Know Your Bible

VOL. 10                           February 27, 2011                           NO. 9

 The Liar's Advantage
     From the beginning, the liar has had an advantage. When the devil told Eve, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4), she was at a disadvantage; she had heard that if she ate of the forbidden tree, she would “surely die” (Gen. 2:17; 3:3). Now, who is telling the truth? The devil knew which statement was truth, but presented the lie in such a way as to be believable and deceived the woman (Gen. 3:5). She was at a disadvantage because she knew nothing of lying [sin] and expected that anyone who told her something was being truthful, for she knew nothing of being untruthful [lying]. She did not have the ability to discern between good and evil because she only knew “good” up until that point. We all know “the rest of the story,” and the effects of that one act. The devil’s efforts were successful in bringing sin into the world and mankind has suffered ever since that sad day.
     Gehazi was a liar. After Naaman had come to the prophet of God to be healed and was restored (2nd Kings 5:1-14), he offered a gift of thanks to Elisha but Elisha refused, saying, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none” (v. 16). Gehazi was greedy, though, and he later pursued Naaman and told him a lie. He told Naaman, “My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing’” (v. 22). Of course, Elisha had said no such thing, but Naaman didn’t know that. Naaman was at a disadvantage because he had no reason to believe the man of God’s servant would lie to him for such a trivial thing as a little bit of silver and some clothing. Naaman gladly gave him what he asked and Gehazi profited from the lie. As far as we know, Naaman never knew he had been deceived.
     Potiphar’s wife was a liar. Joseph had been sold into slavery in Egypt and, possibly providentially, was sold to Potiphar (Gen. 39:1). While in the house of Potiphar, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man” (v. 2). Also while in Potiphar’s house, Potiphar’s wife took notice of Joseph and tried to seduce him. Even after many refusals, she persisted, and one day when no one else was in the house, she grabbed him by his clothing and sought to commit sin with him (vv. 11, 12). Joseph somehow got loose from her grasp, but left his outer garment with her as he fled.
     His refusal angered Potiphar’s wife so she lied. She cried out to the other men of her house and told them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house” (vv. 14, 15). It was a lie. But it worked. Potiphar’s wife [and Joseph] knew the truth, but because no one was around to see or hear what actually happened, they were at a disadvantage to her. Everyone else — Potiphar included — believed the lie because, well, why would she make up a story like that? And, look, she had the “evidence” in her hand! And who would believe a slave’s word over the master’s wife? She got away with her sinful actions by covering it up with a lie. Potiphar was angered by the story — the lie — and he had Joseph imprisoned (vv. 19, 20). Joseph, who had done nothing, suffered because of the lie of another.
     Joseph’s brothers were liars. Joseph and his dreams had angered his brothers because it made it look like he would rule over them while they bowed down to him — their younger brother (Gen. 37:1-11). When they had opportunity [no one else around to witness their deeds], they threw him into a pit with the original intention of killing him (vv. 19, 20). He was spared, but they sold him to some Midianite traders who passed by (v. 28). They then took Joseph’s coat, dipped it in blood, and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not” (vv. 31, 32) — as if they didn’t know. They lied.
     Jacob was at a disadvantage to his sons because they knew the truth and he did not. He was not there when they did their evil deed, and he had no reason to believe that they would have resorted to such ungodly actions toward their own brother, so he believed the “evidence” they had brought to him. He believed the lie. Many years of heartache would follow because he believed the lie, thinking his favorite son was dead.
     I could go on with more stories from the Bible, but I believe these are sufficient to show that the liar has an advantage over the one who speaks truth and, often, over anyone who does not know the truth. That advantage continues to hold true today.
     How many men have been convicted of crimes because someone told a lie? We have heard many stories recently about fabricated “evidence” that sent someone to prison — or even to their death. Lies! The lives of these individuals and their families and friends have been forever altered by lies. They were often at a disadvantage because the one who presented the lie to the jury was “more credible” than the accused. Many times, race was actually the only factor in who was believed, and innocent men were locked away because juries and judges believed a lie. They were at a disadvantage because those who lied even took an oath before all to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” but then told a lie. Those who practice truth would like to believe others would likewise tell the truth always, so they were at a disadvantage to the one who had no qualms about lying — even after swearing to tell the truth.
     Knowing this, we might be tempted to answer the lie with another. When we know the truth and hear someone lie, we get angry and want to scream out, “That’s a lie!” [Sometimes we do!] But how to answer the lie when it is your word — the word of a truth-speaker — against a lie? Again, we might be tempted to invent a lie to answer their lie, or a lie to discredit their character so they would be less likely to be believed. That is not the answer.
     Let’s review the examples we considered earlier: First, the devil didn’t “get away” with the lie. The serpent was cursed because of his part in the deception (Gen. 3:14, 15) and the devil will have his due (Matt. 25:41). Gehazi certainly got the clothing and the silver, but he also got a bonus: the leprosy of Naaman would be upon him and his descendants forever (2nd Kings 5:27). Though we do not read of any retribution for Potiphar’s wife, we do read of how the Lord continued to be with Joseph (Gen. 39:21) and he was ultimately blessed beyond imagination, rising to second in the nation (Gen. 41:39, 40). And Joseph’s brothers? Well they had anguished over their actions for years before discovering that Joseph was alive and had prospered despite their deed (Gen. 42:21). Jacob eventually discovered the truth and was reunited with Joseph (Gen. 45:26, 27). You see, the liars had an advantage only for a while. Truth always wins, in the end.
            Let us remember that those condemned to the eternal lake of fire include “all liars” (Rev. 21:8). The advantage is only temporary; the punishment is eternal.                   
---Steven Harper 
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Terms Of Surrender
     Who are we, sinners all, to demand God's mercy on our own terms? And who are we to offer terms of salvation on a basis other than those that God has specified? What arrogance! What presumption! Many mock the "five steps of salvation," but has anybody found the Biblical alternative? Certainly men wistfully suggest alternatives, but they are terms other than those God laid down. To be saved, we must still respond to the Gospel message in faith (Romans 10:17). This faith will spark a process of radical lifestyle change -- repentance (Luke 13:1-5). This faith should be expressed in words of confession (Romans 10:9). Then one must be immersed, on this profession of faith, in baptism (1 Peter 3:21).
     It makes no sense to speak in terms of surrendering our lives to Jesus, but to offer this surrender on our terms, not His.  Or did we mistake this process for a negotiation?
---Stan Mitchell 
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