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  • Writer's pictureChrystie Cole

Morning Pages: Psalm 12

In this psalm of lament, David is distraught by the decline of godliness around him, and he cries out to Yahweh for deliverance.

Verse 1-2: "Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man. Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak."

The godly are gone. They are no more. They have vanished. Everyone utters lies. In these first two verses, David speaks in absolute terms to emphasize the widespread wickedness around him. And while it is unlikely that all the godly have vanished, David feels the void of the faithful and the growing darkness of evil. I'm sure we can all relate.

Perhaps, since I wrote a book about the power of words, I am sensitive to it, but I am always intrigued that one of the primary ways the psalmists illustrate man's ungodliness is by pointing out their sins of speech. Specifically, in this psalm, they lie to their neighbors. They flatter. And they are double-hearted.

Jesus taught that our speech is an overflow of our hearts (Matthew 12). And, in the case of this psalm, the hearts of the ungodly are full of hypocrisy, deceit, and duplicity. Scripture often uses the word heart when speaking of the inner man. The heart comprises a person's mind, affections, and will. According to David, the ungodly are double-hearted, meaning that what they do and say doesn't match what they think, feel, or believe. To be double-hearted is to be fractured in a fundamental way; it's the opposite of wholeheartedess.

It would be easy for us to think this doesn't apply to us or to view it only as an indictment on those around us. Jesus has given us new hearts and a new status, which means that, positionally, we are holy in him! He's also given us new desires, hearts that want to follow him. But, experientially, we are still engaged in a flesh/spirit battle. Our hearts are divided between what we desire and what God's Spirit in us desires (Galatians 5:17). I can say I love my husband and still treat him harshly or fail to take action that embodies that love. I can believe that Jesus has forgiven me, and I still treat myself with contempt or strive to earn his love and acceptance. I can say I love Jesus and still fail to love and serve my neighbors. Sanctification (being made more like Christ) is the lifelong process of integrating my heart into a unified whole—something I can never accomplish on my own. It is a work of the Holy Spirit, who is daily transforming us from the inside out. And while it is important we not skim past the personal implications of David's words here, he is likely talking about those wholly given over to their wicked ways.

He continues,

Verses 3-4 "May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts, those who say, 'With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?'”

David continues to mount evidence against the ungodly. They not only lie and flatter, but they also "make great boasts." This isn't garden-variety bragging either; it epitomizes arrogance and unbelief. The ungodly placed their confidence in their own capabilities—perhaps viewing their ability to make great speeches as the source of their power over others. But perhaps their most damning statement is, "Who is master over us?" Rather than having a posture of humility, they believe in their own greatness, and their words reflect the conceit and autonomy within their hearts.

David asks for God to intervene, and the LORD responds,

Verse 5: “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”

How David comes to record the Lord's words here is unclear. Perhaps God spoke to him through Samuel, a prophet and priest during David's reign. Maybe David heard from the Lord directly. Or perhaps, and more likely, David spoke words rooted in God's heart and character. David knew the Lord’s heart was inclined to the poor and the needy, and because of that, he was confident God would take action on their behalf. Yahweh sees that the poor and needy are afflicted, oppressed, and ravaged. He knows their yearnings for safety. He hears their cries and is roused to action on their behalf—vowing to deliver them.

The word "long" in this verse can quite literally mean breath, like panting, which implies a deep and desperate longing. At some point in my faith, I began to believe that all my desires were bad—especially when I "panted" after or desired something too much. I viewed desires for safety, comfort, approval, and acceptance as idolatrous and something to be spurned. But I've come to understand our desires aren't always bad. Desires for approval and acceptance are deeply rooted in the longing to be known, loved, and belong—something we were created for. Desires for comfort are normal and natural when the discomforts of life disrupt and disorient us. We can seek to fulfill our desires in ways that are toxic or don't honor God or others. But that doesn't mean the desire, in and of itself, is always wrong and something for which we need to repent. It may be—instead, something we bring to God in lament. The afflicted in this passage long for safety and cry out to God. And God hears their cries and responds to their desire.

David continues,

Verses 6-8: "The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. You, O LORD, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man."

Contrary to the words of the ungodly, God's words are pure—utterly free from any impurities. What he says, he means. What he says, he will do. He will keep his word. In a world where people are unreliable because they say one thing and do another, knowing that God's words and actions always match is encouraging. He is faithful, true, and trustworthy. There is no duplicity in him, and because of that, we can entrust ourselves to him.

Every promise of the Lord comes to pass, so David knows and trusts the Lord will act, and the wickedness of man will perish. When others speak lies, the truth will prevail and be known. When the boasts of the powerful afflict the weak and needy, God will defend and protect the vulnerable. When the wicked prowl around looking for someone to devour, God will keep his children safe. It's an encouraging truth! And yet, the tension in this passage is that we live in a world still rife with evil, which means we do still suffer. We still experience harm, abuse, neglect, rejection, betrayal, and relational brokenness.

But God has never failed to live up to one of his promises. Deliverance may be delayed, but it is still certain. God is so committed to rescuing us from the wickedness of this world that he first subjected himself to it. He took on our vulnerable flesh. He endured the duplicity, flattery, and proud boasts of the ungodly who attempted to entrap him with their words. And he did so willingly. Because his death was the doorway through which he would bring us safely home.

Until next week,


P.S. I have loved listening to Poor Bishop Hooper. A couple of years ago, they undertook a project to set every psalm to music. And they have successfully completed all 150 psalms. It's a rich addition to our walk through the psalms. You can find all their songs here. But you can also stream them on Spotify and Amazon Music. And each week, I will also include a link to the corresponding song. Here is Psalm 12.

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