For the director of music. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.
1 Help, Lord, for no one is faithful any more;
those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
2 Everyone lies to their neighbour;
they flatter with their lips
but harbour 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 refined seven times.
7 You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
and will protect us for ever from the wicked,
8 who freely strut about
when what is vile is honoured by the human race.
The oppression of the righteous by the wicked is especially felt in the realm of arrogant speech (verse 2-5), but the righteous find comfort in the trustworthy Word of God (verse 6).
Men’s words do hurt, they can be toxic, manipulative, controlling, aggressive, undermining and destructive but the Lord’s words heal.
In Psalm 12, these are the thoughts that preoccupy David. The psalm begins and ends with the reality of the current reign of the wicked. Yet amidst this very dark setting, the truth shines all the more brightly. The truth is described as a refined precious metal, purified … something of high value and complete purity.
These 8 verses are characterised by subtle repetitions and bold contrasts. In the development of Psalm 12, David sets us up to respond appropriately to two radically different sources of speech.
(1) Surviving the Propaganda of Depraved Speech (12:1-4).
- By Prayer (12:1-2);
- By Petition (12:3-4).
(2) Security in the Protection of Divine Speech (12:5-8).
- Its Promises (12:5);
- Its Purity (12:6);
- Its Perseverance (12:7-8).
There were negative rumours and destructive words being spread about David. There was a campaign to discredit him and undermine him. We don’t know exactly when this was, but it clearly wasn’t his finest hour.
His words and phraseology are deliberately hyperbolic, yet David’s perception indeed was that the faithful have perished!
These smooth-talking sinners verbally abuse the remnant (verses 2-3), and verbally defy their Sovereign (verse 4).
David says, “People do not mean what they say”. They tell King Saul one thing, but mean something else.
Flattery is a form of manipulation. Those who play the games are merely using words to get a particular outcome. I am an expert at this. It is a dangerous and toxic tool that erodes trust and destroys relationships. This sadly is the way of the world. We see it in politics, in business, in churches, in social groups, in families. It destroys the very thing we are designed and wired for. It disconnects what should be connected. Relationships are broken and when relationships are broken then the world is broken.
David was up against it. but he understood that it was no his place to fight his enemies, God would do the fighting in this case.
Men find silver in the ground. It is dirty. People make it clean with fire. It is then very beautiful and of great value. David is saying that God’s words are also like this. Gods words are refined, pure and of high value.
David contrasts the vain “words” of people with “pure” words of the Lord (119:140; Prov. 30:5). God’s words are “as silver” that is passed through fire seven times to achieve greatest possible purity. The dross is consumed, and only the bright, precious metal remains. In the same way, God’s words are free from all error, impurity and unfaithfulness.
The hostile realities of verse 8 call for the heavenly resources of verse 7.
God would guard and protect the poor and the needy who were suffering from the wrongs inflicted on them.
David’s complaint was that his generation was a generation of flatterers, and oppressors. The idea is, that that entire generation was eminently wicked, and that none but God could deliver the poor and the needy from this inequality, this unfair disparity.
Ultimately, they had nothing to fear, for God was their refuge and their help.
The bottom line is that David’s world was corrupt and it seemed that the evildoers had the upper hand. However, he knew that God would bring about justice. He trusted that God’s ways were his answer. His focus was to keep his side of the street clean to trust that if he took care of God’s concerns then God would take care of his.
In Psalm 12:5 David speaks as a prophet. He tells people what God will do. David does not say when God will do it. There is no timetable but just a complete certainty that it will be done.
This Psalm calls on us to keep our side of the street clean. What others say or do is not our concern. Our concern is only to do what God would want us to do. It makes me think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34 “… seek first the kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well”.
what things? our needs, the stuff we worry about.
God says “take care of my business and my concerns and let me take care of yours”. It seems like a healthy arrangement to me.
Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015
And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.
I have to focus on God’s word being flawless. The Psalms are helpful for guiding my prayer life but I need to seek deeper study again. I am thinking about what form that will take. I will give it some consideration when I am at my brothers’ in the next days.
There appears to have been a breakthrough with my younger daughter. She has said to my wife that she is okay with me being in the house. It’s not clear whether she is willing to engage with me or not. I feel very sad about the damage I have done to my relationship with her. I keep thinking about the last time we were together at the Fleetwood Mac concert. I was emotionally absent and she had chosen me to be with her when she could have chosen her mum or one of her friends. I feel a deep sadness about that.
I have a phone conversation with my former boss tomorrow and a possible meeting next week. He wants to talk about the details of my role and ensure there is adequate cover in the holiday period. I feel okay about talking with him but I am not sure how I feel about meeting him. I find it hard to be with people I hurt when I am not sure if I can answer their questions about why things happened. I am barely understanding myself at the moment. I feel really sad about the trail of chaos I left behind at work. I am usually quite skilled at sifting through chaos and creating structure and order but I wouldn’t want to go into the mess that I left behind in the workplace. That’s just the practical day to day functionality of the organisation…never mind the relational carnage.
I will write a short letter to each of my children and leave it in the house when I leave for my brother’s house. I read the one minute apology to get a feel for an effective apology. These are my paraphrased notes about what connected with me from the book:
“At the core of most problems is a truth you don’t want to face”
“The truth can feel very uncomfortable, especially if you are living a lie”
There are two ingredients to the One Minute apology
Be truthful and admit to yourself that you have done something wrong and need to make up for it.
Take full responsibility for your actions and any harm done to anyone else.
Have a sense of urgency about apologizing – Act as soon as possible.
Tell everyone you have harmed exactly what you now realize was your mistake – you are very specific
Share with those you harmed how bad you feel about what you did – enough to change your behavior and not do it again.
Honesty is telling the truth to ourselves and others. Integrity is living that truth.
Recognize that what you did or failed to do is wrong and is inconsistent with who you want to be.
Reaffirm that you are better than your poor behaviour and forgive yourself.
Recognize how much you have hurt others, and make amends to them for the harm you have caused.
Make a commitment to yourself and others not to repeat the act, and demonstrate your commitment by changing your behavior.
Your true value has no connection with your performance or the opinion of others.
The purpose of the apology is not for an outcome but because you know you were wrong and it’s the right thing to do.
The best way to apologize to someone you have harmed is to tell them that you have made a mistake , you feel bad about it and how you will change your behaviour.
People with humility don’t think less of themselves. They just think about themselves less.
QUESTIONS TO ASK MYSELF
What mistakes did I make?
Who have I hurt, disappointed, let down, offended?
What has been the emotional impact on others?
What other damage has been done?
Why did I do this?
How much of what I did, was impulsive and thoughtless?
How much was calculated?
What was going on for me (fear, anger, frustration)?
What was my motivation?
Why did I allow it to spiral out of control and become a pattern in my life?
What is the truth I did not deal with?
What kind of man do I want to be?
I need to visit these questions and think about what happened, why it happened, how it happened and when certain behavioural patterns changed from a one off incident to routine and habit. I feel very uncomfortable thinking about all this let alone talking to someone about it or beginning to write about it but I want to address this and understand it. I will spend these days away trying to unpack these questions.
My marriage, my job both in the ministry and at charity were built on trust in the person I was and intend to be again. I destroyed that trust by allowing myself to gradually go out of control over a period of time that escalated from the beginning of this year (2015). I have identified some of the triggers that sparked certain bad decisions and embedded patterns in me.
I have always had emotional, spiritual and addictive issues but at certain points I have had long spells of being on top of these issues with the support of different people in my life.
It’s not my place to determine outcomes or consequences and I know that I have to allow others the privilege to judge whether I change and when I have changed. That’s not my business. My business is to make those changes.
Reflections two years on
Wow, it’s poignant reading this again 812 days later. It is 828 days since I came to my senses or at least was roughly heading for my right mind. So many things are different today. I can meet with anyone and talk candidly and openly about what happened, I can articulate my sorrow, my grieving and sadness. I am clear about the triggers and roots of all this. I feel peace as opposed to turmoil and every day my focus is indeed on the fact that God’s word is flawless and that my responsibility with that is to take care of his business and trust that he will take care of mine.
It’s not easy but then it looks as though it wasn’t easy for David either. It’s hard to quieten negative voices whether external or self talk. It’s hard to hear judgements that determine your value in other peoples eyes when all that matters is how God sees you.
I had a situation at work this week that left me feeling completely misjudged and useless. The annoying thing is that I am on annual leave this week and I opened an email that summoned me to a meeting where there are major concerns about some of my work. I had answered all of these questions already and I sensed from the email that my boss was simply showing to the directors that he is being proactive to cover his own back.
There is nothing else that I can add that I have not already said and I doubt there is a new line of questioning that has not already been thought about. When I presented the case to the board a couple of weeks ago I was told it was brilliant and that they are so glad that they have me on the team.
I was annoyed with myself for opening work email whilst on annual leave. On the one hand I wanted to be helpful to my oldest daughter who works on the team and was feeling some stresses about work whilst I was off but on the other there were emails that triggered negative responses. This was one of about 3 or 4 in my inbox amongst an overwhelming 150+ messages (usually I keep my inbox at zero).
These negative feelings stayed with me throughout the whole day yesterday despite prayer and wrestling with my self talk, attempting to put things into perspective.
I wondered if God has brought me this far to turn up the heat and test me. The pressure is a lot different than the pressure I felt when running the rehab but the feelings are the same, the desire to withdraw and pull back are the same, the constant fear at the thought of returning to work next week is the same, the pit in the stomach, the heart racing, the feeling of my heart being in my throat, the desire to run …except this time I don’t run. I just get on with it. I pray and reluctantly accept that it is there and that I am more fragile than I like to think.
I recognise that my reaction is an over reaction but accept that it is a reality that I have to live with. I feel dread about going back to work on Monday. I am more fragile than I want to allow myself to be, the world is broken. I am broken. All communication taking place is underpinned by fear and self preservation rather than love.
My job is to keep my side of the street clean. I can do nothing about how anyone else chooses to communicate or what they choose to do to me or not do to me. It’s not pretty but then this world is not pretty. This Psalm offers comfort and perspective.