LIES, FLATTERY, BOASTING
I praise you Lord. Your strength sustains me, your counsel directs me, and your Word instructs me.
Read Psalm 12
For the director of music. According to sheminith.[b] A psalm of David.
1 Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;
those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
2 Everyone lies to their neighbor;
they flatter with their lips
but harbor deception in their hearts.
3 May the Lord silence all flattering lips
and every boastful tongue—
4 those who say,
“By our tongues we will prevail;
our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”
5 “Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord.
“I will protect them from those who malign them.”
6 And the words of the Lord are flawless,
like silver purified in a crucible,
like gold[c] refined seven times.
7 You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
and will protect us forever from the wicked,
8 who freely strut about
when what is vile is honored by the human race.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Reflect on what James says about the tongue being a fire.1
My most frequent arrow prayer is ‘Help me, Lord!’ So I’m in good company with the psalmist! For him, the outlook was bleak indeed; he couldn’t see anyone who cared two cents about God. The situation is full of menace, focusing on the use and abuse of words. Lies are emptiness, which Derek Kidner describes as embracing falsehood with overtones of insincerity and irresponsibility ‘which cheapen and corrode all human intercourse’.2 This is naturally followed by flattery and boasting. Sadly, there are many people like that today; people who think they’re clever in what they say, yet exploit the poor and needy (v 5) for their own gain.
The psalmist prays for an end to such words and vile actions. Help, Lord! Cut it out of our society and our world! It comes as no surprise that God is happy to hear such prayer and promises to act (v 5). We may wonder, though, why God sometimes delays his interventions. The promises are there. They are ‘flawless’ (v 6). He will protect and guard his people. We know from other examples in Scripture, however, that such action may take a lot longer than we would like.3 As we read psalms like this one, therefore, we need to persevere in prayer and trust, knowing that God’s timing is perfect and that he knows what he is doing.
The enemy still prowls about openly (v 8). Kidner warns us, ‘The battle of words is no side-issue; a weakness here, and the enemy is in.’4 Peter urges us to resist him, steadfast in our faith.5 We need to read James on the subject, too.6 Things are not yet right in our world and it’s just as important to ensure that we are not part of the evil as it is to trust God to protect us (v 7).
In your current context, can you identify with the psalmist? What are you doing about it?
Lord, I need to make my deeds fit my words, my conduct fit my profession. Enable me to practice selflessness in my daily living.
1 James 3:6 2 Kidner, Psalms 1–72, Tyndale OT Commentaries, 1973, p75 3 E.g. Exod 1:13,14; 2:23–25; 3:7–10 4 p76 5 1 Pet 5:8,9 6 James 3
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