Problem: The Scriptures teach that God is truth (Deut. 32:4) and that it is impossible for Him to lie (Heb. 6:18). Furthermore, God commands us not to lie (Ex. 20:16), and He will severely punish those who do (Rev. 21:8). And yet, in spite of all this, God is portrayed in this passage as enlisting lying spirits to entice wicked king Ahab to seal his own doom. The text says, “Now therefore, look! The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours” (v. 23).
Solution: Several factors should be considered in understanding this situation. First, this is a vision. As such, it is a dramatic picture of God’s sovereign authority spelled out in regal imagery. Second, this dramatic vision represents God in all His sweeping authority so that even evil spirits are represented as being subjected to His ultimate control. Third, the God of the Bible, in contrast to gods of pagan religions, is in sovereign control of everything, including the forces of evil which He uses to accomplish His good purposes (cf. Job 1–3). Fourth, the Bible sometimes speaks of God “hardening” people’s hearts (see comments on Rom. 9:17) or even sending them strong delusions (2 Thes. 2:11). However, on closer examination of the text, we discover that God did this only on those who freely harden their own hearts (Ex. 8:15) and who “did not believe the truth” (2 Thes. 2:12). In short, God is not commending lying here. He is simply utilizing it to accomplish His purposes. God is not promoting lying, but permitting it to bring judgment on evil. That is, God, for His own purposes of justice, allowed Ahab to be deceived by evil spirits whom He knew in His omniscience would be used to accomplish His sovereign and good will.