Psalm 120 - Deliver me from lying lips

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A Song of Ascents.
1) In my distress I cry to the Lord,
that he may answer me:
2) “Deliver me, O Lord,
from lying lips,
from a deceitful tongue.”

3) What shall be given to you?
And what more shall be done to you,
you deceitful tongue?
4) A warrior’s sharp arrows,
with glowing coals of the broom tree!

5) Woe is me, that I am an alien in Meshech,
that I must live among the tents of Kedar.[1]

6) Too long have I had my dwelling
among those who hate peace.
7) I am for peace;
but when I speak,
they are for war.

Psalm 120 (NRSV*)
Not included in the Revised Common Lectionary.

This is one of those short, "simple" psalms, yet it says a lot in seven verses. We all know about lying lips.

I do not know if lying is relatively constant across time. I do know that we are presented daily with falsehood presented as truth. Swimming in a sea of lies, the ripples and eddies and whirlpools threatening to suck us under may make it very hard to see what is solid ground, or even to catch a breath.

Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips.

Lying corrodes the soul of the liars, eats away at the ability to trust one another, and the security of the institutions, formal and informal, on which we depend. Lies confound innocent ears, sharpen the cynicism of the discerning.

Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips.

It is hard to maintain integrity and sanity in the face of a tsunami of lies.

Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips.

A deceitful tongue can destroy reputations and relationships. It can pervert justice. It can steal, ruin, and sow toxic seeds that persist for generations.

Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips.

Lies from those nearby hurt. Lies from the powerful, from institutions and governments spread their malign influence far and deep, turning these structures off-course.

Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips.

No wonder that we wish to purge and punish the source of these lies. Cut out the tongue, spit it with arrows and burn it on goals. Make it so that it can deceive no more!

Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips.

For we know that lies, wrong in their own right, grease the skids of greater evil. Lies can be weapons of mass destruction. Every war is fueled by lies. Every cruelty relies on lies. Every injustice enacts lies.

Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips.

Deliver me, O Lord. Purge my lips and cleanse my heart from all deceit. Grant me the wisdom to discern lies from truth and the path to destruction from the way of life. And give me the strength to speak and live the truth, no matter how great or how many the lies which surround me.

Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips.

Alexas_Foto, Geantă De Mână Deschise Gura Dinte Amuzants. Public domain, Pixabay license.

[1] There is not a lot of Biblical weight to the names/places of Meshech and Kedar. Perhaps the original hearers of this psalm knew them better. Mesach is generally understood to be an area in modern Turkey, also a son of Japheth in Genesis 10:2 and 1 Chronicles 1:5. Kedar is a nomadic tribe or league of tribes in the Arabian Desert, and is mentioned in Genesis 25:3 and I Chronicles 1:29 among "the sons of Ishmael." Within the context of this psalm, we can understand this is the plaint that they are forced to live as a foreigner among heathens, who seek war (Against his homeland? Against God? Against what is true?).


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