For the week of May 3, 2003 / 1 Iyar 5763
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 19:1 - 20:27
and Bemidbar / Numbers 28:9-15
Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1-24
Do not deceive one another (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:11).
The Torah is filled with instructions, commands, and regulations. Some are for a particular people and for a particular time. Others are for all people for all time. Some are difficult to understand, while others are very clear. As I study the Scriptures I desire to get a sense of the things that God values. So even though we may struggle with how certain statements should be applied in our day and situations, we can still develop a sense as to what pleases God and what does not.
I just quoted a very straightforward statement. God says, "Do not deceive one another" (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:11). Probably most people accept this as a good life principle. I think we would agree that deception is a bad thing.
Students of the Scriptures may immediately bring to mind various incidences that appear to contradict this command. More than once we read where deception is used for apparently noble ends. One example is in that of Rahab, who lied about the Israelite spies prior to Joshua's conquest of Jericho (Joshua 2:2-7). There is also the time that David's wife, Michal, tricked the men who were sent to kill him (1 Samuel 11-17). And then David himself used deception to protect his own life, acting like a madman in order to fool the King of Gath (1 Samuel 21:10-15).
Understanding how to reconcile these incidences with the command to not deceive helps us to properly apply this and other biblical principles. First, we must not confuse what the Scriptures explicitly teach and what it describes. There are no editorial comments by the biblical authors concerning these three examples. Just because these people did what they did, does not mean that they are the examples we are to follow.
Having said that, the examples above all deal with life and death situations. It is not right to apply every command or principle of Scripture in every situation. Each instruction must be applied in the situations for which they are intended. To endanger someone's life out of a commitment to complete honesty is both cruel and unwise.
These extreme examples take nothing away from the point of God's command to us. We can argue over the right and wrong of using deception in life and death situations, but the real challenge is to live lives of honesty among people in our regular day to day lives, including those closest to us. The fact is many of us have learned from childhood to give false impressions of who we really are and what we are really like. Because we are afraid that others might find out the truth about ourselves, we deceive.
What doesn't help is that others often prefer we live lives of deception, because when they encounter people who are truly honest, it challenges them to do the same.
Perhaps one of the reasons that honesty is so important is that God sees behind our deception. When we deceive others, we actually are living contrary to how God sees things, This places us at odds with him. If we desire to live in right relationship with God, we need to reflect his perspective. Deception distances us from reality and from the God who knows all things. Honesty keeps us in touch with reality and allows us to walk with God.
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