2 Samuel 17:15-29 (Part 2) – Does God Give Us A Pass When We Lie To Save Lives?

Posted: July 18, 2018 in 10-2 Samuel
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2 Samuel 17:15-29 (Part 2 of 3)
David Escapes Through the Wilderness

Have you ever told a lie that kept your sibling or your friend out of trouble? If you have been in a war, have you ever told a lie to an enemy just to save the lives of your fellow soldiers? Is it OK for a Christian to lie to save a life? Just think about those rare Christians in Germany during World War II that harbored Jewish families against Nazi law. Just think about having to lie to the German SS soldiers to ensure the safety of the Jewish family. Was that OK? Is it ever OK?

Man, that is a question that I have struggled with and why I did not publish a blog yesterday as I struggled with this question. Is it possible to be a person who fears the Lord, walks by faith and yet feels constrained in extreme, life-threatening situations to oppose evil by lying? There are several stories in the Bible where this is exactly what happened.

Let’s review a couple of cases:

In Exodus, Pharaoh decides to weaken the people of Israel by killing every newborn boy (Exodus 1:16, NRSV). But the midwives disobey and let the boys live. When the king of Egypt asks them why they’re doing this, they answer, “The Hebrew women … are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them” (Exodus 1:19).

Now, regardless of how vigorous the Hebrew women are, this statement is a lie. It is meant to lead Pharaoh to believe a falsehood—namely, that the midwives were doing their best to obey but just couldn’t get there in time. Does their dishonesty displease God? It doesn’t seem like it, according to the next verse: “God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous.” They’re not rebuked; they’re blessed.

Another example is found in Joshua 2. Joshua sends two men to spy out Jericho, and the king of Jericho finds out. They go to Rahab, a prostitute, and she hides them. When the king’s messengers come looking for them, she says: “The men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them” (Joshua 2:4–5). The rest of the chapter tells how she believes in God and is delivered when Jericho is attacked. So the biblical interpretation of her action is that it was done from a heart of faith—even though she lied.

Is this situational ethics? Does the Bible, in effect, say that the absolute truths and commands are temporarily suspended when God’s people are in danger in the face of evil. That’s the $64,000 question. Let us consider this as we read about the unnamed man and woman that harbor the messengers that are on their way to David to advise him of Absalom’s military plans. Let’s read the passage now:

15 Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, what Ahithophel had said to Absalom and the elders of Israel and what he himself had advised instead. 16 “Quick!” he told them. “Find David and urge him not to stay at the shallows of the Jordan River[a] tonight. He must go across at once into the wilderness beyond. Otherwise he will die and his entire army with him.”

17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz had been staying at En-rogel so as not to be seen entering and leaving the city. Arrangements had been made for a servant girl to bring them the message they were to take to King David. 18 But a boy spotted them at En-rogel, and he told Absalom about it. So they quickly escaped to Bahurim, where a man hid them down inside a well in his courtyard. 19 The man’s wife put a cloth over the top of the well and scattered grain on it to dry in the sun; so no one suspected they were there.

20 When Absalom’s men arrived, they asked her, “Have you seen Ahimaaz and Jonathan?”

The woman replied, “They were here, but they crossed over the brook.” Absalom’s men looked for them without success and returned to Jerusalem.

21 Then the two men crawled out of the well and hurried on to King David. “Quick!” they told him, “cross the Jordan tonight!” And they told him how Ahithophel had advised that he be captured and killed. 22 So David and all the people with him went across the Jordan River during the night, and they were all on the other bank before dawn.

23 When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey, went to his hometown, set his affairs in order, and hanged himself. He died there and was buried in the family tomb.

24 David soon arrived at Mahanaim. By now, Absalom had mobilized the entire army of Israel and was leading his troops across the Jordan River. 25 Absalom had appointed Amasa as commander of his army, replacing Joab, who had been commander under David. (Amasa was Joab’s cousin. His father was Jether,[b] an Ishmaelite.[c] His mother, Abigail daughter of Nahash, was the sister of Joab’s mother, Zeruiah.) 26 Absalom and the Israelite army set up camp in the land of Gilead.

27 When David arrived at Mahanaim, he was warmly greeted by Shobi son of Nahash, who came from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and by Makir son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and by Barzillai of Gilead from Rogelim. 28 They brought sleeping mats, cooking pots, serving bowls, wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans, lentils, 29 honey, butter, sheep, goats, and cheese for David and those who were with him. For they said, “You must all be very hungry and tired and thirsty after your long march through the wilderness.”

In this passage, we see that the unnamed husband and wife who apparently lie to save the messengers. Without their deceit, the messengers most likely would have been discovered, detained and maybe even killed. If their message does not reach David, he and his soldiers quite possibly could have been overwhelmed by Absalom’s troops and David captured and killed. So, their deceit, aided the people of God in the face of evil. It all worked out well but the success of David’s military response hinged on getting the message in time. It hinged on the deceit of this unnamed husband and wife.

First, we must recognize that the Bible is about real people in real situations that actually occurred in real human history. It is not some fantasy. The Old Testament gives us the history of God’s people from the Creation all the way up til about 400 years before Christ’s birth. It is about real people. It is about sinful people. So, to say that these passages are condoning acts that God forbids elsewhere in the Bible is not God contradicting himself. His ways are higher than our ways. His truth is eternal and unchanging. What He says in one part of the Bible is not contradicted by publishing the acts of sinful man in the pages of the Bible. The sinful acts committed by the humans in the Bible, both the people of Israel and the nations that they interact with, are examples to us of just how sinful they were (so as to help us identify that we are the same as them – sinful people in the hands of a pure and just God). We often learn the best lessons in the Bible of what not to do by the character’s actions in the Bible. The Bible gives us a mirror to our own sinful state by the actions of the people in the Bible. So, having said that, the world since the Fall of Man in the Garden is just a bad, bad place and people do evil on purpose to gain advantage for themselves. In this passage, Absalom is trying to usurp the throne from David just because he is a spoiled brat of a man who is self-centered and self-serving. His evil sets all kinds of activity that is evil into action. In this maelstrom of evil activity, we find this, apparently, God-fearing husband and wife put into a situation by evil.

OK, the world is an evil place and has been since Adam and Eve. We get that. We, as Christians, buy off on that. It is that fact that we accept that we are born into sin ourselves and are evil at heart when we truly examine ourselves. It is the fact that the world is full of evil through us fallen creatures descended from Adam that demands that there be Jesus. Without Jesus and his covering of righteousness, our best behavior is but filthy rags before the just and righteous God. We commit sins daily and often times we do not even realize that we are committing them until the Holy Spirit brings it to our attention. Even after accepting Christ as our Savior, we are still sinful by nature. We still commit sins. It is only through a lifetime of interaction with the Holy Spirit in our souls that we begin to identify and turn away from our sins. We only become, however, fully sinless when we are perfected in Christ in heaven on that joyous day when we go home to heaven to meet Him. So to think that we are automatically perfect at salvation is a lie itself. We are a work in progress until the day we go home to heaven.

OK, the world is evil. We are evil by nature. Evil sometimes puts God’s people in bad situations. The Bible is confirmation of these exact facts. Then, let’s deal with it. Is it OK to lie when we are placed into situations where we or others may be harmed or killed?

I think that we will all be held accountable for each and every lie that we tell – even those that saved someone else from harm or death. That’s the only conclusion that you can come to by the weight of biblical evidence. We must account to the Lord for the lies that we have told, each and every one of them, the bold faced lies that gave us an advantage, the bold faced lies that preserved something for us, the white lies like “that dress does not make you look fat!”, and the lies that we have told even to help others survive in bad situations. They are all lies no matter the intent. There is no gradation of sin. Sin is sin.

Sure, because of the evil world in which we live, we are just plain out walking through a mine field as Christians. The world is full of lies. The troubles that we see around us are the culmination of the sins of man throughout the centuries culmulatively piled on top of each other. The weight of sin of man makes the earth itself groan. In that world, we live. However, that does not give us license to lie with impunity and think that it’s OK as Christians.

In these hard borderline cases of life and death, we would like to say yes it is OK to life in God’s grand plan of redemption for mankind. In these borderline cases of life and death, we would like to say it is OK to suspend God’s otherwise eternally applicable laws of the universe. However, that is and just cannot be the case if God’s Word means anything at all.

Thus, I think the true test of a Christ follower is in these extreme borderline cases where lives are at stake or the victory of evil over good all hinges on us telling a lie to save people. We must look at the heart. In these extreme cases, we may lie to save a life because we have a love of God’s people and of God’s victory over evil. However, what should happen in our heart is that we have the greatest moral dilemma of our lives. It should trouble us that we are going to have to tell a lie – even to save lives. Further, after we have lied, we should feel remorse. We should feel horrible rather than happy. We should feel like that we have violated God’s law (because we have). We should see that lie (even though it was for good reason) is a permanent stain on our soul for which we cannot recover and for which we will stand condemned on our own merits before the Lord. That’s what we through ourselves at the feet of Jesus and BEG for forgiveness for having violated God’s standards of holiness. That lie by itself just that one disqualifies us from standing in the presence of God in heaven. That is where our heart matters. We know this when we are telling the lie to save lives. We are heartbroken over it – for being forced into that situation by an evil world. We are distraught. We are to bow before God to ask forgiveness. Jesus will examine our heart and provide us the forgiveness that we need and desire.

We as Christ followers are not to abuse the grace of Jesus Christ. We should be mortified in and of ourselves when we have to lie – even to save a life or many lives. We should not say it’s OK to lie and do it repeatedly because of the grace of Jesus Christ is out there for us. No, we should hate the sins we commit and be revolted by them – even when there are situations where our lies save lives. It should be the greatest moral dilemma of our lives. We should pray before doing so. We should be revolted by having to do so. And then we must throw ourselves at the Lord’s feet seeking humbly the forgiveness that we desire. God will see our heart.

Amen and Amen.

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