Psalm Chapter 12: Prayer of David

Mar 31st, 2012 | By | Category: Psalms, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Psa. 12:0 To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.

Psalms 11 and 12, both of David, are related. “Sheminith,” meaning an octave lower, was an ingenious instruction, for it was a cardinal point of the mood frame of the music that would accompany the recitation of Psalm 12, especially in the future when it is properly understood.

Why was the Twelfth Psalm to be sung an octave lower? “Shem” has to do with the number 8.

In music, every eighth note is the beginning of a new octave. The translators felt that this Psalm should be sung an octave lower than normal because it was a prayer, whereas the Psalms are usually songs of praise, thanksgiving, gladness, and rejoicing. While Psalm 12 was to be played on an eight-stringed instrument such as a harp, it would be played an octave lower. David invented different types of harps. An eight-stringed harp could be made with a normal octave or with a lower or a higher octave. David used the particular instrument that was appropriate for the occasion. Having multiple talents, he also organized the order of the Levitical priesthood into 24 courses of 15 days each. In addition, he sang certain Psalms when he felt he could sing them better than anyone else because they expressed what he had personally gone through. Thus the Sheminith was the appropriate mood instrument for the occasion.

Psa. 12:1 Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.

Verses 1-4 give credence to the counselors of David in Psalm 11, who warned him that his enemies were waiting for an opportunity to assassinate him. The “foundations” of Israel—that is, the leadership, the governing body—were truly wicked at heart (Psa. 11:3). Therefore, feeling powerless, the few who followed David and thought highly of him advised him to flee. David responded by manifesting his confidence in God.

The Twelfth Psalm is one of a series of penitential and solemn Psalms that David wrote when he was in these straits. Here he said, “Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth.” Numerically speaking, because evil prevailed, it was almost impossible to find anyone who was faithful.

Psa. 12:2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.

Having a “double heart,” the wicked spoke with a double tongue; that is, they flattered on the one hand and plotted mischief on the other hand. The wicked were content and happy with the situation, but from David’s standpoint, none could be trusted. Being aggressive, the wicked advantaged themselves at the expense of the poor and the humble. The clause “they speak vanity every one with his neighbour” reminds us of Doeg, who informed Saul of David’s whereabouts (1 Sam. 21:7; 22:7-16).

Psa. 12:3 The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:

“The tongue that speaketh proud things” refers to people who are boastful. They are not ashamed to express what they are thinking in their heart. David had confidence that God would eventually “cut off all flattering lips.” David knew that somewhere, somehow, sometime, God would put an end to this situation. Of course his own sentiments were the sooner, the better.

Psa. 12:4 Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?

At the time David was speaking of this experience, the Kingdom of Israel was rather lawless.

People did what was right in their own eyes, and the evil was great. The evil on the part of the people reflected the actions of the leadership. The leaders adversely affected the public, and the public supported them. Their boastful attitude was, “With our tongue will we prevail.” Based on a general principle, they were quite confident they would not be punished. The general principle is that if lawlessness is taking place and God does not stop it, then as time goes on, the lawlessness will increase, strengthening the hand of the wicked. Thinking that God was not interested, that He was not able to stop the evil, or that He had other things on His mind, neither the leadership nor the people feared any special judgment.

Verse 4 can be considered a general principle of behavior. There is a saying that where government ends, anarchy begins. When the smiting of the image takes place, anarchy will follow, with people doing whatever they please. This principle has been in operation in the past, but it will be very forcibly demonstrated in the great Time of Trouble yet to come.

Psa. 12:5 For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.

The situation was such that the poor were oppressed, and the needy were mourning. Jehovah saith, “Now will I arise; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.” This last half of verse 5 reminds us of what the Apostle James said about retribution coming at the end of the Gospel Age. “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you…. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth…. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you” (James 5:1,3,4,6). James 5:7 gives the reason for the delay in this judgment for the oppression of the poor; namely, God is selecting a Church class. “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the [produce of the] early and latter rain.” The “early and latter rain” are, respectively, the usual application of (1) the fullness of the gospel when the Apostle Paul was on the scene with many coming into the truth and (2) the plentiful truth that is available in the Harvest period at the end of the Gospel Age, particularly when the Pastor was alive. However, this terminology can also apply in another way, in a microcosm, where both the early and the latter rains are related to the Harvest at the end of the Gospel Age. The early rain brought forth quite considerable results, whereas the latter rain brings forth relatively meager but very important results because the Lord is reaping—he is doing a gleaning work. God, the “husbandman,” waits patiently until He accomplishes the selection and the development of the full Bride class.

He has long patience, but He will manifest His judgment in the not-too-distant future. In this Twelfth Psalm, David expressed confidence. In the previous Psalm, he said, “The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest” (Psa. 11:5,6). For example, sudden judgment came when the iniquity of Sodom and Gomorrah was full. The judgment was not spread over a long period of time, as some are prone to say today in stating that the Time of Trouble started in 1914 and continues. The Scriptures indicate that the real Time of Trouble upon the world will occur rather suddenly. What we see today are injustices, murmurings, and disquietings. We see the trembling but not the eruption, which will be the earthquake (1 Kings 19:11,12). The earthquake will be followed by fire and brimstone. As with Sodom and Gomorrah, sulfur exploded into the sky and rained down upon the wicked. David was yearning for this turn of events to take place where God would manifest His cognizance and judgment on the wicked.

There is always a reason for a delay in judgment. For instance, Israel could not enter the Promised Land until the iniquity of the Amorites was full. God’s purposed delay in judgment has two effects; it tries (1) the wicked and (2) the righteous. On the one hand, with the wicked ignoring the principles of righteousness and their iniquity being manifested over a period of time, God’s justice will be seen in eventually dealing with them in what would otherwise appear to be a most harsh, severe, and unkind fashion. People have to get the effects of unrighteousness and evil up to the gills, as it were. On the other hand, the delay in judgment is trying the patience and the faith of the righteous. If they remain faithful to their covenant of consecration, their characters will be crystallized for good. Thus the temporary permission of evil serves a double purpose, and that is true whether we speak of a long-term, broad-stroke basis or of a short-term generational experience.

What did Abraham do when the two “men” (angels) revealed that they would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? He asked God to spare the city of Sodom if 50 righteous individuals were there (Gen. 18:23-25). Then Abraham kept decreasing the number of righteous, going down to ten, but there were not even ten such individuals in the entire city. However, God did spare Lot and his two daughters, who were not contaminated with evil to the extent of the others. Lot pictures the Great Company class. His wife, who was initially led out of Sodom, died in the exiting because of a weakness. Because she did not obey after being enlightened as to what was occurring, she reaped the reward of death (Second Death in the antitype). Her sin was looking back longingly at the city that was being destroyed for its evil.

“I will set him [the poor and the needy] in safety from him [the wicked] that puffeth at him [the poor and the needy].”

Comment: The Young’s Literal Translation reads, “I set in safety him who doth breathe for it.”

Reply: The literal Hebrew has, “I will put him in salvation; he will puff at him.” This verse will have to be more carefully studied, especially since the King James has four supplied words, shown in italics: “I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.”

Psa. 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Verse 6 is well known and often quoted. In the Psalms, David spoke frequently on this theme of purification and the proving of the Lord’s Word. For example, sometimes we have to go over and over a type, prayerfully reading it many times, before the meaning clarifies. By expending effort and diligently applying ourselves in trying to understand, we get rewarded with information.

Making a “furnace of earth” was the old method of raising the temperature to refine silver. Incidentally, a higher degree of heat is obtained in a shorter period of time by digging a pit for the fire instead of building the fire on the surface of the ground out in the open air.

Silver can picture truth or the spirit nature, and gold represents the divine nature, gold being superior to silver. In regard to the Word of God, the same principle operates with divine truth versus truth. For example, the Bible contains truths on history and principles of character, and importance is relegated according to what is being refined or extracted. Malachi 3:3 states that Jesus sits as a refiner, purifying the sons of Levi as silver and gold. He is performing that function at the present time, spiritually speaking.

Comment: The dictionary defines a refiner as one who refines the precious metals and silver and gold by causing them to pass repeatedly through the furnace until the dross is taken away.

The refiner knows when the purifying process is complete by seeing his image reflected in the precious metal. God is compared to a refiner of silver, for He casts His people into the furnace of affliction until they are refined and purified and thus clearly reflect His image in their souls.

Reply: There is a Manna comment along that line. Not only are the words of Jehovah refined seven times, but so is the individual who absorbs the truth of those words—he is refined seven times to bring forth a righteous character. Of course the Twelfth Psalm does not discuss the gold aspect, just the silver. Therefore, verse 6 is speaking about the righteous as a class without a special delineation of Little Flock and Great Company.

Psa. 12:7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

“Thou shalt keep them [the righteous], O LORD, thou shalt preserve them [the righteous] from this [wicked] generation for ever.” The Word of truth is the instrument that performs this function. Not only is truth purified as silver and gold—in this case, seven times—but those who study the Word are also purified as silver and gold. In other words, the silver and the gold can picture either doctrines or individuals, and the same principle is operative with both. Through a process of trials come crystallization and purification of character pictured by the silver (the Great Company) and the gold (the Little Flock), two different values.

Psa. 12:8 The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.

When those in positions of rulership are corrupt—whether they are among the clergy or in civil government—that gives liberty and loose rein to the wicked. The vilest men can do what they want without fear of retribution.

Comment: Those in leadership positions usually have their friends ruling with them.

Reply: Yes, their friends support them. Satan, too, has cohorts who trust him, and he probably rewards them according to their degree of support for his ways and thinking. From an opposite perspective, Jesus spoke about the principle of rewarding when he said, “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matt. 19:29). Both the unrighteous and the righteous share rewards among themselves. When one has company in pursuing a particular course, he is strengthened in either the wrong or the right. Thus it is important for the Lord’s Word to be residual in our hearts.

Comment: During the Holocaust of the Nazi regime, when Hitler was exalted, all kinds of evil and evil people prevailed, torturing and hurting others.

Reply: Yes, and their deeds were winked at. The wicked were free to do what they wanted as long as they supported the leadership. Along another line, it is always a little scary when ministers try to get congregations to repeat words after them. People can end up agreeing to something that should be opposed or contradicted.

Verse 8 shows the situation that existed in David’s day and has existed in different periods of history up to the present. Of course verse 8 will have a particular application at the end of the age, before the Kingdom is established.


(2004-2006 Study)

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