For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that sets snares; they set a trap, they catch men.…
God's people are well acquainted with the voice of those scorners who speak as if hypocrisy was the invariable accompaniment of a religious profession. They do discover, it must be admitted, far more frequently than they ought to discover, that religious profession is a mere pretence; and thereupon they never forget the few well-established instances which are a ground, in season and out of season, for a sweeping charge of hypocrisy. But such people, unfortunately for themselves, are not readers of the Scriptures; else they would discover that God does not wait for outside malevolent critics to make the most of the hypocrisies to be found amongst his people. God not only sees and laments this peculiarly odious form of wickedness, but is exceedingly plain in his description and terribly severe in his denunciation. In this matter outsiders cannot tell God's people anything they do not know already. Note -
I. THAT WHICH OUGHT TO BE FOUND AMONGST GOD'S PEOPLE. This is just the thing which makes the whole discovery so inexpressibly sad - that this wickedness is found where there should have been found a character diametrically opposite. It is the scene of the wickedness that indescribably aggravates the wickedness itself. That a good man, a really good man, should be found in a den of thieves is impossible. Vain would it be for him to continue there and yet plead his uprightness. A den of thieves does actually give character to every one who willingly inhabits it, and so, passing from the bad to the good, a certain high reputation must attach to every one who openly ranks himself among the people of God. It was not because these Israelites dwelt in a certain territory or were descendants from certain ancestors that they were reckoned the people of God. There was a covenant, the terms of which were to be taught to every generation and diligently observed by it. And this covenant emphatically required that these people should live among themselves an upright, brotherly, loving life. Without this, worship was vain; indeed, without this, worship, in the true sense, was impossible. In the home, union was to be preserved by subordination and purity; and in society, by the safety of life and property to the individual. God's people are "the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand," and it is manifest that, in the right order of things, a sheep's clothing should cover a sheep and not a wolf.
II. THAT WHICH ACTUALLY IS FOUND. Wicked men are found where none but the devout, the upright, and the gentle ought to be. Further, this wickedness is so marked off by bold and indignant expressions that every one guilty of it may know Jehovah's eye to be upon him. For such a man there lies no way of escape among vague generalities. He cannot get off by alleging, with apparent seriousness, that, while there are undoubtedly deceivers among the people of God, he at all events is not to be numbered amongst them. If a man is behaving himself after the fashion here described, he certainly must know it. With regard to certain actions, the nature of them may come out so openly that it is easy to effect the consequent exclusion and separation of the offender from the people of God. But there yet remain many wickednesses, the worst of wickednesses, which a man may go on committing and yet keep his name written in the human record of those who profess service to God. He may even make his very position a vantage-ground for the laying of his snares and the perfecting of his wiles. He may be able so to conceal his hand and his purpose as to deceive even his victims, who, instead of arguing that because there is great wickedness the doer of it must be a bad man, begin at the other end and say that a maker of long prayers cannot possibly be bad; he may be driven to the infliction of a painful blow, but, that must be reckoned his calamity rather than his fault. Now, the descriptions in this passage make it evident that God sees into all the doings of such men. And at this particular time these men had become very successful, and we must infer very influential. Wherever money is heaped up it makes influence. And even though such oppressors were not numerous, their very position gave them power. But over against them, with all their power, all their wealth, all their pretensions, there is that God who marks every tear and groan and writhing of the oppressed. This passage is but one out of many in which God shows his hatred to all injustice. Some of the so-called friends of humanity, who are never tired of asserting their friendship and pressing their claims, make one of their great claims to be in this, that they oppose all acknowledgment of God. Depend upon it, God is the true Friend of humanity; he first, and afterwards are those whom he inspires with his own indignation against wrong, and endows with the strength, patience, resolution, and all Divine resources needed to destroy it. What wonder is it that God should speak of vengeance against such a nation as permits and extenuates the monstrous evils denounced in this passage? - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men.