God Cannot Lie
Text: I Kings 22:1-28
The gods of heathen men were molded in man’s own image. But man is flawed. “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:22-23). For example, the Greeks saw their gods as super-humans. They acted just as men did, both good and bad. The primary difference was that the gods greater powers than men. When the gods did something, they did it like men but better than men. Since men lie, well then, the gods must be really good liars when they want to be.
However, the Bible tells us that the only true God is not like man’s concept of a god. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). God is not like men. Men might tell lies, but God cannot lie. Even if we determined that every man on earth lied, God would still be true (Romans 3:4). God is the God of truth (Deuteronomy 32:4). He will not lie (I Samuel 15:29). More importantly, God cannot lie. “Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Titus 1:1-2).
The fact that God is unable to lie is an important concept to every Christian. For one thing, our Bibles come from God. How much trust would you have in its teachings if you knew that God might have lied to man?
Since God cannot lie, then it follows that God would require truth from His followers.
Even though God opposes lying, men are always looking for excuses that allow some form of lying. We will take a look at two examples to see if their excuse finding holds water.
A more difficult passage to understand is found in I Kings 22. Take a moment to read the entire chapter. In particular, we want to focus on I Kings 22:20-23: “And the LORD said, 'Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?' So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, 'I will persuade him.' The LORD said to him, 'In what way?' So he said, 'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And the LORD said, 'You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.' Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.”
Think a moment and ask yourself why God asks the spirits in Heaven for volunteers to persuade Ahab to go where he would end up dying? God did not command that this particular spirit go, but God did permit the spirit to go after the spirit volunteered to go.
Paul told us, “And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thessalonians 2:11-12). It is not that God, Himself, lies or approves of lying. However, God will make use of liars to deceive people who already demonstrate a disregard for the truth. Such was the nature of Ahab.
Have you ever seen a horoscope or heard a prediction by a supposed psychic? The answers they give are generally worded in such a vague way that just about anything could happen and you would say, “That’s just what the person said would happen!” When King Jehoshaphat asked for God’s advice, the false prophets that came gave a vague answer: “Go up, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king” (I Kings 22:6). In Hebrew, the statement is more vague than it is in English. The translators added the word “it” to the statement, but “it” doesn’t appear in the original Hebrew. The statement could be interpreted that God had given Ramoth Gilead into the hands of King Ahab. However, the state can be equally interpreted as saying that God has given Ahab’s army into the hands of the king of Syria. Once the false prophets found a great but vague statement, they kept repeating it over and over again (I Kings 22:12).
King Jehoshaphat didn’t like the answer, most likely because he knew it was too vague. He want to hear a response from a real prophet. King Ahab reluctantly sent for a prophet named Micaiah. Now as Micaiah is fetched he is instructed, “Now listen, the words of the prophets with one accord encourage the king. Please, let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak encouragement” (I Kings 22:13). So when Micaiah answered the king, he said, “Go and prosper, for the LORD will deliver it into the hand of the king!” (I Kings 22:15). He was told to answer just like the false prophets, and this is exactly what Micaiah did. In other words, Micaiah did not lie (the vague statement did cover the truth), but he did mock the king by giving him exactly what he commanded Micaiah to say.
Interestingly, even though Ahab accepted the vague answer from his lying prophets, Ahab rejected the same answer from Micaiah. Obviously, somewhere deep inside Ahab knew that God wasn’t supporting him. Even more amazing is that when Micaiah told Ahab clearly that he would die and that vague answer from the false prophets were a part of a heavenly plot to get Ahab to go into battle, Ahab went anyway. Ahab was so far gone into sin that he would rather follow what he knew to be a lie than to follow God. Isn’t this just what Paul said in II Thessalonians 2:11-12?
God doesn’t tempt people with evil (James 1:13). He cannot lie. He commands His followers not to lie. However, it doesn’t mean that God will not take advantage of the fact that there are people willing to lie to accomplish His will. It doesn’t excuse the liar nor make the consequence of lying any less severe.
1. Aunt Bertha asks you if her dress makes her look fat. What should you say? Is lying an acceptable alternative for tactfulness?
2. Many people claim that everyone lies. Would this be true? Would it be true at all times? Even if everyone did lie, does that make lying acceptable?
3. People usually expect certain people to lie, such as politicians and used car salesmen. Why? Because lies are expected, does it make lying acceptable in certain occupations?
4. Could you be a politician or a used car salesman and not lie? How?
5. One study on lying stated, “Most lies were self-serving – to enhance the liar’s status or protect him from embarrassment, disapproval, or conflict. But nearly one-fourth of the lies were to benefit other people – to spare their feelings, for example.”
a. Can you be honest without hurting another person’s feelings?
b. Which is easier: finding a tactful way of telling someone the truth, or telling them a lie that they want to hear? What does that tell you about the reason many people lie?
c. Suppose a busy doctor needs to tell his patient that they have a cancer which will kill them after three months of excruciating pain. Some doctors think it is kinder not to warn the person. Do you agree? How would you react if you were the patient and were told the truth? Now, remember that the doctor is under a tight schedule, what do you think is the real reason doctors avoid telling patients bad news?
d. When a person claims he is trying to spare another person’s feelings, what is he really doing?
6. Leonard Saxe, a psychologist, said, “If we punish children too harshly for lying, we may make it more likely that they will lie in the future to escape further punishment.” What do you think?