God uses every trick in the book in the interest of salvation.
Has God ever deceived you? I asked this question in my “Practical Christianity” class and some people were outraged. They initially thought I was being sacrilegious. But I have learnt not to be diplomatic with God. God is our Father. It is a waste of time pulling punches with him. He knows our thoughts in any case without our even having to express them verbally. So let me be so bold as to repeat the question. Has God ever deceived you?
But how, you may well ask, can God deceive? Do the scriptures not tell us that God cannot be tempted of evil and that he himself does not tempt anyone? (James 1:13). Yes! Is it not the devil that deceives? Yes it is. But the devil can only do what God allows or permits.
Let me use another question to illuminate my question. Have you ever deceived a child? Have you ever told a child a particular medicine was sweet when you knew it was bitter? Your justification was that you did that in the child’s best interest so that he could receive healing. In Christ, everything you do out of love is lawful: “Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.” (Romans 13:10).
Deceiving the wicked
Pharaoh gave the injunction to the Hebrew midwives to kill all Jewish male children at birth. The midwives refused to obey the king’s command and they lied to him that, unlike the Egyptians, Hebrew women are lively and they give birth before the midwives arrive. Because the midwives lied in order to save the Jews, God blessed them. (Exodus 1:15-21).
Rahab deceived the king of Jericho when he asked her to deliver the Jewish spies who were lodging in her house. She hid the men in her roof and told the king’s emissaries that they had already left. Rahab’s lie saved the life of the spies and God rewarded her by saving her entire household during the destruction of Jericho.
Similarly, God uses every trick in the book in the interest of salvation.
Jeremiah was in no doubt that God had deceived him. He thought he was in for a glamorous assignment and had the shock of his life. In desperation, he became accusatory and went into a tirade against God.
“O Lord, you deceived me when you promised me your help. I have to give them your messages because you are stronger than I am, but now I am the laughingstock of the city, mocked by all. You have never once let me speak a word of kindness to them; always it is disaster and horror and destruction. No wonder they scoff and mock and make my name a household joke.” (Jeremiah 20:7-8).
The Special Assistant
The President sent his Special Assistant on an urgent assignment. But on the way, the police arrested him on trumped up charges. He was thrown into jail without trial and without bail. When his wife came to see him, he had one urgent request: “Please tell the president that, on my way to perform the task he gave me, I was arrested and thrown in jail.”
When his wife told the president about her husband’s predicament, she was surprised to find he already knew about it. “I don’t want you to worry about anything at all,” reassured the president, “we have the matter firmly under control.” But then days rolled into weeks, and her husband was still not released.
Then one day, something strange happened. The president made a surprise visit to his assistant in jail. But when he came, he gave no directive for him to be released. All he talked to him about was his forthcoming address to the United Nations. After two hours of discussions, the president bid him farewell, promising to come back to see him soon. What can this possibly mean?
How would you like it if you were that assistant? How understanding would you be if your boss left you in jail for over a year; visiting you every so often? When you are finally released, would you continue working for him or resign in anger?
That was the predicament of Jeremiah. But I also know for a fact that it is the predicament of people working with God. Jeremiah was thrown into jail for doing the Lord’s work. Instead of securing his release, the Lord visited him in jail. He then made a strange proposal to Jeremiah. He said to him: “Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3).
You might well ask what great and mighty things Jeremiah would like to know at that time except how to get out of jail.
Poor Jeremiah. God compelled him to forgo the pleasures of his youth. He was not permitted to marry. His prophecies led many to consider him a traitor and an enemy of the nation. Jeremiah was a suffering prophet acquainted with grief. In order to serve the Lord, Jeremiah had to relinquish everything. But the Lord conveniently refused to tell Jeremiah exactly what being a prophet of God would entail beforehand.
Life insurance policy
I read about a lady who put a hex on a man and it made him marry her. But, years of marriage and many children later, the effects wore off. He woke up one morning, some twenty-seven years later, and asked her in astonishment: “Who are you?” “But I am your wife,” she replied. “No you are not,” the man insisted, “I never married you.” That was the end of the marriage.
Similarly, I woke up one morning and discovered that I was a preacher of the gospel. At that time, I had been a preacher for years, but it suddenly dawned on me that morning that I was actually a preacher. How in heaven’s name did that come about? I was the one who was going to be a Senator. I was the one who was going to be Nigeria’s high-flying Foreign Minister. After all my education and professional background, the last thing on my mind was that I would end up as a nondescript preacher of the gospel.
I went to the Lord in protest. “Father, how did you trick me into this?” All I did was to give my life to Christ. I never bargained for any and all of this.
Be careful before you sign that life insurance policy with Jesus Christ. There is a lot of fine print in it. Read it properly because you are signing away your life. There is no going back. After you put forward your claim, then you will be shown all sorts of clauses that you were not aware of before. You will need a magnifying glass to read some of them.
Solomon gave us due warning: “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). But a lot of the time, the Holy Spirit is the one who tells us what to pray, and we just go ahead without realising that we are praying away our life.