The Bible presents some interesting dilemmas, like the mystery of how Noah and his family managed to stay sane and uneaten while spending over a year cooped up on a boat with their floating zoo.
The book of Joshua, specifically, invites some difficult questions. Why did God tell Israel to kill all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, even the children? Why did he tell them to inhabit the land west of the Jordan, but then allowed the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh to settle on the eastern bank? If the sun stood still for a whole day, then did the earth stop rotating?
But, the nagging question I have from Joshua that burrowed itself into my mind quite some time ago has to do with Rahab hiding the spies. Perhaps you have the same question, too. Was Rahab’s lie right or wrong?
Rahab was a prostitute who lived in the city of Jericho. These two facts (her profession and her nationality) make her an interesting choice of subject as a Biblical example of faith (see also Hebrews 11:31). But, what she did makes her characterization as a woman of faith even more interesting:
The spies of Israel were checking out the defenses of Jericho, but their cover was blown, and the king of Jericho was after them. So, Rahab hid them on her roof under some stalks of flax. When the police came knocking, she told a flat-out lie: she told the authorities that the spies had left the city.
Now, keeping in mind that the Bible clearly denounces lying (and disobeying authority), here is my question: was Rahab’s lie the right thing to do in her situation; or, was it wrong, but God recognized her faith as she did the only thing she could think of to save the spies in a difficult situation?
And what about present-day application: are there situations in which lying is the right choice? Or, is lying always wrong, but God appreciates our attempts to do the right thing, even if we don’t always do the best thing?
Either position opens up a huge, wriggly can of worms.