When God Lies

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A lie is “a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood” according to Dictionary.com. God taught several places that lying is a no-no (Exodus 20:16; 23:1, Leviticus 19:11, Proverbs 19:5; 19:9; 21:28; 24:28; 25:18). Scriptures also teaches that God never lies (1 Samuel 15:29, Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18).

Numbers 23:19
“God is not man, that he should lie,
    or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
    Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

So, when God says one thing and yet does another how are we to handle it? Allow me to highlight a few examples.

In Judges 10, the Israelites have yet again abandoned God and have been worshiping all the other gods but Yahweh (Judges 10:6). They are then oppressed by the nations of the gods they are worshipping. So Israel cries out to God to save them and God says, “Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress” (Judges 10:13-14). God clearly stated He wouldn’t save them. Yet the people seem to call God’s bluff and repent trusting that God will save them…and He does (Judges 10:15-16).

Jonah preaching to the Ninevites, by Gustave Dore (d. 1883). Jonah is told by God to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:2). So Jonah goes and tells them the message God gave him. The message was, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” – nothing more (Jonah 3:4). There is no clause, no if, no but. Nineveh will be overthrown within 40 days. But, 40 days comes and goes and Nineveh still stood. God seems to go back on His word.

God tells King Hezekiah, “Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover” (Isaiah 38:1). Once again, no clauses, no ifs, or butts. This is what is going to happen. But then Hezekiah cries before God so God goes back on what He said and Hezekiah lives on (Isaiah 38:5). There are more examples of times when God said something will happen but then it doesn’t, such as 1 Kings 21:21-29 and 2 Chronicles 12:5-8. Before you formulate your response, hear me out. Scripture clearly teach that God does not change His mind (Numbers 23:19). But…there are several times where God states one thing but something else happens.

This is where theologians convulse. In the world of theology, there are a multitude of approaches to this apparent contradiction. Is God lying? Is God changing His mind? If He is changing His mind that would mean that something God thought previously was wrong (or something He is thinking currently is wrong). If that be true, does God make mistakes (throw Genesis 6:6 into this)? In the theology world, there are many views, among which are Open Theism and Calvinism. But we are going to purposely side step the whole “theological” debate and instead look at what God might be trying to teach us.

The one common theme through every story in which God changes His mind (or goes back on His word) is that of people repenting. When people realize what they are doing wrong and adjust course, no matter the actions before, God is willing to go back on He had previously stated. Does this mean that God changes His mind? Perhaps God is doing some reverse psychology. I don’t know and no one does although we like to think we do. It seems, however, that God allows us the opportunity to change His actions or at least wants us to act like we can change His mind. He will never go back on a blessing but He seems to be willing to go back on a curse.

Romans 3:4
By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,
“That you may be justified in your words,

    and prevail when you are judged.”

A note to the potential doctrine police: I am not suggesting that God in fact lies. Scripture is clear on this point.