Are there Jewish refugees hiding in your attic?
Where were you last night between midnight and 2 a.m.?
Does this dress make me look fat?
Do you enjoy watching Harry Potter movies?
Have you ever cross-dressed as Olivia Newton John in order to win a lip sync contest?
We’ve all had someone ask us a question where a lie would result in the more preferred teleological result. We tell ourselves that the end justifies the means. I’ve never encountered a situation where I chose to lie in order to save the lives of those I love, but I would do so in a heartbeat. I have, however, lied in order to protect a relationship, to avoid conflict and keep the peace, or to save myself from embarrassment—by not revealing some of my deepest darkest secrets. My ex-girlfriend told me she was sick and stayed the night at her aunt’s house because I knew very well that nothing good happens after midnight (thanks for that advice, Dad). I’m shallow, so my wife and girlfriends have always been thin no matter what they’re wearing. I LOVE Harry Potter movies. There…I said it. I’ll remain silent about the Olivia Newton-John thing for now. But you know me, I typically don’t keep things from my friends, readers, or even complete strangers. Let’s just say, we won that lip sync contest.
Lying is never substantiated by Scripture, however, there are times where individuals lied out of their conviction and faith in God and God’s redemptive plan—and they are revered. Before Moses was born, Pharaoh instructed the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill any baby boy born to a Hebrew woman to control the population of the slaves. The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. When asked why they did this, the midwives lied to their king. God honored and blessed the midwives because they feared him and ended up contributing to God’s redemptive plan.
Forty years later, Joshua sent two spies into Jericho to scope things out. While they were there, they hid in a house of a harlot named Rahab. When the king of Jericho asked Rahab if these spies were hiding in her house, she lied, and told him they had left at dusk. After the king left her house, Rahab asked the spies if they could protect her—and her entire family—when the Israelites inevitably attack the city. The spies promised her that they would treat her and her family kindly as long as she didn’t tell what they were doing to the authorities, kept her entire family inside her house, and tied a scarlet cord in her window. The spies said to Rahab:
“If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them”
Super weird, right? Why the scarlet cord? Why all the rules?
We know the history of scarlet in Scripture. We recall the continuous history of scarlet blood atoning for our sins. Every year the Israelites would hold a sacred remembrance of the night when scarlet blood provided a sign upon their doorposts, informing the angel of death to “pass over” them and move on—thereby scarlet upon the house would save the entire household…as long as everyone in that household remained behind closed doors (Exodus 12). The scarlet thread wrapped on Judah’s son and Jesus’ ancestor (Genesis 38) marks the descendant and chosen child of the promise. The veil of finely twisted scarlet linen within the Tabernacle would separate the priest from God’s holiness and the mercy seat of redemption that sat upon the Ark of the Covenant (Leviticus 16). Rahab the harlot tied a scarlet cord to her window to redeem herself and her family from the impending doom of the Israelite army. Scarlet represents blood and blood represents redemption.
1400 years later, Pilate’s soldiers took this harlot’s descendant, Jesus, into the Praetorium, stripped him, and put a scarlet robe on him. They twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. Scarlet blood seeped from his scalp, his back, and his legs. After scourging Jesus, they took him away to crucify him. They nailed him to a cross as his scarlet blood dried upon his arms and his legs, and dripped down upon the ground below him. At 3:00 p.m., Jesus cried out and gave up his spirit. At that moment, the scarlet curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, illustrating to the world that our sin no longer separated us from the glory of God. Because of Jesus’ scarlet blood sacrifice, we (our entire household)—will be safe from harm…from destruction…from death. God will redeem us. Our scarlet sins will be made white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).
“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the [scarlet] blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own [scarlet] blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The [scarlet] blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the [scarlet] blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”
Rahab is not honored because of her lies…she’s also not excused—yet she is forgiven. She’s honored because of her faith in God’s ultimate redemption of humankind. We also are not honored because of our lies.
It’s just not good to lie!
We are, thankfully, forgiven. And we are honored—not because we lie, but because of our faith in God and God’s ultimate redemption of humankind found in Jesus Christ our Lord.