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 an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. 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 New International Version (NIV) 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 was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. 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.

2 thoughts on “Does God let us use deception for a good cause? (Part 3)”

  1. These are things to think about, but I am not sure that they allow the modification of direct injunctions. My problem with this kind of argument is that it can take subtle sidelights and use them as full beam spot lights. Moses killed a man, apparently in anger, apparently it was murder. He is not criticised for this as far as I know. There are subtleties surrounding Abraham’s behaviour with Sarah and Hagar and their interaction with each other and God, issues concerning Jacob and Laban, and so on and so forth. These could all be used to modify direct scriptural statements, but we don’t do that, on the whole. Even Ezekiel argues with God who instructs him to cook over unclean dung, and wins! There are subtleties at play that seem easier to intuit sometimes than expound. God is bigger than our understanding, but he does seem to speak clearly.
    However, I am left with the thought, “What would I do when hiding Jews from Nazis?”

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