Psalm 12: Purity in a Tainted World

Psalm 12 New International Version (NIV)

For the director of music. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.

We live in a world tainted by evil

In his song Good People, Jack Johnson expresses a sentiment that thoroughly biblical.

“Where’d all the good people go?
I’ve been changing channels
I don’t see them on the TV shows.
Where’d all the good people go?
We got heaps and heaps of what we sow.”

This is the same frustration that we see in the psalmist when he writes:

Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;
    those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
Everyone lies to their neighbor;
    they flatter with their lips
    but harbor deception in their hearts.

May the Lord silence all flattering lips
    and every boastful tongue—
those who say,
    “By our tongues we will prevail;
    our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”

We’ve all felt it at one point or another. The media mercilessly reports wave after wave of unrest, criminal activity, terrorism and scandal. The people in our lives constantly wound us through careless words and selfish actions. Perhaps the most desperate feeling of all arises when we recognise our own part in the mess. This is the bad news: we live in a world tainted by evil. The good news is that there is one place we can go that is free from corruption.

The Word of God is pure

“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.”
And the words of the Lord are flawless,
    like silver purified in a crucible,
    like gold refined seven times.

Did you see that? At first it seems that v6 is a random shift in subject. A closer look reveals that the “flawless” words of God in v6 are beautifully connected to God’s promise to “arise and protect” in v5. Here’s how I think this works…

The Word provides respite from the World

First, the flawless word of verse 6 is contrasted with the corrupt world of vv1-4. I love this because it shows us where we can go when we feel utterly overwhelmed by the evil in the world. We can go to God’s Word because there is no evil there at all. His Word is flawless and utterly free from corruption.

It reminds me of the beach.

When I take the children to the seaside, I can be absolutely certain that at some point they will pour sand over me. Despite my most fearsome reprimands, I know it is merely a matter of time before I hear the barely-contained giggle of children standing behind me, armed with sand and mischievous intent. After all of the “fun” I’m left with the task of extricating the sand from my clothes. At this point my wife will hand me a towel. The trouble is that the towel is in a worse state than I am. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to remove sand from your body with a sandy towel.

This is why the Bible is so precious. It is the one place that still provides us with truth and goodness. Going anywhere else in order to make sense of the world we live in is like trying to get rid of sand with a sand-saturated towel.

The Word cleanses us from the World

Secondly, the Word in v6 re-assures us of God’s promise to “arise and protect” in v5. We know that God will keep his promise because his Word is pure and not tainted by deceit. This is fulfilled in countless interventions from God throughout history but is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. He protects his people from the corruption of the world in two ways.

  1. Jesus cleanses us from the taint of the world by washing us in his blood. (Heb. 10: 19-22)
  2. He fills us with the Spirit, who teaches us to say put off the corruption of the world. (2 Cor 3:17-18)

You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
    and will protect us forever from the wicked,
who freely strut about
    when what is vile is honored by the human race.

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