16 May 2011

A Survey of the Old Testament Law----- "You Shall Not Bear False Witness"

A couple more points I want to make about stealing. Suppose I sell you a gallon of gasoline. But my gallon isn't really a gallon; it’s about 99% of a gallon. That’s not a big difference per gallon, but if you add up the number of gallons I sell, I'm making a ton of money by shortchanging people. And, I'm really stealing from you, because I'm giving you less than what you're paying for. The National Institute of Standards and Technology—which used to be called the Bureau of Standards—is located in Gaithersburg, MD. They have the official one pound weight. They have the official one quart container. They have the official inch; they have the official pint; they have the official liter, they have the official—well, whatever measurement, whether it’s a foot or a centimeter or a ton, that official measurement is there. When you go to fill up your gas tank, look for a little sticker on the gas pump. That means that the NIST has gone to this gas station, with their one gallon container, pumped gasoline into that container and determined that the gas station’s one gallon is the same as their one gallon.

This reminded me of a verse in Proverbs, Proverbs 20:10Differing weights and differing measures, both of them are abominable to the LORD. When Proverbs was being written, merchants didn’t have digital scales. They used a balance weight. And some of the more unscrupulous merchants, when they were selling something by weight, they would make a heavier weight but they would make it look like a lighter one. In this way they could make the buyer think they were getting more than they really were. The buyer didn’t know any better. Just like we don’t know, when we pull up to the gas pump, if we've pumped 20.657 gallons or 20.642 gallons. We take it for granted that the amount on the little display is what actually went into our tank.

Finally, this whole Law that we’re looking at. Every time we sin we are stealing. We are robbing God of the glory that should be going to Him. Because He deserves our unhindered, undivided worship every single second of our lives. But we humans are sinful creatures, and because we are born with a nature that wants to put us on the throne instead of God, we deprive Him of the worship He deserves and we give that worship to ourselves. But, because God wants us to give Him glory, He does not destroy us the first time we sin. Otherwise, the human race would cease to exist. Isaiah 48:9-11“9 For My name's sake I will defer My anger, and for My praise I will restrain it from you, so that I do not cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; for how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.” God is patient with us, and gives us a chance to repent and give Him the glory He is due.

When the people of Israel built their golden calf, and God was about to destroy them, Exodus 32:11-1411 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: "LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, 'He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'" 14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people. God was going to wipe the people out and start all over and make a new nation from Moses. But listen to Moses’ plea: he didn’t pray “Oh LORD God, that would be such a human tragedy to wipe all these people out!” He saw things from God’s perspective and prayed that God would not give His enemies a reason to ridicule Him. And because Moses prayed that God be glorified through these people, God withdrew His anger and spared them.

In 2nd Samuel, when David slept with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed, the prophet Nathan pointed out the consequences of David’s actions. And he didn’t say that the worst thing that came out of it was that “Poor Uriah is dead” or “Poor Bathsheba is a widow.” 2nd Samuel 12:14“By this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.” Every sin we commit robs God of the glory, the honor, the worship, the obedience we owe to Him.

So, now let’s transition into our next commandment. If we were to list the three commandments from the Ten that every single person has broken, we could probably include the commandment “Honor thy father and mother.” Every child, no matter how cute and fuzzy-wuzzy they are, at some point in their lives every child refuses to do what their mom or dad tell them to do. The other commandment everyone has probably broken is the one that says “Thou shalt not steal.” We’ve all taken something that doesn’t belong to us. The third commandment that we’ve all broken, at least once in our lives, is the commandment that we find today, Exodus 20:16“You shall not bear false witness against you neighbor.” Now the primary focus for this commandment is to prevent people from giving false testimony about someone in a matter of law. When someone takes the witness stand, you put your hand on a Bible, raise your right hand and the clerk asks you—what? “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” And of course, everybody who takes that oath always tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth, right? Yeah, right!

There are some who claim that this commandment only covers perjury—bearing false witness in a courtroom-type setting. But, we see in Leviticus 19:11“You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.” Well, not only does this commandment have that purpose, to persuade a person to tell the truth in court, but the general application here is against lying anywhere about anybody at anytime. Now, before we get started, let’s define what we mean by the word “lying.” According to Webster’s dictionary, a lie is
“A falsehood uttered for the purpose of deception; an intentional violation of truth. Fiction, or a false statement or representation, not intended to deceive, mislead or injure, as in fables, parables and the like, is not a lie. It is willful deceit that makes a lie.”
It’s simple: if I tell you something that is not true, and I know it’s not true, that is a lie. However, if I tell you something that is not true, but I believe that it is true, then that is not a lie. So, with that said, let’s look at lying. What was the first lie ever told? “Hath God indeed said?” (Genesis 3:1). Which is why Jesus called Satan “A murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Every lie that has ever been told was started by Satan, and they all spring from that first lie. And it was because Adam believed that first lie that all mankind has been plunged into spiritual death—that why Jesus called Satan “A murderer from the beginning”, because he persuaded our father Adam to go against the will of God and brought death into this world.

Well, with that said, let’s look at a couple types of lying. First, perjury. In the OT Law, there were strict guidelines for dealing with perjury. For one thing, if someone was accused of murder, there had to be more than one witness. Today we would call this “corroborating evidence.” Numbers 35:30“Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty.” This was a necessary safeguard against malicious uses of the Law. That one person could be mistaken, thinking he saw who did it; he could be prejudiced against the accused. So rather than stake the life and death of a person on the perhaps-faulty testimony of one person, at least one other person had to bring accusation. And there was a severe penalty if you committed perjury. Deuteronomy 19:15-21“15 One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. 16 If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, 17 then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. 18 And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, 19 then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. 20 And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” If you testified in a murder trial, and you lied about the accused, and you were found out, you and the accused stood before the judge and if they determine that you lied, then guess who got the death penalty?

What better deterrent to the people to not bring false accusations against one another than to see that if you are found out, you will be given the same punishment which would have been given to the accused. Matthew Henry—
“If the crime he accused his neighbour of was to be punished with death, the false witness must be put to death; if with stripes, he must be beaten; if with a [financial penalty], he was to be fined the sum. And because to those who [did not consider] the heinousness of the crime, and the necessity of making this provision against it, it might seem hard to punish a man so severely for [speaking] a few words, especially when no mischief did actually follow, it is added: Thy eye shall not pity, The benefit that will accrue to the public from this severity will abundantly [make up for] it: Those that remain shall hear and fear. Such exemplary punishments will be warnings to others not to attempt any such mischief, when they see how he that made the pit and digged it has fallen into the ditch which he made.”
Now, there is an episode in the Bible of two witnesses who couldn’t quite get their stories straight. Matthew 26:59-6159 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'" Of course, that’s not quite what Jesus said. We find what this fellow was referring to in John 2:18-1918 So the Jews answered and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?" 19 Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Jesus did not say that HE would destroy the temple in Jerusalem, but rather that these Pharisees would destroy THE temple—His body. Now, what the judges should have done at this time was to dismiss these men as false witnesses. But they don’t—a fact which shows that they weren’t really concerned about upholding the Law, but they just simply wanted to get rid of Him.

Now we are going to move away from the courtroom and into everyday life. How many people in here have never told a lie? If you didn’t raise your hand, then you just lied. Everybody has lied. But we live in a society that doesn’t really think lying is such a bad thing. Watch one of Ray Comfort’s “WOTM” videos, where they talk to people on the street, and he will ask them if they ever told a lie. See if any of them say “No.” They can't—everybody lies. But that’s the problem—we human beings don’t want to feel bad about ourselves, so in order to lie with a clear conscience, what do we tell ourselves? “Everybody does it.” In fact, I remember watching him talk to one fellow, and he asked this man “Have you ever told a lie?” the man said “Yeah.” When Ray asked him “You know what that makes you?” And instead of saying "It makes me a liar," the guy said “It makes me human.” And ya know, without knowing it, he hit the nail right on the head. We’re humans, and because we are humans we lie. Now, does that make it OK, just because “Everybody does it”? I wonder how they'd feel if “everybody” punched them in the face, if that would be OK. So let’s talk about the different kinds of lying that take place on a regular basis.

First, gossip. James 3:2-52 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! How does a forest fire start? Does an entire 100-acre tract of forest just go POOF! All at once? What do you need in order to start what could be potentially the largest forest fire in all of history? A little match! Next thing you know, 500,000 acres are on fire. James goes on to say, James 3:6-96 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Ever hear the phrase "do you kiss your mother with that mouth?" Next time you hear someone gossiping, ask them "do you praise GOD with that same mouth?" Proverbs 26:20Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. What happens when you put wood on a burning fire? It gets bigger and hotter. Take the wood out of there, what happens? The fire goes out. A fire needs fuel. A rumor needs someone to tell it and someone to listen. When someone goes around gossiping and backbiting and sniping about people, eventually hatred springs up, and hostilities boil over until it's too late, and no one wants to talk to each other. But take the gossiping backbiter out of the scene, and everybody realizes what was really going on, people apologize to each other, and become friends again. If you don’t believe me, listen to Proverbs 22:10Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; yes, strife and reproach will cease.

So that pretty much sums up lying. There are all kinds of other areas we could talk about, but these are the most common. Next week we will look at the last of these Ten Commandments, one which, in fact, is the root of why we need the other nine. That reason being covetousness.

Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen.