the most difficult problem isn’t open acts of evil, but hypocrisy. When it seems like all the world runs on
deceptions and lies, even in the Church, where is a Christian to turn? Where can we find certainty in a duplicitous
world? David addresses this very problem
in Psalm 12.
psalm has three main divisions in its thought progression. The first section, verse 1-4, describes the
problem and the occasion for the prayer.
The second, verse 5, is a direct response from the Lord. The last, verses 6-8, describe the confidence
which David experiences as a result of this revelation.
[To the choirmaster.] According to [the eighth]. A Psalm of David.
the expression, “to the choirmaster,” see the study on Psalm 4. “The eighth,” or the Sheminith, is also an
uncertain term. It could be a tune name,
but the specific number may suggest a musical direction, such as an
octave. It occurs here and in Psalm 6.
Save, LORD, for the godly one has come
to an end. For the trustworthy one has diminished
from the sons of Adam/men.
They speak worthless things, a man to
his fellow. A lip of smoothness, with
heart and heart they speak.
May the LORD cut off all lips of
smoothness, a tongue speaking boastful things,
those who say, “According to our tongue,
we are strong. Our lips [are] ours. Who is lord to us?”
issue facing David, and all Christians in every time, is that hypocrisy seems
to prevail. The godly seem to be few in
number, while those who claim to be Christians despite not living like one grow
in number. One can carry this spirit too
far, of course. Elijah imagined himself
to be utterly alone, yet God preserved 7000 in Israel (1 Kings 19). The word translated “diminished” occurs only
here in the Old Testament, but the Greek Old Testament renders it with a word
meaning “to lessen.” The godly, despite
Elijah’s despair and perhaps ours, may be hidden, but they are still there.
hypocrisy is still a real problem. A
hypocrite speaks “worthless things,” things which are inherently empty, because
they are only external. Like painted
tombs, they are outwardly beautiful, but they hide the inward reality (Matthew
23:27). Their lips are smooth, because
they attempt to smooth away all difficulties and present their lies as
truth. They also have two hearts,
because they have a double reality. They
are double-minded, unstable in all their ways (James 1:8). They have two different sets of weights, one
accurate, the other not (Deuteronomy 25:13-14).
The Old Testament even describes faithful soldiers as not having a heart
and a heart in 1 Chronicles 12:33, because to have a single heart is to be
simple, straightforward, honest. There
is no deception when one presents the truth of their soul.
speak “boastful things,” or literally “great things,” because they claim far
more power for themselves than they really have. Their forked tongue is their power, for they
use it to tear down the godly, whether directly or through deception. They imagine that they have no lord, because
they have deceived themselves.
For the oppression of the afflicted, for
the sighing of the poor, I will get up, says the LORD. I will put him in the salvation/safety he [sighs]
is not giving himself a false hope here.
David hears the voice of the Lord in answer to his prayer. The psalmist has become the prophet. Asaph, another common writer of psalms, is
referred to as a “seer” in 2 Chronicles 29:30, which 1 Samuel 9:9 clarifies as
being an ancient word for prophet. 1
Chronicles 25:2 also says that Asaph and his sons prophesied under the
direction of the king. The psalms are
not merely religious poetry. They are
the living Word of God, the voice of God speaking through His prophets to His
people then and now.
word He brings is a word of comfort. He
has seen the hypocrisy of the wicked and how they have oppressed the
godly. When Israel put away their
double-minded ways, the Lord became impatient over the misery of Israel (Judges
10:16). So it is also now. God hears our groaning and remembers his
promises (Exodus 2:23-25). He will give
us the salvation we long for. The name
Jesus, which means God saves (Matthew 1:21), is related to this, and for good
reason. Our Lord Jesus Christ is our
salvation and our safety in every distress and trouble. God’s salvation is not a generic one, but is
to be found in His Son.
word translated as “sighs” here is the same word as “snorts” in Psalm 10. Yet this is not a sigh of contempt, but of
longing. The word itself at its root involves
breath in one form or another. Whereas
the wicked huff at God, the righteous sigh for Him. The one breaths in contempt, the other
breathes in longing.
The words of the LORD [are] pure words,
silver refined in a [crucible] in/on the ground, purified seven times.
You, LORD, will keep them. You will protect him from this generation
Round about, the wicked walk back and
forth. For [vileness] is exalted among
the sons of Adam/man.
heard the Word of the Lord in answer to his prayer, David is now
confident. This confidence is not a
false bravado, putting on the same painted face as the hypocrites. Rather, this is the answer to his initial
question. When the world seems full of
wickedness and hypocrisy, it is not to be trusted. The Lord alone speaks words which are
absolutely trustworthy in every time.
Friend or foe, man may lie, but God will never lie.
Word is compared to refined silver. The
word translated as “crucible” occurs only here, but it seems clear enough from
the context that a smelter of some kind is in mind. Solomon ordered the casting of the bronze
utensils of the temple near the Jordan River using the clay there (1 Kings
7:46). In those days, and even in some
parts of the world today, a furnace may be built of clay and fired even for
casting metals. It is possible that this
crucible could be in the ground, but the point is the same. The silver is melted, the slag is removed,
and the process begins again. A
seven-fold purification would remove, even in the imprecise methods of ancient
days, virtually all of the impurities.
God’s Word is like pure silver, which we still value above many things
today. How much more then the words of
the living God?
also will protect His saints from the assaults of the wicked. The wicked walk back and forth, like an
animal stalking prey. “Vileness,”
another unique word, is exalted. The
world loves its own, even the hypocrite.
Yet the righteous has no reason to be afraid. The psalm is not ending on a dark note. Frequently in the Bible, the main thought of
a passage comes in the middle. If you
compare the last verse with the first of this psalm, you can see a similar idea
at play. The middle, and therefore the
main point, is the prophecy of the Lord in verse 5. God will arise and defend His Church, and
both foe and traitor will receive the due reward of the evil when He comes to
judge the earth.