Verse 36. Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth. Bad were they at their best. False on their knees, liars in their prayers. Mouth worship must be very detestable to God when dissociated from the heart: other kings love flattery, but the King of kings abhors it. Since the sharpest afflictions only extort from carnal men a feigned submission to God, there is proof positive that the heart is desperately set on mischief, and that sin is ingrained in our very nature. If you beat a tiger with many stripes you cannot turn him into a sheep. The devil cannot be whipped out of human nature, though another devil, namely, hypocrisy may be whipped into it. Piety produced by the damps of sorrow and the heats of terror is of mushroom growth; it is rapid in its springing up -- "they enquired early after God" -- but it is a mere unsubstantial fungus of unabiding excitement.
And they lied unto him with their tongues. Their godly speech was cant, their praise mere wind, their prayer a fraud. Their skin deep repentance was a film too thin to conceal the deadly wound of sin. This teaches us to place small reliance upon professions of repentance made by dying men, or upon such even when the basis is evidently slavish fear, and nothing more. Any thief will whine out repentance if he thinks the judge will thereby be moved to let him go scot free.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 34-36. See Psalms on "Psalms 78:34" for further information.
Verse 34-37. See Psalms on "Psalms 78:34" for further information.
Verse 36. Flattery of God.
A common sin. A hateful sin. A dangerous sin. B. D.
Verse 36-38. There is no disputing the fact which gives accuracy to the text, that God was moved by a repentance which had not in it even the elements of godly sorrow for sin; which could not even, by a casual observer, much less by him who searches the heart, have been mistaken for that penitence which supposes an inward and radical change, and, nevertheless, even such a repentance as this sufficed to procure a recompense at the hands of God. Though the sackcloth was on the body and not on the soul; though it was the punishment of the sin and not the sin itself which led to this outward humiliation, God did not turn away from the forced supplication, but vouchsafed the deliverance which was sought at his hands. Yes, God, who never expresses greater abhorrence of any character than that of the hypocrite; God, who rejects nothing more indignantly than outward homage when it is not the index of inward prostration -- God may be said to have removed the humiliation of the people as though he could not read their hearts, or as though, having read them, and noted their unsubdued rebellion, he still thought the apparent contrition deserving of some recompense...
If God would not leave the show and semblance of contrition without a recompense, will he be unmindful of real penitence? If many a time turned he his anger away from those who did but flatter him with their mouths, and lied unto him with their tongues, has he nothing in store for those who are humble in spirit, and who come to him with the sacrifice of a broken heart? Oh! the turning away of temporal wrath because idols were outwardly abandoned, this is a mighty pledge that eternal wrath will be averted if we are inwardly stricken, and flee for refuge to the Saviour. God must have eternal good in store for his friends, if even his enemies are recompensed with temporal good. Yes, as I mark the Philistines and the Ammonites oppressing the idolatrous Israelites, and then see the oppressors driven back in return even for heartless service, Oh! I learn that true penitence for sin and true faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ will cause all enemies to be scattered; I return from the contemplation of the backsliding people, emancipated notwithstanding the known hollowness of their vows, I return assured that a kingdom which neither Philistine nor Ammonite can invade, shall be the portion of all who seek deliverance through Christ. Henry Melvill.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 34-37. The hypocrite's feet, Psalms 78:34 . The hypocrite's memory, Psalms 78:35 . The hypocrite's tongue, Psalms 78:36 . The hypocrite's heart, Psalms 78:37 . Or, the hypocrite's cloak and the hypocrite's heart. C. D.