The Last Dance, a recent ESPN documentary about Michael Jordan, has been captivating the quarantined in recent weeks. Following the story of Jordan’s superhuman drive to success, we have been reminded why every kid on a court since 1984 has wanted to “be like Mike.” While our enchantment with champions...
You will guard us from this generation forever. (Psalm 12:8)
Psalm 12 is a generational psalm. 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!”
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?
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?
In response to this, I want to first offer an analysis of the assault that our children are facing. And 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, referred to as “the god of this world” in the verse, 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 three 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!
Those who are young 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.
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. It’s 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 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 in John 5:44: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
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. And 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.
But God is in control. And, as we’ll see in a second article, He listens, He speaks, and He saves.