PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 20:16 – Word #9 Uphold the Reputation of Others

09/11 Exodus 20:16 Word #9 Uphold the Reputation of Others

We are studying the rules for God’s house, the standards for those he has redeemed and brought into a relationship with himself. We are to worship only him; we are to worship him in the way that he himself describes; we are to honor his name; we are to take time to enjoy him; we are to honor those he has placed in authority; we are to value the life he created; we are to honor our covenants as he honors his; we are to uphold the rights of those around us.

Today we look at commandment #9. This is primarily a command against the perversion of justice. God is righteous. He loves justice. He is truth. He hates the perversion of justice. In fact, Psalm 89:14 tells us that righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne or his rule. He expects us, his covenant community to reflect his truth and righteousness and justice in our interaction with one another under him.

Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

The wording of this command uses the language of the law-courts. It could be translated ‘you shall not commit perjury against your neighbor’, although the application is not limited to the courtroom. Listen to some of the applications of this command. Just a few chapters later in Exodus it says:

Exodus 23:1 “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, 3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit. …6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. 8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear–sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

In a society such as Israel, the evidence of eyewitnesses weighed heavily in the establishment of truth. To find out what happened, you asked someone who saw it happen. If you were out to get someone, you could attempt to abuse the legal system to do harm to an innocent person. If you were angry with someone and wanted to do them in, you could charge them falsely with a capital offense and have them sentenced to death. There were, of course, some safeguards built in to the law to protect from this kind of misuse.

Deuteronomy 17:6 On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

There must be more than a single witness to establish a case against someone. The witnesses must be cross-examined, and their testimonies must agree. The witnesses understood the gravity of their responsibility, because they would also serve as the executioners.

Deuteronomy 19:15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 20 And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

So if you sought to do harm by bringing false accusations to court and it was discovered that your charges were false, the penalty that you sought against your brother was to be done to you. If you were trying to use the courts to murder someone, then you were to be executed. If you were seeking the payment of a fine, then you had to pay out the amount you were suing for. If our courts were to implement something like this, it would put a quick stop to many frivolous lawsuits!

Proverbs on False Witnesses

The wisdom book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the evils of false witnesses.

Proverbs 6:16 There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

Proverbs 12:17 Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit.

Proverbs 14:5 A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.

Proverbs 14:25 A truthful witness saves lives, but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.

Proverbs 19:5 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.

Proverbs 19:9 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.

Proverbs 19:28 A worthless witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.

Proverbs 21:28 A false witness will perish, but the word of a man who hears will endure.

Proverbs 24:28 Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips.

Proverbs 25:18 A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow.

God makes it abundantly clear that he cares deeply what we do with our words. God hates, calls an abomination, and will not allow to go unpunished, a false witness who breathes out lies and one who sows discord among brothers. This is a serious issue.

Silent Witness

What may be surprising is that this command also condemns those who keep silent when they ought to speak up.

Leviticus 5:1 “If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity;

A witness that refuses to testify and by his silence allows injustice to be done is as guilty as a false witness. Notice, witness is not what you do, but who you are. If you know the facts, you are a witness, whether you speak up or remain silent. You may be a good witness, or you may be an evil witness, but you are a witness.

Connection with the Third Command

This command is intimately connected with the third command. Being a witness has everything to do with establishing the character of a person. A false witness slanders the character of an upright person. A true witness helps to establish the true character of a person, whether to establish the guilt of the lawbreaker or to defend the good character of the righteous. Commandment 3 has to do with the slander of the name or character of God. Commandment 9 has to do with the slander of the name or character of a person created in the image of God. We are to actively defend and uphold the good name of those around us. We are to intentionally pursue the good reputation of our neighbor. This means refusing to use our words in any way that would tear down or undermine the character of another person, and this means not remaining silent when others engage in tearing down the good reputation of another, but speaking out in their defense.

We are His Witnesses

This should help us understand our role as God’s witnesses. In Isaiah, he says.

Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

We are, because of our relationship with God, witnesses to his character and nature. We may be a good reflection of God’s character, or we may be a poor testimony to who he is, but we are his witnesses. Witness is not something we do; witness is who we are. Jesus said:

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Our Character as Witnesses

Our character as his witnesses is, according to Jesus, tied directly back to how we treat one another.

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Paul in Ephesians 4 is praying for the unity of believers in the church, and contrasting their way of life with those who do not know Jesus. He tells us that as Christians,we must set aside or put away our old habits and way of life and to instead put on the new transformed life of the Spirit.

Ephesians 4:20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

We are to put away falsehood; instead we are to speak truth with our neighbors. And the reason he gives is that we are members one of another. He has been talking about the various gifts God has given his body the church to promote unity and to strengthen one another. Since we are mutually dependent on each other and organically connected to each other in this body he calls his church, we must deal honestly with each other. There is no sense lying to yourself! He tells us that the things that we say and the way we interact with one another can give opportunity to the devil. Did you ever consider that what you say could open the door for Satan to gain access to divide Christ’s body? He tells us to let no corrupting talk come out of our mouth but rather things that build up. Our talk can have a putrefying effect on the body, or our words can actually become the means of grace to our hearers! The power of the tongue is great both to do harm and to do good. We can spread infectious rottenness, or pour out the riches of undeserved kindness. We can build up with our words, which really gives grace.

In another ‘put off / put on’ passage, Paul again focuses our attention on what we say.

Colossians 3:8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. …12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

So the old pattern of lying malicious slanderous talk that comes out of our mouths is to be replaced by a reflection of God’s compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with each others faults, extending undeserved forgiveness, and love. Instead of tearing one another down, we ought to be overflowing with thankfulness, our hearts saturated in the good news about Jesus so that we can speak and sing encouraging upbuilding gospel centered things into each others lives. Notice, in both of these passages, the new self is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. If that is true, then even the legitimate wrongs and faults we see in each other will be lovingly and privately addressed, with a view to reconciliation and transformation, rather than publicly pointed out with a view toward condemnation.

Jesus Slandered

And remember when you are slandered, even by your brothers and sisters, Jesus understands what it means to be injured by the words of false witnesses.

Mark 14:55 Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”’ 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree.

Jesus knew what it meant to be slandered, to be falsely accused, even to have his own friends turn against him. The Psalms reflect his heart.

Psalm 41: 6 And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad. 7 All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me. … 9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

At the cross, Jesus even bore in his body the false accusations and slander we hurl at God. If we claim innocence from this charge, remember, Jesus said:

Matthew 25:40 … ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

To slander a brother or sister is to reproach God himself.

Romans 15:2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” (Ps.69:9)

Phillip P. Bliss, c.1875

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

September 11, 2011 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , ,

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