Guarding against Hypocrisy
Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. Psalm 78:36
suggested further reading: Matthew 15:1–20
We are not to suppose that the psalmist is saying these people made no acknowledgment of God, but he does intimate that, because the confession of their mouth did not proceed from the heart, it was therefore constrained and not voluntary. This is well worthy of notice, for from it we learn that we are constrained by duty to guard against the gross hypocrisy of uttering with the tongue before others one thing, while thinking something different in our hearts.
We also learn that we should beware of the hidden hypocrisy of the sinner, who, being constrained by fear, flatters God in a slavish manner, while yet, if he could, shunning the judgment of God. Most people are mortally smitten with this disease, for though divine majesty elicits some kind of awe from them, yet they would be grateful if the light of divine truth would be completely extinguished. It is not enough to yield assent to the divine word unless that is accompanied with true and pure affection, so that our hearts are not double or divided.
The psalmist points out in the next verse the cause and source of dissimulation is that such people are not steadfast and faithful (Ps. 78:37). By this he intimates that whatever does not proceed from unfeigned purity of heart is considered lying and deceit in the sight of God. Since uprightness is everywhere required in the law, the psalmist accuses hypocrites with covenant-breaking because they have not kept the covenant of God with the fidelity that is required. As I have observed elsewhere, we can presuppose a mutual relation and correspondence between the covenant of God and our faith, in order that the unfeigned consent of the latter may attest to the faithfulness of the former.
for meditation: Whether or not we are guilty of hypocrisy can be a daunting question. Do we love God, and are we thankful for him and his will? Or do we serve him because we fear him, all the while wishing that he would cease to exist? Let us pray much for living, vital reality in our Christianity.