How do we pray when there is a crisis of integrity? When truth becomes difficult to discern, when discordant voices clash in public forums inviting our allegiance and denouncing one another, we bow before our Lord praying for an end to confusion. A psalmist cried out to God in just such a situation, praying with desperate faith:
“Help, LORD, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race. Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts” (Psalm 12:1,2).
Whether we seek to ascertain which political candidate to endorse or what presentation of theological doctrine to endorse, we clamor for certainty. We crave truth, even when postmodern advocates assure that none exists. Those who seem to espouse values that we hold dear command our attention, even as their behavior and speech in other matters horrify us. We struggle more when those who disagree with us act and speak nobly. Are we being deceived by flattery? Can we accept what we hear and trust what we see? Many of us have learned to look carefully for signs of digital adaptations in videos and photographs or indications of editing in recordings of speeches. We have become more discerning; some have become cynical; still others trust no one. Like the psalmist, we plead for the Lord to provide clarity:
“May the LORD silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue – those who say, ‘By our tongues we will prevail; our own lips will defend us- who is lord over us?” (Psalm 12:3-4)
We pray for truth, but also for the desperate and vulnerable. They may hop back and forth from distrust to gullible affirmation of what they hear, but they need very real help and support. The psalmist echoes the voices of the prophets as he continues his prayer, declaring in the words of the Lord himself that God will protect the poor from those who malign them:
“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.”
“And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like god refined seven times.” (Psalm 12:5-6)
In times when we do know whom to trust or what to believe, we can take comfort in a God who pursues justice and defends the cause of the oppressed. The prophet Amos condemns “women who oppress the poor and crush the needy” in Amos 4:1. The psalmist of Psalm 12 likewise affirms the Lord’s care for the poor and needy. He asserts confidence in God’s future actions on their behalf. He denounces the arrogance of the wicked as he prays,
“You, LORD, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked, who freely strut about when what is vile is honored by human race” (Psalm 12:7-8).
When leaders glorify deception and manipulation as an artform and do what they themselves previously denounced, when vulnerable groups are targeted for killing or are imprisoned literally or figuratively so that they cannot live without fear, courageous believers in the God of justice will speak for those who cannot defend themselves or lack legal standing to do so. The challenge for those who seek to do right is learning truth and exposing evil to the light that will cleanse it, while retaining humility and integrity. This psalm speaks directly, not just to political leaders, but to “neighbors,” who deceive and abuse those they live beside.
When we pray that the Lord will silence the arrogant and the deceptive, may we also pray and vow that we will not be among those whom God should silence.Tweet