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PSALM 64 - A Refuge From Sharp-Tongued Slander

Summer Psalms 2022  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  32:48
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We rest in the assurance of God's coming victory on those who bring troubles to the righteous

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Introduction

How many of you growing up used to hear (or used to say) the old rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”? How many of you wonder what happened to that saying? It seems as though we have entered a time when anything you say can be construed as “violence”—if your words make someone feel bad, then they will accuse you of making them feel unsafe, or that you are attacking them.
Now, we are Christians, which means we are governed by the Word of God, and not the snowflakes and SJW’s around us. Contrary to the old schoolyard rhyme, words can be destructive:
Psalm 64:3–4 (ESV)
3 who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, 4 shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
But the nature of their destructiveness is not what the intoleristas of cancel culture say they are. God’s Word defines for us the way that words can harm and destroy, not the opinions of people with all of the emotional control of a toddler past her nap time. It’s been well-said by others, that “Truth sounds like hate to those who hate the truth”. And so when we are talking about the weaponization of words and destructiveness of the tongue (as we read earlier in James), we are not just talking about the fact that truth hurts sometimes—we are talking about the destructive effects of lies and slander :
James 3:8–9 (ESV)
8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
If you want proof of the destructive power of lies and slander and bitter words, just look around you. Over the past several years you have watched a once-great nation reduced to a pitiful shell of its former greatness. And what has happened to reduce us to this state? We have not been invaded by an enemy army, we have not suffered catastrophic natural disasters, we have not been brought to our knees by an attack of radioactive hamsters from a planet near Mars.
But we have been lied to—a lot. We have been lied to about Darwinism, lied to about multiculturalism, lied to about racism, about gender, about the unborn, about climate change, about white privilege, and on and on the list goes. We have been lied to over and over again, constantly and without relent, for decades—and you see the result all around you in what used to be a great people and a great nation.
Lies and slander and bitter words will destroy a nation, they will destroy a family, they will destroy a church, they will destroy a marriage, they will destroy friendships. Here in Psalm 64 David is calling out to God to be his refuge from the lies and slanders coming from his enemies. And so what I aim for you to see this morning from the Scriptures is that
God’s LOVING FAITHFULNESS is your refuge from the HATEFUL LIES of your enemies
I don’t know how God will use this psalm in your life this morning; I don’t know what kind of struggles or attacks you have been going through. But I know that God has gathered us together to hear His Word, and He has given us these verses this morning to strengthen, encourage, rebuke, uphold and sustain us in a world gone mad with lies and slander and bitterness. And the first thing that we see is that God is

I. Our HIDING PLACE from attacks (Psalm 64:1-3)

Psalm 64:1–3 (ESV)
1 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy. 2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, 3 who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows,
David calls out in confidence that God will hear him, and that God will be his refuge. But look with me at the way David prays for protection—he doesn’t just call on God to “preserve his life from the enemy”; he calls on God to
PRESERVE him from DREAD of the enemy (v. 1)
David is asking God for something very specific here, isn’t he? Because one of the ways that slander and lies and bitter words affect us lies in their power to intimidate us or bully us. How many people are afraid to speak the truth or stand up and be counted for Christ because they are afraid of what others may say? David looks to God and asks that he would not be fearful or cowardly in the face of their attacks, that he would not be anxious over the prospect that his enemies are lying about him or slandering him. See here that this kind of courage is not a natural ability; it is a gift given by God. When Jesus tells you to rejoice and be exceedingly glad when you are reviled and slandered for His sake (Matt. 5:12), He is not telling you to screw up your courage and brazen it out; He is promising to give you a gift!
David calls on God to be his hiding place from the bitter words and lies of his enemies—in verse 3 he calls on God to
PROTECT him from their SLANDER (v. 3)
Psalm 64:3 (ESV)
3 who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows,
The imagery here is exquisite in the way it describes lies and bitter slander. Think about it—have you ever used a whetstone to sharpen a blade of some sort? Is it just a one-and-done process? No—what do you do when you whet a knife? You go over and over and over and over it, sharpening bit by bit, making that blade as fine and sharp as you can.
Is that not what bitter and slanderous people do with their words? They go over and over and over the same lies, endlessly turning them over in their minds, constantly filling their mouths and hearts with the same accusations and slander and bitterness. “Fresh faults discovered, evil motives imputed, exaggerations invented, lies forged, innuendo suggested, old slanders furbished, and ancient hatreds rekindled...” (Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 56-87 (Vol. 3, p. 88). Marshall Brothers.)
And that constant drip, drip, drip of lies and bitterness eventually starts to sink in over time as people listen to and eventually begin to entertain them. And David says, “God, protect me from the constant motions of bitterness and slanderous lies that come out against me!”
Beloved, God’s loving faithfulness is your refuge from the hateful lies of your enemies—God is your hiding place from attacks; He is your refuge from

II. The HIDDEN AMBUSH by the wicked (Psalm 64:4-6)

David says that his enemies
Psalm 64:4–5 (ESV)
4 [shoot] from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. 5 They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, “Who can see them?”
Here is another characteristic of David’s slanderous, bitter enemies:
They thrive in DARKNESS (vv. 4-5; cp. John 3:19)
Anonymity and distance are the best friends of slanderers, aren’t they? It’s no coincidence that the explosion of lies and the destruction of bitter words and slander has coincided with the development of our ability to post anonymous messages publicly and say things online that we would never say to a person face-to-face. God’s Word says that slanderers hit their targets from concealment; the ghillie suit of anonymity and plausible deniability provides them cover as they attempt to destroy lives with their bitter words like arrows. As the apostle John would put it centuries later at the first coming of our Lord:
John 3:19 (ESV)
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
Slanderers and liars and embittered enemies love the anonymity and distance that allows them to ambush innocent people. And in verse 6 we see that not only do they thrive in darkness, but
They suffer DELUSIONS (v. 6)
as well.
Psalm 64:6 (ESV)
6 They search out injustice, saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.” For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.
Now, there are a great deal of complications surrounding the translation of this verse; it’s one of those verses that is hard to render accurately into English from Hebrew, but the sense of the verse seems to be a description of the self-justification of someone caught in the throes of bitterness: They believe they are on the side of the angels, that they have found a great injustice that they need to set right!
They may believe that they are champions of justice and truth, diligently searching out injustice, but the truth is that they don’t know what spirit they are of—they are actually just acting out their own spite and bitterness and envy, but to them they are fighting the good fight.
David calls on God’s loving faithfulness to be his refuge from the hateful lies of his enemies. God is his hiding place from their attacks, He is their refuge from their hidden ambush. And starting in verse 7 the tone of the Psalm shifts—instead of describing the slanderous attacks of his enemies, David begins singing of God’s response to their attacks. David is confident that

III. God’s RETALIATION will be REVEALED (Psalm 64:7-8)

Psalm 64:7–8 (ESV)
7 But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. 8 They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads.
For all of their hiding, for all of their careful schemes to launch their arrows of bitter words against the innocent from the shadows, God sees them well enough to hit them with HIS arrows! And just as their attacks on the innocent seem to come out of nowhere, so God will ambush them—His response will also seem to come out of nowhere--
It will be SUDDEN (v. 7; cp. Dan. 6:24; Esther 7:9-10)
Just as we sang together earlier, “But God will shoot a shaft at them and wound them with all dread, and their own tongues will trip them up; those seeing shake their heads!” God loves to defeat His enemies by using their own schemes against them, making the wicked fall into the trap they set for the righteous—Daniel’s accusers were devoured in the den of lions they threw him into (Daniel 6:24), Haman was hanged on the gallows that he had built for righteous Mordechai (Esther 7:9-10), the Supreme Court that the wicked used as a pretext to slaughter children in the womb has now become the Court that defends the life of the innocent! All of a sudden, out of the blue, the mighty right arm of the LORD of Hosts breaks out to defend His people.
David’s enemies will be brought down by their own weapons—it will be sudden, and
It will be PUBLIC (v. 8; cp. Luke 12:2-3; Heb. 4:12)
Psalm 64:8 (ESV)
8 They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads.
They wanted to hide in the shadows, but God drags them into full view of everyone; they wanted anonymity, they got notoriety. As Jesus announced in Luke’s Gospel:
Luke 12:2–3 (ESV)
2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
They have sharpened their tongues like swords, but the sword of His Word is sharper!
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The thoughts and intentions of those slandering enemies will be exposed—the powerful and piercing Word of God will lay open all of those secret thoughts and snares. And then in the light of that exposure, as God lays bare the secret plots and bitter words of the enemies of God’s people,

IV. God’s RULE will be RECOGNIZED (Psalm 64:9-10)

Psalm 64:9 (ESV)
9 Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done.
What is the result of those slanderer’s attempts at secret attacks—
The WORLD will FEAR God (v. 9)
When God’s people are weighted down with the slanders and bitter words of their enemies—when you are suffering ridicule and shame and disdain from co-workers, family members, neighbors or friends because of your faith in Christ—see here that God’s utter and complete control over the affairs of this world means that even the scorn and slanderous lies meant to tear down His rule in this world will be made to serve His glory! The exposure and defeat of those slanderous enemy lips will bring the fear of God and His righteousness to the forefront of the minds of those who see it. The world will fear Him, and
The RIGHTEOUS will REJOICE in God (v. 10)
Psalm 64:10 (ESV)
10 Let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult!
David begins this psalm with a complaint before God of the attacks he is suffering from his enemies—and ends this psalm with a shout of exultation in God! While the world may fear God’s righteous deeds, God’s children can rejoice in them!
Christian—you possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself, by which you are counted righteous before the Father, and grow daily into that righteousness by the work of the Holy Spirit in you. Though you may suffer the scorn and bitter words and slanderous unjust attacks of others, you can rejoice in the refuge you have in God!
God’s loving faithfulness is your refuge from the hateful lies of your enemies—He is your hiding place from their attacks, He is your refuge from their hidden ambushes, His retaliation against them will suddenly be revealed and His rule will be recognized.
What David could only glimpse dimly, as from a distance, you and I have the amazing privilege of seeing close up and personal—his enemies sharpened their tongues like swords to cut David down, but Christian you serve a living Savior who will cut down the nations with the sword of His Word!
Revelation 1:16 (ESV)
16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
Revelation 19:15 (ESV)
15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
Jesus Christ is the reigning King who is in the process right now of ruling the nations, striking down their slanderous rebellion against Him with the sword of His living and active Word—His Word which
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
…[pierces] to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and [discerns] the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
And so, Christian, when those voices rise up against you from those who hate the truth,
Psalm 64:3 (ESV)
3 who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows,
you do not meet them with bitter words and sharp-tongued attacks! You meet them with the Word of God! It is this Word that has divine power to pull down strongholds and destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:4-5), it is this Word that pierces to the very thoughts and motives of the heart, it is this Word that not only silences the slanders of the wicked but pierces them to the heart with conviction and repentance to faith! So when your enemies sharpen their tongues like swords to attack you, you fill your mouth with the powerful, living, two-edged sword of the Word of God!
I don’t know what kind of accusations and slanders and bitterness has been fired at you; I don’t know what wounds you have received from the lips of deceitful or two-faced enemies who use the camouflage of jokes or double entendre or plausible deniability to attack you and try to bring you down because of your love for Jesus Christ and your obedience to Him.
But never forget that God loves to use His enemies’ own weapons against them!
Psalm 64:7–8 (ESV)
7 But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. 8 They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them...
Beloved, never forget that the enemies of our Lord used accusations, lies and slander to nail Him to that Cross. And when they did, they found themselves utterly defeated!
1 Corinthians 2:8 (ESV)
8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Colossians 2:15 (ESV)
15 [God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Christ].
Mark it well, beloved—because Jesus Christ died on that Cross bearing unjust accusation, slander, and bitter lies, they have no power over you anymore! Those hateful, unjust whispers thrown out against you are now empty of any power, because Jesus took them down into the grave and left them there!
And this also means, Christian, that if bitterness and slander and lies and whisperings and accusations nailed your Savior to the Cross, if their power was broken on that Cross, if He clasped them to His breast and sunk down with them to the grave where He buried them forever, then they have no place on your lips.
Bitter words nailed your Savior to the Cross—how dare you employ them against your neighbor? False accusations and subtle insinuations died at Calvary, how dare you use them against your brother or sister? Secret conversations behind a fellow church member’s back, suitably gussied up as “prayer requests” for plausible deniability were gutted forever when the blood of your Savior flowed from that Cross, how dare you trample that sacrifice underfoot by smearing one of His blood-bought children with slanderous accusations?
Christian, hateful lies and slander and accusation and bitter words have no place on your lips. But here is the Good News—God’s loving faithfulness to you in Jesus Christ is your refuge from your sin of hateful lies against your neighbor! God’s faithfulness to you in Jesus Christ means that His death that broke the power of lies and slander also broke the power of that sin over you! Your Savior died for all the times you have sharpened your tongue like a sword, for all of the times you have aimed bitter words like arrows, for all the times you have subtly allowed falsehood to grow unchecked against your fellow believer.
And the Savior who died to cancel the power of lies and bitter words over you is the same Savior who died to release you from the guilt of your own sharp tongue! So come in repentance before Him today, come and lay it all down—the lies, the gossip, the insinuations, the slander, the heart that wants to shoot those bitter words and the lips that fashion snares for others to fall into. Have done with all of it, and come to the foot of the Cross for the forgiveness of the One who absorbed all of the Enemy’s evil words and all of His Father’s righteous wrath—your Savior, Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Hebrews 13:20–21 (ESV)
20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Read Psalm 64:1 again. In what ways are you prone to fret or be anxious over the ways people may accuse you or lie about you because of your faith in God?
Look at Psalm 64:4. Have you ever been “blindsided” by someone’s words against you? How does Psalm 64 help you understand why that happens?
Psalm 64:7 says that God defeats His enemies “with their own tongues turned against them”. What are some other examples in the Bible of God using His enemies’ own plots against them? What does this teach you to think about the wicked and slanderous lies being told about Christians today?
Spend some time this week rejoicing in God’s promise to glorify Himself through His enemies’ own lies—use the psalm lyric sheet in your bulletin to sing this psalm as part of your devotions this week!
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