Let us take ”A Look at the Hypocrite’s Hope.” as sketched in Job 8: ll-13. There we also consider that kind of religion which is like a golden mask worn over a leprous forehead.
In Job, chapter eight, verses 11-13, the Word of God reads, “Can the rush grow up without mire? Can the flag grow without water? Whilst it is yet in its greenness, and not cut down, it withered before any other herb. So are the paths of all that forget God: and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish.” These are the words of Bildad the Shuhite. He leads us, like Pharaoh’s daughter, down to the river’s edge among the cattails. Here we may find a Moses or gem of spiritual thought, concerning which we may say, “I took it out of the water.” The slender swaying marsh rush has a word to speak to us. He who has ears to hear, let him hear what this reedy preacher has to say. The question might well be asked at this point, “What went ye out for to see?” and the answer would be “A reed shaken by the wind!” There is legitimate reason for contemplating the reed which represents the hypocrite and his cloak of religion.
- THE HYPROCRITE’S PROFESSION and skin-deep religion may be compared to a rush in its flashy growth and evanescent existence. True Christians are like mighty oaks which take years to grow to maturity. But it is not only the conversion of the hypocrite that is sudden, for Saul’s on the road Damascus and the Philippian jailers were sudden but very sound conversions. The hypocrite’s spiritual growth shoots up like a weed, flourishes overnight and finds it easy to be green and fair in the words and ways of the Lord. As for the righteous, “That man is nourished like a tree Set by the river’s side; Its leaf is green, its fruit is sure, And thus his works abide!”
The rush has not much substance, some being hollow. It looks firm enough to be a walking staff, but leaning on it, it is likely to break and pierce the one so trusting himself to it. It needs much water and is as unstable as water. So the hypocrite; he is imposing on the outside, but has no solid faith in Jesus Christ. He has a pretended confidence, not one resting firmly on the finished work of Christ. His belief, words and behavior are all hollow. He has no heart, or at best it is shriveled. He has a form of godliness; but true godliness has no power in his life. His religion is spineless and empty.
The reed is easily shaken by the wind. So, many professing Christians are about us steady as a weather-vane. They can go with the theatre crowd or the night club and dance set. They dabble in the lottery, go off to the races or the hunt. In the latter activity they sometimes run with the hare, sometimes with the hounds. They are like the John Bunyan character, Mr. Anything. as they can be anything to anybody. If it is respectable and modern to call white black and black white, or to think everything is pretty much gray, that’s fine with Mr. Anything. He easily shuttles back and forth from error to truth and truth to error, depending on what advantage he thinks he can gain from the one or the other. To him, truth is not the seed, heart, juice and flesh of the fruit, but merely the skin.
- THE HYPOCRITE’S THRIVING is on what? “Can the rush grow up without mire?” The reed thrives in a slimy ooze. The hypocrite cannot live except on that which feeds his false piety. The rush requires a strong fetid, smelly, miry, swampy, watery ground. None of your fine, firm black soil for the rush. So some people’s religion requires a lot of excitement; revivals, lots of jazzy music, singing with body gestures, and speakers with sparkling humor. To hold the “television mentality”, the church must adopt a circus format, and who can compete against that? The rush is all but a hot-house plant, thriving better in a hot climate. As long as the temperature is high, it does well, shining in its greenness. But a night of the frost of affliction, or perhaps also another of persecution, and it withers before any other vegetation! That is a very frothy religion which depends on excitement for its life. So is that religion which depends on bazaars, dramas and evangelistic films to keep its spiritual temperature high, rather than the one great mark of the true church, the pure preaching of the gospel. Under modern Hollywood style evangelism, many think they have repented, dream they have believed and imagine they are children of God. The player at religion, like a dried up reed, eventually crumbles and blows away. The true Christian, like a palm tree, continues to bear fruit in the year of drought.
Some people’s religion depends on prevailing prosperity. “Can the flag grow without water?” Is it “a root out of a dry ground”? Whilst it is yet in its greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb. So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish.” The devil looks at these religionists and remarks, “Doth ‘Job’ serve God for nought?” Only here his remark justifiably applies. Many have joined the church when things were going very well with them. But when they suffered a series of set-backs, they attributed this to their having a connection with religion, and so gave up on the church. Sunshine and balmy breezes they can stand, but when icy winds blow, they do, too. They are “fair weather” Christians. Oh, how they will love God when the times have gone prosperously with them. But let them get a little adversity, then they are shocked, get mad at God and quit Him on the spot. But the Christian by adversities and afflictions has his affections set on things above, rather than on things of the earth. He holds earthly things lightly and learns to long for the things which are not seen but eternal.
The rush is a very respectable plant. It is found in its dried out state decorating many a living room. It’s a dead, dehydrated, respectable plant. Some people are Christians because of what they deem the respectability of Christianity. They don’t mind walking with truth when it rides on ticker-tape parade in a golden Cadillac, but not when she’s in tatters and shivering barefoot in a dank, dark dungeon. What would you do if you had to follow Christ into prison as the Apostle Paul had to do? if the gospel were, as under Nero, declared an illicit religion? What if the times became as in the Inquisition when one jeopardized his life just to read the Bible? Would you secret your Bible away and read it in time and place you thought safe? Could you then own it that you are a Christian?
- THE HYPOCRITE’S HOPE is dashed. The flag or the rush “while it is yet in its greenness and not cut down, withers before any other herb. So are the paths of all that forget God, and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish.” Long before the Lord cuts the hypocrite down, as He most surely will do, then that poor miserable fake dries up for want of the mire holding his shallow roots. His shooting up like the fairy tale bean stalk fails him. His hollowness fails him. His flightiness leaves him shaken to pieces. His excitement is evaporated. The prosperity he enjoyed failed him. All his respectability came to nothing. He, too, comes to nothing. How important, then, to heed the warning, “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves; know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you (believers), unless (after all) ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5).
There is a back-door night club. The front door night club has its public red-light entrance for open, known sinners. But the back-door night club is that false, apostate, worldly church with its entertainment programs, and its parish house dances and card parties. Many churches are no more than glorified country clubs sprinkled with a little holy water. “Churches” like these become the back door to hell. There is a wide open public entrance to hell for the obvious, evident sinner. There is a back door to hell for the professed or pretended saint. There is a back door for the one merely visibly and outwardly religious, who has lived many years in supposed sincerity before men, but who has been all along a liar before God. There is a back door for the preacher who has been only a timeserver, claiming his job is just like any other job. He may have a glib, pious line, but understands not the truth, being blinded to it. There is a back door to hell for “church” members who attend church out of habit or custom, who are simply “playing church” and have never really concerned themselves with the pure preaching of the Word. So if you cannot stand up any better than a weaving, bending, hanging bullrush, you must answer to this: “If thou hast run with the footmen and they have wearied thee, how wilt thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” We must flee the wrath to come by fleeing to the place where divine wrath is poured out in infinite intensity, there at the cross of Jesus, where He bore the wrath of God against the sins of mankind. There, as our only hope, we must, in true faith, see the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son ever cleansing us from all sin. The hope of the believer never fails. Amen.
(Prayer) God our Father, cause us by Thy gracious Holy Spirit to examine our own hearts that we may avoid the hypocrites perishing and sure to perish hope. Grant that our faith may not only be sincere, but right, founded on Thy holy Word alone, and backed up by an everyday life of godliness, to the praise of Thy Name, and in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen