You will guard us from this generation forever. Psalm 12:8
This is a generational psalm. We read about the “children of man” in verses 1 and 8. The focus of this prayer is a concern over what the future holds for our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren.
Notice how it begins: “Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of men” (Psalm 12:1). The godly have gone. The faithful have vanished! We want our children to be surrounded by godly examples, and models of faithfulness but, David says, “That’s hard to find today!”
Now look at the end: “On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of men” (Psalm 12:8). David was noticing a significant change. Vileness is exalted. A virtue is made of vice. In other words, evil was being called “good” and good was being called “evil” by the culture. Everything seemed upside down. What hope is there for our children when this is the world in which they are growing up? That’s the burden that gave birth to this psalm.
This psalm speaks powerfully to our situation today. God has given us a prayer in the Bible for times when we fear for our children. What does the future hold for them? How will they be able to stand in this world where vileness is exalted and it’s hard for them to find godly and faithful friends?
The message today is in two parts. First, an analysis of the assault that our children are facing. Second, a strategy for prayer and for action.
Analysis of the Assault Our Children are Facing
The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4
Notice what we are being told here: There is a particular work of Satan (the god of this world) to bring blindness to human minds. Satan is always doing this, and the reason he’s doing it is that the good news of the glory of Christ is like a bright light. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), and Satan has to pull every trick in the book to keep people from seeing his glory. How does he do this?
Jesus says, “Satan is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). All lies ultimately have their origin in him. Lies are his strategy for blinding the minds of each generation to the glory of Christ. The lies take different forms in each generation, but the overarching strategies have been essentially the same since the Garden of Eden.
Psalm 12 points to 3 brands of deception, all of which Satan uses to keep people from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. The three varieties of deception are: Vanity, flattery, and blasphemy.
Three Brands of Deception
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor. Psalm 12:2
Several commentators point out that the word translated “lies” here literally means “emptiness.” David has a particular type of deception in view: “Everyone utters emptiness to his neighbor.” There could hardly be a more powerful description of our culture today.
There’s great deal of conversation right now about the whole business of spying—the NSA (National Security Agency) listening to phone calls with a view to enhancing security, etc.
I enjoyed a satirical piece from a journalist in London who said that the person she felt sorry for is the poor guy at the NSA who has to sift through endless emails, voicemails, tweets, texts and Facebook™ posts, the vast majority of which are of absolutely no consequence whatsoever!
She said, “I imagine this guy snoozing off, if he’s tapping my phone, as he listens to my weekly phone call to my elderly mother: ‘How was your week? You went to the grocery story today, really? That’s nice. What else? Oh yes, Cousin Mable came to visit. How is she? Not so good? She went to the doctor. And what did he say?’ Etc.”
To all of you who are younger today, watch this for the next week. Can you see that this psalm describes the world in which you are growing up? The tweets, the texts, the posts—what are they about? How much of it will matter one year from now, let alone in 20 or 50 years?
You are growing up, and we are living, in a world of trivia where “everyone utters emptiness to his neighbor.” It’s a world dominated by the next game, the most recent reality show, or the most shocking sound bite. We’re all talking about nothing. The effect of all this is that serious conversation feels really odd. Someone says, “What do you believe about God?” and everyone feels that this kind of talk is too heavy.
Satan’s “vanity brand” aims to keep you from ever thinking seriously about life. It is possible to go through high school, college, career and retirement, without ever seriously asking: Who am I? Why am I here? What is life for? And what lies beyond?
Satan is in the business of blinding people’s minds so they “cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” It is possible to go to church, hang out with your friends, and never think seriously about the meaning of life. Vanity is one of Satan’s primary strategies for accomplishing this.
When I was high school, there were two books about the future that were required reading for English literature. One was Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The other was George Orwell’s “1984.” They offered very different visions of the future. Orwell saw a future of totalitarian brutality that would suppress the truth. He imagined “a boot stamping on a human face forever.” Huxley saw a very different future. It would not be oppression but pleasure that would enslave people.
In 1985 Neil Postman wrote an insightful book: “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” It’s more obviously relevant now even than it was then.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who would want to read one.
Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity.
Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared that the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.
Orwell feared that we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared that we would become a trivial culture.
Orwell feared that we would be ruined by the oppression that we hate. Huxley feared we would be ruined by the trivia of what we love.
The last 30 years have shown that for most of the world Orwell was wrong and Huxley was right!
That’s why it possible to go to church, hang out with your friends, and not have a single serious thought about God, about yourself, your life, or your eternity. You know that this happens. Have you ever asked why?
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak. Psalm 12:2
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips… Psalm 12:3
Flattery always becomes the spoken language in a culture where people give themselves to vanity. Flattery is saying only what other people want to hear, and hearing only what you want other people to say.
Flattery is Satan’s second brand of deception. If you only hear what you want other people to say, then you end up not being able to see the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This desire for flattery runs deep. Isaiah describes God’s people as:
“Children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord, who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things… Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel’” (Isaiah 30:9-11).
We just want to be affirmed, so don’t tell us about the Holy One of Israel, because we know that we aren’t holy. That will make us uncomfortable.
Our children are growing up in a world where even in church, many hear smooth things, and not much about the Holy One of Israel.
Jesus said that the work of the Holy Spirit begins with convincing of sin and righteousness and judgment. There won’t be much of that going on in flattering ministries that stroke your ego by saying smooth things. That kind of ministry only leads to a generation of kids who grow up in church and yet cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ!
Our Lord spoke about this: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God” (John 5:44)?
You just want to be affirmed. You build up a little world in which you seek out people who say what you want to hear. You become more and more preoccupied with yourself. Your eyes grow dim, and the more you are affirmed by others, the less you see of Christ.
When the desire for flattery is fed it soon becomes a powerful addiction. A person ends up locked in a prison house, incapable of hearing anything other than the smooth talk of affirmation. As with any other addiction, they can never get enough. The more the person is affirmed, the more they feel the need for affirmation.
Those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?” Psalm 12:4
This third brand of lying shows itself in defiance. The person who has bought this clenches his or her fist, and says “It’s my life. I am the captain of this ship. No one rules this life but me! I will find my own way. I will be my own lord and savior, my own master, my own guide.”
The word to describe that is blasphemy. I looked it up in the dictionary:
- The act of insulting or showing contempt… for God.
- The act of claiming the attributes of deity.
It’s putting yourself in the place of God.
This brand of deception goes back to the Garden of Eden when Satan said to Eve, “You shall be like God.” Vanity, flattery, and blasphemy are Satan’s three primary strategies. That’s the world our children are growing up in. That’s the world we grew up in.
A Strategy for Prayer and Action
What hope is there for our children and grandchildren growing up in this world, where they are swimming in this sea of vanity, flattery, and blasphemy? When you lay it out, you can see why David is praying, and why we need to do the same.
- God listens
We need to pray for our children. We need to do this in the family, we need to do this as a church. Psalm 12 is a model for us to follow. When we do, we should lay out before the Lord the pressure that they face.
God listens to you when you pray for your children. So pray for them, and keep praying for them. Don’t stop. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up.
Ask some friends to commit to praying for your children with you and join them in praying for theirs. If you don’t have children of your own find a way to connect with some younger people and pray for them.
- God speaks
The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. Psalm 12:6
God’s Word is pure. He says things that you may not want to hear, and things that are hard to hear. But these are not to harm you, they are to heal you. God’s Word will bring conviction to your soul, an awareness of your own need, but it is pure and it will always do you good.
Satan does everything in his power to keep you from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. But light is greater than darkness. The entrance of God’s Word gives light!
In the first chapter of the Bible we read: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light!” (Genesis 1:1-3).
How does a person come to the knowledge of the truth where Satan darkens minds and hearts through his vanity, flattery, and blasphemy?
God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ has shone in our hearts to give is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
That’s how a person is converted. The entrance of God’s Word gives light.
God says, “My Word will not return to me empty. It will accomplish the purpose for which I sent it.”
Parents, grandparents, bring the Word of God to your children. Do it in the home. Let’s keep doing it do it together in the church. Our children are living in a world saturated with dark lies. But light is greater than darkness. When the light shines, the darkness cannot overcome it.
Let’s not lose our confidence in the Word of God. This is living seed, and through this seed God brings new birth: “The words of the Lord are pure words… You, O Lord, will keep them” (Psalm 12:7).
- God saves
Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone. Psalm 12:1
You will guard us from this generation forever. Psalm 12:7
Here’s how you can pray for your son, daughter, or grandchild who doesn’t have godly friends, who doesn’t have the benefit of a faithful ministry of the Word: “I’m not depending on their friends. I’m depending on you. Lord, I’m asking you to intervene. Save!”
Psalm 12 is one of only a few psalms that includes an answer. The book of Psalms is a collection of prayers (people talking to God), but in this psalm God speaks to us, and he answers while David is still praying! “’I will now arise,’ says the Lord; ‘I will place him in the safety for which he longs’” (Psalm 12:5).
That’s your hope. That’s my hope. You can trust God to speak. You can ask God to save. That’s how you pray when you fear for your children.
God gave to Karen and I the gift of two sons. We are so grateful that they love Christ and have married women who love Christ too. Now that we have two granddaughters, one on each side of the family, we are very aware that they are growing up in a world very different from the one we knew in our childhood.
They are growing up in a culture where there is no longer a Christian consensus that is as widespread as in the past. But I want more for them than to go along with a Christian consensus.
Here is what I am praying for them: I want them to be saved. I want them to know Christ. I want them to love God. I want the flame of the Holy