Joshua 2:1-24 (Part 2) – Lies, Lies, Lies, Yeah! – Is There Ever a Good Lie?

Posted: May 19, 2017 in Book fo Joshua
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Joshua 2:1-24 (Part 2 of 3)

Rahab Protects the Spies

There was a song by the 1980’s musical group called “The Thompson Twins” who had a song released in 1982 called “Lies”. It’s chorus when something like this:

 

Lies lies lies yeah

Lies lies lies yeah

Lies lies lies yeah

 

Oh you know I know

 

Lies lies lies yeah

Lies lies lies yeah

Lies lies lies yeah

 

See video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6cn0mLJVZY

 

That was a catchy tune that condemns a girl for lying to the writer of the song about the fact that she loved him but her actions did not match her words. She lied. The writer of the song goes onto to say, “You told me you loved me, so I don’t understand, why promises are snapped in two! And words are made to bend!” In this song, it is obvious that the girlfriend’s lies were wrong and the revelation of the truth brought about hurt and the destruction of a relationship. Lies are almost always destructive.

 

When I think back on my life, there have been lies aplenty. Lies start for us when we are little kids when we make the connection that telling a lie can sometimes save us from punishment. Then, it’s on after that. We live to improve our situation or to prevent our situation from deteriorating. We lie. We bend the truth. We break the Ninth Commandment with impunity. Lying is part of the nature of being human. We are fallen by nature. We are flesh. We lie. It is plain and simple a sin.

 

When we commit adultery we not only break the Seventh Commandment but also the Ninth Commandment because there is secrecy involved. There is deceit. There are outright lies told to keep adultery from being found out. When we steal, we break the Eighth Commandment and in so doing to prevent ourselves from being caught we lie. When we murder, we break the break the Sixth Commandment and we almost always lie about it. Lying is common to any of our sins. It is part of sinning. We lie as a part of daily life. We are sinners. Even after salvation, we are in a battle between spirit and flesh and we continue to lie to cover up sins and commit the sin of lying by covering up our other sin. We are condemned in the face of our lies. We are going to be held accountable on our personal day of judgment before the Lord for every lie that we have ever told. Big ones. Small ones (now that song sung by Zazu in the Lion King is playing in your head isn’t it? Well…it is mine…what a lovely bunch of coconuts! Big ones, small ones, some as big as ya head!…but I digress….back to our blog…) Some whoppers. Some little stretches of the truth. Are there any instances where lying is OK? Does this dress make me look fat? Men lie to their wives on that one a lot! Women are often nice to each other’s faces but tell lies about each other behind their back. Little lies are still lies. Telling someone what they want to hear rather than the truth is lying just as much as hiding an adulterous affair if any lie is a sin. Sin is sin. God does not measure degrees of sin. He is a perfect and holy God. Lies are unholy perversions of the truth. They can never be right, no matter how big or how small. We create ugliness in our souls when we lie. Lying is the opposite of truth. Thus, lying is a stain on our soul. Add up all the lies that we tell in a lifetime, and our souls are as dark as midnight when compared to the truth, purity, righteousness, holiness, perfection of our God. There is no lie in Him. He is truth. He is perfection. He is holiness. In Him is all truth.

 

I know that I sound like a professor of logic and/or ethics this morning. However, it was in reading Joshua 2 this morning that I hit the logical and ethical wall when I read of Rahab’s lies. Is there ever a situation where lies are OK. It is a great Christian ethical dilemma:

 

2 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

 

2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”

 

4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) 7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

 

8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea[a] for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.[b] 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

 

12 “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”

 

14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”

 

15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”

 

17 Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”

 

21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”

 

So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

 

22 When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. 23 Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”

 

In this passage, one of the things that strikes you is the fact that Rahab lied. Was Rahab justified in lying to save the lives of the spies? Although the Bible does not speak negatively about her lie, it is clear that she lied and lying is a sin. In Hebrews 11:31, the Bible says, “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” She praised for her faith. Her lie is not mentioned. Scholars have offered several explanations. First, she sought forgiveness for her lie and she was forgiven by God. Another explanation is that it is simply deceit of the enemy is a customary practice in times of war (the old “all’s fair in love and war” theory). As well, other scholars state that Rahab was not yet a part of the people of God so she could not be held responsible for keeping the standard set forth in God’s law. She was just beginning to be drawn to God. Finally, some scholars go with the theory that “the ends justify the means” in that she matched the lies of Satan (as represented by the Jerichoan people) with lies so as to protect the representatives of God’s chosen people.

 

Rahab presents an interesting ethical dilemma for people of faith. Does God condone situational ethics? Rahab lied. There is no dispute about that. She lied by omission and commission. She lied by omission by not revealing to the Jerichoan authorities that the spies were in her house and she lied by commission by telling them that the spies had already left town and had headed for the hill country. In Hebrews she is commended for her faith and considered a member of the “hall of fame of the faith”. In James (2:25), she is commended for her deeds of protecting the spies as an example of faith that is displayed through the things that we do and that faith without works is meaningless. She lied. She broke a direct command from God. What are we to make of this?

 

My take on her deception is, yes, that it was wrong. She lied. She sinned. God does not condone sin nor is God into situational ethics. What is truth now is truth always. There are no exceptions. Even if we tell a lie for a good reason. For example, what about Oskar Schindler in World War II. No matter how you sugar-coat it, the dude lied his ass off for three or more years. His lies saved the lives of thousands of Jews in Nazi Germany during the reign of terror of Hitler. How many thousands of lies did he tell either by commission or by omission. What about the Gies family that hid Ann Frank and her family during the same war? They had to lie to preserve the lies of the Frank family. You and I have told lies to protect a friend or a brother or a sister from getting into trouble with the parents or with the law.

 

So, what’s wrong with Rahab’s lie? It preserved the lies of the spies. If the spies had been killed, would Israel have turned and ran for another forty years instead of doing as God told them to do. Lying is lying though and it is a sin. Should we glorify Rahab for her lie or should we look at her another way. Should we be surprised that a prostitute, living in pagan surroundings, would lie to governmental authorities? Hardly. But she was not saved because she lied—a critical point that needs expanding. In addressing this idea, Allen Webster wrote: “Rahab lied, true, but God never complimented this action. She was a heathen, not yet even converted to Judaism…. She was saved in spite of her lying, and not because of it. She was a prostitute, but this text does not authorize that is was OK. This is a part of the story that seems to have been missed by the Bible critics who have isolated Rahab’s lie not only from the context of the story itself, but from the remainder of her life and additional biblical commentary on that life. Having established the fact that Rahab’s lie was not the reason for her commendation within the pages of Scripture, the question arises: Why, then, was she honored within the great “hall of fame of faith” in Hebrews 11 and spoken of by James as having been “justified”? There can be no doubt that Rahab occupies a special place within the biblical text, since she is one of only five women listed as being within the lineage of Christ.

 

Surely, the answer to the question has to do with the fact that Rahab did not remain in her sinful state. Her life after the destruction of Jericho must have been marked but extreme devotion to the Lord and a willingness to repent of sins committed. David, for example, told lies that led to adultery, murder, and a whole host of sins. However, his momentary lapse in judgment is not what we judge him by. We judge him as a great in the Bible because of his own repulsion at his sin, his repentance from it, and becoming a man after God’s own heart. Rahab’s life must have been a life of wondrous thanksgiving to the God she barely knew at the time of the spies. She must have become such a person of God that she was worthy of mention in the lineage of Christ our Savior. Think about that. Rahab had a sordid past. She was probably used to telling lies to cover for her customers. She was probably an ardent sinner and liar. But she encounter God through the people of Israel. She was saved. She probably other lies in her life just like you and me. But revulsion at our own darkness and repentance for our lies is the key. We recognize our lies and go to the Father with them. We beg the Holy Spirit to change us.

 

We know that we are covered by the grace of Jesus Christ and thank God that we are. We are sinners and we tell lies even after salvation. However the difference between us and the lost person is that we have the Holy Spirit chiseling away at us daily until we are perfected (and that only happens the day we meet our Savior in heaven). The Holy Spirit is sent to us to lift us up above the darkness of our soul’s natural nature. He pushes us. He sharpens us. He points out our sins to us and compels us to repent and become more Christ-like each day. As we mature in Christ, honesty and integrity become greater and greater and the need and desire to lie becomes less and less. It is a life-long project of chiseling away at our dark patches by the Holy Spirit. It is painful at times. Surely, Rahab became a woman marked by integrity later in life to the point that she is a hall of fame believer mentioned in Hebrews. Through the action of the Holy Spirit in our souls over time, a long time, and a lifetime of the Holy Spirit squeezing us when we sin and forcing us to our knees in repentance, we, too, can become hall of fame believers like Rahab.

 

God does not glorify her lies. He glorifies that she came to faith and became a faithful and repentant believer. That’s what we celebrate. There is no such thing as a good lie. There are always consequences. Rahab ended up having to live with strangers because of her lie. It turned out good but the lie is not the thing. It is what she did after the lie. Repentance. Chasing after God. She became a righteous woman and a hall of fame believer.

 

Amen and Amen.

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