Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips
and harbors deceit in his heart;
when he speaks graciously, believe him not,
for there are seven abominations in his heart;
though his hatred be covered with deception,
his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
We have a person described here who is hateful, yet covers up the hate by speaking graciously. This is an illustration of the glaze covering an earthen vessel mentioned in verse 23. This can be seen at all levels of society: The politician who speaks respectfully of his critics and opponents but is filled with hatred; the student who dutifully completes his reports and studies, yet has no regard for the teacher; the employee who “toes the line”, but is envious of his supervisor.
In each instance, it is the heart’s wicked condition that must be addressed. Just as fervency is not an indication of fruit, being gracious and having manners does not indicate a good or regenerate heart. It simply signifies cleverness and a keen ability to say the right things to get what you want. It is actually more wicked and devious to “graciously” hide your hate than to express it openly.
The last point here is that hatred will be exposed. Hatred will express itself eventually. Just like a movie set with props will be blown away by wind, so a gracious façade will be shaken in adverse situations and its true colors will be revealed. It takes great effort to keep up a gracious exterior with all the accompanying insincere words and mannerisms. We live in a just world with consequences and our sin will find us out.
What should we do when we encounter this kind of hatred? We need to be on our guard and not be taken in. Asking questions and observing people’s reactions can be helpful in such situations. Knowing the heart and its deceit is also a helpful safeguard. Most important is prayer as we seek not only wisdom, but a transforming work of repentance to take place in the hater’s heart.