An alleged Bible contradiction that actually proves the Bible internally consistent.
Why present alleged contradictions in the Bible as amazing evidence for the Bible’s accuracy? For one, proof of the Bibles accuracy comes from the fact that it stands up to the critic’s accusations. Let’s say you are examining a bulletproof vest. How do you test the claim that it’s bulletproof? You shoot at it. The critics provide endless ammunition to test the Bible for accuracy. They shoot lots of blanks, have many misfires but occasionally a bullet hits the mark. The result needs to be examined. Did the armor fail, did it dent, or is it still intact? As we examine some of the passages that seem to be a problem we will find that further analysis leads to the evidence that the Bible is indeed accurate and trustworthy.
One of these questions raised by the critics is, how does God view deceit? They see the Bible as contradictory when viewing the following passages.
We are told in Exodus 20:16 not to bear false witness. Proverbs 12:22 says “lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.” Yet we find several passages in the Bible that just don’t seem to fit with these ideas.
In first Kings 22:23 we read, “Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets”
And in 2nd Thessalonians 2:11,“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:”
These passages present actions that seen contrary to God’s character. They make it look like God agrees with deception and is in fact right in the middle of it. Because these passages are removed from their context it gives the critics what they were looking for, a contradiction. But a closer examination gives us a very clear picture of how God expects us to deal with the truth and with deceit and verifies Biblical consistency.
First, it would be helpful to read the full story in 1 Kings 22:1-40
Here is a synopsis. In 1 Kings 22 we find an interesting situation. Ahab is planning to go to battle and has recruited the aid of King Jehoshaphat of Judah. Ahab calls his prophets together (400 in all) to inquire if he should go to battle with Ramothgilead. Now it is clear from the passage that Ahab wanted to go to battle and that the prophets knew this. They therefore assured him he would succeed. The first interesting thing that happens is that, after listening to the declaration of the 400, Jehoshaphat isn’t satisfied. He says, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might enquire of him.” Jehoshaphat didn’t believe the message of the 400 was from the Lord.
Ahab protests, because he hates the prophet who is from the Lord. According to Ahab, this prophet Micaiah, never says what Ahab wants to hear. Ahab says, “he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” It is here we see the first clue as to what is going on. Ahab didn’t really want to hear what the Lord had to say. His prophets told him exactly what he wanted to hear. Which was a lie. And from his response we can tell that this was what he expected and what he usually got from the 400 “yes men”.
So Ahab sends a servant to fetch Micaiah. Even the servant tells him that it would be a good idea if he agreed with the unified voice of the other prophets “Let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good.”
When before the two kings Micaiah at first says what Ahab wants to hear. While you cannot tell the tone that it which was presented from the text, it was obvious to the king that Micaiah was just sarcastically parroting the other prophets. From the king’s reaction this must have been the normal approach Micaiah used. “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?” It’s interesting that he wouldn’t accept the lie from Micaiah and recognized that it was a lie. He had a desire to hear the truth, yet he didn’t want to accept it. So did Micaiah get caught in a lie? No, he knew Ahab, and he was setting the stage for what he had to say next. And this is where the problem arises with how God deals with deception and lies. And also the point where we can see deeper into what should be the real disturbing aspect of this passage.
When Micaiah presents the true message he tells us of events in heaven that God had allowed him to see. It starts by telling us that God had sent a lying spirit to give credence to the voice of the prophets.
“And the LORD said “Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead?” And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, “I will persuade him.” And the LORD said unto him, “Wherewith?” And he said, “I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” And he said, “Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.”
This is one of the strangest looks into heaven that we find in the Bible. Not only do we see what we would label an “evil spirit” before the throne of God, but we find God himself intricately involved in a lie. This seems completely out of character with how we tend to view God. But as we shall see, this passage is consistent with God’s character and his commands to us that we should not lie.
What is actually going on here? First we must note that God is not promoting the lie nor allowing it to stand, because he presents the truth in Micaiah’s message. He is however allowing it to be presented. This fits with what we know of the rest of scripture and our daily experience. God presents the truth, contrasts it with the lie, exposes the lie and allows the individual to decide.
In this case, the reason we know of the situation in heaven and where the message of the 400 came from is because God exposed it through Micaiah. The lie given to the 400 didn’t have a chance to stand. The truth, that God was bringing judgment on Ahab, was presented side by side with the lie. The truth was Ahab would not be victorious at Ramothgilead and Ahab would die in that battle. The lie, was that he would be victorious. It was Ahab’s choice as to whom he should believe. Ahab ultimately chose to follow the advice of the 400 prophets but as a precaution he decided to wear a disguise. Was he thinking he could hide himself from God’s judgment? This is evidence that he was not confident in the lie and was trying to outwit God. In the end Ahab was killed by someone who was literally aiming at nothing, just shooting an arrow blindly.
In this passage we find some things that should enlighten us as to God’s approach to deception.
1. God does not always prevent lies from being presented. In this passage we find that the lie that was presented was one that God was aware of and even allowed to go forth. Even in the garden God allowed the serpent to present his lie. What God does is present the truth. The truth is always available to them who seek him.
2. God does not lie, he does not promote lies, condone lies or ask us to lie. Although it may seem in this case that God was behind this lie, he had already prepared to expose it. He was not attempting to deceive but enlighten. We were allowed to see the spiritual nature of the lie and the power it has even against the truth when a heart is not willing to receive it. There was never a chance for the lie to be acted on when the truth was not known.
3. God’s intention here is to show the spiritual nature of lies and their power. The prophets felt they had received the message from God, when in truth it was a lying spirit. They did not recognize the difference, as is often the case with those who follow their own path. At one point, one of the 400 struck Micaiah for telling them their message was not from God. “But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?” How many times has that replayed in history, where the righteous were condemned by those spreading a lie? In spite of knowing both sides Ahab chose to discount Micaiah’s vision. He hoped that in spite of the evidence against the 400, they would be right.
4. Evil spiritual entities still interact with God. This is something that we don’t often consider, but in many places in the Bible we find that evil spiritual forces are still in heaven. In Job, Satan comes before God. In revelation we are told of a war in heaven. In the gospels the demons in the Gadarene madman recognize Jesus as the son of God. So it is not unheard of for God to have interaction with evil spiritual entities or to even use them in some way, such as Satan’s affliction of Job, and Satan’s entry into Judas, or Satan tempting Jesus. We may find these things disturbing but they are not inconsistent or contradictory.
So we find that God in this case allows the lie to be presented by a spiritual force and immediately exposes it, demonstrating the nature of Ahab’s heart and the spiritual nature of lies. It does not make God deceptive or a liar nor does it condone the telling of lies.
Now to the New Testament.
The passage in 2nd Thessalonians chapter two amazingly echo’s the message we get from 1st Kings 22, showing the internal consistency of the Bible.
And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thes 2:2:11-12
Here we are told that God will send strong delusion, which again seems to be out of character for God. Doesn’t he want everyone to believe in the truth? He does.
It says in 1st Timothy 2:4, Who (God) will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
The critics see God sending a delusion as being contradictory to his wanting everyone to know the truth. This contradiction happens because they don’t consider the whole passage. The verse they focus on begins with “And for this cause.”
So a good question to ask is, what is the cause? We find it in the previous verse, “because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
The people who will receive the delusion are the ones who already rejected the truth, the delusion is their preferred state of mind. They received not the love of the truth, i.e. they did not want the truth when it was presented to them. They rejected the truth and salvation in favor of their preferred lifestyle. God is not creating a lie or sending them a lie but in some way confirming the beliefs they already believe in. This represents the point in which a person is permanently set in the “lie” of their choice. This particular passage, like the one in 1 Kings refers to a specific time period, one yet future, when God will send the delusion.
We have a choice. We can accept the truth when it’s presented to us or reject it. God will allow us to be deceived if we so choose, but even so he will present us with the truth. What we don’t want to do is find ourselves, like Ahab, in the position where the lie is so appealing that the truth has no power to change the course of our life. There are several places that tell us that unrighteousness has a very powerful effect on our ability to recognize and act on the truth. It can even cause us to suppress truth. (Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 1:18, 2 Thessalonians 2:12)
How do we know we know the truth and are following it? Basic rule: Righteousness promotes the truth, unrighteousness promotes the lie.
We need to seek God, pray and ask for guidance. “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.” Psalm 25:5
We need to be obedient, and follow his ways. “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.” Psalm 25:10
We need to have the Spirit of God in our lives, meaning we need to accept Jesus as our Lord and savior. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. John 16:13