This week, pastor Tim Shutes brings us comfort by digging into Psalm 12 to reveal how God will deliver you from lies because
(1.) He judges liars and (2.) He rescues the needy.

Citylight Manayunk | July 18, 2021 from Citylight Church on Vimeo.


Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon

Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary by Tremper Longman

ESV Study Bible: Psalm 12

Sermon Transcript



Good morning! My name is Tim – I’m one of Citylight’s pastors. For the next 30 minutes or so, we’re going to look at Psalm 12 together.


There are just a couple very basic things you need to know to understand it. First of all, a “psalm” is a sacred song or a hymn intended for corporate worship. There are 150 Psalms right in the middle of your Bible. The fact that there are so many means God must care a lot about corporate worship – which is great for all of us – because we’re here.. and that’s what we’re doing right now!


The author of our Psalm is David, a central figure in the Old Testament of the Bible, who lived around 1000 BCE. Think about that – if you’ve ever read the Psalms, you know they are so poignant and so relevant and encouraging. And yet written so long ago. They span the full range of human emotion. The fact that the Psalms are SO emotional reveals something too – and it’s something wonderful. God doesn’t run, or hide from your emotions. Your emotions don’t get in the way of a healthy relationship with God. He invites you to come to him, no matter what you’re feeling. The Psalms help us channel our emotions in a wise way and guide us toward God. And when we find God in the Psalms – and I pray we’ll find him today in Psalm 12 – he always has good news for us.


Our Psalm is a lament, which just means it’s a cry of pain and an expression of sincere trust in God. David’s having a rough time. And his particular pain point is one we can all relate to. To David, it seems like the world is just full of lying hypocrites. There’s no one godly left and the world just seems to get more corrupt by the moment.


Amazingly, after David airs his complaint, and at the exact center of the Psalm – and I mean exact – out of 74 Hebrew words, at exactly word 37, God speaks and his promise is the big idea of the Psalm:


God will deliver you from lies


The two sections of our Psalm describe two ways God does this:

  1. He judges liars
  2. He rescues the needy


First, he judges liars


1 Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone;

for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.

2 Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;

with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

~ Psalm 12:1-2


Think about what we learn about David from just the first three words of this prayer. “Save oh Lord!”  In the Hebrew it’s actually just two words: it’s literally “Yahweh… help!”. He just breathes out the name of the Lord, and a cry for help. Help Lord! David isn’t naïve about his situation – he knows he’s in danger. So much danger in fact, that he can’t help himself. And so he turns to his all-sufficient helper. His instincts here are so good.


But why don’t we hang out with those words for just a moment longer. Help, Lord – really is an amazing two-word prayer, and I encourage you to lean on it whenever possible. Whenever you’re too exhausted or too tied up with your work to give long time to prayer, you can say “Help Lord!” Whenever you sense that anxiety rising up “Help Lord!” Before that first date… “Help Lord!” When the kids are running around and the house is wrecked, and you’re exhausted… and it’s 10am: “help Lord!” Cry out like this when you’re feeling that familiar temptation… when you can’t understand a passage you’re reading… when you’re stuck in traffic… when you feel like you’re going to lose your temper, whenever you’re suffering or grieving… whenever and wherever you need help, isn’t it amazing that you can turn to the God of the universe and cry out “Help Lord!” It really is quite versatile.


I’m going to quote Charles Spurgeon a few times today, because he has a marvelous book called “The Treasury of David” that is a great resource for understanding and applying the Psalms. He says here that David knows “it would be better to be among lions, than liars.” That pretty much sums up David’s diagnosis of the problem in his opening complaint. The godly are gone! Everyone lies all the time.


My dad used to always say this phrase if he thought I might be lying… “Oh what a tangled web we weave.. when first we practice to deceive…” I don’t know if you’ve heard it before, but it’s pretty much seared in my brain!


Apparently no one in David’s vicinity knew or cared much for this principle. The depressing fact, it seems, is that it David’s entire generation were hypocrites. No one fears God anymore. As a result, no one cares whether or not they are faithful to God. “The godly one is gone” – this is a really big problem.


David’s requested cure for this diagnosis, is that God would cut the lips off of these liars.


3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,

the tongue that makes great boasts,

Psalm 12:3


Now this is where things get interested! We know (because we’ve read this whole Psalm, and based on the rest of scripture) that God will grant this request to David, and judge liars.


This is part of the Psalm, where I start to have some questions.


I think some of you might be like me – and have a few questions. Like “Why?” “Why is this such a big problem?” I mean being surrounded by liars and hypocrites has to be better than what David was dealing with last Psalm where his enemies had their arrows bent for him right? And what’s the big deal about flattery, which David mentions twice in these four verses? Isn’t that just like… making people feel a little better about themselves? Why would God judge something like flattery so harshly?


To really understand why David (and the Lord) make such a big deal out of this, we need to go all the way back to the very first lie, and trace lying to its bitter end.


The first lie:


But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.

Genesis 3:4


Lying began with the very first humans who were deceived by the serpent (Satan) into thinking God wouldn’t really follow through on his promise to judge them if they sinned. Through cunning deception, God’s enemy Satan deceived Adam and Eve, and when they believed him, they rebelled against God, and all sin and death and pain and sorrow came into the world. And they did surely die.


And people have been lying ever since.


Think now for a moment about what lies result in


Lies lead to every form of personal misery.


We have three little girls and we pray they’ll grow up to believe the truth that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, and never believe what the world tells them about their image. But what happens to me as a parent if I come to believe my worth is based on my child’s achievements? What happens to me if I come to believe I have to make a certain amount of money to be worth something? What happens if you’re married and you come to believe it’s just innocent flirting? What happens to you if come to believe pornography will give to you more than it will take from you? that you’re good after 4 drinks… that the dysfunctional relationship you have with food no big deal… or that you can get through it on your own, I mean is there any sin or evil or human misery that doesn’t start with a believing a lie?


But lies also result in every form of societal misery.


What happens to a culture when there is no one we can trust? When abuse scandals don’t just hit Hollywood, but the church, when even trusted religious leaders turn out to be living double lives. Some of you were lied to by your parents, all of us lied to by the media, lied to by politicians, lied to by everyone’s carefully crafted social media identities, lied to by the music and the podcasts we listen to, lied to, some of us, even by well-meaning confidants. Lied to by the airbrushing and photoshopping, lied to by the Instagram personalities who want to sell us products, by those who want us to vote for their political platform, by those who want our money, by the celebrities who want our adulation and attention. Sometimes it really does feel like everyone has a double motive, it’s exhausting!


And it’s offensive to God. The Psalm pulls back the curtain on what motivates lying:


4 those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,

our lips are with us; who is master over us?”


The heart of lying is control, and arrogance. Liars say “with our tongues we will prevail.” Don’t we lie because we want something and the quickest way to get it is by lying? Lying is a way to to control and manipulate.


When we want to control someone, we can be subtle and sinister like the serpent in the garden. Subtle like flattery, where we use our compliments to manipulate someone to think or feel something we want them to feel. Subtle like boasting, where we use our words to ‘control the narrative’ about ourselves, but never overtly – just a nod to that achievement over there, or a story of this one over here.


Lies are also motivated by arrogance – This is how liars can sometimes be so blatant. Like when my two-year-old comes in, she’s covered with chocolate and I say “did you have a cookie?” She looks me in the eye and says… no….


Blatant liars look God in the eye and say “our lips are with us, who is master over us?”


“our lips are with us”, they say, but they won’t be when God answers David’s prayer and cuts them off. These slippery people think they can get anything done with just a word. They think they can get out of any consequence by the power of their own speech. No one can touch them.


See lying, at its awful center, is just another way that humanity tries to usurp the maker of all things. Who is it that truly has the power to make the heavens and earth move, just by the words of his lips? Who is it, who speaks, and the universe listens? He watches, as we use our words to manipulate people – people he made to glory in the truth. He watches as the people we manipulate act on our lies.


Lies are the very language of the Devil. When we lie, we align ourselves with him and put ourselves in direct opposition to God.


Lying, flattering, boasting – these serve no purpose for God. And they serve no purpose for the ones who desire to please God. The only serve the purposes of Satan. How quickly and easily these confidants of David spurn the Lord in their pride and forget that they’. As Charles Spurgeon says: “Strange is it that the easy yoke of the Lord should so gall the shoulders of the proud, while the iron bands of Satan they bind about themselves as chains of honour: they boastfully cry unto God, “Who is lord over us?” and hear not the hollow voice of the evil one, who cries from the infernal lake, “I am your lord, and right faithfully do ye serve me.” Oh, what a tangled web we weave.


In the end, all lies are headed where Satan is headed.  Revelation 21:8 says “all liars” will be among those with Satan in the lake of fire. Spurgeon says again “those who take pleasure in deceiving others will at the last day find themselves the most of all deceived. All hypocrisy will be consumed.”


When Satan is bound and cast away, all lies and hypocrisies with him, we’ll praise God for answering David’s prayer, for delivering us from lies, and bringing us to heaven with him where there will be no more lies or flattery any more.


He judges liars, and while this is bad news for flatterers, it is good news for those who rejoice in the truth.




Do you mean your words? Or do you use your words as means?


When we’re seeped in a culture like this, it’s no wonder so many of us become people who no longer ‘mean our words’ but instead we use our ‘words as means’ to manipulate and control others, to puff up our own selves. Whether it’s how I present myself on my social media feed, or the way I present my ideological opponent, or the way I respond to criticism, or how I like to try to be a people pleaser, or how I lead my direct reports at work, or when I tell my kids “oh no you won’t like that… it’s spicy!” when I KNOW they would LOVE it!!!


Do I mean my words? Or do I use my words as means?




Recently I emailed the president of our denomination to apologize for flattering him. It was uncomfortable to send that email, but I became convicted as I read another part of scripture that described flattery, that I was guilty of flattering him. When I asked the Lord what I should do, I thought to email him, and just kind of quietly hoped he wouldn’t see it…


So I wrote the email, and I told him that when I saw him at our national council, I sought him out and told him I felt he was a genuinely great pastor to the pastors in our denomination, and that I appreciated that he leads with humility. And you know what, I meant those words, and I meant for him to be genuinely encouraged by them. EXCEPT – I had a double heart. Because I realized later, that more than a little of what motivated me to say those things to him, was a different desire. I think sometimes, as relative newcomers to our denomination, Citylight is seen as kind of ‘doing our own thing’ and not always on board with the denomination. I wanted him to know that we saw the good in his leadership and wanted him to see us as allies.


Except, you know what – I didn’t SAY that. What I did, was compliment him SO THAT he would think that other thing. That’s a double heart, and you know what – I probably do it more than I even realize.


Help, Lord! He will help.


God will deliver you from lies. He judges liars. And last,


He rescues the needy.


The Psalm has a beautiful progression from verse 5 to 6 to 7. In verse 5, the Lord himself interjects and speaks, and his speech is the centerpiece of the Psalm


5 “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,

I will now arise,” says the LORD;

“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”


Are these words flattery? Or will he truly rescue the needy?


David answers the question in verse 6


6 The words of the LORD are pure words,

like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,

purified seven times.


In the scriptures, the number seven implies perfection. When David reflects on God’s words, he says they’re perfectly pure. Purer than the purest thing he can imagine. No flattery here. Notice David doesn’t test God’s word. What higher standard could he hold it to? No, he recognizes it has already been tested and expresses his complete trust in them, even though his circumstances have not yet changed.


7 You, O LORD, will keep them;

you will guard us from this generation forever.

8 On every side the wicked prowl,

as vileness is exalted among the children of man.


David has learned to hear God’s voice and respond with trust and contentment.


Let’s think about what it means to ‘hear God’s voice’. God apparently speaks directly to David here, but how does God speak to you and to me today? Today he speaks to us through words recorded in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, what we call “The Scriptures” or God’s Word. These words were written by human authors, but inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is called the doctrine of inspiration.


All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

~ 2 Timothy 3:16


For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

~ 2 Peter 1:21


Inspiration means the words the authors of scripture wrote were God’s words. And if the words are God’s own words, then like David, we can completely trust them to be 100% true. That’s called the doctrine of inerrancy.


This is why Jesus himself said:


until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

~ Matthew 5:18


A skeptic will say – but this is circular reasoning! You’re using the Bible to prove the Bible. See, you and I – we like to question and test everything – to be skeptics. But we don’t go far enough! You can’t test something without a standard to compare it to. If your friend tells you they got a 4.0 in school, how could you test that? You could demand the transcript – but that only works if the transcript is a higher and more true standard than the word of your friend. But if we were to test God’s word, what higher standard would we hold it? What ultimate standard of truth do we hold it up against? St. Augustine once said “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.” What do you believe? Do you believe that blog you read, or that History Channel special about the ‘mysterious origins of the Bible’ or is that skeptical professor you had with the outdated religious critiques a more time-tested and reliable witness than the scriptures? Are you willing to doubt your doubts?


Though it cannot be subjected to a higher standard, the Bible has passed through test after test. All the persecutions of history. Every philosophical doubt. All scientific discoveries, and as Spurgeon says has “lost nothing but human interpretations that clung to it as alloy to precious ore. The experience of the saints has tried it in every manner – not a single doctrine or promise has been consumed”


God has risen and he has spoken, He will rescue the needy. And his word is so absolutely trustworthy, that David has peace, even while his generation remains corrupt.




Where will you stand? Will you stand on the words of our generation? or the words of God?


Is our generation so much more enlightened than David’s? Or is it similarly vile and deceptive? All the ideologies and ideals of our generation that seem so powerful will one day be gone, and another generation will rise in its place with new ideas.


Will we stand on the narratives of our corrupt generation? Or will we stand on the ROCK that has been tested over thousands of years – the rock that is the word of God. Where will we rise and fall? Will we sway like branches with the winds of our generation? Or will we rise above our generation, praising God for his unfailing word in the midst of the corrupt generation.


Will we trust the mighty words of God to protect us? Will we cry out Help, Lord! We cannot do it, but he can do it! We’re all people of double hearts, but he can make us into people of his word, people committed to his church – a community of people with a single heart that stands out in the midst of a corrupt generation. He will rescue the needy.


But how, you say… how will he do it? how can I trust God’s word to be true..


There is one answer. There is always one answer. His name is Jesus.




While our Psalm leaves us wondering how God is going to deliver David, you and I don’t have to wonder. He has already done it. We know this from the rest of the scriptures. See the key unlocking the power of scripture is the person of Jesus. Even though the Bible was written by 40 authors over thousands of years, many of whom never knew others were writing. Despite this, it tells a single unifying story throughout.


The Bible tells the story of the garden, where mankind was deceived and fell, and generation after generation was subjected to lies and deceptions and has suffered ever since. But then… the Bible predicts a coming deliverer. A warrior who will set his people free. This deliverer is the centerpiece of the entire Bible. His name is Jesus. Every page of the Scriptures speaks of him. This is how Jesus taught the Bible to two men who were as skeptical as you may be:


And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

~ Luke 24:27


It’s like this. Sarah and I have three little girls, and for each girl Sarah has been keeping a journal – just to write down all the wonderful things they say and do, so we can remember them one day. We’re so proud of them.


The Bible is the work of a proud Father, ecstatic about his Son. A Father whose Son obeyed his every word – even laying his own life down. This is why one of Jesus’ names is the “living word.”


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~ John 1:14


Jesus stepped into our place. rescued us by dying for us. We should have been cut off. We should have been cast off. Instead, he was cut off instead of our flattering lips. He is the one


who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

~ Galatians 1:4


how could my poor and needy cries ever motivate the God of the universe to do anything, much less rise to deliver me?


It was his plan all along to deliver you. Not only out of love for you, but out of love for his Son. Three days after his death, Jesus himself said “I will arise.” – and he rose from the dead our mighty warrior – rose to judge liars, and rescue the needy. And as Jesus continues to rescue those who are willing to be needy and poor, he receives honor and glory.


Will you stay shackled to lies? Or will you turn and become needy again and cry out Help, Lord and be rescued?


Let’s pray.