First Mennonite Church
October 27, 2019
The Ninth Commandment: Speaking the Truth
Texts: Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 19:18-20
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, 19 then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you.
It seems that the ninth commandment was directly related to legal matters. It was about giving testimony during the trial of a neighbor. For those appointed by God to execute justice and who were ultimately responsible to bring about the righteousness of God among his people, securing truthful testimony from witnesses was of ultimate importance. The testimony of witnesses could determine the life or death of the one being judged, who most likely would be someone the witness knew—a neighbor. God wanted justice to prevail in all legal proceedings that took place among his people, therefore the commandment against giving false testimony was a fundamental aspect in the pursuit of true justice.
According to Deuteronomy 19: 18-20, false witnesses usually sought the destruction of the one who was being accused of wrongdoing. Therefore, anyone who was found to be a false witness was punished with the punishment that the alleged crime merited. And so “You must purge the evil from among you. The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you.”
However, even if the immediate concern of the Ninth Commandment was regarding legal proceedings, the larger concern in this commandment is about speaking the truth, being honest, and standing for everything that was conducive to justice.
In the book of Isaiah, God is referred to as “the one true God” or “the God of truth” (65:16). Again in Isaiah, God declares, “I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.” (45:19 NIV) It was no wonder why God gives so much weight to the truth. Jesus claimed to be the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) Jesus also repeatedly referred to the Spirit of God as the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17, and others). Jesus told the Samaritan woman that God is seeking worshipers who will worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4: 24). When Paul wrote to the Christian church in Ephesus, he urged them to be imitators of God and to speak the truth in love (4:15). The apostle John rejoiced when Christians walked in the truth (2John 1:4).
Being truth at the center of God’s very nature, his people are also expected to be imitators of the True God and God of all truth. If there would be any place where truth is given the highest importance, where truth matters and is promoted, that place must be the Christian church.
In Ephesians chapter six, Paul describes the struggle there is between the believer and the unseen evil forces with which the believer is against. In verses 12 and 13, Paul writes: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. And amazingly, the first piece of armor the believer is called to put on in order to stand firm against evil is the belt of truth. “Stand firm then,” Paul urges, “With the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Ephesians 6:14).
We live in a time when the truth is so scarce. We cannot trust everything written food packages. We cannot believe in every advertisement. Most news outlets spew information that is biased or skewed. Politicians would spare no effort to claim truth is on their side, even when they are known like what Paul describes: “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” (Romans 3:13, 14)
But we as imitators of the true God and God of all truth, we must stand firm and buckled with the belt of truth. Paul’s reason for listing the belt of truth as the first piece of God’s armor for the believer is not haphazardly given. The belt around the loins is where two major components of the armory are secured. On the belt, the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God were secured. Often times we might miss seeing the intrinsic relationship there is among these three elements in God’s armor for the believer: our close relationship with the truth, our utmost pursuit of the truth, our being saturated with the truth is the only way we will be able to seek, discern, and promote what is righteous in God eyes. Our love for the truth, our close relationship with the truth, and our utmost desire for the truth only is what makes effective our use and preaching of the word of God. In other words, if we care not for the truth, the word of God in our lips is not only useless but ineffective. If we do not care about the truth, issues of righteousness and justice do not come into our focus of concern.
So what are we to do?
Let us not remove our eyes from him who is himself the TRUTH—Jesus Christ.
Let us continue confessing as Lord who said, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Let us follow him who never compromised the truth, however deadly it proved to be when he spoke it.
Let us denounce every lie that floats about and let us reject becoming instruments that echo those lies.
Jesus’ prayer for his disciples is a prayer he continues to pray today for you and me: “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name. . . .They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:11b, 17, 18) It is the truth by which we are made holy. And the living word of God, which is Jesus, is the truth by which we are sanctified—made holy.
Let us pray.
Dear Lord God, we want to know the truth that sets us really free. Therefore, help us to know your Son better. Help us to remain steadfast in your Word and give us the desire for it every day until we are fastened by your truth as a belt would be to our waist. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being the truth we need and help us to give witness of you to this world that is full of darkness. Amen!