People love to quote the Bible, especially when they think it supports their particular views, or when they’re trying to make people think it supports their views. So often, when we see or hear a quote, we’ll see evidence that the one doing the quoting has no idea what the passage really means. And even if they do know, it’s likely that they have no intention of actually obeying it.
We see this on Facebook and other social media. It’s usually not hard to find quotes of or references to scriptures that are either taken out of context (e.g., using God’s Old Testament promises to Israel and applying them to a personal problem) or that seem to contradict the person’s blatantly sinful lifestyle (as displayed in his posts and pictures).
Anyone can quote a scripture; even Satan did (Matt. 4:6). This doesn’t mean that he is right with God. And how does God feel about this? How does He feel when people misuse His Word for their own selfish benefit or simply reference it when it’s convenient, never having any intention of obeying it? Is He pleased simply because someone quotes a passage while feigning obedience? The answer to this is seen in several Scriptures.
In Ezekiel 14, during the Babylonian captivity, the elders of Israel came to the prophet Ezekiel to enquire of God (v. 3). At first this sounds like a good thing (similar to hearing people quote the Bible today). However, God’s reaction shows that He knew they weren’t interested in fully obeying Him. He told Ezekiel (v. 4), “these men set up their idols in their heart and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face. Should I be enquired of at all by them?”
Regardless of their feigned desire to hear God’s word, their idols were in their hearts (i.e., they had priorities higher than God). There are a lot of things that can qualify as “idols in their hearts” today for people who claim to follow God and His word. Basically, whatever keeps a person from fully committing to Him is an idol in the heart. And God’s response today is no different than it was to these elders. He refused them because they refused Him by their inconsistency (attempting to worship Him and their idols).
His response continued in verse eight: “I will set my face against that man…” It’s amazing that people think they can fool God with feigned sincerity the same way they fool people (or at least the way they think they fool people)!
In Ezekiel 20:1-3 it happened again. “Certain of the elders of Israel came to enquire of the Lord and sat before me.” Again God refused them: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I will not be enquired of by you.” Pretty strong words!
But this doesn’t mean that He always refused to be enquired of by hypocrites. Sometimes He gave them the chance to be genuine before exposing their duplicity.
In Jeremiah 42, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, some of the Israelites came to Jeremiah to enquire of God about going to Egypt to escape further Babylonian oppression. They asked Jeremiah to enquire of God (vv. 1-3) and Jeremiah agreed (v. 4). Then they even solemnly swore that they would do whatever God said, regardless of what it was (vv. 5-6). This sounded pretty good; they seemed very sincere. But God’s response wasn’t what they wanted to hear (vv. 10-12) and God knew it. He exposed and rebuked their hypocrisy, showing very clearly what He thinks of the insincerity of claiming to follow Him while actually only following one’s own desires (vv. 13-22).
Today, people will ask biblical questions only wanting you to say what they want to hear. For example, many times I’ve been asked by those who drink socially and have no intention of stopping, “What does the Bible say about drinking?” It always reminds me of Ahab asking the prophet Micaiah, “shall we go against Ramoth-Gilead to battle or should we forbear?” (1 Kings 22:15). He had no intention of suspending his military campaign, regardless of what God said. These people today aren’t any more interested in what God’s word says about drinking than Ahab was about going to battle. They aren’t going to change; they just want authorization to do what they’ve already decided to do. Their “idols” are set up in their hearts and they want to worship those idols (e.g., alcohol) with God’s approval.
Jesus dealt with this attitude quite often. Many times the Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. asked Jesus questions with disingenuous motives. “Master, we would see a sign from thee,” they said after He’d already shown them several (Matt. 12:38). “Master, we know that thou art true and teachest the way of God in truth…Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar?” (Matt. 22:16-17). “Master, Moses said, If a man die having no children…” (Matt. 22:23-28).
In John 8:5 they brought to Him a woman caught in adultery and said “Moses commanded… (as if they cared what Moses said); but what sayest thou” (as if they cared what Jesus said). They cared about as much as people today who quote it but refuse to obey it (cf. Titus 1:16).
What did Jesus say about these people? In Matthew 15:8 He quoted Isaiah 29:13: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” The mouth claims it, but the heart doesn’t. No wonder he called them hypocrites (v. 7).
Jesus’ quote of Isaiah 29:13 shows that God not only knows when someone is sincere or not, but He even foreknew and foretold of their hypocrisy. Yet countless numbers of people today still pretend to be religious, as if God doesn’t know or care. Be assured, He does know and He does care. He makes it clear in Revelation 3:16 that He despises this “lukewarmth” (“I will spew thee out of my mouth”).
God loves you. He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross so that you could be saved and He provided the Bible to tell you all about it. But He expects you to read it, study it, and obey it wholeheartedly (2 Tim. 2:15). He knows when someone is faking Christianity. And He knows those who truly love Him (cf. John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).