Perhaps you’ve had this experience: you know that the person talking to you is being dishonest, insincere, or manipulative but you are unable to prove it. Or perhaps you have had this experience: someone is clearly insulting you but their words make them sound so polite and considerate. Or perhaps you’ve had this experience: you can’t put your finger on it, but it feels like someone is using their words to manipulate you. The way we use words to harm, deceive, and control one another is a complete contrast to the words of the Lord. God’s words are always pure and trustworthy.
In Psalm 12 the author is wrestling with feelings of isolation and abandonment. He describes the scene:
Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man. (v. 1)
He is alone in his concern for righteousness, and he is the last of the “godly”. Whether this is reality or just emotional blindness, it expresses how he feels. He feels abandoned, and as though there is no one left who desires to live for God. That’s a tough place to be. To be surrounded by corruption and wickedness and know that you are going to have to stand alone for what is right. It is both a scary place to be and a weary way to live.
He goes on to describe not merely the lack of godliness but the particulars of the wickedness that surrounds him. He says:
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. (v. 2)
Everyone is sinfully and selfishly motivated, but they are playing games to manipulate one another into getting what they want. It is living in the midst of a toxic environment where words never mean what you think, where expectations and agendas are always hidden, where mental games are constantly being played. The description is a painful reality for many people today. It is the situation for the woman in an oppressive home where her spouse regularly moves the target, shifts his desires and demands so that she can never know what to expect. It is the home of apathetic parents where children regularly crave approval and are often met with empty and shallow words. It is the context of legalistic churches where everyone puts on their “Sunday bests” but secretly hates and fears one another. It’s an ugly context to be stuck in and painful way to live. We can appreciate why the Psalmist pleads for God to put an end to it all (v. 3-4).
The good news for both the Psalmist and us is that God does see, and he cares. God finally speaks to the situation:
“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” (v. 5)
We may often feel abandoned and alone in such contexts. We must often struggle with the words of others but God says He will be a place of safety and a refuge in that sea of chaos. He Himself will be our guardian and defender. He cares about these contexts of confusion that we find ourselves stuck in. As I seek to help others navigate such dynamics I want to help them find a means of escape where possible, but I always want to point them to the confidence and stability that they can find in God while we work out those logistics. God is a place of refuge. Unlike the wicked man of deception and flattery, God is not a god of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). In fact the Psalmist contrasts the words of the Lord with these wicked men to highlight the beauty of the difference. He says:
The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times. (v. 6)
When God speaks there is no confusion, no chaos, no pain. His words are “pure words,” not mixed with secrete agenda and manipulate ploys. In fact, they are not just pure words, they are the most pure – like silver purified seven times. Seven, throughout the Bible, is used as the symbol of perfection. The psalmist is describing the most pure silver of all. God’s words, he says, are like that kind of silver.
God says what He means. He keeps His promises. He speaks truth always. God can be trusted. His words, over and against the manipulative words of sinful man, can be a comfort and security. It is because of the purity and trustworthiness of God’s words that the psalmist concludes his song with such confidence. He speaks boldly of God’s care for the oppressed and for all of His children:
You, O Lord, will keep them;
you will guard us[b] from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man. (v. 7-8)
In the midst of an oppressive use of words, and a confusion culture of flattery, look to the pure Word of God. While trying to find a way to escape such a culture, turn to the stability found in God’s Holy and Pure Word. Study Scripture for words of hope and encouragement in the face of despair. Study Scripture to evaluate whether someone’s accusations of you are accurate and fair (is it really sin?). Study God’s Word to accurately label other people’s behavior (is it righteous?). Study the Word of God because it is pure and trustworthy and you can stand confidently on it at all times.