The major reason that the events at Benghazi in 2012, now nearly nine months ago are still headline news is a deficit of truth. Many people feel betrayed and disappointed, even alarmed, by administration speakers who avoid giving the facts about Benghazi to the citizens. Some people believe that misinformation provided by individuals speaking for the administration was deliberate, and the specter of uncovering lies by senior officials raises other horrifying images, including the moment when Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency in disgrace.
We all want truth and expect truth and even normally assume truth when someone speaks. That fact actually makes it easy to deceive us. Salesmen have a bad reputation because they often find ways to speak the truth in words that lead a prospective buyer to the wrong conclusion. If a sales representative says to a prospective customer, “This price won’t be available next week,” the customer assumes that the price will be higher next week. The words sound like a friendly, helpful warning that to hesitate is to lose, and the customer may rush into a poorly-considered purchase, only to discover that when next week comes, the price is lower. The salesman did not lie, but he certainly deceived.
People don’t like to be deceived. Even though people play little games with their own minds by claiming there is a difference between a “white lie” and a “black lie,” nobody likes the moment when unpleasant truth shines through a web of deception. If, for example, someone provided incontrovertible evidence that the President of the United States knowingly and deliberately withheld military assistance from the beleaguered Americans in Benghazi, the deceptive words that have hid that truth would only make the discovery of the truth more disturbing. A failure to speak truth is at the root of many broken relationships and broken nations.
Truth is at the root of the name of God, given to Moses at the burning bush. You may remember that God had a very tough job for Moses after he got Moses to pay attention. Moses recognized right away how impossible this job was, because he knew the pharaoh of Egypt personally, having grown up in Pharaoh’s household. Moses tried repeatedly to weasel out of the assignment, but God would not relent. Moses’ life story would not make him very credible to the Israelites, and he knew it. They would want to know why they should believe that God had sent him. They had every reason to believe he was a spy for the pharaoh, even though they knew that Moses had left Egypt as a fugitive from Pharaoh. Why should they believe that Moses had actually escaped justice at Pharaoh’s hand and committed himself to help them escape as well? Moses demanded of God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13)
God’s answer to Moses was “I am who I am.” (Exodus 3:14) In other words, God said, “I am exactly who you think I am, I am the One I appear to be. You were stopped in your tracks by a miraculous phenomenon – a bush on fire that did not burn up. Who do you think can do that?” Jesus, God in the flesh, later said the same thing in words that clarify the meaning of God’s words to Moses. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Bottom line: God is Truth. You can trust God. You can trust God’s words and God’s messages and God’s promises. If God says, “I am with you,” he will be there, because he doesn’t just speak truth; God is truth.
Maybe this is why Paul listed the “belt of truth” first when he was naming the weapons and protective armor God has given us for our lifework of combat with evil. If Paul had been standing behind Moses at the burning bush, listening to the call of God to an impossible job, Paul would certainly have recognized the experience. God did the same thing to him. After Paul’s amazing experience with Christ near Damascus, a man named Ananias came with a message. The message God gave to Ananias for Paul was this: “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:16) That is not the kind of message people like to receive. They would rather hear, “Your dreams are about to come true. Dream it and do it. You can get rich, because God wants you to be rich while you have a good time.” That is not the message God gave to either Moses or Paul. They were both asked to march onto a battlefield where evil was lying in wait for them, and both of them were told to speak and live the truth.
If Paul had been standing behind Moses when Moses received his call, Paul might have immediately told Moses what he told the Ephesians who were engaged in the same battle. Paul wrote, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Moses was headed to Egypt to lead a battle with Pharaoh, who thought he was a god. Paul traveled over much of the Roman empire battling what might have appeared to be political and cultural pressures, but they were all headed up by an emperor who thought he was a god.
Paul would have told Moses that his first weapon in confronting Pharaoh was truth. The truth God spoke when he said, “I am who I am.” When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he said, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth.” (Ephesians 6:14) That is ultimately what won the day against Pharaoh. The Egyptian pharaoh actually thought he was the son of one of the gods in the Egyptian pantheon. Paul would have told Moses, “Just tell the truth about God who is Truth, and all those false gods will be defeated.” Ultimately, after Moses stood firm and spoke truth, Pharaoh died along with his army, demonstrating the ultimate truth that he was not a god. God, Truth, repelled the lie of Egypt’s gods and the lie that Pharaoh was a god. With that truth established, Israel could see the real truth and move forward in God’s plan.
Paul died at the order of the Roman emperor, who still thought he was a god. Yet two thousand years later, the Roman Empire is history, while God’s church, those who believe and speak God’s truth, outnumber any other religion on the face of the earth, and growing daily.
God has provided Christians with many weapons in the war against evil. Probably the most undervalued weapon of all is truth.
What faith challenge or cultural challenge faces you today? How could you use truth as a weapon in this conflict? Add your comment to the conversation and share your thoughts with others.