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  • Chad Werkhoven

1 Samuel 20 - True Lies

Thou shalt not bear false witness... unless you need to.

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Read 1 Samuel 20

Listen to passage & devotional:


Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 112

Q. What is God’s will for you

in the ninth commandment?

A. God’s will is that I

never give false testimony

against anyone,

twist no one’s words,

not gossip or slander,

nor join in condemning anyone

without a hearing

or without a just cause.

Rather, in court and everywhere else,

I should avoid lying

and deceit of every kind;

these are devices the

devil himself uses,

and they would call down on me

God’s intense anger.

I should love the truth,

speak it candidly,

and openly acknowledge it.

And I should do what I can

to guard and advance my

neighbor’s good name.



King Saul knows what's at stake when he said to his son Jonathan, "As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established (v31)." It would have been in Jonathan's best interest to let his father eliminate David, so that Jonathan would inherit the throne. It would have been so easy for Jonathan to rat David out, let Saul do the dirty work, and be all but guaranteed that the kingdom would be his.

But Jonathan both honored God's will and loved his friend David, and he demonstrated that love and commitment by not only sacrificing his own future, but putting himself in grave danger to defend David's honor. When Saul demanded that David be hauled in and killed, Jonathan lied in order to, as the Catechism teaches us, "guard and advance his neighbor's good name."

Any curiosity that David & Jonathan had regarding Saul's intentions were settled when Saul's spear went hurling across the room towards Jonathan. Jonathan continued to put himself in danger by secretly messaging David that he needed to flee.

Dig Deeper

It's ironic that in this particular incident, Jonathan needed to lie in order to ultimately keep the 9th commandment to not bear false witness. Being truthful about David's whereabouts would have not only ended David's life, but would have put an end to the line that would ultimately lead to Christ. It would have been a greater betrayal of truth for Jonathan not to lie in this situation.

But Jonathan is not the only righteous liar that helped usher in our redemption. When Pharaoh ordered the midwives to kill the Hebrew newborns, the midwives lied and said the Hebrew moms always gave birth before they arrived. Rahab lied to her fellow citizens about the Jewish spies she hid, which led to Jericho's defeat. The wise men didn't report the location of baby Jesus to murderous King Herod as they'd been ordered to do.

Christian ethics are not always simple. Sometimes doing the right thing forces a person to do what would otherwise be considered the wrong thing.

When you find yourself stuck between an ethical rock and a hard place, don't try to figure it out on your own. Spend much time in prayer, study God's Word, and lean on the wisdom of the Christian community God has placed you in.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, the King of kings and the Lord of lords;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray for wisdom in dealing with complicated ethical situations;



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - John 10


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