(Fleetwood Mac’s 1987 album Tango in the Night…in case the title put a song in your head.)
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
Psalm 27:12 (ESV)
When we read these words from Psalm 27, we might think of slander. False witnesses saying bad, hurtful things about us. We may have images of junior high when organized smear campaigns were employed with an efficiency and efficacy that would be the envy of a political campaign organizer. Indeed, that is a fair reading of the text and those things certainly do happen even to adults.
The good thing about those kinds of lies is that we recognize them quickly. When someone says something untrue and negative about us, we instantly react with, “That’s not true!” It is instinctive. We usually don’t need a warning to guard against such things.
There is another type of lie or false witness, however, that can also do us violence. Perhaps even more so because we turn a blind eye to it or even encourage it.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
Psalm 12:2 (ESV)
Flattery. Why does something not well up in us and scream, “That’s not true!” at flattery? Maybe it’s the same reason we so violently reject slander.
Slander challenges our pride while flattery feeds it. Interesting to note, slander can result in legal action, whereas there are no statues against flattery. Flattery is also dangerous, though, and as Psalm 12 reminds us, flattery is also a lie. It is a lie we are too often willing to let go or even embrace.
What if we reread Psalm 27:12 inserting flattery, sort of combining the two verses? “Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for flatterers have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.” Was that not where you would have put it? Would you have replaced “violence” with “flattery?” That might be our first inclination, but it would mute the effect of this truth to our spirit.
Flattery does violence to us because it strengthens pride’s grip on us. Pride is a sin. Let us remember:
Love the LORD, all you his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
(Psalm 31:23 ESV)
Pride sets us at enmity with God and causes us to embrace a falsehood about ourselves. When we live in pride, we live an illusion.
I once talked with friends about how odd it was that we use the term disillusioned as a bad thing. While it may be an unpleasant experience, to be removed from illusion should be a good thing. The definition of the word is: “disappointed in someone or something that one discovers to be less good than one had believed.”
When that someone is yourself, it can be even harder to stomach. It is an assault on our pride, which, if we are feeding our pride, is exactly what we need. A full frontal assault. We need to stop believing the lies of the enemy that seek to do violence to our souls by separating us from God and dragging us into the company of the most arrogant being there is, Satan.
In humility before God, may we be about the business of disillusioning ourselves.