Psalms 1 - 50by Mike Raiter
Emily Dickinson, a famous American poet, once wrote a short but profound poem:
A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day.4 Once a word is spoken, we cannot take it back. And words are very powerful: they can heal or destroy, and they can bring life or death.
Psalm 12 explores the significance of words. At the beginning of the psalm David is deeply discouraged because he looks around him and sees so few people who are loyal to the Lord: ″No one is faithful any more″ (v. 1). The evidence for this is found in their speech. Listening to the ungodly, he hears lies, flattery, deception, and boasting (vv. 2-3). They think they're free to say whatever they want, and no one will hold them to account (v. 4).
Words of truth are the bedrock of relationships. When our speech is marked by lies and deception, there can be no trust, friendship, or real communication; families, churches, and society as a whole break down.
The righteous and the poor and needy are the victims of the tongues of the wicked. Once again, David turns to God and rejoices in His words, because He promises to rescue His people ″from those who malign them″ (v. 5). David, who is God's faithful servant, identifies himself with these oppressed people, saying that God ″will protect us for ever from the wicked″ (v. 7, emphasis added). Unlike the words of the wicked, God's words can be trusted because they are ″flawless″, like purified silver and gold (v. 6).
It is often said that the eyes are the mirror of the soul. But that's not true. If you want a window into someone's soul, listen to his speech. Jesus said, ″the mouth speaks what the heart is full of″, and that's why we will be condemned or acquitted by our words (Matthew 12:34, 37).
Paul encourages us not to let unwholesome speech come out of our mouths, but only what builds up (Ephesians 4:29). To be part of a community where conversations are filled with words of truth, kindness, encouragement, humility, and praise would be, as David the songwriter knows, something worth singing about.
4Emily Dickinson, BrainyQuote.com, 10 December 2018, https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/emily_dickinson_126002.
Why does David liken the words of God to purified silver and gold? What is it about these metals that make them such an effective illustration of God's speech?
What can we do as individuals and as a church to ensure that we build up one another by our speech?