Psalm 12: flatterers and blithe liars...

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Last week I preached on Psalm 12. In this Psalm, this prayer of David, he cries out to God for help because the wicked have taken over. What is their character?

They speak falsehood to one another; With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak. (Psalms 12:2)

A couple points from the commenters:

First, they point out how common it has been through history for evil and the wicked to prevail, and this within the Church. They make the observation that David is lamenting the ascendancy of evil among God's covenant people, the Church. When David starts the Psalm, he is not crying out for God to help him against the Egyptians or Canaanites, but the sons of Israel who were God's covenant people.

Second, the commenters point out how terrible it is when deception is the method of communication between citizens, neighbors, families, and spouses. David records that lies are what they tell "to one another." One commenter emphasizes that the lies extend to themselves...

It's not just that God's people lie to others; they are self-deceived.

Reading this, I thought how often in pastoral work we see the horror of men and women who are deceived by their own lies. They can be told the truth by an older woman of the church, an elder, or a deacon, but it's like water off the back of a duck. It makes no impact on them whatsoever because they are in bondage to their own lies. And is this not often true of me, also? When my wife is pointing out a sin, do I not justify myself before her, and then justify my justifications? If so, what is this but self-deception?

Finally, the commenters emphasize how flattery greases the way for lies. The two go together like hand in glove.

Maybe another way of putting it is that flattery is often the first lie told by a deceiver. He knows his mark and appeals to his mark's basest instinct, which is pride.

If this not our culture today as we face a choice between being led by Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Wickedness. Falsehood. Flattering lips.

Is this not God's covenant people, today? Is it not true of the Church? We tweet and update, gushing about this and that man or woman, and more about ourselves—our husband, wife, or children. So much of what we say and imply online is merely lies, and we grease the path for our it through flattery. 

Our words have no weight. Our inward parts have no truth. We are not single-hearted, but double-hearted. Our preachers lie about us and to us—especially from the pulpit. So do our blog writers and conference speakers, and they do it because our search committees told them they must. They heal our wounds lightly because we demand it. They cry "peace, peace" because we love it so. They connive at our sins, rather than exposing them, because we have told them where our ears itch, and that they better scratch them for us.

But what will we do in the end, when we stand before God? On that day falsehood, guile, glibness, and flattery will all be gone and we will face God's terrible holiness of truth.

Dear brothers and sisters, we have the leaders we deserve. Both inside and outside the church. 

When he was born, William Jefferson Clinton was named William Jefferson Blythe.

So what should be our response?

Surveying the deception and flattery, David prayed:

May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, The tongue that speaks great things; Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” (Psalm 12:3, 4)

And God answered David's prayer:

“Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.” (Psalm 12:5)

Leading David to exclaim:

The words of the LORD are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times. You, O LORD, will keep them; You will preserve him from this generation forever. (Psalm 12:6,7)

But then to end by repeating his lament:

The wicked strut about on every side When vileness is exalted among the sons of men. (Psalm 12:8)

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!