Islington Baptist Church
March 24, 2002
Scriptures: Daniel 6, I Kings 21, etc
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.
David had to deal with many who falsely accused him. In Psalms 35 he speaks of those who are his enemies and how they hate him without reason and devise false accusations against him and many others. David’s cry to God is this “O LORD, you have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, O LORD. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Vindicate me in your righteousness, O LORD my God; do not let them gloat over me.”
Indeed, God did rescue David, putting to shame his enemies and exalting his chosen servant.
There are other OT examples of people bringing false accusations in court against others but think for a moment of these New Testament examples.
Think firstly of our Savior Jesus and his being accused falsely.
Here we see Israel’s judicial system at its very worst, condemning the one who authored it.
The Pharisees were continually on the lookout in regards to finding things to charge Jesus with. They were also scheming and thinking of ways to get him and arrest him. Why? Because they hated him and wanted him dead.
When you of Jesus’ trial in the scriptures it says “they accused him of many things”. They accused him of opposing taxes to Caesar. They accused him of subverting their nation and of stirring up the people everywhere. They accused him of claiming to be the Christ, a king, etc, etc.
What was it that distinguished Jesus at his trial in face of all the accusations?
1. He did not reply to their charges. He remained silent and the scriptures say that Pilate was amazed at this
2. In the words of Pilate “I find no basis for a charge against him”
Jesus was innocent and yet he went to the cross dying a criminals death—not for his owns sins, because he was sinless, but for our sins which he bore upon the cross.
Another N.T example of someone being falsely accused in court is Paul.
Because of his telling others about Jesus and convincing many people that Jesus was God, that he was the Savior, that he had risen from the dead, and that he must be turned to for salvation and forgiveness, he found for himself many enemies. These enemies of him continually sought to arrest him and kill him. Hence, time and time again Paul found himself in court and on trial for his faith, defending himself against the false accusations of many witnesses.
God helped Paul and gave him the words to speak in his defense.
The Bible tells that as Christians we can expect to experience similar legal/ judicial opposition as Paul, Jesus, and the other saints of the Bible.
Because the people of the world hate the light of God’s revelation it means that they will hate us when we declare to them God’s truths. As a result of this, we can and must expect opposition and must not be surprised if we ever find ourselves on trial and falsely accused because of our faith in Jesus Christ.
How are we to respond if people falsely accuse us in the public square and before the courts?
I Peter 2:11-12 “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Consider also Luke 12:11-12 where Jesus says “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say”
I Peter 2:20-23 says “But when you do good and suffer for it, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example; that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth” who, when he was reviled/maligned, did not revile in return; when he suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.
We must not be surprised if the people of the world maliciously use the legal system against us who are God’s people.
If such happens, and the Bible warns us it can and most certainly will, we can take comfort in the fact, that even if we suffer great loss, our God will not let the sin of those who commit such wicked deeds go unpunished.
Daniels accusers were eaten lions. David in Psalms 109:29 speaks of how his accusers will be overcome with shame. Ahab and Jezebel came to terrible ends for their murder of Naboth.
The point is this: Vengeance is the Lord’s and He will not let the wicked go unpunished for their deeds. He will not let those who use the courts to destroy and ruin others go unpunished.
ONE VERY IMPORTANT THING TO CONSIDER THAT IS DIRECTLY CONNECTED WITH THE 9TH COMMAND which says “Do not bear false witness against another person”
Satan is the chief accuser of those of us who are Christians and in the courts of God he falsely accuses us. The Bible tells us that he is the Father of lies and that in every respect he hates and wishes harm against those who are the children of God.
Please turn with me to Zechariah 3:1-5
What an amazing picture. Note the salvation picture here as well. When we came to Christ what did God do for us. Clean robes, purified, made holy, able to come before him. Satan rebuked.
Please also turn with me to Revelations 12:10. In v.10 Satan is called the accuser of the brethren who accuses before our God day and night.
In the courts of God Satan has accused and it seems continues to accuses the saints of God. Yet for us who are Christians there stands for us One who is our defender; the Lord Jesus Christ, who testifies to God the Father on our behalf that we are his and that his blood has been shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
By way of encouragement listen to this verse from I John 2:1 “My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
The 9th command, by way of extended application, tells us that lying about others or slandering others is clearly wrong and sinful.
On the positive side the 9th command teaches us that we must be truth tellers, we must be a people of truth.
By way of extended application the 9th command teaches us that too often we use the language of accusation in our relating to each other—just think of all the times in our relating with our spouses, children, families, co workers that we use accusatory language
By way of extended application the 9th command also teaches us that instead of being false witnesses, seeking to harm others, that our responsibility as Christians is to bear witness to the truths of the gospel of the Jesus Christ—seeking the salvation of the lost and their eternal blessing.
However, with all this said, the 9th command firstly concerns the testimonies and words of those who appear before the courts and various governing authorities.
One of the concerns God addressed in the 10 commands is that of justice being done and upheld amongst his people. Justice is one of the key foundations of the Kingdom of God. God foresaw that people would seek to use the legal system that He was establishing to hurt other people and as such he issued a command that forbid people from falsely accusing others before the courts. What God does in the 9th command is to erect a barrier around the justice system, demanding that those that use it, use it with integrity, purity, and truthfulness.
All around us stand examples to the contrary. Think of all the nasty divorce, paternity, and slander cases that you have heard of or read of in your life. Think of all the cases you have heard of where so and so is trying to sue the other guy for everything he’s worth. Every day the courts of our land are filled with lies. The lies of people who are seeking their own selfish ends and the harm of others.
If we happen to use the courts we must ensure that we are truthful witnesses and not self seeking. In addition to this, it must come as no surprise to us that evil people will use the courts, the government and the legal system to attack Christians and attempt to bring harm to Christian people.
God’s justice will reign though and in the mean time we are to be what Jesus came to establish- a people of justice who use our tongues at all times and in all places not to harm others, but to benefit others and to praise our God.