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Learn to keep in mind the circumstances

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Learn to keep in mind the circumstances

by Lenny Cacchio

The writer publishes a weekly column, Sabbath Morning Companion, available (including a printed compilation of columns) by writing Mr. Cacchio at 705 NE Bryant Dr., Lees Summit, Mo. 64086, U.S.A. See also

LEES SUMMIT, Mo.--The Scriptures say what they say, and sometimes it's hard to understand why.

There was a time in Egypt when a couple of Israelite women told very deliberate lies and were honored for it. They were so honored for this that their names, Shiphrah and Puah, have been preserved for every generation since.

Hesitant as I am to extol the virtues of taking liberty with the truth, I am a bit uneasy that the Scriptures say what they say. But, if there were not a lesson in it for us, they wouldn't say it that way.

Midwives in Egypt

Shiphrah and Puah were midwives when the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt. In spite of their position of servitude, the Israelites were a prolific lot and began to outnumber the native Egyptians.

Egypt's solution to its perceived problem was to kill babies.

"When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth," Pharaoh said to the two midwives, "and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him" (Exodus 1:16, NIV).

The women's conviction and courage led them to disobey this demand. When confronted for an explanation, they did what many of us might do: They lied (and were a bit snarky too, bless them).

"Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women," they explained. "They are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive" (verse 19).


Loose interpretation

The rest of the chapter gives a good indication that the midwives didn't always arrive late, and God for His own reasons honored these women in spite of their loose interpretation about what had happened.

If we accept the idea that lying is contrary to God's law, we have to do something with this account.

I'm no theologian and don't know about all the various priorities of obedience that such scholars often discuss. I know only that the example is there and we have to do something with it.

But it might not be all that complex to understand. God is a God of grace, after all, and grace is not confined to the New Testament.

In fact, it shouldn't be confined to a book at all. It should be a daily lifestyle.

I am not going to say that lying is a good thing, or even that lying is justified in some circumstances. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.

But I will say that, when someone does something that appears to be breaking God's law, it behooves us to understand the circumstances even as we acknowledge the fault.

It's wrong to steal a loaf of bread, but if the young thief is starving can we blame him?

"Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving" (Proverbs 6:30).

And I don't think God despises him either.

We don't always know

We don't know everything that drives people to do what they do.

We don't always know why a parent can't seem to control an unruly child, or why someone has a worry streak, or why someone has financial problems.

We don't know all the foibles, stressors and fiery arrows that led to that person's state.

And surely we don't know if God is showing him grace.

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