Psalm 12 is a very carefully structured poem. It divides into two equal sections (Canto), each of 37 words. Canto 1 declares that people are totally unfaithful. Canto 2 reminds us that God is totally faithful.
Overlapping this 2 part structure is a five part chiastic structure (ABCBA) based upon who is speaking to whom.
|Psalm 12:1-2||People are faithless||spoken to God|
|Psalm 12:3-4||People speak flattery
||spoken to the people
|Psalm 12:5||God promises to help||spoken by God|
|Psalm 12:6||God speaks flawlessly
||spoken to the people|
|Psalm 12:7-8||God is faithful||spoken to God|
For a more detailed analysis of the structure see this article by Dr. C.J. Labuschagne.
People Are Faithless
David begins by calling out to God to save him from liars. Both the first half of the poem and the first section highlight the fact that everyone is a liar. People are not trustworthy. If you place your trust in people you will surely get hurt.
Notice that the psalmist creates bookends for the psalm by using the words "children of man [Adam]" in the first and last verse. He also uses the contrasting word pairs of "godly/faithful" and "wicked/vileness" to highlight the bookends.
David wants us to know that among the "children of man" there is no one who is godly - everyone is wicked because everyone lies.
This has two applications. On one hand, David is contrasting the children of man, those who reject God, and the children of Abraham, those who trust God. Otherwise, who is God going to save from the wicked person if everyone is evil?
On the other hand, the bigger picture is that everyone is wicked before God because we all lie and we all need to be saved from our sins. God rescues us out of the children of man and places us as one of the children of Abraham.
People Speak Flattery
The psalmist switches now from talking to God to talking to the people and essentially places a curse on all liars.
May the Lord cut off ... Psalm 12:3
Over and over again in this section David emphasizes the boasting of the children of man. Their speech is full of flattery, boasting and lies.
No one is worthy of our complete trust.
God Promises to Help
This section begins both the third section of the poem and the 2nd half. God has heard the cry for help and responds with a promise to protect the needy. The center of the psalm and the central theme of the psalm as a whole is this powerful image:
"I will now arise", says the LORD; Psalm 12:5
God sees your need and arises to help! What more could we need? God is coming!
In fact our God literally rose from the grave to defeat sin and give us "the safety for which [we] long".
God Speaks Flawlessly
David returns to speaking to the people. Section 4 is in direct contrast to section 2. People use their lips to speak lies and flattery. God always speaks the truth.
God's words are absolutely flawless. They have been purified seven times. When God speaks when can trust it fully!
God has spoken. He will arise to help. And God never lies!
God is Faithful
God will never fail. Don't place your trust in people. They will always fail you. Place your trust in the words of our flawless God.
In the middle of a world full of sin and lies, Psalm 12 reminds us that we have a safe and secure place under the faithful protection of our God.