This Psalm was written in dark times when evil seemed to prevail. But the humble and lowly were assured that while it might seem like it, it was not so, and that whatever the situation God was aware of their need and would sustain them. The same promise comes to His people today.
‘For the Chief Musician; set to the Sheminith. A Psalm of David.’
Again the psalm is for the Choirmaster. ‘Sheminith’ means eighth. It may refer to an eight stringed instrument, or to a musical notation. Again the psalm is a part of the Davidic collection.
‘Help, YHWH, for the godly man ceases,
For the faithful have disappeared from among the children of men.
They speak falsehood every one with his neighbour.
With flattering lip, and with a double heart, do they speak.’
It is a sad day for good men when it appears as though all godly men have disappeared (compare Hosea 4:1-2; Micah 7:2-6; Isaiah 57:1; Isaiah 59:12-15; Jeremiah 5:1-4; Jeremiah 7:28; Jeremiah 9:2-6). It often seems to be the case, but it is never truly so. This godly man who writes the psalm is evidence of that, and he was not alone, even if he perhaps thought he was. He was like Elijah who thought only he was left (1 Kings 19:10; 1 Kings 19:14), only to learn that God had reserved for Himself seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18).
But the situation was certainly bad. Deceit and falsehood were prevalent. No one could be trusted. Honesty between men seemed to have vanished. They lied, they flattered falsely, they spoke with double tongues, saying one thing and thinking and meaning another. The world seemed totally corrupt. They were bad times. So the psalmist cries out to YHWH for help, for deliverance. Surely He cannot allow things to continue as they are?
‘YHWH will cut off all flattering lips,
The tongue that makes great boasts,
Who have said, ‘With our tongue will we prevail,
Our lips are our own, who is lord over us?’ ’
YHWH assures him in his heart that it will not always be so. Those who have flattering lips will be cut off, as will those with a boastful tongue. They thought they could speak as they liked, they thought that their powerful words would enable them to achieve their own selfish ends, they challenged the right of anyone to be lord over them, they thought that none could gainsay them. But they will inevitably be proved wrong. They will discover that there is indeed One Who is Lord over them.
Very much in mind here are those in authority or seeking authority, those seeking to win people by half-truths and downright lies. Those seeking to get their own way by the power of speech. Thus they speak and think arrogantly, prior to their inevitable downfall.
‘Because of the oppression of the poor,
Because of the sighing of the needy,
Now will I arise, says YHWH,
I will set him in the safety that he pants for.’
But they should recognise that YHWH sees all that happens on earth, and He was aware of the oppression of the poor. He heard the sighing of those in need. He saw their panting after deliverance. And because of such things He will arise, and will remedy the situation, and give them the security that they long for. Truth and righteousness will be made to prevail in the end.
‘The words of YHWH are pure words,
As silver tried in a furnace on the earth,
Purified seven times.
In contrast to the deceit and falsehood of men the words of YHWH are true and pure, and totally to be relied on. They are like silver which has been refined, yes refined ‘seven times’ (totally and completely), as silver on earth needs to be. But the words of YHWH are so pure that they do not need such a refining process. They are already purer than any silver on earth, even though they are practical and effective on earth. Thus we can always rely on His word to see us through any situation. It has survived through the centuries, and will continue to do so. And it brings home truth to the heart.
There may also be the thought here that the words of YHWH themselves have such a purifying effect, making those who receive them pure.
‘You will keep them, O YHWH.
You will preserve them from this generation for ever.
The wicked walk on every side,
When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.’
So through His word YHWH will keep His people and will continue to preserve them through the generations for ever. His words are the perfect antidote to unbelief, sin and deceit.
But meanwhile sin will continue to walk abroad, the unrighteous will appear to be on every side, and vileness will be exalted among men. They will boast about it. God is not deceived about the human race. He knows what men are. Thus must the godly look constantly to the word of God, and God will then preserve and keep them. Note that the opening ‘You’ is emphatic, for in the end it is only YHWH Who can keep His own and enable them to persevere.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 12". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany