By Valerie L. Durham
So, does the preeminent Judge let the serpent off the hook, since everything he said was strictly true? Of course not! God saw through the deception and cursed the serpent. It is also prudent to note that the serpent is the father of “legal accuracy.”
There is much talk today about the difference between perjury and legal accuracy as it applies to the United States’ judicial system. Let’s look at some examples of legal accuracy from the Old Testament.
Let us consider what the serpent (the most cunning of any beast of the field) said to Eve when he convinced her to eat the forbidden fruit. “Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Gen 3:4, 5). If one looks closely at the words the serpent uses in this case, it can be construed that everything he said was “legally accurate.” It was true that Adam and Eve would not die — at least not for many hundreds of years. It was also true that their eyes were open and they, like God, knew the difference between good and evil (Gen. 3:7). So, does the preeminent Judge let the serpent off the hook, since everything he said was strictly true? Of course not! God saw through the deception and cursed the serpent. It is also prudent to note that the serpent is the father of “legal accuracy.” “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
What were the words Cain used when God confronted him with the murder of his brother? Consider the text: “Then the Lord said to Cain,
‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He (Cain) said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Gen 4:9). Cain has a convenient memory lapse here, as he has “forgotten” that he had murdered his brother. He also evades God’s question by asking another question. Do these games work for Cain? Does God fall for these tricks? No, Cain was punished for his deeds. God knows the intents of all men (Ps. 94:11), and the intent of the heart is what constitutes a lie as opposed to the literal words.
Now Abram (or Abraham, as he is later known) is remembered as the father of the Jews and a faithful follower of God. Yet he is not immune from being guilty of the sin of “legal accuracy.” Consider the following ac- count. “And it came to pass, when he (Abram) was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, ‘Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, This is his wife; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you’”
(Gen 12:11-13). This is what is called a “cover story.” Abram and Sarai had to get their stories straight when asked about their relationship. Was there anything wrong with Abram’s assertion that Sarai was his sister? Sarai was actually Abram’s half-sister, therefore this was a legally accurate statement. However, it is a half-truth which, because of Abram’s intentions, was a whole-lie. There were consequences for Abram’s twisting of the facts. Pharaoh took Sarai into his house and suffered many plagues because of it.
Joseph’s brothers were jealous of their father’s preference for Joseph, and although deterred from killing him, they sold him into slavery. They deceived their father into thinking Joseph was dead. “So they (Joseph’s brothers) took Joseph’s tunic, killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the tunic in the blood. Then they sent the tunic of many colors, and brought it to their father and said, ‘We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?’ And he recognized it and said, ‘It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces’” (Gen 37:31-33). Did the brothers lie when they brought the coat to Jacob? They merely asked if it was Joseph’s tunic. Notice, Jacob is the one that wrongly deduced that a beast devoured his son. Maybe Jacob would have deter- mined the truth if he asked follow-up questions to his sons. Is it Jacob’s deficiency that he concluded that Joseph was dead, or was it the brothers’ shortcoming for allowing their father to believe a lie? The answer is clear to any reasonable person.
King Saul, God’s anointed, was instructed by God to “utterly destroy” the Amalekites for their misdeeds. Saul returned victorious from battle with the king of Amalek and the best of their belongings in tow. Samuel met Saul to tell him of God’s displeasure. “Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, ‘Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.’ But Samuel said, ‘What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?’ And Saul said, ‘They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed’” (1 Sam 15:13-15).
Saul speaks the truth here. Saul did carry out the will of the Lord — al- most. Notice how he shifted the blame to the people for bringing the cattle. Saul, was the king and, no doubt, the people would have obeyed his words on the matter. Also, they kept the cattle for a noble purpose — as sacrifice to God. Surely God would overlook this slight transgression of his command since it was for a good cause. God did not accept this explanation, and Samuel explained: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22). At this point, King Saul was quite popular with the people. They had the king that they desired. If polled, the Israelites would have likely given Saul a high approval rating at this time for his job performance. What does God think about popularity as a judge of righteousness? In Luke 16:15 our Lord said, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Saul was punished for his sin with no partiality given to legal accuracy, good intentions, or popularity.
One day, all will stand before the throne on high. The record will be there of all that was done in the flesh, whether good or evil. God knows the hearts and deeds of all men. No one will get off on a technicality. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt. 7:21-23).