Ever wish you knew the context of a Psalm? Psalm 120 is fascinating, and I can’t help but wonder what motivated it…
In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.
Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, for a deceitful tongue.
What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue?
A warrior’s sharp arrow, with glowing coals of the broom tree!
Obviously, the Psalmist was not happy with himself. He is calling out to his God to save him from a part of himself, a part of his body, driven by thoughts within his spirit.
He has a deceitful tongue. Deceit is defined as “the action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.” Not only has the Psalmist said something hurtful, he has twisted the truth so that someone else believed something untruthful. It’s gone from saying words to resulting in actions.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is the childhood taunt. The deceitful tongue says words that turn into “sticks and stones” that break bones.
This doesn’t sound like a onetime offense. It has become a part of the character of this person’s tongue, part of its name. And it’s so powerful, it is associated with war, warriors, arrows and fire. No wonder he’s calling for help from the Lord – this is dangerous stuff!
Woe to me, that I sojourn in Mesheck, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.
I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.
I’m not sure where the places are, but he doesn’t sound as if he is at home, where he once knew how to control his tongue, before it became so deceitful. He’s around influences saying something very different than what he believes. I think who we hang out with, the circumstances of our lives, does affect our vocabulary, even our motivations.
There was news report a few minutes ago about a brutal attack where a man was kicked in the head. Some may consider me naïve, but I like to believe the best of people, that the kicker didn’t leave his house thinking, “I wonder who I can kick unconscious?” But there was something about that crowd that made him think it was acceptable.
The Psalmist’s aw-ha is in the last sentence, “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” First, he defines what his heart really wants, with no deception. He wants peace. Second, he defines the problem, that no matter what he says, others are looking for a fight.
He’s got a hard, hard choice to make. Does he continue with a deceitful tongue, manipulating the situation or his words to be accepted and maybe change the circumstances? Or does he say his heart’s desire?
What if the man who kicked the victim had said, “this isn’t me? This isn’t who I am. I don’t want to do this,” and walked away?
We may not be on the edge of war, but we face similar issues – do we express our hearts or say what others will agree with? Do we speak plainly so others see a choice or do we try to manipulate situations to get our way?
Let’s cry out to the Lord, confessing deceitful tongues and asking for new ones who will praise God’s name.