The world is full of rules. Many of the rules that have been made through the years have been forgotten by the generations that followed so that we don’t realize we are breaking rules when we are. The Bible is also filled with rules. Not all the rules are of equal importance and even for the ones that are of major importance there are times when the rules have exceptions that are not only accepted by God but at times promoted by Him. Let’s think of some of the exceptions in the Bible that may offer us insight into important points to learn.
Lying is sinful. In the Ten Commandments, one of the commands is “You shall not bear false witness.” In the New Testament Paul said in Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” In Colossians 3:9 he wrote “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the one who created him.” When John pictured the judgment in Revelation 21:8 he said “All liars” would have their part in the lake that flowed with fire and brimstone. So the law or rule is clear isn’t it? Yet when the children of Israel were about to enter the promised land in the first part of Joshua, the spies were sent into Jericho and entered the house of Rahab who had some moral problems of her own, and she took the spies in, informed them of how afraid the people there were of the Israelites and hid the spies from the men of Jericho. When they came looking for the spies she told them they came alright but they had already left and the soldiers should go after them quickly. The result of this action was that the spies promised to spare her and her families lives when they conquered Jericho. God was so pleased with her actions that she got into the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:5). The writer of Hebrews listed her as a person of Faith and James used her as an example of one whose faith worked. Did she tell the truth when the leaders of Jericho came looking for the spies? No, she gave them false information but it was right for her to do so and pleasing to God.
Think of another exception to this rule. Do you remember when God told Samuel that he had rejected Saul as king and that he should go to the house of Jesse and anoint his son as the new king? Samuel said to the Lord, “If I do that Saul will hear about it and kill me.” God told him to go but to take a sacrifice with him and tell Saul that he is going down there to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. God had Samuel to do one thing while telling Saul a half truth, and deceiving him. Is lying, falsehood and deception a sin? Yes it is a sin. Are there exceptions to the rule when it is right to tell someone something that isn’t true? Yes there are exceptions. Imagine an intruder breaking into your house and confronting you in the living room. Your wife and children are in the basement and the intruder asked, as he holds a gun to your head, if there are other family members in the home. “Would you respond, “Well I can’t tell a lie. They are all downstairs in the basement?” Was it wrong during the days of slavery for those who hid the slaves as they were escaping for freedom to deceive the slave owners or the authorities? Was it wrong for those who hid the Jews during World War II, to tell the German authorities they weren’t there? The rule is, “Don’t lie.” But there are exceptions when the right thing to do is to tell something to another person that is not true.
Think of another one that is interesting. Here is the rule, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). The point of Scripture is that we all die one time but we have a choice about the “Second death” In the last chapters of Revelation the second death is synonymous with Hell. So we must die physically one time but there is no good reason for us to partake of the second death since we can live in a way that we will be raised from the dead to have eternal life. The rule is clear. You all die once physically and some die a second time spiritually. But think of the exceptions to the rule. Two people in Scripture didn’t die the one time. Both Enoch and Elijah were translated so that they didn’t ever see death. They were exceptions to the rule. Also, there were those in the Bible who died and were raised again physically, who had to die again later to face judgment and eternity. Lazarus, and the son of the widow of Nain were both raised from the dead, as was Jairus daughter. Each of them would die again physically later and how they lived the remainder of their life down here would determine where they spent eternity. To die once is the rule. But there are exceptions in that some didn’t die even once and some died twice before meeting the final reward.
What other rules in the Bible have exceptions to them? I’m not talking about exceptions that are sinful, but exceptions to some rule from God that pleased God when they used the exception. In the next article or two we will look at some other exceptions and then raise a question about possible exceptions to some rules that are familiar to us that God is pleased with.