Some would say that this psalm could have been written to our day as much as to people over 2,000 years ago.  If that is true, then I guess there is a lot about life that doesn’t change no matter how sophisticated we think ourselves to be.  This psalmist is bitter at the apparent lack of a nobleness of spirit in his day.  Faithfulness to God, reverence for truth, honesty of speech, humility of spirit all seem to be lightly regarded.  In their place are lying, flattery, hypocrisy, boasting, pretentiousness, insincerity.  Even a millennium before Christ, an Egyptian shared these words:

To whom do I speak today?

Brothers are evil,

Friends of today, they are not lovable.

Gentleness has perished,

Insolence has come to all men.

There are none that are righteous.

The earth is given over to the workers of iniquity.

Sound familiar?  I wouldn’t say the whole world is like that today, but there is certainly enough of that in our world that makes this psalm ring true.

The NT Book of James says the ‘tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity’.  And there are certainly plenty of places in scripture that talk about the tongue, almost always in uncomplimentary ways.  This psalm is a protest against those who have no need for honesty and sincerity in speech or manners.  The result is that people no longer trust each other – and when we have lost that, we have lost a great deal more.  Flattering or ‘smooth’ lips and a double heart or a ‘heart that thinks one thing but devises another thing’ makes for dishonest and insincere lives.  This is especially so for those in positions of authority and power where it is easy for them to believe in the power of their lies.  Words can either be used for good or for ill; they can either be empty of truth or full of life.  Maybe that is why we hear in John: “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68); or in Acts: “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:35).

The psalmist points to the words and promises of the Lord.  These, he says, are pure.  He calls on the Lord to protect and help His people in the midst of such dishonesty and oppression, against such false words and promises.  He calls on the Lord to be that eye in the midst of the storm, that shelter from the stormy sea.  There is an appeal to trust the Word of God, even though the times are out of joint.  Just as ‘we shall always have the poor with us’, so too it seems shall we always have those who use words to their own advantage.  It has been so for century after century after century.  Our hope in all of this is when God says: “Mark my words”.  Our hope in all of this is to set our eyes and our hearts on the Word made flesh – Jesus.  Our hope in all of this is to speak words of truth and hope and love.  I don’t think the faithful have entirely vanished from among the ‘sons of men’ (vs. 1), but I pray that the words of God may be a stronger voice that the words of the world.  Indeed, ‘the promises of the Lord are promises that are pure’.

PRAYER:  Lord God, protector of your people, your light is true light and your truth shines like the day. With your pure and life-giving words direct us to salvation and give us the help we long for; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.