“You can’t handle the truth!” is more than a line from a movie. Too many say they want the truth, but then ignore it. Can you handle the truth God reveals?
[From the January/February 2014 issue of Discern.]
The truth is not always pleasant or easy. Sometimes we are tempted to ignore it or reject it rather than accept what it reveals about us or the tough changes it demands of us.
There are several revealing stories in the Bible about what happens when someone can’t handle the truth. First, let’s look at the account of an ancient king that has important implications for us today.
To understand this story, it’s helpful to consider some background context. Following the death of King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel split into two separate kingdoms, becoming the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel. One of the most righteous kings of Judah was Jehoshaphat. He lived around the close of the 10th century B.C. into the beginning of the 9th century.
Around the same time, a notoriously unrighteous king by the name of Ahab ruled in Israel.
A king who couldn’t handle the truth
One of Israel’s cities, Ramoth Gilead, had fallen into the hands of the king of Syria, and Ahab wanted to take it back from him. He asked righteous King Jehoshaphat to join him in a military assault to recover the city. This incident is found in 2 Chronicles 18.
Jehoshaphat was concerned whether this venture would be blessed by God or not, so he asked Ahab to inquire of the Eternal God about it. Ahab went to his personal (false) prophets, who assured him that the Lord would give them victory (2 Chronicles 18:5). These prophets were not servants of the true God, but instead were worshippers of idols. King Ahab and those prophets had rejected God and His laws.
Jehoshaphat was not satisfied with the source or answer, so he asked if there was not a prophet of the Eternal God available (verse 6). Ahab reluctantly admitted there was one, but he made it clear that he usually had a great dislike for what the true prophet said. He said that this prophet of the Lord, Micaiah, always prophesied bad things for the king (verse 7). The bigger picture is that, since Ahab was not obedient to God, the king did not receive God’s blessings. The prophet only delivered the message; he did not cause what happened to Ahab!
Jehoshaphat insisted that they consult with Micaiah, so Ahab’s men sought him out, coaching him to say encouraging things to the kings. Micaiah knew they didn’t want to hear the truth; and surprisingly, at first he told them everything would go well in the battle. But Ahab knew the prophet was not telling them the whole story, so Ahab insisted on Micaiah speaking the truth.
He rejected truth that came directly from God
So Micaiah told them the truth that God had revealed to him. “Then he said, ‘I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the LORD said, “These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace”’” (2 Chronicles 18:16).
Micaiah was shown that Israel’s army would be scattered and defeated, and its king would die in the battle!
King Ahab had insisted he needed the truth. But Ahab couldn’t handle the truth!
Instead of asking what he could do to change the outcome of this prophecy against him, Ahab became angry at the one who had told him the truth. The king literally sent the prophet to prison and put him on a ration of bread and water (2 Chronicles 18:25-26)!
It was the truth, but it was not what Ahab wanted to hear. He couldn’t handle the truth and turned against the messenger who brought it.
A New Testament official who couldn’t handle the truth
There is a similar example in the New Testament. Some Jews had brought false charges against the apostle Paul, and Paul asked to have those charges resolved before Caesar. While Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea, Felix, the governor of Judea, ordered Paul to appear before him and his wife, Drusilla. Felix had heard of Paul and the Christians, and he wished to learn more about them.
But when Paul got to the heart of the truth, the governor couldn’t handle it!
“And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you’” (Acts 24:24-25).
Sadly, most people can’t handle the truth. They aren’t willing to accept it. They would rather go on believing the things they have heard from others, things that have been passed on from previous generations, but that do not accurately reflect the Bible’s teachings.Felix and his wife did not want to hear the truth about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come—the heart and core of God’s way of life. One reason for Felix’s reluctance was the fact that Drusilla was his third wife; and contrary to God’s law, he had taken her from her former husband. Responding to the truths Paul taught would interfere with Felix’s way of life; he was in no way ready to change.
“You can’t handle the truth”
“You can’t handle the truth” is not true of some people! We named this magazine Discern: A Magazine of Life, Hope & Truth for good reason. We publish truth that you may never have heard before, even though it comes directly from God’s Word. If you accept and act upon it, it will change your life. It will set you on the path that leads to an abundant physical life and, eventually, to eternal life. This truth will give you hope in difficult times, for there is truly a better time coming.
Sadly, most people can’t handle the truth. They aren’t willing to accept it. They would rather go on believing the things they have heard from others, things that have been passed on from previous generations, but that do not accurately reflect the Bible’s teachings.
When Christ told people in His time that many of their religious beliefs were based on the traditions of men as opposed to the truth of God’s Word, they couldn’t handle it. “He said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition’” (Mark 7:9).
His hearers often reacted with such anger that they tried to silence Him by stoning Him to death—that is, they were willing to kill Him for telling them the truth. That is the same spirit ancient King Ahab had—slay the one who brings a message you do not like!
People who traded truth for lies
Paul spoke of those who “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). Human nature, which has been influenced by the devil, has always been the same. Most would rather believe they do not have to live by the righteous laws of God, so they accept the lie that there is no God. Or they accept the more subtle lie that God does not hold us accountable for our actions. (Adam and Eve fell for Satan’s reasoning—see Genesis 3:1-6.)
Paul warned that in the last days of man’s rule on earth, before Christ returns to set up the Kingdom of God, many will prefer to be entertained by false teachings than hear the truth of God. “The time will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires. … They will turn away from listening to the truth” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, Good News Translation).
Some learn to reject untruths
Another true prophet of God, Jeremiah, spoke of people finally learning that there is no benefit in listening to or following false teachings. Only following the true teachings of the Holy Bible will bear the fruit of a better life now and, ultimately, eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
In that day people all over the earth will turn to God to find the hope of life based on truth. “O LORD, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come to You from the ends of the earth and say, ‘Surely our fathers have inherited lies, worthlessness and unprofitable things’” (Jeremiah 16:19).
The benefits of accepting and responding to the truth
When we come to understand that all decisions and choices have consequences; when we are willing to look honestly at the wrong decisions we have made and turn our life around, making wise decisions—then we can avoid the pain and difficulties that befall those who can’t handle the truth.
God’s laws were given to help mankind enjoy lasting marriages, families and lives. King David came to understand that and prayed, “Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me” (Psalm 40:11).
David understood that the truth could always be found in the Holy Scriptures inspired by God’s Spirit working in those servants He used to write the Bible.
In one of the last prayers Christ prayed before His death, He asked the Father to make His followers different by the teachings of those Holy Scriptures. “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
We encourage you to read and study the biblical truths explained on this site. Do not let it be said, “You can’t handle the truth!” The truths you will learn of here are a pathway to the purpose for which you were born. If you accept and act upon the truth, it will change your life. It will set you on the path that leads to an abundant physical life and, eventually, to a life in that never ends as an eternal child of God.
Christ put it succinctly: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
For more on the truth about the purpose of your life, see the section of the LifeHopeandTruth.com website on “What Is the Meaning of Life?” And for more about the changes God wants in our lives, see the “Christian Conversion” section.