The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Serving a God Who Lies

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God has a long history of lying to human beings.  This is one of those uncomfortable truths that none of us want to deal with, so we try to ignore it as long as possible.  But when God calls you to function as one of His prophets, you end up forced to deal with the lying business, because you’re the one He’s very likely to do some of His lying through.  Who wants to look like an idiot by prophesying something that doesn’t happen?  No one.  But prophets aren’t the only ones who get affected by God’s deceptiveness.  If you pursue God long enough, it’s only a matter of time until He lies to you about something you really care about.  Then what?  You’ll feel all bitter and disillusioned, of course.  There’s nothing fun about the first time God hits you with some bit of crushing disillusionment.  It’s rather like a first heartbreak—it’s really miserable and it permanently changes you.  Of course it’s a lot easier to get sympathy for a broken heart than it is for God lying to you.  Among Christians, it’s taboo to use the phrase “God lies,” and souls who are caught in this stage with Him often end up shunned, harshly criticized, and blamed for all sorts of things.  This is one of the reasons we discuss the topic of God lying in such depth on our site: because when you’re dealing with it for the first time, it’s a very lonely road. 

Now in other posts on this subject, we list plenty of specific examples of God lying in the Bible.  There are way more examples than we address, but when you’re struggling to get your mind around the fact that God has intentionally lied to you, it helps to realize that this has been His M.O. for a very long time.  In this post, we want to move beyond talking about specific incidents of God lying in Scripture and talk about application.  Whenever God gives us some new insight about Himself—be it good or bad—He will also teach us how to properly apply that information in our relationships with Him.  It’s important to remember that second step when you’re reeling with some upsetting new insight about God’s methods or Nature: no matter how bad the news seems, there is always a positive application, and that’s what you want to ask Him to show you.

So how do we deal with a God who lies—especially when we have no idea when He’s lying because He’s so very good at it?  If God wants to deceive us, we’re going to be deceived—we’re no match for Him.  And of course as humans we despise the whole notion of God lying to us because it makes us feel uncomfortably vulnerable—like we have no control over what He might do to us.  Of course the truth is that we’ve always been vulnerable, but we don’t appreciate the extent of our vulnerability until God really snookers us about something.  This is one of the great gains we get out of being confronted with God’s deceptive side: we are forced to face our total dependency and lack of control like never before.  As much as we loathe the experience, being deceived by God is actually very good for us.

In our material, we often say that one of the ways the God-human dynamic differs from that of a human-human dynamic is that in our relationships with God, He has all of the power.  It’s one thing to say this—but nothing helps you really feel the depth of your own powerlessness like totally trusting in some promise that God totally reneges on.  Talk about crushing.  Talk about humiliating.  And the worst part of it is that as you stew in the bitterness of feeling betrayed, you try to assess your options for how you can defend yourself from this sort of thing in the future and you realize you don’t have any.  If God wants you to be deceived, you will be deceived.  You can’t protect yourself from the God who controls the function of your brain.  So where does this take us? How do we serve a God who lies?  How do we please such a God?  Is it possible to stay in alignment with Him or accurately discern His will when we can’t know for certain whether He’s deceiving us or not?  Yes, it’s actually quite possible to do both of these things.  Recognizing the fact that God lies does not have to lead us into some permanent state of paralysis, nor does it have to drive us into some atheistic huff.  It’s actually quite easy to know you’re where God wants you to be, even in the face of His great unpredictability.  But first, let’s consider a more popular alternative…

As we said before, when you’re functioning as God’s prophet you end up having to deal with His deceptive side sooner rather than later.  The prophet Jonah is a good example here.  By the time Jonah was commanded to go to Nineveh, he was well acquainted with God’s history of fibbing and, well, he wasn’t in the mood to look like an idiot in front of a group of folks who he considered to be the enemies of Israel.  So he rebelled.  He hopped on a boat and tried to sail to a distant location.  But Yahweh wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer, so Jonah found himself thrown overboard in the middle of a storm and swallowed by some freakishly large fish.  After three days of stewing in intestinal juices, Jonah decided that his hissy fit wasn’t worth it, so he half-heartedly repented and God had the fish spit him out on dry land so Jonah could go on to Nineveh.  So why do we say that Jonah’s repentance was only half-hearted?  Because while the man did go to Nineveh and deliver Yahweh’s dire prediction that Nineveh would be destroyed, Jonah was still stewing over the fact that Yahweh was such a notorious Liar.  Jonah felt in his gut that Yahweh wouldn’t follow through on His promise to destroy Nineveh, and he was right: Yahweh reneged.  He played the “I’ve decided to be merciful” card—something that really doesn’t work for a God who knows the end from the beginning.  If Yahweh was so willing to be merciful, He could have had Jonah just warn the Ninevites that they’d be destroyed if they didn’t shape up.  But that’s not what Yahweh did.  He boldface lied by saying that Nineveh would be destroyed in exactly forty days.  He didn’t give the Ninevites any reason to hope that the calamity could be avoided—the Ninevites repented out of desperation.

Now no prophet enjoys looking like a fool.  After Yahweh cancelled His destruction of Nineveh, Jonah was in quite the snit—a suicidal snit, to be exact.

This greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He complained to Yahweh and said, “Yahweh, isn’t this what I said would happen when I was still in my own country? This is why I fled to Tarshish! I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness—One who relents concerning calamity. So now, Yahweh, please take my life. I’d rather be dead than alive!” (Jon. 4:1-3)

So how was Jonah coping with the reality of God lying?  He was trying to use God’s deceptive tendencies as an excuse to not have to obey God.  Jonah’s logic was “Hey, if You’re not really going to follow through, then I should get to ignore You.”  Is this the right way to apply the understanding that God lies?  Not hardly.  When we try to use any of God’s Characteristics as an excuse to blow Him off, we only end up in major trouble.  In Jesus’ famous Parable of the Talents, the lazy servant who buried his one bag of gold also tried to justify his disobedience by accusing the God character of being a meanie.

“Then the servant who had been given one bag of gold came to the master and said, ‘Master, I knew that you were a hard man. You harvest things you did not plant. You gather crops where you did not sow any seed. So I was afraid and went and hid your money in the ground. Here is your bag of gold.’” (Mt. 25:24-25)

In the parable, how does the God character respond to this complaint?  Not well.  He orders the servant to be thrown into a metaphorical Hell.

Then the master said, ‘Throw that useless servant outside, into the darkness where people will cry and grind their teeth with pain!’” (Mt. 25:30)

How did Yahweh react when Jonah tried to justify his rebellious attitude by pointing out how Yahweh had a reputation for not following through on His threats?  Not well.  You see, God doesn’t consider any of His personal attributes to be valid excuses for us blowing Him off.  Certainly God understands how crazy He can make us, and He is quite willing to be empathetic.  We never get in trouble with God by expressing our honest frustrations with Him.  But when we take things a step further and start saying, “Since I disapprove of how You operate, I am justified in ignoring You,” then we get into trouble.

So how do we serve a God who lies?  It comes down to the simple principle of obeying God in the moment.  The mistake Jonah made was trying to look ahead and guess what Yahweh would do after he preached to the Ninevites.  What God is planning to do in the future—even what He’s planning to do an hour from now—is beside the point.  When God gives you a clear command right now, then you need to obey Him right now.  Perhaps He’s telling you to do or say something.  Maybe He’s telling you not to do or say something.  Whatever it is, we need to keep our focus on the present.

God is not only notorious for lying, He’s also famous for sending us in circles, making us backtrack, and having us change course so many times that we feel like we’ll never get where we want to be.  Moses and his mob of griping Israelites spent forty long years in the wilderness. What were they doing all that time?  They were walking in a totally nonsensical pattern that involved a lot of backtracking and stalling around.  This is how it is with God: He rarely moves in straight, efficient lines.  He prefers to start and stop and change course a lot.  But why does He have to be so maddening?  Because it’s not about what we’re doing, it’s about Who is with us.

God put us on this planet to cultivate a relationship with Him: not to obsess over ministries or careers or our relationships with other humans.  Certainly all of those things have their place, but it’s so easy for us to forget about God when He makes our journeys super smooth and has our lives make too much sense.  Broken promises, unfulfilled prophecies, and unexpected twists and turns in the journey are what motivate us to keep evaluating our priorities and deciding how much we’re going to invest in our personal pursuit of God.  Are we going to obey Him today even if He disappoints us tomorrow?  Are we going to obey Him even if He causes us to look like delusional fools?  Are we in this relationship so that God can make us look good?  Is He just arm candy to us: Someone we want to flaunt our connection with to other humans?  Or is our commitment to Him a lot deeper than that?

When you know that you’ve done what God told you to do, then what does it really matter how much He sticks to the script?  For many years, Yahweh’s promise to make David king of Israel was ringing pretty hollow.  It was the same with Yahweh’s promise that Abraham would have many heirs.  Isaiah never did get to see the Messiah he kept prophesying about—does that mean he should have quit the job and stayed home in a huff?  Once we realize that God always has the option of lying to us, it forces us to reevaluate our motivations for serving Him.  It forces us to really think about what He means to us and how much our desire to please Him depends on whether or not He’s going to please us.  What if God promises you a spouse or kids and then never delivers?  What if He promises you some great career only to take it back?  Is He worth more to us than relationships and worldly success?  Is He worth losing our reputations over?  It’s so easy to quote Jesus’ tough talk about the high cost of following Him.  But His words don’t mean much until He really starts challenging us to live them.

In the Bible we find many inspiring examples of people choosing to stick with God no matter what.  Noah built that ark, even though he had to feel like a freak for doing it.  Abraham kept following Yahweh, even when he stayed childless year after year.  David stayed faithful even though he didn’t understand why God was allowing Saul to keep persecuting him for so long.  In the history of mankind, there have been many people who chose to pursue God all out—even in the face of His unpredictability. As Jesus demonstrated with His parable of the pearl of great price—our Gods will demand the highest price from us.  As we pursue Them, They will keep upping the cost, increasing the challenge, and asking us how deep our submission to Them is going to go.  Of course the big question we all end up haunted by is: are They worth it?  The answer is yes.  Yes, They are worth it.  Intimate communion with Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit isn’t going to be everything you ever hoped it would be. It’s going to be something quite different—something you never could have imagined.  But, yes, They are worth it.

FURTHER READING:
The Process & Purpose of Being Dominated by God
Practicing Discernment: Jesus Lies

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