Praying the Psalms: Psalm 12

How do we pray when our leaders have forked tongues and a crooked smile? Politicians have a reputation for saying anything to get a vote. They make grandiose promises and they will tickle ears to appease a group only to say the opposite behind close doors. News anchors embellish and speak half truths when reporting a story. Business leaders cook the books or hide assets in illegal tax shelters. As we look at the world today, honesty seems to be missing and truth telling is absent. It is hard to know who is speaking truth and who is speaking lies. And so we come to that opening question, how do we pray when our leaders have forked tongues and a crooked smile? This is exactly the question David, the psalmist, seeks to answer in Psalm 12. Liars seem to be everywhere and his lament leads him to unshakeable trust in the truthful purity of the words of God.

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Commentary

v. 1–2 - The situation of David’s lament is laid out in these first two verses. The urgent plea is found in the first word, “Save.” The godly seem to be absent and gone. The ones who are faithful to God seem to have vanished among men. Everyone left utters lies with flapping lips and a deceitful heart. Everyone, particularly the nation’s leadership, seems to be intent on deceit. You can’t trust anyone and evil motivations seems to be hiding behind words of flattery. Truth telling and truth speaking is absent from the culture, and lies and deceit lurk publicly in the open square.

As we look at the world in which we live, it is amazing how humanity has not changed since David’s day. Through sound bites and new clips, tweets and status updates there are hay stacks of falsehood we must sort through to find the needle of truth. Everywhere around us their is falsehood. There are grand and extravagant promises made by a company if you would only buy their product. There are models that are “photshoped” to look a certain way. There are politicians that dodge questions to avoid speaking truthfully. The media spins every story they get to support their own agenda. Just as it was for David, falsehood surrounds us and the godly people who speak truth are absent.

v. 3–4 - David then begins to pray that God would remove the wicked people who are defined by their flattering lips. David prays that God would take these people and would remove the source of their great confidence——their deceitful tongues. There is a certain amount of arrogance that comes with being a perpetual liar. Their is a prideful self-confidence in their own ability to spin truth to their own advantage and to hide truth by covering it with lies. Those who practice such falsehood conclude, “Who is master over us?” Those who practice such habitual trickery and deception think they will never get caught. There is an idolatrous self-centeredness at the heart of every false word bent on its on self-preservation and self-exaltation. David’s prayer is that these liars would be exposed for who they are and that God would remove their very tongues if necessary.

v. 5–6 - The situation seems bleak. The poor are plundered and the needy groan. Yet, there is hope. David knows that the Lord will arise. He will take those oppressed by the lying snakes and bring them into his own safety. God is against the liars and will stand up against them in opposition. Though they seem like they have no master, the Lord will one day put them in their place. David recognizes that the Lord is the complete opposite from these forked tongue leaders.

David states that “the word of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times”. The Lord always speaks truth. He doesn’t not conceal truth in falsehood or disguise truth through vain flattery. His words are pure just like silver that has been purified through a furnace seven times. The word of the Lord is without blemish, spot, or corruption. Though we may live in the world’s web of lies, God’s word is reliably true. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). As a result we can trust that his word is true. This is why the Scriptures are reliable and true. If the Bible was given to us by God as he inspired human authors to write his word, we know that all of the Scriptures must be true. It is not corrupted silver where we have to refine through the furnace of hyper-criticalism to discern which part of the Bible is true and which is false. Rather, because God is truth and does not lie, his word cannot have falsehood in it. The reason the Bible is reliable in speaking truth is because God himself is truth. His word is pure.

This can provide great hope as we live in such a sly and fraudulent world. As we interact with our fellow men and women we wonder, who can we trust and who is reliable? Who will love me enough to speak truthfully and not flatter me for their own selfish gain? Whose word is reliable? The answer to these questions is God himself. David recognizes this. Though everyone around him has flattering lips, he trusts and places his hope in the Lord whose words are pure. As we look at the confusion today and the falsehood that surrounds us, we too can trust in the purity and truthfulness of the word of God.

Not only has God spoken his word, but he sent his word into the world. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). Jesus Christ is the word of God made flesh. In Jesus is truth and in him is purity. Jesus’ coming is the arising of God from his throne and Jesus is the safety for the poor and needy. There is refuge and comfort in truth, and that truth is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the Gospel message of God’s redemption of sinners and through the atoning death of Jesus, those who are oppressed by liars can be protected in the safety of the gifted purity of Jesus.

v. 7–8 - The Psalm moves from lament to praise. David concludes that even though wicked may be on every side and though falsehood and vileness may be on the prowl against men, the Lord will keep us. He will guard us from the fork-tongue men and women all around us.

In JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, there is a deceitful man speaking lies to the Théodon of Rohan named Grima. The people called him Wormtongue. He whispered lies into the ear of the king. He was a master of deceit and used his flattering lips to manipulate Théodon, the ruler of the people of Rohan. The white wizard Gandalf who passed through from death to life in his fight against the Balrog comes before Wormtongue and says,

The wise speak only of what they know, Gríma son of Gálmód. A witless worm have you become. Therefore be silent, and keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a serving-man till the lightning falls.

As we think about Jesus, the author of truth, I’m sure Jesus will say something very similar to the legion of liars that lead our world today. These witless worms will be made silent. For the Lord Jesus Christ did not pass from death and life to listen to their crooked words. One day Christ will return and the lightening will fall and the forked tongues will be cut from the mouth’s of liars and truth will rule again.

Prayer Guide

  • Present your concerns to the Lord concerning liars who are in authority.
  • Ask the Lord to remove the corrupt from power and leadership.
  • Thank God for the reliability and purity of his word as truth.
  • Thank God for protecting the weak through Jesus, the word of God incarnate.
  • Ask God to help you trust in him and in his promised victory that will come when Christ returns.