Does God let us use deception for a good cause? (Part 3)

So far we’ve seen how biblical characters such as Rahab and Samuel used deception to protect themselves and others from oppressors who held a significant power advantage, so that God’s purposes could be advanced.  Here’s one more example of God apparently using deception as a tool against his opponents.

Ahab is such a wicked and oppressive king that God has decided his reign must end. God asks the hosts in heaven around him, “Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?” A spirit volunteers to “go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets.” “You will succeed in enticing him,” God replies. “Go and do it.”

A godly prophet named Micaiah sees all of this in a vision. When Ahab asks him for advice after all the prophets of Baal have promised victory, Micaiah goes along with the heavenly deception and answers, “Attack and be victorious, for the Lord will give the city into the king’s hand.”

Johann Christoph Wiegel, Micaiah’s Prophecy

Ahab isn’t buying it. Micaiah has never told him before that God will bless him. So why should he say so now? Ahab replies, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” Micaiah may be prepared to use deception, but he’s not prepared to swear to it in the Lord’s name. So he admits to everything, describing the vision he saw and confessing that it’s all a ruse to lure Ahab to his death.

And no one believes it. One of Baal’s prophets slaps Micaiah in the face for lying. Ahab throws him in prison to await his triumphal return.

Then, even though Ahab goes into battle disguised as a common soldier, he’s killed by an arrow “drawn at random”—in other words, not aimed anywhere in particular.  The deception accomplishes its purposed, aided by a little providential intervention.

If someone is so hardened against God that they don’t believe the truth even when they’ve exposed a deception, are they the kind of person God might strategically withhold the truth from? Is it possible for followers of Jesus to discern the extremely fine line between lying to benefit themselves and legitimately employing misinformation for God’s sake?  The Scriptures invite us to ponder these questions and then live faithfully in light of the answers we find to them.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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