Whom Can We Trust?
(H) A Song of Ascents. (1) In my distress I called on Yahweh, and he answered me. (2) Yahweh, deliver my soul from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. (3) What will he give to you, what more shall he do to you, O deceitful tongue? (4) (He will give you) sharpened arrows of a warrior along with burning coals from the broom tree. (5) Woe to me that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar. (6) For too long my soul has dwelled among those who hate peace. (7) I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.
This is the first of a group of fifteen psalms (120-134) called “the Songs of Ascent.” These poems were sung by pilgrims as they traveled together to Jerusalem to celebrate the three major festivals of the Jewish calendar at the Temple, Passover early in the spring, Pentecost fifty days later, and Tabernacles at the time of the fall harvest.
Several repetitions help us discern this psalm’s message. The name, “Yahweh,” is invoked twice (vss. 1 & 2). “Deceitful tongue” is repeated along with “lying lips” (vss. 2 & 3). “Dwell” is found twice (vss. 5 & 6) as well as the synonymous verb “to sojourn” (vs. 5). The two obscure names, “Meshech” mentioned in Ezekiel 38:2 and “Kedar” found in Isaiah 21:16, refer to locations outside Israel’s borders (vs. 5). The psalmist uses these place names to say, “Due to the deceitfulness of those around me, I feel as though I am living among foreign enemies far away from my home country.” Finally, the Hebrew word for peace, “shalom,” occurs twice (vss. 6 & 7).
I. Crying out to Yahweh for deliverance (1 & 2)
II. Considering the harmful effects of deceitfulness (3 & 4)
III. Craving removal from a threatening environment (5-7)
Only Yahweh can deliver the faithful from the devastating effects of deceitfulness.
Nothing ruins relationships more quickly and destroys the social fabric more effectively than lying. Why? Because every meaningful relationship in our lives is based on trust. If we cannot depend on those who are close to us to tell us the truth, if we cannot take them at their word, then we end up feeling dismayed and disillusioned just like the author of this psalm did. That is why parents should take pains to teach their children the importance of telling the truth using words like, “Whatever else you do, do not lie to us because, if we find you are lying, we will not be able to trust you.” Family relationships are built on trust, and trust is based on the truth. If a family member is found to be deceitful, that trust will be dealt a severe blow that will take a long time to heal.
When we cannot rely on those around us whether they be politicians, journalists, salespeople, doctors, neighbors, even family members, we are forced to live in a state of constant suspicion, fearful that we cannot count on anything we hear. This can easily turn into paranoia, a state of mind in which we feel isolated and apprehensive, fearful that everyone is out to take advantage of us. The best remedy when we feel like this is to remind ourselves that there is one person whom we can trust without reservation, someone who will protect us and provide for us when no one else will, our loving God.
This may be one of the reasons why frequent pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the place of worship and fellowship with Yahweh, were required of all Israelites. In those visits to the temple at festival times, the offspring of Abraham would renew their covenant relationship with the One whom they knew they could trust, the One who would bring order and sanity to their lives and enable them to live peacefully in a fallen world full of deceit.
Whenever we feel as though we are sojourning in Meshech and dwelling in the tents of Kedar, feeling suspicious because it seems as though we are strangers in a strange land, we need to spend time in Yahweh’s presence. While believers today are not required to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem as the Israelites were, we do need a constant renewal of fellowship with God in our daily devotions as well as in weekly times of worship together with other believers. When we draw near to God, we will experience the “shalom” for which our hearts yearn in a hostile world filled with deceit and conflict.