Words are very powerful – even in an age that has such a high regard for the visual. Words can do great good, but they can also do great evil. The language people use and value can tell us a great deal about them or about a whole society. That was understood as well in Bible times as it is today and provides the background to the psalmist’s cry in the psalm we will study: Psalm 12 The Lord will arise.
1. The plight of the godly
‘Help, Lord’ (v1, lit. ‘Save’) – a heartfelt cry. It is an urgent appeal and the reason is spelled out – ‘the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men’. God’s people seem to be an embattled minority. A symptom of the prevailing evil is the speech of the ungodly – ‘Everyone lies to his neighbour; their flattering (lit. ‘smooth’) lips speak with deception (or ‘double heart’)’. All around he hears dishonesty and hypocrisy, rooted in hearts that are not committed to the Lord. Those committed to the covenant Lord – ‘the faithful’ – seem on the road to annihilation. Note the arrogance of the ungodly (v4). They reject accountability to God or to anyone else. This may reflect the experience of David himself (1 Samuel 23:11, 26:19). We live in a world where there is much dishonesty and evil communication. Christians are often the victims of misrepresentation, and their beliefs are ridiculed. Our only hope is the Lord – ‘May the Lord cut off…’ (v3). It is not wrong to pray for the downfall of evil. That does not preclude a concern for conversion, but God’s glory is our chief concern.
2. The response of the Lord
The Lord speaks (v5). He is not indifferent to sin or the plight of his people (Exodus 2:24). God is faithful to his faithful people. The Lord will take action – ‘I will now arise’, doing whatever is required. For those he loves – ‘I will place him in the safety for which he longs’ (v5 ESV). All hardship will not necessarily be removed, but he is in loving control of whatever comes to his children. We can have absolute confidence in the promises of God – ‘the words of the Lord are flawless (v6). Free of all falsehood, they will never deceive or disappoint. We must give attention to his word and live in the light of it. We must not be deceived by the voices around us, but we should test everything by God’s word since ‘your word is truth’ (John 17:17).
3. The confidence of the psalmist
Building on God’s promises – as we must always do – David can express Spirit-given faith. ‘O Lord, you will keep us safe’ (v7). He takes God at his word – ‘you will guard us from this generation for ever’ (ESV). David is able to take the long view. Often we focus on the immediate situation, which can seem overwhelming. We need to fix our eyes on the Lord and remember that his promises extend into eternity. Our confidence in the Lord is not that he will remove all trials now – he may do so later or at the last day – but we know he will provide the grace we need. The ungodly will remain for now, like the weeds of Matthew 13:30, but his hand will protect the godly.