We teach our children the prayer, “God is good, God is great.” How about we include in that prayer, “God is deceptive”? The Bible declares it not once, but twice.
You prove to be loyal to one who is faithful;
you prove to be trustworthy to one who is innocent.
You prove to be reliable to one who is blameless,
but you prove to be deceptive to one who is perverse.
2 Samuel 22.26-27; Psalm 18.25-26
The perverse person thinks he is going to get away with his perversity. But God fools him! God will “bring down those who have a proud look” v. 28. In this sense, God is deceptive.
You can try some other Bible versions, but this is just not a good word: devious, perverse, tricky, cunning. Even the KJV has God being “unsavory.”
The emphasis in these verses is God’s goodness, in that he acts faithfully toward his people. Three lines out of four affirm his reliability and trustworthiness in dealing with the righteous.
The principle here is that “God is to man what man is to God,” as G.C. Morgan put it. God responds in kind, and the Brazilian NVI translates the verse in this way. The CEV has God treating the unfaithful “as their deeds deserve.” That’s the idea, for sure.
Some Bible versions soften the phrase by saying that God “appears to be” deceptive. Certainly, God is right and just in all that he does. But the attempt of the versions misses the point of the author.
The Bible is full of colorful phrases like this that get our knickers in a bind. Perhaps it is the divine sense of humor, or to make sure we sit up and take notice.
So do right by God, and he will do right by you. Or try to take him for a ride, and you’d better buckle yourself in tight.