Does God Ever Honor Lying?

Like most parents, I detest sin in my children, but more than any other grievance, I can’t abide lying. For one, it makes trust nearly impossible, and when it comes from my kids, it demonstrates a deep selfishness and irresponsibility. Although our culture readily embraces deception as a way to “get ahead,” Scripture clearly states that God hates a lying tongue (Ex. 20:16, Prov. 6:17, Rev. 21:8). I’ve always told the kids that the truth is God’s language and Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).

But then today, the kids Ancient History lesson got me to thinking. I’ve always pondered what Christians (and others) did during Nazi-ruled Europe: in an effort to save Jews, people would hide the persecuted–and lie about it. Obviously, if an intruder broke into my home and asked where everyone was, I wouldn’t respond with, “Oh, they are hiding in the closet.” Seriously.
Discussing Ancient Egypt and the Hebrew people, the pharaoh was fearful that the Israelites would become too numerous to control and would join Egypt’s enemies and defeat them. After enslaving them, the pharaoh realized captivity would not be sufficient to squelch their numbers, so he told the Hebrew midwives to kill any Hebrew baby if it was a boy.

“When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?”19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.”

So, basically, they lied. To save the Hebrew boys and their own skin, they told the pharaoh a falsehood.

And here’s how God responded: “20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.” (Exodus 1). 

Obviously, we could just say “well, the end justifies the means,” but we know our LORD doesn’t operate that way. How else can we explain what seems to be a contradiction? First off, we assume–naturally so–that Shiphrah and Puah were lying (though Scripture doesn’t specifically say that). Perhaps these two women really did come after the delivery of the baby. After all, could two women cover thousands of births? When the Hebrews departed Egypt with Moses, Scripture says there were 600,000 men (Ex. 12), so couldn’t we safely assume that thousands of women would have been birthing babies every year? How could two women be at all those births in time?

If they were lying, we must recognize that God honored these women, not because they lied but in spite of it. Obviously, God does not turn a blind eye to our sin, but He does see into our hearts and motivations.  I came across Proverbs 12:22, which shows how God viewed these two midwives.

Proverbs 12:22, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those who act faithfully are his delight.”

So, I don’t know that God honors a liar, per se, but He does honor those who remain faithful to Him.

“…They were rewarded for their works, not their words. They were blessed for refusing to murder the babies. All who are rewarded by God, in any age, are blessed in spite of their sins, based upon the gracious forgiveness of God. Bible narratives often relate events without passing a moral judgment on the circumstances. Similarly, Rahab was justified by her works — not by her words of deception” (Jason Jackson, Christian Courier).

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