You can read Psalm 12 here.

To a good degree I struggle with lament psalms, but I’ve determined that they are good for me.  I need to read them.  So much of my life is insulated from suffering. I recognize that many things have happened in the last few weeks in our country and in the world, that have brought suffering and injustice closer to home for us.  But if I am honest, I still struggle to lament those things very well.  I tend to be a person who lives one day at a time, right where I am, which is really just a nice way of saying, “I’m pretty self-focused. I’m pretty focused on my life.”

So as I read this Psalm I had to go back and ask myself again, what is being lamented in this Psalm.  I think there are 2 things that are being lamented.  The first is that there are no godly or faithful people on the earth. The psalmist further clarifies what he means by indicating that they are all liars and smooth talkers.

Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing!  The faithful have vanished from the earth!

Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts. (vs. 1-2)

The second thing I think he is lamenting is the devastation of the afflicted and the groaning of the needy.

“Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy,

Now I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.” (vs. 5)

Is there a connection between these two things?  I went and read up a bit on this Psalm.  The NIV Application Commentary had this to say.

In Bible times, the spoken word was thought to bear a greater significance than in our contemporary setting. Words were thought in some way to be “effective.” That is, properly chosen and configured, they were thought to accomplish what they said. For this reason, on the one hand, curses were not simply cathartic venting of inner rage, as we might think of them today, but were dangerous attempts to injure another that had to be countered or protected against by some ritual or amulet. On the other hand, words spoken in blessing were not just expressions of wishful thinking but really added to the well-being and health of the one blessed.  (Gerald H. Wilson, NIV Application Commentary: Psalms, Volume 1)

For me this draws the connection, I think the Psalmist is saying that the devastation of the afflicted and the groaning of the needy is a result of the fact that there are no faithful people on the earth.  They are all uttering lies and being deceitful and it results in devastation in our world.

To choose the way of the lie and deception is to reject decidedly the way of Yahweh and to opt instead for self-power and self-interest. This is essentially the pattern that disrupted and distorted the divine image humans were created to reflect from the beginning. The serpent’s subtle distortion of the prohibition against eating the fruit of the tree—insinuating suspect motives to God (Gen. 3:4–5)—and the humans’ use of self-deceiving words to justify their disobedience and to shift blame elsewhere (3:6, 10–13) are examples of the powerfully deceptive character of the separation within humans of truth and the lie, thought and motivation, self-will and the desire to justify one’s chosen path to others—even to God. “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD” (Prov. 16:2)  (Gerald H. Wilson, NIV Application Commentary: Psalms, Volume 1)

Ultimately, the LORD answers the Psalmist and says he will set things straight, which moves the Psalmist to praising God that his words are pure and right and true and that they will bring restoration in contrast to the vileness that is exalted when the wicked strut about. (vs. 8)

But the question I am asking myself has to do with what it means for me to be faithful.  I want to be one of the faithful who DOES NOT disappear from among the sons of men (vs. 1).  What does that mean for me?

As a start, I think it means owning more of the suffering and devastation in the world.  It means learning to groan with the needy.  In the Psalms the faithful or righteous are those who care about the entire community flourishing and the wicked are those who only care about themselves.  (See Bryan Clark’s messages from the past few weeks, but especially the 2nd half of the message from 07/24/2016 – click here for the audio or video).

So, I will continue to read lament psalms and pray.  I will do this especially when times of suffering and injustice happen in my life, in our country or in our world.  These psalms give me words to pray and begin to move my heart away from just focusing on me and my life.  According to those in Bible times, our words will be “effective.”  Will you join me?

{If you have thoughts about this Psalm or any of the others we’re covering this summer, hop on over to our Facebook group,  where we’re hoping to experience conversation and community around the Psalms this summer!}

Matt Meyer grew up in Plattsmouth, NE. He has been involved with Campus Impact since he came to college in 1989 – 4 years as a student, 10 years as a volunteer coach and 13 years in his current role as College Pastor of Spiritual Formation. This summer he looks forward to grilling out, reading and riding his bike every day that he can! He can be reached at mmeyer@lincolnberean.org.