Sunday 30th August 2020 Psalm 12
Lying lips that falsely faltter
keep the truth far out of reach.
Come, O God and still the chatter;
end their boats and twisted speech.
With these Babel sounds oppressing,
who but God can tame the tongue?
When the faithful seek God’s blessing,
honest words are shared and sung.
Rise, O God, and save the needy;
come to heal the worn and weak.
Foil the schemes that fuel the greedy;
lift the fortunes of the meek.
Save us from the wicked lawless –
leave their blemished words behind,
every word you speak is flawless –
pure like sliver, fire refined.
Adam M L Tice © 2011 GIA Publications Ltd
you can hear the tune here
This paraphrase of Psalm 12 was written before the current political and ecological atmosphere. Read it as you would have seen the world in 2011…Now read it as you do today.
A decade ago, many might have critiqued this as depressingly modern with no glory or images of God as a monarch. Instead of the desired pomp, we sing of “lying lips that… keep the truth out of reach” and the image of God as a tongue-tamer who saves us from our Babel sounds.
Perhaps these days we can grasp the sense of poignant prophetic petition which is so necessary for the Church in this Covid-shaped generation. I dare not rehearse the Babel sounds we hear in 2020.
The legend is that David wrote this whilst he was the rock star soldier in the jealous Saul’s court. Even he could not escape the cold war of gossip, complaints and backbiting. David despised destructive tongues due to the words themselves and the underlying pride.
The taming of our words is more than a personal habit-forming tool or a secret to success. It is an ethical crisis which relates to how we cultivate community. The taming of what we say also challenges us to tame our resources of knowledge—who we listen to.
Hymn lyrics like these reclaim and retain what was such a sacred part of the biblical tradition: the lament. There are times when the Church must celebrate life together, and when the Church must lead the way in offering up tears, not for hate but for healing. The lament defends no political sides, offers no bandage for pain, and lays out no medals of honour. It presents the wound in the open, claiming no winners, ultimately pleading for the one true Healer to see and step in.
The best thing the Church can do for the salvation of the world is in singing the blues, threading together the poetry of pain with the shifting of hearts towards purposes higher than our desires.
I am amazed at the yeastiness of a word uttered: bringing life and death, sacrifice and success.
I am astounded at the flawlessness of Your word: transforming, transfixing, loving without limit.
Deliver us from the cacophony of voices seeking our attention, and may our ears be drawn ever closer to Your voice, “pure like silver, fire refined”.
Author: David Wiggs
I am the webmaster for Purley United Reformed Church and have been involved with the church since my late teens. I work in Croydon and live in Caterham.