Daily Family Worship

Psalm 120: A Prayer Against Lying Lips

by | Jun 29, 2024

psalm 120

We have suddenly left the continent of the vast 119th Psalm, and now we find ourselves sailing in and out of the islands and islets of the Songs of Degrees. It is sometimes good for us to engage in lengthy devotions, on special occasions; but this must cast no slur upon the short but sacred prayers and songs which sanctify the Christian life on ordinary days. The same God Who inspired the longest Psalm was equally the author of the short compositions which follow it.

It has been thought that these Songs of Degrees – namely, Psalms 120-134 – were sung by the people of God at various points along the way of ascent toward the city of Jerusalem, when they would travel there to celebrate their annual Feasts; and it is not very difficult to see how appropriate these select songs were for such pilgrimages. They are patriotic, short, and pithy; they contain keywords and catch-words; they were easy to remember and pleasant to repeat. Sometimes they are plaintive and low, blending with the thoughts of the aged and the sighs of the feeble and weary; and sometimes they are lively and buoyant, tying the lively and energetic youth with the slow pace of the caravan. They contained sweet allusions to David’s piety, to the immortal harp which he had tuned for the tribes on Mount Zion, and to Solomon’s magnificent and tranquil reign. They told of the beauty of the city, the splendor of the Temple, and the glad solemnities of the festival to which the pilgrims were going (or from which they were returning). They include songs of strength, triumph, faith, hope, charity, gratitude, and joy. They declare the mighty deeds, the watchful protection, the bountiful Providence, and the redeeming mercy of the Lord. These pilgrim-songs encouraged and strengthened them to persevere in the roughest places and against the greatest dangers. A good song is like wings to the soul. The child of God often feels, when singing choice words, that his Father’s hand is helping him ascend higher and higher on his journey to heaven. But it was not only on the long journey to the Feast and back that the Israelites were “singing pilgrims.” They delighted in their sacred songs along the road and in Jerusalem, because they loved them at home also! Holy songs are for use in private devotions and family worship, as well as in public worship services.

As we study these Songs of Degrees, we see more and more that the Book of Psalms is a looking-glass for our own souls. In its writers, and in the saints of whom they write, we may see ourselves, our experiences, and our duties. Behold them at home, in the street, in the Temple, in profound distress, and in bitter conflict! They are looking to God, trusting in His mercy, waiting for His interposition, and triumphing in His salvation. Nothing can be better than this scroll of songs for the spiritual pilgrim to carry in his bosom as he flees from the City of Destruction and aims for the Heavenly City! There is no stage in his progress in which it will not supply his heart and lips with appropriate thoughts and expressions.

In this particular Psalm, David was brought into great distress by lying lips and deceitful tongues. There were many persons who sought his ruin, and who had almost effected it by their lies and slanders. In this distress, however, he had recourse to God by faithful and fervent prayer. Having no fence against false tongues, he appealed to Him Who has all people’s hearts in His hand. He has power over the consciences of bad men; and when he pleases, He can bridle their tongues. And God heard him; He compelled his enemies to be baffled at last, so that they could not prevail to do the mischief they intended. The God of truth is, and always will be, the Protector of His people from lying lips (Ps. 37:6).

The doom of a false tongue is foretold in verses 3 and 4. Let liars consider what shall be given to them – sharp arrows of the Almighty, with coals of juniper! In other words, they will fall and lie forever under the wrath of God, and they will be made miserable by the tokens of His displeasure – which will fly swiftly like arrows, and strike the sinner before he is even aware of them.

David was forced to live among wicked people who were – upon many accounts – troublesome to him. It is a very grievous burden to a good man to be cast into, and kept in, the company of those whom he hopes to be forever separated from (like Lot in Sodom; 2 Peter 2:8). To dwell long with such persons is grievous indeed; for they are vexing, scratching, and tearing thorns, which show the old enmity that is in the seed of the serpent against the Seed of the Woman. How fierce and implacable they were, and how bent to mischief! Such were Christ’s enemies also. For His love, they were His adversaries; and for His good words and works, they tried to stone Him. If we meet with such enemies, we must not think it strange; nor must we love peace less because our seeking it sometimes seems to be in vain. Let us pray for grace to not be overcome by evil, but to still try to overcome evil with good!

Thank You, Lord, that when we are almost ruined by the lies and slanders of evil people, yet in this distress, we have recourse – by faithful and fervent prayer – to You, Who hold all men’s hearts and tongues in Your hand! Amen.

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