The Righteous One’s Confidence in
God’s Word Versus Man’s Word

a brief study of Psalm 12, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 4 Aug 2006

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" so goes a common idiom. But is it true that words will never hurt?

I think only those who are stoics or pretend to be stoics will agree to this idiom. The fact is: Words do hurt. In fact, it is often words that hurt the most. This is so in the civilised society that we dwell in. This was not very different in the days of David or of the Lord, the greater David.

Psalm 12 is a psalm about war of words. It is a psalm that the Holy Spirit has provided to be balm to our soul when the words of the wicked or a wicked word, strike at our heart and cause pain and sorrow.

Let us look at this psalm briefly under two heads. Consider first the problem addressed.

1. Problem

David in this psalm is expressing his exasperation and frustration on account of the speech of those around him. He was experiencing what the Lord Jesus would experience during his earthly ministry.

As our Lord, like David earlier, listened to the speech of the people around him, he must have felt quite exasperated. There appeared to be a lack of seriousness and sincerity in their conversation. Hypocrisy, innuendos and flattery appear to rule the day:

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

With their tongues they speak flattery and boasts proud things (v. 3). They have no regard for God (v. 4). They oppress the poor and trample the needy (v. 5).

And there are so many of them that it seems almost like everyone is like that.

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

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

This was the cry of David and of the Greater David. This was also the cry of such godly men as Moses and Elijah.

"The children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away" cried Elijah (1 Kgs 19:10).

This is the cry and feeling, no doubt, of every child of God who is in this world, but not of this world.

This psalm therefore may be taken up by every child of God when we are troubled or hurt by the words of man. …

… As our Lord was troubled by the hypocrisy and lies of the Scribes and Pharisee, so we too can expect to be troubled on every side by unruly tongues. We too can often feel very vexed in the spirit and very lonely. Unless our speech and manner of speech is no different from the rest of the world, we will feel exasperated by unruly tongues.

But as we cry out unto the Lord, we can be sure of the Lord’s helps; for the Lord has promised. Let us look at His promise, secondly.

2. Promise

5b Now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.

Can we trust the words of the Lord? Of course we can. We often cannot trust the words of man. Man’s words are full of insincerity, innuendos, hidden agendas, half truth and flattery. Even when man tells the truth, he is not always able to keep his promises.

But God is able.

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

The words of the Lord are pure words.

"God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Num 23:19).

God will keep his word. He promises to arise for the poor (v. 5). He has promised to shelter them from the strong blasts of those who afflict them. He will keep his word.

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

We must not take verse 7 out of context to mean that God will preserve his Word and that he will preserve it in the King James Bible. This is the error of the Seventh Day Adventist and disagreeable authors such as Peter Ruckman and D.A. Waite.

No honest and reputable commentator I know of supports their opinion. Indeed, the Hebrew is very clear. The ‘them’ in verse 7 points back to "the poor" and "the needy" in verse 5, rather than to the "words of the LORD" in verse 6.

In the Hebrew, the word translated ‘words’ in verse 6 is in the feminine plural; whereas the pronouns in verse 7 are in the masculine plural and singular, which matches with the masculine plural and singular used to described the poor and the needy in verse 5.

Verse 7, in other words, is referring to the Lord’s preservation of the poor and needy who were being oppressed by the proud and flattering.

God will arise for them. He will preserve them from the multitude of ungodly persons who surround them.

He will even restrain the growth of wickedness on their behalf.

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

"Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another" (Ps 75:6-7).

For the sake of the righteous and the poor, the Lord will withhold the promotion of the vilest. He will not allow injustice and wickedness to prevail. He will restrain and cut off all those who are guilty of such wickedness. He has promised that he will do so.


The war of words is but an aspect of the war of the ages. It is inevitable that as we dwell in this sin-drenched world that we will hear words that do not please our ears and words that hurt us.

And words do hurt us. Worse still, words often translate into hurtful actions so that the disciples of the Lord would often feel oppressed and intimidated in the world of arrogant people.

But thank God for his firm promises that he will preserve His people. He preserved our 
holy Saviour as he walked through the world of sin for us. So we can be sure that He will preserve us.

Let us trust Him. Let us find our refuge in him when the things around us afflict our souls. By the grace of God, let us not allow the words of man to hurt us. Rather, let us be healed by the gracious promise of the Lord. Amen.

— JJ Lim