The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Communicating with God: Why He Lies

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God lies. God intentionally deceives us in all sorts of ways. His motives for doing so are good, of course, but this doesn’t lessen the trauma of discovering that “the God of truth” has no problems with intentionally tricking, deluding, and misleading us.

BUT THE BIBLE SAYS…

So let’s get into it. Your pastor says that God doesn’t lie. Well, your pastor is wrong. But your pastor says that the Bible says that God doesn’t lie. He’s right on that one—the Bible does say that God doesn’t lie. But it also says that God does lie, so there you have it. If you read the entire Bible and are honest about its contents, you will be forced to conclude that when God claims that He never lies, He is, well, lying.

Now there are only two times when it is actually stated in the Old Testament that God doesn’t lie. The first time is through the mouth of a demon worshiping sorcerer named Balaam. Balaam is functioning as a magician-for-hire who people pay to cast curses on other people. A king named Balak hires Balaam to curse Israel, but when the sorcerer opens his mouth to try and call down his curses, Yahweh makes him bless Israel instead, and this makes Balaam look like an idiot. After Yahweh demonstrates His control over Balaam’s mouth, the fool keeps trying to say something nasty to Israel in order to please the guy who hired him. But each time, Yahweh overrides him, and Balaam ends up calling down all kinds of blessings onto Israel’s head. It is in the midst of one of these show-off sessions by Yahweh, that Balaam is forced to say:

“God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind.

Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot change it.” (Num. 23:19-20)

This whole event is about Yahweh showing off His mastery over humans and demons. Why does God bring up the subject of lying in this passage? Because He has already said positive things about Israel which Balaam’s boss is now hoping the sorcerer will take back in a second prophecy. When God claims to not lie here, what He is really saying is, “You heard what I said the first time, and that’s what I’m going to do.” God is specifically speaking to Balak in this passage, for it starts with:

“Arise, Balak, and listen; hear me, son of Zippor. God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind.” (Num. 23:18-19)

God is not speaking to you in this passage, nor is He putting out some solid principle about how He operates. He is specifically responding to one man’s rebellious attitude (for the full story, see Balak & Balaam: God Wars).

Let’s use a modern example to get this in perspective. As a human being, you lie all the time. You exaggerate, you give compliments you don’t really mean, you say plenty of things that aren’t true. Despite all of this, you probably don’t think of yourself as a liar, because to you that word implies an intention to harm. When you say that your friend’s outfit looks nice when you really think it looks stupid, you’re trying to spare her feelings, and to you that doesn’t make you deserving of the liar label. When you’re doing the old meet-and-greet routine at church and you keep saying, “I’m doing great, how are you?” in response to someone else’s “How are you?”, you’re often lying. You might be having a lousy morning, you might be feeling depressed and lonely, but out comes that phony smile and the cheerful platitudes because that’s what the culture expects of you.

You lie. We all lie. But if your boss had reason to suspect you did something shady at work and you were trying to convince him otherwise, you’d say, “I swear it wasn’t me, and I would never lie to you.” In times when your credibility is in doubt, you will claim to be an honest person who would never lie to anyone, even though such a claim is not technically true. But in the context of a specific conversation, your claim to never lie actually bolsters trust. After all, if a good friend swears that he really wasn’t flirting with your girlfriend and he looks at you with all sincerity and says, “Hey, man, would I ever lie to you?”, you will think about your positive history with him and decide to trust him. The point is this: you can’t go yanking statements someone makes out of context and think you’re going to end up with an accurate understanding of what they are saying. You lie a lot. So does God.  Yet under certain circumstances, both of you will claim that you never lie.

Now the second time we find the claim that God does not lie is in 1 Samuel 15:29. The prophet Samuel is speaking here and he says:

“He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change His mind; for He is not a human being, that He should change His mind.”  

Once again, the context clarifies the meaning of this statement. Samuel is talking to King Saul here—a very rebellious man who has just defied Yahweh in a very public way. Yahweh is so angry with Saul that He says He will tear the kingdom of Israel away from Saul and hand it to someone else. Once again, we find a similar pattern to the conversation that God had with evil king Balak. God says something the rebel doesn’t want to hear, the rebel rejects what God says, and God retaliates by repeating His threat and insisting that He doesn’t lie, therefore the rebel had better take Him seriously. In the case of Israel-hating Balak, the bad news was that God was going to protect Israel and not let her be destroyed by evil curses. In the case of Saul, the bad news is that God has rejected Saul as king and will raise up another man (David) to replace him. Let’s add some context back in and read this statement again:

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated Yahweh’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship Yahweh.”

But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of Yahweh, and Yahweh has rejected you as king over Israel!”

As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. Samuel said to him, “Yahweh has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change His mind; for He is not a human being, that He should change His mind.” (1 Sam. 15:24-29)

This is only a portion of the whole argument these men have, but notice how it changes the tone of the claim that God would never lie. This is not an isolated statement, yet we commonly treat it as one, and that is where we go astray.

Humans are notorious liars and we change our minds all the time. God is not human, and in both of these passages, He implies that lying and mind changing are only human characteristics. What can we say? He’s lying about this. God might not be a human, but He still lies and changes His mind. We have evidence of this all throughout the Bible. Let’s look at some examples.

AN OMNISCIENT LIAR

God is omniscient.  Omniscient means all-knowing. God not only knows everything about everything, He also sees the future. He knows what is going to happen tomorrow as well as in a hundred years from now. He knows what everyone is thinking and about to think. God’s omniscience makes Him the biggest Liar in existence.

You’re a human.  If you promise to do something a month from now, but then circumstances beyond your control prevent you from being able to do it, we wouldn’t call you a liar because we understand you are a creature of limited knowledge and power. You fully intended to do as you said, but you were blocked. If you make a statement about a current situation that is not correct, we can cut you slack because we understand you have limited knowledge. You might have honestly believed your conclusion was correct based on the few facts you were given.

None of these excuses work for God because He knows everything. If He says He’s going to do something by a certain time and the whole time He knows that He really has no intention of doing that thing, then He is lying. If He makes a certain statement about the way things are, and He knows that that statement is not really true, then He is lying. There’s just no out here. God knows what He’s going to do before He even does it, so what justification is there for Him making false claims and promises? Let’s look at some examples of God intentionally deceiving people in the Bible.

“I will destroy Nineveh in 40 days.”

In the book of Jonah, we read about a time when God sends a prophet to the large and very wicked city of Nineveh with a terrifying message. Through the mouth of His prophet, God announces that He is going to destroy the entire city in exactly forty days. He does not offer a second chance. He doesn’t warn them to repent. He simply says that in forty days, Nineveh will no longer be.

Now at the time that God made this prophecy, He knew that He had no intention of fulfilling it. He knew that the people would repent and that He would pretend to have a radical change of mind brought on by a desire to be merciful. But of course God knows the end from the beginning, so He didn’t really change His mind about destroying Nineveh—He never intended to destroy Nineveh in the first place. He just lied to scare people into repenting of their sins.

“If a prophecy doesn’t come true, it wasn’t from Me.”

Now long before Jonah was born, Yahweh taught His people how to discern between true and false prophets. In Deut. 18:21-22, we read the following:

“You might be thinking, ‘How can we know if a message is not from Yahweh?’ If what a prophet says in the Name of Yahweh does not happen, it is not Yahweh’s message. That prophet was speaking his own ideas. Don’t be afraid of him.”

Also in this section, Yahweh orders the execution of anyone who gives a false prophecy in His Name. So then, according to Yahweh’s own rules, Jonah should have been executed as a false prophet and the people of Nineveh should have ignored him. And yet this isn’t really what Yahweh wanted to happen. Jonah was not a false prophet, and Yahweh wanted the Ninevites to take Jonah’s message very seriously because it really was from God. So then, this test that Yahweh puts out is another lie. When He came up with this test, Yahweh knew that it wouldn’t really apply in every case. He knew that He would pull stunts like Jonah.

“There isn’t a single righteous soul in all of Jerusalem.”

The prophet Jeremiah had the unpleasant task of speaking for Yahweh during Jerusalem’s last days. By Jeremiah’s lifetime, the Jews had become so rebellious and so wicked, that Yahweh ordered the prophet not to pray on their behalf because His mind was set on destroying Judah.

Now the Bible is focused on Israel, and all of God’s prophets are patriotic Jews who cannot stand the thought of their homeland being destroyed. Whenever God prophesies coming destruction on Israel, His prophets get quite upset by the idea and we find a lot of them pleading for leniency. To help His prophets get aligned with His rage over willful defiance, Yahweh spends a lot of time proving to them just how terrible the spiritual situation is in their homeland. At one point, He challenges Jeremiah to try and find one righteous soul in Jerusalem. Yahweh says:

“Run up and down every street in Jerusalem. Look high and low; search throughout the city! If you can find even one just and honest person, I will not destroy the city.” (Jer. 5:1-2)

Here Yahweh promises that if one person can be found in Jerusalem who still seeks righteousness, He will pardon the whole city and put off her destruction. Well, He’s lying. At the time He says this, He knows quite well that there are still some righteous souls in the city—but He also knows that He will prevent Jeremiah from finding any of them.

Highly motivated to save his people, Jeremiah sets out on his task.  Soon he is horrified to discover that everyone he talks to is an irreverent rebel. First he interviews the regular citizens. When he comes up with nothing, he says:

But I thought, “These are only the poor, foolish people. They have not learned the way of Yahweh and what their God wants them to do. So I will go to the leaders of Judah and talk to them. Surely they understand the way of Yahweh and know what God wants them to do.” But even the leaders had all joined together to break away from Yahweh; they had broken their ties with Him. (Jer. 5:4-5)

Later on, we meet a man named Ebed-Melek who works in the royal palace in Jerusalem. Ebed-Melek cares so much about doing right that he puts his own neck on the line to save Jeremiah from dying (see Saving Jeremiah: The Story of Ebed-Melek). Not every single person in Jerusalem is a defiant rebel, and Yahweh knows this. So when He says He would pardon the city if just one godly man could be found within her borders, He’s lying. He has no intention of saving the city, He just wants Jeremiah to see how wicked the majority of the people are so that Jeremiah will understand how just God is in destroying the city.

“So God changed His mind.”

Jonah isn’t the only time we find God giving false prophecies. In the book of Amos, we find Yahweh giving His prophet a vision of the terrible devastation He is planning to inflict on Israel.

This is what the Lord Yahweh showed me: He was forming a swarm of locusts, after the king had taken his share of the first crop and the second crop had just begun growing. When the locusts ate all the crops in the country, I said, “Lord Yahweh, forgive us. How could Israel live through this? It is too small already!”

So Yahweh changed His mind about this. “It will not happen,” He said.

This is what the Lord Yahweh showed me: He was calling for fire to come down like rain. It burned up the deep water and was going to burn up the land. Then I cried out, “Lord Yahweh, stop! How could Israel live through this? It is too small already.”

So Yahweh changed His mind about this, too. “It will not happen,” said the Lord Yahweh. (Amos 7:1-6)

What’s with these phony prophetic visions? First Yahweh reveals to His prophet what He’s going to do, then when Amos complains, He says “nevermind”? What if Amos hadn’t protested? Ah, but of course Yahweh knew that he would, and He knew that He wasn’t really going to fulfill His own visions. So now we have false visions and a God who changes His mind, even though He claimed to never do such a “human” thing.

Now way back in Exodus, all-knowing Yahweh is having a private conversation with Moses on a mountain when He sees that down on the ground below, the Israelites have made a golden calf for themselves. He tells Moses what is going on and He’s so furious that He says He is going to destroy the entire mob and begin a new nation through Moses.

How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live! They have melted down gold and made a calf, and they have bowed down and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.'” Then Yahweh said to Moses, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are. Now leave Me alone so My fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them. Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation.” (Ex. 32:8-10)

A panicking Moses responds by pleading with Yahweh to give the little jerks a second chance. Trying to appeal to Yahweh’s massive ego, Moses says that if the Egyptians hear that Yahweh killed off His own people in the wilderness, they would slander His good Character and say that He was wicked at heart. Now is Yahweh really living for the praise of idol worshiping Egyptians? Not hardly, but He pretends that Moses has talked Him out of His original plans.

So Yahweh changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Ex. 32:14)

This mind changing event happens before the two times when Yahweh claims that He never changes His mind. The events with Jonah, Jeremiah and Amos all happen after He makes those claims. Is Yahweh lying when He says that He never changes His mind? Of course He is.

When people are confronted with truths that make them uncomfortable, they whip out their denial skills and refuse to see what is right in front of them. It doesn’t matter how many verses you point out to them—it’s as if the words are written in invisible ink. People will not see what they don’t want to see, and no one wants to see the fact that God has been lying to the human race for thousands of years. But why not?  Why are we so threatened by the thought of God lying? Why have we all decided that this must be a terrible thing? Have we ever really stopped to consider what it would be like if God didn’t lie?

WHAT IF GOD DIDN’T LIE?

Christians say they want a God of Truth—meaning One who never lies in any way shape or form. But what would it really be like to talk to a God who tells you the absolute truth all the time? Let’s consider how this would change your conversations with God:

You: “God, how much do You love me?”

God: “It depends on how you look at it. I love you more than other people do, but I don’t love you anywhere near as much as I love Myself. When it comes right down to it, I think you’re totally expendable. You aren’t essential to Me in anyway. I made you for My own benefit, not yours. You see, it’s all about Me. You’re like a background detail.”

Total honesty isn’t all that pleasant, is it? What you really want God to say is, “Yes, child, I love you very much.” This is what He does say to you today, but it is a very incomplete answer. Intentionally leaving out information and thereby creating a false impression of reality is just another form of lying, and God does this with us all the time.

God’s words can’t always be taken literally (see The Complexity of God’s Will). He leaves a lot of information out. He exaggerates. He intentionally gives false descriptions of His own actions and thoughts. God is far more complex than we give Him credit for. He is constantly misleading and deceiving us, yet He does these things for our own good.

God’s primary goal in each one of our lives is to draw us closer to Him. The problem is that God is so wild and complex that we simply can’t handle being exposed to too much of His reality at once. We need Him to shield us from most of His truth. For example, suppose you were to ask God to keep your son safe on the road one evening. A God who lies will give you some peaceful, reassuring feeling that will calm your worried mind and help you go to sleep. But a God who never lies is going to say:

“Actually, I’m going to kill the boy in a horrific car accident that I’ve arranged to occur exactly ten minutes from now. There’s nothing you can do to stop Me, so you might as well go to sleep until the police call.”

How relaxed would you feel after being bombarded with this truth? Is God helping you by being totally honest with you? No, He’s just increasing the burden of stress and grief that you’re going to have to deal with.

Now when God calls us to do some difficult task, we are desperate for assurance that He’ll be with us. And because God lies whenever He feels it would benefit us for Him to do so, He often gives us all kinds of pleasant promises: “I’ll be with you. You can trust Me. It will be easy. I’ll protect you.”

He offered similar assurances to Jeremiah, promising that the prophet would never be assaulted by his enemies.

“Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,” declares Yahweh. (Jer. 1:8)

“I have made you today like a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah, to its princes, to its priests and to the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you.”  (Jer. 1:18-19)

Sounds good, right? If God spoke to you like this, you’d naturally assume that He was guaranteeing you total physical protection. You’d assume that whenever your enemies tried to assault you, God would miraculously intervene and beat them back. This is what Jeremiah assumed, but it isn’t what happened. Instead of total protection, he got to be publicly tortured, degraded, and locked in a dungeon for so long that he was convinced he would die in it. As far as Jeremiah was concerned, God was a big liar. He had promised that Jeremiah would be respected and triumphant. What a crock.

“O Yahweh, You have deceived me and I was deceived! You have overcome me and prevailed! I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me!” (Jer. 20:7)

Jeremiah has his flaws, but his honesty is very refreshing. He resents being lied to and manipulated by God…or so he thinks. But if God had really been totally honest about what Jeremiah’s prophetic career would be like, the man would have become paralyzed with fear and he never would have moved forward in his relationship with God.

Whenever God’s behavior is driving you crazy, you need to remember that His first priority with you is to strengthen your bond with Him. Everything that He does to you—the good, the bad, and the painful—is done with this goal in mind. Depending on where you’re currently at, this can be very hard to swallow, but it is the truth, and if we are willing to accept the truth, it will free us up from a lot of pain and anguish.

KEEPING US FOCUSED ON WHAT MATTERS

So how exactly does it help you for God to lie to you? Well, developing your relationship with God is what matters, not what kind of day you’re going to have tomorrow. By withholding information about your future and intentionally misleading you about how easy your path will be, God helps you stay focused on what really matters. Maybe today you’re zealously seeking Him and He’s downloading all kinds of fascinating wisdom into your soul. If in the middle of this exciting growth period, He were to say, “By the way, in six months, you’re going to get hit by a car and become a quad,” what is going to happen to your focus? You’re going to stop listening to the Holy Spirit and you’ll spend the next six months freaking out about what’s coming. This is a waste of time. God knows that He is going to be with you in the trauma and that He’s going to get you through it. But from where you’re sitting, you can’t begin to imagine how you’d ever cope with such a thing, so God isn’t going to burden you with excess information. When you happily wonder about your future with Him, He is going to paint a pleasant picture in your mind and whisper, “It’s going to be wonderful.” He knows it really will be wonderful–eventually. But if you knew what He had planned for you in the meantime, you’d feel completely betrayed. When the accident finally happens, you do feel completely betrayed and you hate God for lying to you about your wonderful future. But would you really want a God who keeps you in a constant state of terror by burdening you with information you can’t handle? God is infinitely complex. You’re just a frail dot of a creature. You cannot begin to handle knowing everything that He knows.

When God withholds information from us that He knows would overwhelm us, He is acting like a father who uses his own body to shield his child as he carries him through a hailstorm. You don’t know what it is that God isn’t telling you right now, but on what basis can you accuse Him of having malicious intent towards you? God loves you so much that He died for you. He cares about you so much that He never looks away from you for a moment. Every day, God vetoes a thousand plans that demons make against you, and He constantly rearranges countless molecules, people, and things so that you will have experiences which might entice you closer to Him. God is for you. When He oversimplifies things, He isn’t being any meaner than a mother who simply tells her young daughter that the boy next door has been taken home by Jesus when the truth is that the kid was bludgeoned to death by his raging, psychotic father. The little girl doesn’t need to have her head filled with a bunch of graphic details—she just needs a simple bottom line.

When God tells you that He will take care of you, He is telling you the truth. When He lets you assume that His care of you will always translate into a pleasant earthly experience, it’s because He knows the truth would be too much for you. God knows that focusing on Him and not on your circumstances is what’s going to give your soul the most peace, so He will always point you back to Him and withhold details about your future.

Now just because God is telling you that your life is going to be joyful, it doesn’t mean that He’s secretly planning to trash you. But He wants your joy and peace to come from knowing that He loves you and that He can be trusted, not from knowing that your earthly life is going to be pleasant to experience from birth to death. Maybe God knows that your life is going to be nothing but cake. But if He tells you this ahead of time, what will happen? You’ll stop focusing on Him and you’ll start obsessing over your circumstances—the money, the things, the career, or whatever else it is that He has planned for you. This is as bad as having you get all worked up about some future trial. God is extremely jealous and He wants to be your main focus in life. The less He tells you about the future, the less reasons you have to turn your mind onto other, unimportant things.

There are going to be many times in life when you have to make a big decision. God wants you to base your decisions on what will please Him the most, not on what will feel the best to you. When you ask God for direction and He tells you what course of action to take, He will often let you assume things about that course of action that He knows are wrong. If your human friend stood around with a smile on his face while you made a bunch of false assumptions out loud and he didn’t correct you, you’d be mad at him. When things turn out differently than you had hoped and you find out that your friend knew what was going to happen all along, you’d say, “Why didn’t you warn me? Why did you let me go blindly into this?” When humans treat us this way, we feel betrayed. When God does this, we try to pretend He isn’t intentionally misleading us because we don’t want to associate God with deception. This kind of hypocrisy gets us nowhere. The sooner we stop trying to pretend that God doesn’t deceive us, the sooner we can look past His disturbing behavior and focus on His good motivations. God deceives us in order to help us. By withholding information, oversimplifying things, misleading us, and straight up lying to us, God helps us keep our focus on what really matters in life: knowing and pleasing Him.

DRIVING US TO REPENTANCE

Another reason God deceives us is to drive us to a state of repentance. The story of Jonah is a good example of this. As we discussed earlier, God knew that He wasn’t really going to destroy Nineveh, but by prophesying that they only had 40 days left, He effectively drove the rebels to repent. There are several passages in the Bible in which God uses deception to drive souls back to Him, and He still does this today. Does this mean we should try and call God’s bluff when He threatens us with some ultimatum? No, it does not. Rebelling against God is already a foolish act, and when we add mockery to the mix, we are asking for a very painful spanking. Whenever God starts threatening us, He is telling us that we are on the wrong side of His patience. We need to swiftly align with the Holy Spirit. Let’s remember that in this world, there are much worse fates than dying. God can easily make our lives a living hell down here, and that is what He will do if we insist on defying Him.

POSITIONING US FOR GROWTH

Another reason that God lies to us is to help us grow.  Trials are a very important part of the spiritual maturation process, but in order to be effective, they must be perfectly timed and orchestrated by God. Sometimes God wants you to experience a set of stresses that will only become available to you if you make foolish decisions. Suppose He wants you to experience bankruptcy, but you are very careful with your finances. How is He going to maneuver you into a position that is best for your spiritual development? He will invent some phony reason why you should invest all your money into something, and then He’ll cause that investment to tank. Maybe He leads you to start your own business. Because you are the conservative type, you pray fervently and ask God for many clear signs before you dare to move forward. God gives you the signs. Everything is a go. Of course you assume that He is leading you into this business so that it can be a raging success, and you’re super excited. Because you’re so sure it’s supposed to succeed, when things start going south, you fight hard to hang on, assuming that God is going to correct the situation in His time. You figure that you’re honoring God by having faith in His ability to make your business succeed, and you are honoring God because your motivations are good. What you don’t realize is that God led you into this position not to make you a success, but to make you fall flat on your face. For years He intentionally raises false hopes so that you keep investing more and more of your resources into the thing, convinced that it will turn around. But it doesn’t turn around, and by the time you are forced to realize that the dream is dead, you are in complete ruin. Has God lied to you? Yes. Has He intentionally trashed you? Yes. But He did it to draw your soul closer to Him, and that is what matters. There are critical lessons He wants to teach you about submission and dependency which you can only learn from the trenches. By tricking you into starting the business, He maneuvered you into the perfect position for growth.

MOTIVATION IS WHAT MATTERS

The reason we panic at the thought of God lying to us is that we’ve decided a good God can’t lie. Where do we get such a notion? On this earth, we can find countless examples of people lying for good reasons. It’s not like we’ve never been introduced to the idea of a lie helping someone. So why do we instantly assume that God can’t be good if He lies to us?

Understanding motivation is the key to getting comfortable with God lying to us, and we need to get comfortable with it, because we can’t change who God is or how He works. He lies whenever He feels it is beneficial to do so, but that is the only time He lies. He doesn’t lie just to tear us down. He doesn’t lie just to hurt and crush us. He doesn’t lie to discourage us from trusting Him—although this is often how we react at first. God wants a strong bond with you, and He is willing to go to extreme lengths to get it. The whole crucifixion event with all of its gore and horror teaches us a lot about how far God is willing to go in order to establish a personal relationship with us. If He was willing to go through all of that agony just to make a relationship with you possible, what will He be willing to do in order to strengthen that relationship once it is established? Lying? Not a problem. This whole deception thing just isn’t the show stopper for God that it is for us. To Him, lying is just one of many useful tools that He uses to draw us closer to Him. But lying isn’t just about drawing us closer in, and guiding us down the right paths in life, it’s also about protecting us from God’s complexity.

CRITICAL SHIELDING

When you first come to God, there are many truths about Him which you are simply not ready to handle. The fact that He lies is usually one of them. So when preachers come along and teach you that God would never lie, God lets you hang on to this delusion for years without correcting you. He also lets you think that He has nothing to do with evil. He lets you think that if you were ever in a crisis, He would draw near to you in some sensual way and fill you with amazing comfort and peace. He lets you think that Christians who claim to be going through terrible times with God have brought their struggles onto themselves due to a lack of faith because God would never intentionally stick it to the people who sincerely seek Him. Of course in reality, He would, for God often puts His most devoted guys through hell down here. But when you are spiritually young, He’s going to present a very simplistic view of Himself to you. He might even give you a long honeymoon period in which He gives you a steady stream of warm fuzzies and miraculous empowerment. But if you are growing in the faith, the day must come when the delusions start falling away—but not all at once. God carefully chooses which troubling truths to confront you with first. If He didn’t shield you like this, you’d end up feeling overwhelmed by His complexity and too terrified to approach Him. God doesn’t want you to feel terrified of Him, He wants you to boldly draw near. He wants you to know that even though He is massive and you are just a tiny speck, He loves you intensely and He wants to make your existence a wonderful experience.

We were created for the purpose of bonding with our Creators. We can’t experience soul completion and total satisfaction until we align ourselves with Them and fully submit ourselves into Their care. Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are infinitely complex and mysterious Beings, yet They have designed you with the capacity to bond with Them in an intimate way. If temporarily deceiving you is a necessary part of getting you to that end goal, isn’t it worth it? Of course it is.

THE GOOD CHARACTER OF GOD

God is good. The fact that He lies doesn’t change this in the slightest. Internal motivation, not behavior, is what determines the quality of God’s Character. Far too often, we judge God solely on the basis of His actions instead of considering His motivations. When some child is gunned down on a school campus and we’re confronted with the idea that God arranged the whole thing, we protest, “No! God would never do something like that because He is good.” Do you hear the reference to action? “God would never do…” Anytime we focus only on action, we will draw faulty conclusions. “I hate God because He let my mom die of cancer.” We must learn to go beyond the action—why did God let your mom die of cancer? “I couldn’t trust a God who lets children be molested.” Why not? Have you considered His motivations? No, you haven’t. You’re just judging His actions and then leaping to all kinds of false conclusions about Him.

When God judges you in eternity, He is going to judge you by your motivations, not your actions. This is why you will get credit for the times you sincerely wanted to obey God yet couldn’t overcome your flesh enough to follow through. This is also why you won’t get any credit for the times you did good works with a rotten heart attitude. God teaches us that He cares about the heart, not actions. It’s not what we do that matters to Him, but why we are doing it.

When it comes to assessing God’s behavior, we need to use the same standards that He uses with us. We need to consider motivation to be more important than action, and then we need to wait for God to explain His motivations to us before we just assume the worst. If He doesn’t choose to explain, then we need to assume the best based on what He has already done for us. After all, He gave us the cross. If that doesn’t say, “I love you and I want to bless you,” what does? An evil God would have just thrown us all into Hell and laughed at our torment, but the real God inflicted misery on Himself just to simplify our path to salvation. The real God has proven to us how much He cares about what is best for our souls and how much He delights in blessing us. Who could possibly say that they deserve to spend eternity in Heaven? It makes no sense at all that God should create a world that is thrilling to human beings and then offer to move us there permanently if we submit to His Authority. There is no question that our God is good and that everything He does with us and to us is with our best in mind. So if He chooses to deceive us, we should be thankful that He loves us enough to protect us from truths we’re not yet ready for. Lying doesn’t make God evil. He lies to us because He is good.

KNOWING WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING

Okay, so God is good. But if we know that He will deceive us at times, how can we possibly predict what His next move will be? We can’t. God is utterly wild, and His behavior cannot always be logically understood. Why does God allow terrorists to bury hundreds of people alive in a ditch somewhere? What good purpose could this possibly be accomplishing? Why does He allow the human trafficking industry to flourish? Why does He give children to parents who will abuse them and withhold children from parents who would love them? There are reasons. God always has reasons for what He does, and those reasons are always good. But He isn’t going to explain most of His reasons to you. Most of the time, His answer to your questions will be “Trust Me.” What He means by this is, “Trust in the fact that My Character is good.”

We don’t have to understand God to be able to know Him. Once we become convinced in our souls that God truly is good, we can get to know Him very well, and we can stay close to Him even when He feels it is necessary to deceive us. Once we know God, the fact that He lies stops upsetting us. Instead, we learn to see it as the positive thing that it is. We understand that everything God does to us is motivated by a love that is deeper than we can fathom.

DISTURBING IMPLICATIONS

We can’t conclude any discussion about God lying without talking about salvation. After all, if God lies and we can’t hold Him accountable to the things He says in the Book (because He will unsay them anytime He feels like it), then what’s to stop God from going back on His promise to save us?  What stopping Him from throwing us into Hell?

Nothing.

Well, that’s disturbing!  Of course it is, but we’re talking about God here, not some human speck.  God can do whatever He wantsFor thousands of years, Yahweh said that the only way to stay in a right relationship with Him was to worship Him alone.  Then He introduced Jesus and said that if we didn’t start worshiping Him as well, we would be thrown into Hell.  A lot of Old Covenant Jews refused to make the switch.  In some cases, what caused them to lose their salvation was a refusal to acknowledge the fact that God is wild and can do whatever He wants, including lie.

If Yahweh should suddenly announce tomorrow that just having faith in Jesus is no longer sufficient to stay in a right relationship with Him, then you’d better pay attention and conform to His new requirements.  This is what Jesus’ disciples did.  They all grew up saying, “Hear O Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is One” (Deut. 6:4).  But the day came when they had to say, “Yahweh is our God, but He isn’t the only One,” if they were going to obtain salvation.

So do you need to stay up at night anxiously worrying that you might miss some important update from God about a change to His Covenant?  No, because God is good.  He is not going to let you slip into hardcore rebellion without jumping all over you and giving you all the resources you need to conform to His new demands.  How do you think so many Old Covenant Jews were able to leap from one God to three?  Because the Holy Spirit knows how to illuminate our souls, and He will not leave us in darkness when He knows we sincerely want to please Him.  So you see, there is nothing to worry about when it comes to the issue of salvation because your security is not in the words on a page but in God’s Characterthere is a major difference.  God is wild.  God breaks His promises.  He changes His mind and His Covenant whenever He wants to.  But He is goodand that is why we do not have to fear.

Do you see how all of your peace in life depends on God being good in Character?  It’s never been about the Bible.  Your God is not a book.  Your God is not paper, ink, and glue.  Your God is a wild, unpredictable, infinitely complex nonhuman Being, but He is good, and that is why you don’t have to fear His wildness or His unpredictability or His complexity.  You don’t have to understand everything that God does to be able to trust Him.  You don’t need Him to never break a promise in order to feel safe in His loving care.  You just need Him to be good, and that is what He is.

FURTHER READING:
Practicing Discernment: Yahweh Lies
Practicing Discernment: Jesus Lies

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