November 19, 2017
A note to readers: Today’s post is part of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will cover the Psalms, beginning to end, by focusing on a Psalm each Sunday. I can’t tell you how excited I am for his interest in contributing here. This will be a huge blessing to us all.
Psalm 12 (NIV)
1 Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;
those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
2 Everyone lies to their neighbor;
they flatter with their lips
but harbor deception in their hearts.
3 May the Lord silence all flattering lips
and every boastful tongue—
4 those who say,
“By our tongues we will prevail;
our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”
5 “Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord.
“I will protect them from those who malign them.”
6 And the words of the Lord are flawless,
like silver purified in a crucible,
like gold[c] refined seven times.
7 You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
and will protect us forever from the wicked,
8 who freely strut about
when what is vile is honored by the human race.
The key phrase of this psalm is the steadfast promise of the Lord reflected in the four words, “I will now arise” (vs. 5). The psalmist looks out on the ‘high noon’ of the wicked. The “godly are no more,” the faithful “have vanished among men” (vs. 1). Everyone “lies to his neighbor” and speaks with “flattering lips” and “deception” (vs. 2). The wicked are completely convinced of the power of their arguments against the righteous. They declare, “We will triumph with our tongues, we own our lips—who is our master?” (vs. 4). However, the wicked then, as well as now, forget that God always has the final word!
At times I am sure that we all feel that the country is sinking in the swamp of immorality, violence, and lies. This psalm intentionally sets up the tension between God’s speech and truth, on the one side, and the lies and deception of the world on the other. As Christians reading this psalm, we exult in the truth that the ultimate word is not that of the wicked, but the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. He is the final arbiter of human history. In Jesus Christ “God arises!” Thus, in the very hour when it seems that the wicked have prevailed with their own clever arguments, the whole edifice of the wicked will come crashing down because God arises. His words alone are “flawless.” Through the eyes of faith, we know that he will vindicate us and overpower the wicked (vs. 5).
Interestingly, the psalm does not end on this note of triumph. Instead, when the psalmist opens his eyes he still sees that the wicked “freely strut about when what is vile is honored” (vs. 8). The psalm ends by reminding us that despite the final assurance we have, we still live in the daily tension that “we do not yet see all things submitted to him” (Heb. 2:8). We must live our lives in what is called the “already-not yet” tension. The kingdom has ‘already’ broken into the present evil world. The final verdict on the wicked has already been announced. In the meantime, the kingdom of God is ‘not yet’ finally consummated. We eagerly await that final day when he will set things right and what we now know only by faith, we will then possess by sight.