Summary: a journey through the scriptures noting how the 9th command has been broken
Islington Baptist Church
March 24, 2002
Do not bear false witness against other people
Please don’t raise your hands, but how many of you have appeared in some sort of court before?
How many of you are aware that people have used and continue to use the legal system to ruin and destroy other people and to pervert what justice is all about.
Today we are going to be considering the 9th command which says “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor”
In the broadest of senses this command addresses the general topics of honesty, making false accusations against other people and being a truth teller. HOWEVER, I would like to propose to you that properly understood the 9th command concerns the testimonies and words of those who appear before the courts; for you see the 9th commandment anticipated a developed judicial/legal system within the land of Israel (a judicial/legal system which to this point in the people’s history did not exist but here they received while they were camped at the base of mount Sinai)
At the heart of this command stands the whole concept of justice—and we must not forget that Jesus came to establish a community of justice.
In order for their to be justice their needs to be truth. The cornerstone of the legal system is to be to be the truthfulness and honesty of those using it.
The problem that this command anticipates is people using the legal system and the courts to bring harm to other people. The way that this command anticipates people using the legal system for such purposes is by their coming not as truth tellers but as false and malicious witnesses. ---False accusations against others, particularly in the legal setting, is what the 9th command specifically forbids.
Because what I am saying may seem as a new or strange take on 9th command please turn with me to Deuteronomy 19:15ff. In the book of Deuteronomy the 10 commandments are given in ch.5. Through the rest of the chapters of Deuteronomy the 10 commands are expanded up, clarified, and dealt with in some instances with case studies as it were. In Deut. 19:15ff the 9th command is expanded upon when it says….. Hence proving my point to you that the 9th command first and foremost concerns the negative and untruthful things people will say about others while before the courts.
By the way: the principle and wisdom of having at least 2 witnesses in the judicial courts of the land to convict a person is carried on through into the operation into the church in the whole sphere of church discipline. For example in II Cor. 13:1 “Every matter must be established by 2 or 3 witnesses” and then in I Timothy 5:19 it says “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by 2 or 3 witnesses”
By way of focus today, I want to walk you through some of the scriptures whereby false and accusing witnesses have used the legal system to destroy innocent people. The applications and relevancy of this command will become obvious.
The scripture is full of examples of people using the legal system and the courts in a way that breaks the 9th command.
The scriptures recount for us incident after incident of people using the legal system to destroy and harm others.
Consider the account of Daniel in Daniel 6. Daniel, a Jew, in the land of Babylon was promoted far above all the other Babylonians around him. Jealously set in and as such those around him sought to find grounds for charges against him in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. The scriptures tell us that because they were unable to find anything to charge him with , because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent, that they schemed to find a reason for charging him on the basis of his faith in God. These schemers then convinced the king to change the laws, forcing Daniel to break the law in order to keep his faith. The result was this: God protected Daniel and those who accused him and schemed against him got their due reward.
Think also for a moment of the account of I Kings 21. A certain king named Ahab wanted a man named Naboth’s vineyard. Ahab offered to buy it, Naboth refused to sell it to him. Ahab went home and sulked until his wicked wife Jezebel came up with a plan to get Naboth’s vineyard. The plan involved these details recorded for us in the scriptures “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death”. The plan went exactly that way to with the result that Ahab ended up with Naboth’s vineyard—but note this, God saw what happened and sent his prophet to Ahab with news of his impending judgment.