"Hypocrites! Nothing but hypocrites - all of 'em." I often hear similar words sail past my ears - in the coffee shop, in the library, in the grocery store, pick a place. The cry of religious hypocrisy is the mantra of the unbeliever, the excuse of the "backslidden", and the boast of the rebel who despises the organized church. In years past I was one of the loud "criers" of this accusation. Hypocrisy is nothing new and its not going to go away until heaven and earth pass away. Hypocrisy came in with the fall - and we are all affected by it from time to time.
In these first words of Isaiah 48 we see the Old Testament church battling with it as well. Their profession of religion and their living of religion don't line up. "How high their profession of religion soared and what a good face they put on a very bad heart." (Matthew Henry)
There is nothing new under the sun. Over the past few weeks I've been in the midst of some wonderful and honest conversation with several non-christians who are truly bugged by the loud and obnoxious profession they are hearing from "Christian" co-workers. Their profession of religion is soaring high and proud. They are outwardly white washed tombs. They talk alot about their God and about His Son to everyone's face and then they talk alot more about their co-workers behind their back. Outwardly these folks are white-washed tombs but inwardly they are full of dead men's bones. Something stinks inside the tomb! They have put a "good face" on a very "bad heart."
In all honesty, are we any different? I pray that, by and through the mercies of Christ, we are different on most days. No doubt, I am still a sinner and could be rightly accused of much wrong doing. Yet I suppose the thing that separates a truly saved sinner from a hypocritical and still condemned sinner is the acknowledgement of our faults, flaws, and failings accompanied with a fleeing to Christ to save us from them rather than a prideful covering up of transgressions in order to look good to the world.
Several things are brought out here that characterize the hypocrite. It's a good check list for me to examine my own heart, actions, and motives. If I walk away bruised by the blows I trust that my gentle Healer will bind up the wounds and make me more like Him by the lancet of surgical sanctification!
1) Hypocrites may have their name on the rolls of the visible church. "Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel and who come forth from the loins of Judah." God is speaking these accusations of hypocrisy to the "house of Jacob", the "name of Israel", and the descendants from the "loins of Judah". This was the physical, visible body of believers in the world at the time. While the pews of the visible church may be occupied by hypocrites this side of heaven, the invisible church - that congregation of true believers - will contain none. Heaven's gates will only be opened to the sincere who are honestly resting in Christ and His finished work as the root of their salvation and who by virtue of that are bearing the fruit of salvation. Being a member of the visible church doesn't make one a true believer anymore than, as Keith Green used to say, being a regular patron of McDonald's makes one a Big Mac! Please don't judge the whole bushel by a few rotten apples. Please don't judge the whole bushel by me.
2) Hypocrites talk the religious talk. "Who swear by the name of the LORD..." They outwardly own Him to be their God. They talk of Him. They swear by Him. They talk but do not truly walk. They are blowing smoke and their blasphemous swearing will be an eternal thorn in their side. Well should they heed the words of James : "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes, and your no, no: so that you may not fall under judgment" (Ja 5:12). Their yes was no and their talk would come back to haunt them. Lord, make me different and make my talk sincere.
3) Hypocrites play religious games. "And invoke the God of Israel." These were the Old Testament Pharisees who prayed to be heard by men and could care less if they were heard by God. We need to beware of them. "And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full" (Mt 6:5). False religious games are one of the things that have given true religious exercise such a bad name. Woe to us for seeking the applause of men over the glory of God.
4) Hypocrites claim the promises while ignoring the responsibilities. "For they call themselves the holy city, and lean on the God of Israel; the LORD of hosts is His name." They are quick to claim the precious promises of the covenant of grace for themselves. They want God to be their sugar daddy in the sky and give, give, give to them. They want the peace, hope, and joy but not the dying to self that produces it. They want salvation and sin. They want the "fire insurance" but without any premium payments. They want what they want and expect God to grant it without any conditions. We must realize that faith and works are joined with true salvation just as light and heat always accompany a true fire. Faith without works is dead and a dead faith has no part in obtaining a living inheritance!
"These people honor Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me." (Mt 15:8). This sin is crouching at the door of every one of us, seeking to devour and destroy both us and those who are watching us.
Beloved, "the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately wicked, who can understand it? (Jer 17:3). My proud and selfish heart, left to itself will always run home to the house of hypocrites. Only God can see it for what it is and make it what it should be. How I need His help and grace to evict me from that wretched residence. LORD God, please make my lips and heart to converge at the cross of Christ that I may both speak and act for your glory and not my own.
Needful of protection from my own hypocritical heart,