One of my favorite stories from scripture is the story of God giving King Ahaz a sign that the Lord is with him. The situation was that Judah was under siege by her enemies and God sent the prophet Isaiah to the King to reassure him that God was still with him.
Here’s the passage:
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.(Isaiah 7:10-14)
I love this passage for two main reasons:
1st, Immanuel – can’t get much better than that.
2nd, Ahaz rebels against God while looking like he is actually obeying God. He is right not to “put the Lord to the test” in all situations EXCEPT for when the Lord tells you to put Him to the test. When God tells you to do something you are supposed to do that. But Ahaz spouts off religious-sounding language while refusing to do what God has told him to do.
He sounds so pious as he is actually disobeying God.
This is a theme you will see often in scripture. Someone does an action as though they are obeying God while actually doing the opposite of what God wants. Israel did this with the golden calf. God tells them to wait and instead they get bored and create an image of the brought them up out of Egypt and worshipped it (The Bible Project has a great podcast episode on this HERE – thanks for introducing me to this podcast Adam) (Exodus 32:1-8). Saul does then when he feels like he can’t wait any longer for Samuel to come and make a sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:7-14). It happens again and again where someone acts pious while they are actually disobeying God.
This isn’t just true in faith.
I believe it is true in so much of life. We love the symbolism and language of things (the piousity – I may have just made this word up) but not the actual day to day obedience to and sacrifice for the thing we are praising. We talk about loving family, tear up at sentimental family themes, and say that “family is what is most important”, while not actually spending time with our family. We love the symbolism of patriotism, put flags on everything, and sing the national anthem with gusto, but don’t actually love our country enough to sacrifice or serve within it. Etc. etc. etc. You probably can think of your own examples.
Piousity, of all types, is easy, costs us little, and gives us the reward of feeling and looking pious. Actually loving someone or something is more difficult, much more costly, and while the visible rewards are often not much the actual rewards are more real and long lasting, if not eternal.