The Bible has been "tried and found flawless." It has been tested by unbelievers and believers alike, and it has always survived unscathed. Time magazine acknowledged this some years ago in a cover story on the destructive higher criticism which concluded:
The breadth, sophistication and diversity of all this biblical investigation are impressive, but it begs a question: Has it made the Bible more credible or less? Literalists who feel the ground move when a verse is challenged would have to say that credibility has suffered. Doubt has been sown, faith is in jeopardy. But believers who expect something else from the Bible may well conclude that its credibility has been enhanced. After more than two centuries of facing the heaviest guns that could be brought to bear, the Bible has survived—and is perhaps the better for the siege. Even on the critics own terms—historical fact—the Scriptures seem more acceptable now than when the rationalists began the attack.
I notice that Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, said this same thing more than a century earlier.
This brings us to the second half of Psalm 12. For having reviewed the destructive words of wicked persons, the psalmist turns to the words of God and acknowledges that they are quite different. In verse 5 he quotes God directly. It is the first oracle in the Psalms. Then he says that the words of God are "flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times" (v. 6). Silver refined seven times would be completely pure. There would be no dross in it.
Yesterday we concluded by saying how the language of abortion has been changed in an attempt to legitimize it. So a “baby” became a “fetus,” and then from there to “tissue.” And an “abortion” has now become a “surgical procedure,” or, worse, an exercise of the mother’s “right of free choice.” But I saw a new debasement of language in this area not long ago.
Psalm 12 is said to have been written by David, and there were surely many times in his life when David felt like this. But it is striking that the psalm contains nothing of a strictly personal note. There is no first person language, no "I," "me" or "my." The late Lutheran commentator Herbert Carl Leupold says, "This is one of the many instances when the psalms rise above the purely personal and local and look to the later needs of the church of God." In other words, we can identify easily with what it describes.
Psalm 12 is about human speech, as used by lying men and as employed by God in biblical revelation. It is about words' use and abuse. The principle involved is that the higher or finer a thing is, the more vulnerable it is to perversion. Love is the greatest quality in life. Yet love can be terribly abused. So also with words. In the lips of an Abraham Lincoln or a Winston Churchill words can inspire and challenge. They can lift a people to days of extraordinary greatness. But in the mouth of a Hitler, equally gifted in the use of speech, they can sweep the world into the destructive wars. Words are both our glory and our shame.
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