Psalm 120: Deliver Us from Lies!

2016 Clown Car Parade by DonkeyHotey, Flickr

2016 Clown Car Parade by DonkeyHotey, Flickr

Do you want to be saved from lies? Just turn off your TV and radio and shut down your Internet, at least until after the Presidential election is done. As the political circus that is Election 2016 builds up steam, lies and political spin is rampant. You might well cry with the writer of Psalm 120, “Deliver me, Lord, from lying lips and deceitful tongue.” (2)

But what about those most deceptive of lies, the ones we tell ourselves? Is there a way to be delivered from them?

After the massive Psalm 119, we have one of only seven verses. Yet it is a gem. The writer is in distress. As so often in the Psalms, we don’t know the exact nature of his troubles, but at least part of it is that he is being lied to or about. This is a great psalm for anyone who is being maligned by gossip and rumors, especially individuals in leadership positions who so often bear the brunt of idle chatter and are easy targets for blame.

The writer goes on to tell what’s in store for those with deceitful tongues. “What shall be given to you? And what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!” (3-5)

He calls down vengeance upon his enemies – asking that they be shot with burning arrows, hardly the words of the peaceful man he then claims to be. “Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” (6-7)

Perhaps he misses the contradiction here, hence, this is a lie he is telling himself. Or perhaps his words are the words of someone frustrated in his efforts to promote peace and so he lets them know, those who live by the sword die by the sword.

The power of the tongue is addressed in other passages in Scripture. James speaks of the tongue as a bit put into the mouths of horses which then guides the whole body. (James 3:3) “In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions.” (James 3:5) These testify to the power of words. Words can build up, or tear down. Words can heal or hurt.

As we enter the season of Lent, a time of purification and growing closer to God, we would do well to look at our own tongues, how we are using them. Are we using them to build up God’s kingdom or tear it down? Are our tongues a sharp edged sword that cuts in ways that hurt others, or do our words heal with gentle strength?

Perhaps a good Lenten practice for this year is to practice custody of the tongue; to pray before speaking that God might purify our hearts and minds, and thereby our tongue. To ask before we speak: Is it true? Is it kind? And is it necessary?

How do you live with integrity when surrounded by lies? How do you seek out and find the truth amidst all that we hear each day through the media? And most important of all, how do you recognize the lies you tell yourself? I would love to hear from you.

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