Sep17ThuSeptember 17, 2020Save Me, O Lord, From Lying LipsPsalm 1201 I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.2 Save me, O Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.3 What will he do to you, and what more besides, O deceitful tongue?4 He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom tree.5 Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar!6 Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.7 I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war.A few years back I was talking to some friends who had recently returned from a mission trip to Russia and the Ukraine. Upon inquiring about the trip, I was levelled by one of the prayer concerns requested by the Ukrainian Christians. They asked specifically for prayer to help them deal with their news media. Apparently in the Ukraine, news is far more propaganda driven than it is information driven (*Gratefully we do not have that issue here??? Please note the sarcasm!!!). I was informed their news comes in two forms, pro-Russian or anti-Russian. There is no middle ground—Russia is either the great savior or Russia is the great devil. The people have no way of discerning fact from fiction or the ability to avoid the bombardment of propagandizing even if they so desire. Curiously, what they asked for, was not prayer for discernment, but for the protection of their minds and for their souls. In true Orwellian fashion, the consistent exposure to distorted reality was leading to widespread paranoia and mental health breakdown.How I wish I was writing this solely as a way to bring attention to a problem some nameless people face in some far off Banana Republic. Sadly, the misinformation, or “fake news” industry is just as prevalent today in North America as it is in Russia, China, or you name the regime. And it is not just state politicians and large corporations that pedal in dishonesty, it is also your town gossip, perhaps your neighbourhood retailer; and if we are truly honest it includes you and me too (*We would not have, “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” (Ex. 20:16) as one of the Ten Commandments if we did not already have propensity for falsehood). However, if there is piece of good news, it is in knowing this is not a new problem.In Psalm 120, the unnamed author has the same prayer request as our Ukrainian friends. His prayer is a prayer of “distress,” and the distress he cries out to God to rescue him from is, “lying lips” and “deceitful tongues”(2). He then describes for us the damage of willful dishonesty: It pierces like a “sharp arrow”(4). Despite appearances, it retains a long-ignitable heat (4). Finally, he tells us, to be among ones own people who practice deception is equivalent to living among notorious gangs of opportunistic, bloodthirsty bandits (5).With the information explosion that comes at us every day, is there any way to decipher truth from falsehood? Real news from fake news? Reality from the photoshopped? Honesty from hyperbole and hysteria? Fortunately the psalmist also leaves us a subtle but very important clue, a slice of prudence we would be wise to consider whenever consuming information from questionable, and even from so called “reliable,” sources. He lets us know, he is “for peace,” but when his enemies speak, “they are for war”(7), because they “hate peace”(6). In other words, truth has a way of bringing about peace and unity, whereas deception brings about discord and division. When you are consuming information, ask yourself: “Is this material causing greater harm or greater good for our already polarized world? Is this rhetoric seeding shalom within my soul or is it manufacturing paranoia in my mind?”Let me stir things up a little by considering a controversial and current case study:It seems every day I turn on the news broadcasts or check my online feeds, race relations is the hot topic of the day, and ending “systematic racism” is the most pressing issue of our times, with a very specific focus on the black community and police officers (*I am writing this after a period of over a 100 straight days of protests and riots in a number of major US cities, and two days after two police officers in California were targeted and shot at point blank range while sitting in their cruiser). Every day we hear another story, either of how a police officer shot or mistreated a minority; or we read about how people are inappropriately responding to an alleged injustice. There is no doubt in my mind, racism exists (*Please—by no means do I want anyone to misread me, and think I am downplaying or do not take the evils of racism as a serious and heinous offence), and that it exists within police forces, as it exists to some degree in all institutions. But the question worth considering in light of the times we are in is: For those who are in control of disseminating our information, is the best way to end hate, the best way to end racism, is it to constantly put forward every negative interaction between a cop and a person of colour? Or could these same outlets use their outsized influence to instead share some of the many more positive interactions and initiatives between police officers and minority communities? I hate to come across as cynical, but could it be possible, the reason our information sources focus constantly on division, is perhaps discord and outrage sell far better, receive far more clicks, and gain far more eyeballs than harmony and peace? Are they truly for “peace” or is there a possibility they are actually for “war”? My cynicism and my knowledge of our fallen human condition cannot help but believe stoking war over peace is probably far more profitable?“Save us, O Lord, from lying lips!”Let your people, be those who long for truth and long for peace!
1. I must give credit where credit is due. The inspiration for this week’s devotional blog comes from my daughter Elizabeth. Sunday night I stole away to begin writing this week’s blog, but was having little success until Elizabeth entered the room. She asked what I was up to, and when I told her, I was trying to figure out what to write about, she jokingly suggested a random a Bible verse, which happened to be Ps. 120:3. As soon as I read it, I liked what I read, and could easily relate to the cry for rescue from the psalmist.
2. This verse speaks of the author dwelling in “Meshech” and “among the tents of Kedar.” Most likely he was using these locations figuratively. Both places were infamous for their barbarous lifestyles with established reputations of being homes to marauding bandits.