Solemnly Decrying a Decaying Society

Title: Solemnly Decrying a Decaying Society

Bible Book: Psalms 12 : 1-8

Author: Franklin L. Kirksey

Subject: Society, Sinful; Nation, Sinful; America, Decay of



Solemnly decrying a decaying society is the duty of all who are godly and faithful. To decry is “to express strong disapproval of” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Dr. W. L. (William Lonsdale) Watkinson (1838-1925) shares the following in The Preacher’s Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. 1, “[The] Duty of the Christian patriot.

1. To cry mightily to God against the prevailing wickedness. ‘Help, LORD!’ (ver. 1). The effectual fervent prayer, &c.

2. To protest by word and act, against this iniquity, as David did (ver. 3).

3. To rest, in days of triumphant wickedness, in the word and power of God (ver. 5, 6).

4. To claim God’s promise, and keep himself unspotted from the world (ver. 7).[1]

God decried the decay of society in Noah’s day as we read in Genesis 6:5-8, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” We read in Hebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Here, we see that Noah decried the decay of society as well. From Matthew 24:37-39 we read, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

God decried the decay of society in Lot’s day as we read in Luke 17:28-29, “Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.”

In 2 Peter 3:1-13, “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

Regarding the occasion of Psalm 12, Dr. J. J. (John James) Stewart Perowne (1823-1904) reports, “[Dr. Friedrich August Gottreu] Tholuck [1799-1877, professor of Divinity in the University of Halle] thinks it is aimed at persons by whom David was surrounded in the court of Saul. Others suppose it was occasioned by the treachery of the Ziphites I Sam. xxiii. 19, or the treachery of Ahithophel, in Absalom’s rebellion.”[2] Dr. David Thomas, shares, “The poem is a picture of a morally rotten age. The devout author felt himself living in corrupt times. Hence he notes this degeneracy.”[3] Before decrying the degeneracy of society, David cries, “Help, Lord!” Dr. John Henry Jowett (1864-1923), pastor of Carr’s Lane in Birmingham, England, comments, “This is the wailing supplication of a soul oppressed with the degeneracy of society. It is a cry for security amid an evil epidemic. This Psalm marks off the steps of societal degradation. We can see progressive descents from the worship of God to the exaltation of vileness. Regard these stages of decline in their relationship to the individual. Society only reflects the individual man.”[4]

We read in Psalm 12:1-8, “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; With flattering lips and a double heart they speak. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, And the tongue that speaks proud things, Who have said, ‘With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us?’ ‘For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, Now I will arise,’ says the Lord; ‘I will set him in the safety for which he yearns.’ The words of the Lord are pure words, Like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times. You shall keep them, O Lord, You shall preserve them from this generation forever. The wicked prowl on every side, When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.”

Do you decry the decay of society? Allow me to ask five questions.

I. Do you decry the decay of a sense of reverence?

David laments, “The godly man ceases!” (Psalm 12:1b) Dr. John Henry Jowett comments, “The beginning of degeneracy is to lose touch with God. We lose our touch with God when we cease to feel after Him. It is the effort to feel that preserves the sensitive touch.”[5]

Dr. W. H. (William Henry) Luckenbach (1828-1896) was the author of Song Stories for Little People (1890) as well as the lyrics of several hymns, to include, “Christ Is All In All To Me.” In a message titled “A Touching Plea,” Dr. Luckenbach explains, “It is always a grief to such as appreciate real godliness to see one and another good men drop out of the ranks of this life, etc. We feel that we cannot spare the good from this earth in its present demoralized condition, because

I. We need their example. A man’s truly good life is worth far more to the community where he lives than a hundred average sermons. Example is both (a) Demonstrative, and (b) Educational.

II. We need their influence. It is the good of this world who preserve it from total moral corruption. Christ said to and of His disciples, ‘Ye are the salt of the earth.’ Where is the Dante or Milton who could adequately picture the resulting horrors, if by some extraordinary phenomenon all the godly of this world were suddenly translated to the heavenly world, etc. etc? Again, because

III. We need their counsels. In the emergencies and crises which so often unexpectedly befall us in this life, unable to determine what to do, what a privilege it is to have a trusted friend to whom we may whisper our trouble, and upon whose judgment we may depend or whose advise we may safely follow! ‘The greatest trust between man and man,’ said Lord Bacon, ‘is the trust of giving counsel.’

But God’s dispensations are all right. He makes no mistakes. True, His Providence in removing our Christian friends makes us grieve, but it makes them glad, etc.”[6]

Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) shares the following in a message titled, “Inexcusable Irreverence and Ingratitude,” based on Romans 1:20-21, “The first charge against those who are mentioned in my text is, WANT OF REVERENCE. ‘They knew God,’ but ‘they glorified him not as God.’ They knew that there was a God; they never denied his existence; but they had no reverence for his name, they did not render him the homage to which he is entitled, they did not glorify him as God.
Of many this is still true in this form, they never think of God. They go from year to year without any practical thought of God. Not only is he not in their words, but he is not in their thoughts. As the Psalmist puts it, ‘The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not at all in his thoughts.’ The marginal reading is very expressive: ‘All his thoughts are, There is no God.’ Whether there is a God, or not, makes no practical difference to the wicked; they have so little esteem for him that, perhaps, if we could prove that there were no God, they would feel easier in their conscience. There must be something very wrong with you when you would rather that there were no God. ‘Well,’ says one, ‘I do not care much whether there is a God or not; I am an agnostic.’ ‘Oh!’ I said, ‘that is a Greek word, is it not? And the equivalent Latin word is 'Ignoramus'.’ Somehow, he did not like the Latin nearly as much as the Greek. Oh, dear friends, I could not bear to be an ‘ignoramus’ or an ‘agnostic’ about God! I must have a God; I cannot do without him. He is to me as necessary as food to my body, and air to my lungs. The sad thing is, that many, who believe that there is a God, yet glorify him not as God, for they do not even give him a thought. I appeal to some here, whether that is not true. You go from the beginning of the week to the end of it without reflecting upon God at all. You could do as well without God as with him. Is not that the case? And must there not be something very terrible in the condition of your heart when, as a creature, you can do without a thought of your Creator, when he that has nourished you, and brought you up, is nothing to you, one of whom you never think?

These people, further, have no right conceptions of God. The true conception of God is that he is all in all. If God is anything, we ought to make him everything; you cannot put God in the second place. He is Almighty, All-wise, All-gracious, knowing everything, being in every place, constantly present, the emanations of his power found in every part of the universe. God is infinitely glorious; and unless we treat him as such, we have not treated him as he ought to be treated. If there be a king, and he is set to open the door or do menial work, he is not honoured as a king should be. Shall the great God be made a lackey for our lusts? Shall we put God aside, and say to him, ‘When I have a more convenient season, I will send for thee: when I have more money, I will attend to religion,’ or, ‘When I can be religious, and not lose anything by it, then I will seek thee’? Dost thou treat God so?’ Oh, beware, this is high treason against the King of kings! Wrong ideas of God, grovelling thoughts of God, come under the censure of the text, ‘When they knew God, they glorified him not as God.’”[7]

II. Do you decry the decay of a sense of reliability?

David mourns, “For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men” (Psalm 12:1c). Dr. Joseph Parker (1830-1902), author of The People’s Bible, and contemporary of Charles H. Spurgeon, explains, “That the population of the globe had increased was nothing to David, if the godliness and faithfulness of the community had gone down.”[8]

Dr. Gilbert Burnet (1643-1715) further explains, “On what grounds did [David] make this complaint? . . . THE DANGEROUS AND DESPERATE STATE OF A NATION, IN WHICH GODLY AND FAITHFUL MEN DO FAIL. Dangerous by reason of the natural effects that follow, and by reason of the judgments of God.”

David’s son, Solomon, writes, “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness,
But who can find a faithful man?” (Proverbs 20:6)

III. Do you decry the decay of a sense of responsibility?

We read in Psalm 12:4b, “Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us?” This reveals the thoughts and intents of the heart of those who lack godliness and faithfulness. Dr. David Caldwell (1725-1824) comments, “They act as if freedom of speech implied the right to say whatever fancy may dictate, where it may dictate, and as it may dictate. Hence the recklessness with which not only opinions, but characters and motives, are assailed. The right of free discussion is often indulged by its advocates, till they seem to have forgotten that men have any other rights. Nor is this lawlessness of tongue confined to partizan leaders, and to those in authority; it pervades and embitters private life. We meet, in every walk of society, persons who pride themselves on their fearlessness of speech, and who, in sheer wantonness inflict wounds upon the characters and feelings of others that time can never heal. They forget that there are words worse than blows, and insinuations to which death would be a kindness. Still, they pride themselves upon their outspokenness as a virtue. A virtue! Heaven save us from all such virtue, and the virtuous impulses of all such characters. Virtuous as they may fancy themselves, because of their candour, they come under the condemnation of this psalm.”[9] Here, we recall Psalm 141:3, where David prays, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

IV. Do you decry the decay of a sense of regard?

From Psalm 12:5a we read about the reprehensible condition of “The oppression of the poor” and “The sighing of the needy” (Psalm 12:5a). On the phrase “For the oppression of the poor,” Dr. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) comments, “That is, on account of the wrong done to the poor in the manner specified above—by the abuse of the power of speech. On account of the slanders uttered against them, or the frauds perpetrated on them by the abuse of this power. The reference is to the wrongs done when no confidence could be placed in men’s words; when they uttered words of ‘vanity’ and ‘flattery’ (Psalm 12:2); when promises were made only to be broken, and obligations assumed never to be fulfilled. In such a state of things the ‘poor’ were the most likely to suffer. In performing service for others—in daily labor on a farm or in a mechanical employment—they would depend for support, on the promises made by their employers; and when their pay was withheld, they and their families must suffer. Compare James 5:4.”[10] Here, James writes, “Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”

David’s son, Solomon, writes, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, / And He will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17). He also writes in Proverbs 28:27, “He who gives to the poor will not lack, / But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.”

V. Do you decry the decay of a sense of rectitude?

The term rectitude means, “moral integrity, righteousness, the quality or state of being correct in judgment or procedure.”

David decries, “When vileness is exalted among the sons of men” (Psalm 12:8b). Dr. John Henry Jowett explains, “This is the last stage of the appalling degradation. Evil at length becomes man’s good. He has lost his moral discernment.”[11] We read in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”


Do you deny the decay of society? Don’t deny it decry it! However, unless we focus on the Lord, we are not properly decrying the decay of society. Please note David’s focus on God in this Psalm. From Malachi 3:6a we read, “For I am the Lord, I do not change.” In Hebrews 13:8 we read, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” At this point, I recall the words of Henry F. Lyte (1793-1847),

“Change and decay in all around I see;

O Thou who changest not, abide with me.”[12]

Paul the Apostle pictures the coming apostasy in 2 Timothy 3:1-9, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.”

We must make certain we are godly and faithful in these days before we begin solemnly decrying a decaying society.

[1]The Preacher’s Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. 1, Psalms1-15 by W. L. Watkinson, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1892), 48

[2]J. J. Stewart Perowne, D.D., The Book of Psalms: A New Translation with Introductions and Notes: Explanatory and Critical, Vol. I, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1883), 17

[3]David Thomas, The Homilist; or The Pulpit for the People, (London: Richard D. Dickinson, 1868), 338 

[4]John Henry Jowett, Thirsting for the Springs, “The Degeneracy of a Soul” (London: H. R. Allenson, 1902), 26-33


[6]The Homiletic Review, eds. I. K. Funk and Newell Woolsey Wells, Vol. 30, No. 1, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1895), 244

[7]Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Inexcusable Irreverence and Ingratitude,” Sermon Notes, (Romans 1:20-21)

[8]Joseph Parker, The People’s Bible: Discourses upon Holy Scripture, Vol. 12, The Psalter, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1890), 106

[9]David Caldwell, Parochial Lectures on The Psalms: Psalms 1-50, (Philadelphia, PA: William S. & Alfred Martien, 1859), 142-143

[10]Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament, Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp.

[11]John Henry Jowett, Thirsting for the Springs, “The Degeneracy of a Soul” (London: H. R. Allenson, 1902), 26-33

[12]Henry F. Lyte, “Abide with Me,” (1847)

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on and / [email protected] / (251) 626-6210

© July 21, 2013 All Rights Reserved

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