and alienate the people’s hearts from him; which, in that day was a very likely way to prevail against him—and it only involved their tongues.
Words have always been a weapon for good or evil, but ultimately their effect is dependent on their relation to facts. The tongue which “boasts of great things” (Jas. 3:5) may have its temporary influence, but “we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth” (2 Cor. 13:8), when all is said and done. The world, as it exists today, rarely allows daring wickedness to go unpunished.
The prayer which comes from the heart carries with it the assurance of an answer. I pray that we will never act as if our lips are our own; for they too have been bought with the price of those dear parched lips which cried, I thirst.
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."
This verse is the answer of God; “says the Lord.” It is a communication from the Lord answering the sincere prayer of the faithful. God hears the sighs. One sigh will make Him arise and go into action, just as the sighs of Stephen caused Jesus to stand (Acts 7:56). The psalmist received assurance from God that the Lord would arise and free the weak and needy from oppression. God promised to deliver those who trusted in Him from those who were slandering them.
The Lord has seen the violence His poor have suffered. He has heard their groans of distress and the pain in their cries. Now He will go into action to answer the congregations cry for help. He will speak and act as the protector and champion of His people; He will arise and judge the liars and deceivers.
When God comes to deliver His people, He will “cut off” those who practice flattery and deception (v. 3), which means separation from the covenant community (Gen. 17:14), like the separation of the goats from the sheep (Matt. 25:32-33).
6 The words of the Lord are pure words, Like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times.
The Lord’s perfect (purified) and true words present a most radical contrast with the profane words of arrogant sinners. Their untarnished nature is compared to the process of refining silver; it is as if the words of the Lord had been refined seven times, the number of completeness and perfection. The imagery of a crucible, from which the fully-refined silver is poured down into molds set in the earth, is an apt illustration of the purity, value, and applicability to worldly needs of the divine Word, swiftly revealed and lastingly preserved. What God says is true and reliable. There are no errors mixed into God’s Word; all dross has been removed, therefore, they may be trusted completely and unconditionally. His words are not tainted with deceit and false flattery (in contrast with the wicked’s words, v. 2-3) but are fully dependable. The purity of God’s person assures the purity of His promises (Ps. 19:7-10).
Because of assurance from God that the afflicted would be delivered (v. 5) the psalmist expressed confidence in the untarnished words of God, even though he knew the wicked were all around him. That is one reason why we need to spend more time in the Word of God. It is the fortress into which the Lord wants to put us.
7 You shall keep them, O Lord, You shall preserve them from this generation forever.
Let’s see what it is that makes times bad, and when they can be said to be so. Ask the people of this world, “What makes the times bad?” and they will tell you, “scarcity of money, lack of business, the destruction of war, inflation, lack of jobs, government regulations, and decay of trade: but the Scriptures lays the badness of the times on causes of another nature—“that in the last days perilous times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1). Sin abounds in perilous times, and this is what David complains about.
Now, let’s see what good things we are furnished with, for those bad times, so that we are preserved for the good times that are certain to come to the people of God:
We have a God we can go to, from whom we may ask and expect the redress of all our grievances.
God will certainly punish and restrain false and proud men.
God will work deliverance for all His people. His help is given at the right time.
The psalmist trusted in God’s words that He would keep them safe in the midst of proud people who strut about in smug self-confidence, placing a premium on things that are vile. God’s Word is safe for He said. “I am watching over my Word to perform it” (Jer. 1:12). Furthermore, God is able to protect His godly people from the lies of the enemy. God’s people are the “generation of the righteous” (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.
Christian friend, you can bind the words of God to your heart, and go fearlessly among wicked and vile men, because He shall keep and preserve you for all eternity—“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me," Says the Lord” (Isa. 54:17). So, the believer instinctively turns to the Lord for protection from this generation—protection not only from its attacks but from any form of complicity or compromise with it.