In 1 Kings 22, there is a fascinating telling of multiple conflicting messages coming from the supernatural world. On one side we have a group of prophets claiming to have had visions of the king being victorious in an upcoming battle. On the other side we have a single prophet who claims to have seen the kingdom defeated, its troops scattered, and the king slain in battle. Who is telling the truth? What starts out as a clear-cut image of prophetic leadership soon becomes an argument between the prophets themselves.
But then the story gets weird. To explain why his prophecy is different from the rest, the lone prophet shares a vision where he sees a throne upon which “God” is sitting. God is surrounded by angels, to whom He says, “Who will deceive the king so that he will fall in battle?”
At this point in the telling of the story, I am usually stopped by the theologians in the room who insist that I am incorrect. They proceed to pull out their own Bibles and read the word their translation says instead of “deceive”. Interestingly enough, the more translations of Bibles they have, the more it becomes apparent that the translators didn’t know what word to use…but they definitely went out of their way to NOT use the words “deceive”, “trick”, or “lie”. If you look the actual Hebrew word up, that is exactly what it means and how it was used everywhere else it appears in the Bible.
What is more fascinating, however, is the vision of God on the throne. Because this vision is clearly a simplification of something that is likely unfathomable to the human mind. At the time, humans were familiar with kings and thrones, and often assumed divinity lived either in the clouds or up on top of a high mountain. So that is how the vision manifested. Was it true? Well, the more science reveals to us about our world, the less likely this vision is to be accurate.
So…was it another lie?
The Bible is full of these kinds of visions—especially from the parts written by prophets at the end of both the Old and New Testament. Sometimes the author tries to write down exactly what they see, and the result is confusion (a wheel within a wheel, for instance). Sometimes the author writes down a symbol that they understand (Amos and the plumb line, for instance). And sometimes the image is so different from the intended message that the author attempts to interpret it afterward (Daniel and the statue, for instance). So which kind of vision was this in which God expressed a desire to lie?
And, for that matter, was this really even “God”?
The more I learn about (and experience) the paranormal, the more I realize how easy it is for a prophet, psychic, or mystic to truly experience something supernatural…and yet get the interpretation very, very wrong. We, as humans, are confined to our own minds. We do not share the memories of our ancestors, nor the perceptions of our neighbors—let alone humans living halfway around the globe.
I have personally seen things that I did not understand until I did more research to learn what others knew of it. Imagine how I might have interpreted some of the odd things I experienced if the only knowledge I had access to was a small collection of scriptures from a single religion or the chronicles of a single king? Imagine having a vision of an animal that one has never seen, such as an elephant or a kangaroo. How would one’s mind interpret what they were seeing? And would this interpretation constitute a “lie”?
So the real question is this: How much of a supernatural experience comes from the supernatural…and how much of it is our human interpretation? And how much of our interpretation is our own mind lying to us?