There are many times when we feel alone in this world because of our Christian beliefs. We may even begin to think we are the only believers left in the world. This does not mean that the unbelievers we come into contact with are not good people – they can be very nice and wonderful people – but there is a difference between the Christian and the non-Christian.
You probably notice this when you go to church or otherwise get together with your Christian brothers and sisters after a long week of work. I know I do. I look forward to being around people with whom I share a common bond. But it is more than that; it is that I know I am in a safe environment with friends.
Psalm 12 addresses this situation in which the the psalmist sees the ungodly out-numbering the godly. The emphasis of this psalm is on the words that are being said to us and ultimately on thequality of God’s word.
To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.
1. Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.
From the very beginning we see a simple plea: help. This single, simple word shows urgency, helplessness, discouragement and humility. Note that there is no preceding address like “Oh Lord. ” Also, there is nothing that follows it, like “me” or “your servant.” This is a prayer for a group of people – a community.
It seems the problem is stemming from circumstances or attitudes that are coming from “inside the camp” so to speak. It is as if the godly man is being consumed by an unseen force – it isn’t like the godly are being killed by an enemy from a neighboring tribe or clan in a violent way, being picked off one-by-one by sniper fire; they simply cease to exist. And the faithful fail, like the health of an elderly person as they near the end of life, seem to pass on. The numbers of the ungodly are increasing (verse 8).
2. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
The Hebrew root for vanity is shava meaning a) false or falsehood as in this verse; b) evil or wickedness (Job 11:11); or nothingness and uselessness (Mal 3:14). The ungodly speak lies to those around him and most unfortunately, he lies to his neighbor with whom a friendship ought to be nurtured because a neighbor can be a great help in a time of need as well in times of peace and prosperity.
The wicked do this with flattering lips. What is a characteristic of flattery? Empty praise comes to mind. Praise that, while expressed in sincere terms, really has no substance of truth issuing from the heart of the speaker. It is especially devious because it is building up the spirit of the victim of the lie which will inevitably be exposed and that victim will be crushed when he discovers the falsehood.
The double heart tells us these people have an ulterior motive behind all their flattery.
3. The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:
4. Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?
Now the psalmist reveals his confidence that God will deal with the flatterers and the liars and the ungodly. These are the people spoken of in verse two. Verses three and four expand on their characteristics a bit more.
Firstly, they are proud and they speak with pride that with their tongue – their lying and flattery – they will gain control and power and prosperity. Secondly, they claim that no one (not even God) has power over them and can tell them how to use their speech and words.
5. For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.
This is a wonderful verse because it reveals to us what is important to God. It isn’t the one who is prideful because of his power or abilities – it is the person and people who are oppressed and poor. Poor in physical circumstances and poor in spirit — the oppressed and downtrodden. I especially like the last clause in this verse because I see God shielding us from the weak and powerless “puffing” of the prideful ungodly around us. It almost sounds like He will pick us up and put us in a safe place. “Puffing” is interpreted as contemptuous scorn.
6. The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
In verse five, the Lord spoke, saying he had heard the people, the oppressed and the needy, and that He would now rise to help them. In verse six the believer and writer of the psalm shows his confidence. The words of the Lord are pure – not only these words said in this instance, but all the Lord’s words. In fact, they are as pure as silver that has been purified (tried) seven times.
Each time silver or gold is melted, a little more of the impurities come out of it. Silver that has been melted or purified seven times in indeed pure! The number seven stands for completion and the fact that the Lord’s word is like silver purified seven times tells us the Lord’s word is completed – pure. It is pure in truth, with no error in it. We may be assured that the Lord’s word is pure.
7. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
The psalmist continues his confidence in the Lord. He knows that God’s word is pure and that what God says can be relied on. He knows God will keep His people safe from the liars, scoffers and proud – those who persecute the godly.
The words “this generation” indicate that this flattery and pride and deception was widespread in the land at the time. Humankind hardly changes at all does it? We struggle through hard times and persecution, wars, and famine and God hears our sighing and sees our needs and helps us. Then, when we have attained affluence and prosperity and power, we begin to think it is something we created and begin scoffing and belittling the believer because they put all their trust in God. This happened to Israel time and time again … but if we do not heed history and scoff at what God has done for us, we will surely pay.
8. The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.
This last verse is a little strange in this place and I am not sure what to do about it. Scholars have different ideas about what it is all about, but sometimes scholars get too bogged-down in rules and ideas to really see what is meant by a passage. They are smart people and we need to listen to them, but it is like the music student: before he went to college he was writing songs and everyone loved them, but after his first year he gave up music altogether because the professors imposed so many rules on the way music “ought” to be composed, that he became bogged down in the rules quagmire and all his music became dull and lifeless.
I think the simple explanation is that it is a summary of the psalm as a whole. But not quite. There is no inclusion of the purpose and power of God in preserving and saving the believers. If we were to improve the understanding of this last verse we might want to add something to that effect, but doing that is out of the question.
God has provided us with His Word to us and we must neither add nor subtract from that Word. He wrote this, giving us the information He wanted us to have – we must honor that and leave it alone.
God Bless You in every way, everyday.