The Expository Files

The Insincerity of Men, The Sincerity of God

Psalm 12


The Psalms are a good place to learn more about both God and man. The writers used various elements of Hebrew poetry to describe God, praise Him, complain to Him, ask for relief and make promises to Him. As we read these we are put in good position to learn more of our Creator, and what our response to Him ought to be. Too, the psalms contain rare insights into humanity: the origin of man, the needs of man, the guilt of sin we earn by wrong choices, and the consequences. Importantly, the Psalms convey helpful direction, leading us to the Messiah, in whom we can enjoy redemption. We can be trained and guided further into the truth about both God and man when we read and study the Psalms.


Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases!
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
And the tongue that speaks proud things,
Who have said,
"With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own;
Who is lord over us?"
"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."
The words of the LORD are pure words,
Like silver tried in a furnace of earth,
Purified seven times.
You shall keep them, O LORD,
You shall preserve them from this generation forever.
The wicked prowl on every side,
When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.

The passage begins with a statement of lamentation, an expression of grief: "Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men." The writer is revealing an emotion. At least at the moment he wrote this, he loses sight of any remnant. His concerns is, Where are all the faithful people? Have they died? Have they ceased the activity of faith? Where are they? This is like a similar expression of sorrow written by Micah. "The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains. All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net," (Micah 7:2). Now it may be argued, this is arousing embellishment or "poetic hyperbole." Nevertheless, it is the genuine emotion of godly people, as they become aware that their number and their way of life lies in demise.

I think God's people today must feel this way, and at times the emotion may be this deeply felt. If we are God's people, we place great value on behavior expressive of honesty, personal purity, modesty, generosity, prayer, following the Scriptures, etc. But in our time we see these things either perverted, debated or ignored. And, as verse 8 declares: "vileness is exalted among the sons of men." We often see what Isaiah saw (Isa. 59:4-9), or we observe the repulsive behaviors Paul documented in Romans one. We are led by the sight of sin to complain that the faithful fail, the godly cease. Every child of God lives with the sad knowledge of the absence of godliness all around us.

The author defines what he saw that caused his grief: "They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaks proud things, who have said, 'With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; Who is lord over us'?" Likewise in verse 8: "The wicked prowl on every side, when vileness is exalted among the sons of men." What people say reveals who they are, because the tongue is governed by the heart (Matt. 12:34). The writer of Psalms 12 drew the conclusion, "the godly man ceases," because he heard how people were talking - their conversation revealed their character. Our talk reveals our heart (see also Jas. 1:26). Falsehood uttered reveals falsehood within. Idle talk says the heart is idle. Boasting proves pride. And notice the claim of verbal victory and self-rule: "...We will prevail, who is lord over us?" The lamentation of verse 1 was justified by the speech and behavior described in verses 2-4 and 8.

In verse 5, God replies to the complaint of the faithful. He says, "For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now I will arise." This is a reference to God's promise to give relief to the victims of the sinful behavior defined. God has never overlooked any real victim! He doesn't check us with, as to when and how to react. We cannot dictate to God, set deadlines or demand that He use the methods we think best. But you cannot give the Bible a fair hearing and miss this truth. He comes to the rescue of those who are victims of the treachery of man. {In the gospel, there is the supreme evidence of God's desire to deliver, even victims of their own sin! Rom. 5:6-8}. God responds to the writer's call for help. He states His intent to arise and deliver the victims to safety.

If verse 5 is God's promise to arise and help, verses 6 & 7 state the basis of our confidence in God's word. "The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tired in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. You shall keep them, O Lord, you shall preserve them from this generation forever." Now we arrive at the point or theme I want to stress. Carefully observe the contrast between what men say and what God says! In this chapter, men speak idly, "with flattering lips and double heart." Men use their tongues to exalt themselves, gain their vile purpose and thus reveal their evil purpose of heart. It was so bad, the writer said, "the faithful disappear from among the sons of men."

But now, turn your attention from the vain talk of men to the words of the Lord. "The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." You cannot place confidence in the idle talk of men. You cannot reply upon the promises of the proud; "with flattering lips and a double heart they speak." But there is good reason for unwavering confidence in God and in what God says.

In those days metal was tried and purified with fire. A furnace would be dug in the earth, an intense fire built, to test and purify silver. The process was repeated until there was no doubt, the product was genuine silver. The point of the illustration is, the words of the Lord are "perfectly pure." No falsehood mixed in; no empty flatter; no false promises; no guile or deception in even trace amounts! "The words of the Lord are pure words."

So, in regard to the Lord's promise to arise and rescue victims of man's treachery, there is the greatest confidence. "You shall keep them, O Lord, you shall preserve them from this generation forever." The writer was sure God would save the victims, setting them in the safety for which they yearned.

Psalms 12 establishes the insincerity of man and the sincerity of God! When Paul wrote so fully to document the sin of man he quoted from the Psalms: "Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit," (Rom. 3:13). This is the insincerity of man. This is why, you cannot just follow where men may lead, without discernment. We must not blindly accept the religious teachings and practices of men. We cannot allow men to impose upon us their standards and creeds (whether the men are baptized or not). There are false teachers who by smooth words and flattering speech, deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom. 16:18).

What we can do is, repose our souls in the hands of God. Everything is just exactly as God represents it. He "cannot lie," (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). We can enjoy great and absolute consolation in the words of God. His promises can bring into our hearts, a real assurance that men try to imitate but cannot duplicate. The Word of God has no other purpose, no other design upon us, than to do us the highest eternal good. Psalm 12 marks the difference between the insincerity of man and the absolute sincerity of God. The sum total of divine truth was given for our good, but requires our response.

"What a contrast between the vain words of man, and the pure words of Jehovah. Man's words are yea and nay, but the Lord's promises are yea and amen. For truth, certainty, holiness, faithfulness, the words of the Lord are pure as well refined silver. In the original there is an allusion to the most severely purifying process known to the ancients, through which silver was passed when the greatest possible purity was desired; the dross was all consumed, and only the bright and precious metal remained; so clear and free from all alloy of error or unfaithfulness is the book of the words of the Lord. The Bible has passed through the furnace of persecution, literary criticism, philosophic doubt, and scientific discovery, and has lost nothing but those human interpretations which clung to it as alloy to precious ore. The experience of saints has tried it in every conceivable manner, but not a single doctrine or promise has been consumed in the most excessive heat."

{Spurgeon, Charles H. "Commentary on Psalms 12:6". "The Treasury of David"}
 

By Warren E Berkley
From Expository Files 9.10; October 2002


 

 

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