Theme: Standing on the Rock
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
The Bible has been “tried and found flawless.” It has been tested by unbelievers and believers alike, and it has always survived unscathed. Time magazine acknowledged this some years ago in a cover story on the destructive higher criticism which concluded:
The breadth, sophistication and diversity of all this biblical investigation are impressive, but it begs a question: Has it made the Bible more credible or less? Literalists who feel the ground move when a verse is challenged would have to say that credibility has suffered. Doubt has been sown, faith is in jeopardy. But believers who expect something else from the Bible may well conclude that its credibility has been enhanced. After more than two centuries of facing the heaviest guns that could be brought to bear, the Bible has survived—and is perhaps the better for the siege. Even on the critics own terms—historical fact—the Scriptures seem more acceptable now than when the rationalists began the attack.5
I notice that Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, said this same thing more than a century earlier. In his comments on Psalm 12:6, Spurgeon wrote, “The Bible has passed through the furnace of persecution, literary criticism, philosophic doubt, and scientific discovery, and has lost nothing but those human interpretations which clung to it as alloy to precious ore. The experience of the saints has tried it in every conceivable manner, but not a single doctrine or promise has been consumed in the most excessive heat.”6
It is true. The infidels of the ages have beat upon this rock. But the Word of God stands firm, and in the end, like Voltaire, it is the unbelievers who are broken by the rock rather than they breaking it.
At the end of Psalm 12, we find something which is characteristic of many psalms. We find that there is no change in the circumstances. The wicked are still “freely strut[ting] about” (v. 8).7 There is as much lying, flattering, deceiving and boasting as they ever was. But the psalmist has changed. He began with a despairing cry for God’s help: “Help, LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men.” But God answered, and David now realizes that, regardless of what others do, he has the word of the reliable God as his rock and that he is able to stand on this firm foundation. As David confessed, “O LORD, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever” (v. 7).
I think here of J. C. Ryle, that great nineteenth century bishop of the Church of England. He lived in a day when rationalistic theories were bursting on the church like a flood and many were being swept away. The attacks were outdistancing the answers. Believing scholars were hard pressed to keep up. But Ryle was unshaken. He declared, like David, “Give me the plenary, verbal theory of biblical inspiration with all its difficulties, rather than the doubt. I accept the difficulties and humbly wait for their solution. But while I wait, I am standing on the rock.”8
In what ways is the Bible being attacked today?
Do you believe the Bible is more or less credible today in the wider culture than it used to be, and why?
How would you defend the credibility of the Scriptures?
Application: What is happening in your life right now that is causing you to lean upon the rock of the Word of God?
For Further Study: Unlike us, God always keeps his promises. To see how he kept his promises to Abraham, and that we can trust him in all things, download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Promises to Live By.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
5Time, December 30, 1974, p. 41.
6C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1a, Psalms 1-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 143.
7The last phrase of verse 8 (“when what is vile is honored among men”) has been a puzzle for translators because the word rendered “vile” or “what is vile” is a hapex legomenon, a word occurring only once in existing Hebrew texts whose meaning is therefore difficult to determine. The translators of the New International Version have the best possible rendering, given the accepted text. But Robert A. Coughenour suggests an attractive possibility based on a redivision (not a rearrangement) of the letters. His translation refers to the wicked “going around in circles,” while “constellations [the signs of the zodiac] are misrepresented [as truth] to…mankind.” See Coughenour, “The Generation of the Lie: A Study of Psalm 12” in Soli Deo Gloria: Essays in Reformed Theology, Festschrift for John H. Gerstner, R. C. Sproul, editor (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976), pp. 103-117.
8The source of this quotation is uncertain.