Psalm 12 was written by David during a period when faithful followers of God were decreasing in influence and in number. As he considered this situation he realised that one of the consequences was the decline of truthfulness whether at a personal level regarding speech with one’s neighbour or at an official level when the false words of those in power resulted in the persecution of God’s people (the poor and the needy in verse 5 does not refer to those in financial poverty but to those who have realised that they are totally dependant on God). The situation at the time David wrote the psalm is very similar to our situation today.
In verse 4, David records one of the first demands for freedom of speech. Sadly, the freedom that such people wanted was to say what suited them in particular situations, where they could use various features of wrong speech such as lies (vanity), flattery and boastful claims. They imagined they were free of all authority (v. 4), forgetting that God will judge them.
Of course, David knew he could turn away from all forms of false speech and listen to what the God of truth had revealed about his people, his purposes and his promises. He has promised to protect them in an evil generation (vv. 5, 7). They can depend on his promises because he has the power to accomplish what he says. His Word will never be destroyed (v. 6).
David also mentions the Lord’s assessment of the boasts of unfaithful people: their words are nothing but puff (v. 5), empty wind. They do not have the power to accomplish what they boast they can do. This is how we should regard the various boasts currently finding favour today regarding removing God’s demands from our society. Negative changes do not occur because wicked people have more power than God, but they happen because he allows these changes as a means of judging a society. And when he chooses to reverse these trends, he can do so very quickly and those opposed to him will not be able to stop him.
David mentions one manner of speech that pleases God in times when sinful speech is predominant. This one manner is described in verse 5: ‘the sighing of the needy.’ There is more power in a believer’s sigh than in all the strategies of the wicked because the Lord responds to the sigh and helps him. Better to be a sigher than a liar.