Feigned Obedience

Psalm 66 begins with these words: “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious.  Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works!  Because of the greatness of Your power Your enemies will give feigned obedience to You.  All the earth will worship You, and will sing praises to You; they will sing praises to Your name.'” (NASB, vs. 1-4).  This psalm is one of many in which worshipers are invited to offer praises and adoration to the God of heaven  It is also one of several in which the enemies of God also bow the knee to Him because of His awesome power and works.

An interesting aspect of this passage, as rendered in the New American Standard Bible, is in v. 3, where the psalmist says, “Your enemies will give feigned obedience to You.”  The NASB is the only English translation to use the phrase “feigned obedience” in this verse.  Most of the other translations speak of God’s enemies cringing before Him.  Admittedly, the idea of God’s enemies cringing is an appropriate and worthy image, given His majesty and power.  Nevertheless, the idea of them offering “feigned obedience” is textually supported and may be a more appropriate imagery, given the nature of human beings.

The intent of the original Hebrew language in this verse is to give forced praise, given from hearts that still resist God’s will.  In the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew text completed about 250 B.C., this part of v. 3 is rendered, “Your enemies will lie to You.”  This is because the Hebrew term in this verse most often means “to lie or to deceive.”  In this place it conveys the idea of forced or unwilling submission, and thus, feigned or hypocritical submission (Eddie Cloer, Truth for Today Commentary, Psalms 51-89, p. 259-260).

Feigned or hypocritical submission to God’s will was the primary flashpoint in the Lord’s conflicts with the scribes and Pharisees of the first century.  In Mt. 23 the Lord pronounced a series of woes on these leaders and called them hypocrites seven times in the course of twenty-one verses (13-33).  He did so because their outward piety was actually feigned obedience.  In Mt. 15:8, 9 as He dealt with their use of human traditions to set aside God’s law, the Lord quoted the prophet Isaiah and applied it to the scribes and Pharisees.  He said, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.  But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

The point, of course, is that the Lord expects genuine submission from His people.  Faith in Jesus Christ is not a matter of rote repetition of ritual.  It is a matter of a heart that sincerely seeks to do all that God’s word requires in every circumstance of life.  Paul spoke of this necessity in Col. 3:22-25.  He said, “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.”

It stands to reason that if we are supposed to give sincere service to our earthly masters, how much more so must we give sincere service and obedience to God our Father, and to our Lord Jesus Christ?  Feigned obedience is disobedience, and will result in eternal condemnation for all who practice it.