The Anatomy of a Lie: Why Did God Honor Rahab for Lying?

May 2, 2016 // Articles+Guides

The story of Rahab can leave some of us scratching our heads with a few questions waiting to be over-analyzed. If Jericho was being judged for their sin, why was Rahab honored when she lied? Does this mean God is not an impartial judge? Would she have been exhibiting more faith if she didn’t lie, but trusted God to protect? Was she even aware of our accountable to God’s Law? The questions go on and on. I think these questions are best answered by addressing two foundational questions: Did she actually break God’s moral law, and what exactly was God honoring?

The ninth commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16), and we usually simplify it to “Don’t lie”. The idea of lying usually connotes an attempt to cover the truth in order to avoid punishment, (or at least that was my perspective as a child). But the ninth commandment covers a much broader scope of action. The Heidelberg Careerism gives a good description. It says:

“never give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor join in condemning anyone rashly or without a hearing. Rather, in court and everywhere else…avoid lying and deceit of every kind…I should love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it. And I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.”

Stated like that, many of us might recognize how much more often we are in violation of this command. However, the issue is: Did Rahab break this commandment? Frankly, I don’t see how you can avoid admitting that she was not representing the truth with her words.

So, if she did indeed lie, that leads us to the second question. For what was she being honored?

In the book of Hebrews, Rahab is honored specifically for her faith (Hebrews 11:31). But, what exactly is the essence of the faith God honors? Is there room for doubt? How is it measured?

At creation, we related to God in faith. We were created in the image of a perfect and good God. However, we were not created full of all knowledge and wisdom, but rather with capacity to grow in both. Since He was our source of wisdom and knowledge, we knew and could replicate His goodness and purity. In other words, we imaged our Source.   But what if that source was replaced with another? Cold is the absence of heat. Darkness is the absence of Light. If He is the fullness of good, the absence of His wisdom and goodness is the presence evil. We have chosen new sources of “truth” that are a distortion of His pure truth, and have sunk into a type of darkness. Evil slithered in and clouded our perspective and interpretation of the world.

This means it is not necessarily the strength of our faith that makes it good or bad, but rather the object in which faith is placed. Therefore, faith in a false source is the seed of all sin.

Adam and Eve sought, through the eating of the fruit, a new source of “wisdom” to control their own destiny. Because God has been rejected, our new sources of wisdom enslave us, distort our perspective, corrode and deplete the world. They have provided false interpretations of the world, ourselves, and God, and we have placed faith in them. These lies have come in all shapes and sizes: “You are worthless and unwanted”, “Money will bring you security and happiness”, God’s laws are oppressive and outdated”.

Look at our relationship with food, for example. It is meant to be enjoyable and satisfying, but when God’s truth is absent our view and enjoyment of food is distorted. We use it to fill a void or comfort a deep ache, for example. We may binge for for pleasure or deplete ourselves in order to obtain a certain body image. We crave it, then we loathe how it enslaves us.   Likewise, pornography, in recent years with the help of sitcoms and media, has been labeled “normal” and “understandable” behavior that meets a basic human need.   As it has been slowly accepted and normalized, it has subtly distorted our view of one another. Someone is reduced to a means to an end, and object for our private pleasure and use.

Sometimes we have been deceived, and other times we have defiantly rejected God’s truth. Either way, both the religious and the irreligious have continued to distort and re-interpret His words. Christ’s anger flared toward the religious Pharisees, who distorted The Law into a stepladder type of to-do list to “purchase” approval of God and mankind though your efforts in place of His work of grace—merely a stale means of self-justification or a sense of moral superiority. Christ also called the irreligious away from their false interpretations of the world and their empty search for meaning, acceptance, worth, and satisfaction apart from Him. For both the religious and irreligious, He carved the path and did all that was necessary. He simply says, “Turn from the Lie. Stop striving. Return to Me.”

As the distortion grows, mankind’s evil increases. As it did for Jericho, Judgement will come. Jericho was being judged for their sin. Rahab did not perish with them because the placement of her faith had changed. She told the spies she had heard that their Lord “is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath”. (Joshua 2:11) She had heard of His power over the gods of Egypt and the other lands through which the Israelites had passed. No more false sources of salvation. Her trust was no longer in her former gods or even the strength of the warriors in her city.

We could split hairs and wonder until it drives us mad whether or not she knew the Law, or whether she could have avoided lying and therefore exhibited even more trust in God’s protection. But it is simply not the point. God saw through the faith-in-self piety of the Pharisees, and He saw the faith that motivated Rahab to hide the spies.   The Lord was the source of salvation, and He gave her hope a place to anchor. She was saved, and her family through her faith in Him.

Written by Michal Rudolph, freelance writer and TSI contributor.