Theme: The Power of Words
In this week’s lessons we see that although great harm is done by evil people through their words, the word of the Lord remains a sure foundation and support for all those who put their trust in him.
Scripture: Psalm 12:1-8
Psalm 12 is about human speech, as used by lying men and as employed by God in biblical revelation. It is about words’ use and abuse. The principle involved is that the higher or finer a thing is, the more vulnerable it is to perversion. Love is the greatest quality in life. Yet love can be terribly abused. So also with words. In the lips of an Abraham Lincoln or a Winston Churchill words can inspire and challenge. They can lift a people to days of extraordinary greatness. But in the mouth of a Hitler, equally gifted in the use of speech, they can sweep the world into the destructive wars. Words are both our glory and our shame.
The psalm begins by describing the use of words by wicked persons in order to deceive and oppress others, and in this respect it is a commentary on a theme introduced already in the two preceding psalms. In Psalm 10 the writer is describing the wicked, one prominent feature of such persons being how they use words. They boast (v. 3) and sneer (v. 5). They say, “Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble” (v. 6). The psalmist concludes his description with words later alluded to by the Apostle Paul in Romans, saying, “His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue” (v. 7; cf. Rom. 3:14).
In a corresponding way, Psalm 11 speaks of the destruction of society’s foundations by the wicked (v. 3), and we know that one of the ways evil people do this is with their tongues. “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” When we were studying that question, I said that the righteous turn to the Lord in such times. David does this in Psalm 11. He also does it in Psalm 12; in fact, it is the way the psalm begins: “Help, LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men” (v. 1).
Like many psalms, this one is divided into two main parts, followed by a concluding response on the writer’s part. In my judgment, the response is of separate importance. It is the application of the “sermon.” So I look at the psalm in three sections: 1) the words of the wicked (vv. 1-4); 2) the words of the Lord (vv. 5, 6); and 3) the response of the psalmist to God’s words, the way to live a faithful and prosperous life in bad times (vv. 7, 8).
As we begin this psalm the psalmist feels isolated, like Elijah in the desert, where he fled after his great victory on Mount Carmel. He said to the Lord, “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1 Kings 19:10). Elijah was mistaken, of course, and David probably was too. God told Elijah that there were yet seven thousand that had not bowed down to Baal. Still, that was only a remnant, and there are times when those who love God and want to be faithful to him really do feel alone.
Haven’t you felt that way at times? Perhaps you were trying to do the right thing at work, and everyone ignored you because they did not want to be judged by your standards. Or maybe something happened which made you feel isolated at home or at school. People in government must often feel that “the godly are no more” and that “the faithful have vanished from among
Review the psalms we have studied so far, and note which ones mention words or speech. What do we learn from them about the importance of what we say?
How does Dr. Boice outline this psalm? Keep this outline in mind as you study this week.
Reflection: Describe a time when you felt alone or isolated because of a decision you made based on your Christian standards. What was the outcome of your decision? How did you see the Lord at work through your faithful obedience?
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