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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:God's Will For Us in the Ninth Commandment
Text:LD 43 Psalm 15:1-5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 9th Commandment (Lying)

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

(Hymns from the Trinity Psalter Hymnal):

171 - O Word of God Incarnate

Responsive Reading: Psalm 141

119E - Teach, Me O Lord, Your Way of Truth

252 - This Is My Father’s World

501 - Lord, Speak to Me, That I May Speak

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
11/30/2014 – p.m.
“God’s Will for Us in the Ninth Commandment”
Psalm 15:1-5; Lord’s Day 43

In Scripture and in history we see that giving false testimony has been an effective tool for the evil one and for all who follow in his ways. After all, Satan’s question to Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” was a subtle attack on the character of God.  It was a false testimony because it twisted the words God had given to Adam and Eve. By twisting those words Satan effectively planted in Eve’s mind the seed of doubt which led to disobedience, through Adam and Eve to all humanity.

Throughout Scripture - and throughout history - we read of how false testimony has been used by the evil one and by evil people to bring great destruction and sorrow into the world. I don’t know about you, but when I read Scripture my heart goes out to God’s people who are hurt and destroyed by false testimony. 

Consider Naboth, whose tragic story is recounted in 1 Kings 21. You may recall that he had a vineyard right next to King Ahab’s palace. The vineyard had been passed on to him as an inheritance; he was very grateful for it. Unfortunately for Naboth, wicked King Ahab wanted the vineyard for himself, so that he could turn it into a vegetable garden. 

The king offered to buy the vineyard, or exchange it for another, but Naboth didn’t want to sell or exchange the vineyard that had been passed down to him. The Israelites recognized that land was a gift from the Lord; it was not taken lightly. He wasn’t about to give up what God had bequeathed to him.   

King Ahab left sullen and sad, but when his wife, Queen Jezebel, found out about the situation she said, “Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” 

Jezebel called for a fast, a solemn occasion, and seated Naboth in a prominent place. She placed two false witnesses across from him. They said, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” With that as evidence, they took Naboth out and stoned him to death. 

As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard. (1 Kings 21:7, 13, 15, 16).

But Naboth hardly stands as the only one who has been incriminated by a false witness. It was false witnesses who led to the trial of our Lord. In Matthew 26:59-61 we read, The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put Him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

Perhaps as we look at the ninth commandment, you and I might say, “I would never hire others to bear false witness against my neighbor…”  But false testimony is just one of many things which the ninth commandment prohibits. The catechism teaches that “God’s will is that I never give false testimony against anyone,” but also, that I “twist no one’s words...”

Twisting words is exactly what the false witnesses did with our Lord and Savior. They twisted His words on how if they tore down the temple He could raise it in three days. The false witnesses said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

The statement they referred to is the one made by Jesus in John 2:19. He had cleansed the temple, the first time, early in His ministry. He had thrown out the money changers and those who were selling animals and birds for sacrifices. He had said, “Take these things away; do not make My Father’s house a house of trade.”

Then the Jews demanded of Him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove Your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

He didn’t say, as these two false witnesses accused Him of saying, “I am able to destroy this temple of God and rebuild it in three days.” And as John goes on to say, in John 2:21, But the temple He had spoken of was His body.

The statement that was changed and twisted by the false witnesses was a clear statement teaching the reality of the resurrection. Using the analogy of the temple, Jesus was teaching that He would die and be buried three days, but would rise again victorious over death, sin and Satan.

John concludes His treatment of the statement of Jesus by writing in John 2:22: After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

The twisting of words still goes on today. We see it so clearly in the political world and also in the news which reports on the political actions that are taken. Unfortunately, we also see it, and sometimes experience it, on a personal level. So often words are twisted, whether intentionally or unintentionally, causing great damage.

The twisting of another person’s words, along with gossip and slander, regrettably, are alive and at work within churches. One commentator writes, I think more damage has been done to the church and its work by gossip, criticism and slander than by any other single sin.” (James Montgomery Boice, Psalms, V-1, page 125).

Instead of bearing false witness, twisting words, using gossip and slander, we are to speak “the truth from the heart and have no slander on our tongue doing our neighbor no wrong and casting no slur on our fellow man” as David wrote in Psalm 15.

However, not only does the ninth commandment prohibit false testimony, gossip, and slander. It also prohibits condemning others without a hearing or just cause. That was certainly the case with Naboth. He never received a just hearing. As soon as the scoundrels hired by Queen Jezebel slandered him, he was found guilty and put to death. In that way he was a shadow of Christ.  Jesus did not receive a just hearing. He was put to death based on charges brought by scoundrels, by false testimony.

That He was judged guilty, even though He was innocent, should have struck great fear into the hearts of those who broke the ninth commandment in order to convict Jesus without a hearing or just cause. After all, it was Jesus who said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2).

That doesn’t mean, incidentally, that we never make a judgment call. That verse, along with its counterpart in Luke 6:37, is one of the most misquoted verses in the entire Bible. When we compare Scripture with Scripture we see that we must indeed make judgment calls. But we are always to do them after hearing all the evidence and examining the case carefully. In David’s description of the person whose walk is blameless, in Psalm 15, we see that the blameless walk includes “despising a vile man” (Psalm 15:4). The ninth commandment does not prohibit condemning the actions of sinners, but it does prohibit condemning others without a hearing or just cause.

The ninth commandment also prohibits lies and deceit of every kind. Sometimes people refer to their lies as “little white lies.”  It is an effort to cover over the evil of their tongue.  But lies, except in exceedingly rare cases, are the mark of the devil. By exceedingly rare cases I mean a lie to save a life, such as the Hebrew midwives used when Pharaoh was calling for the deaths of all the newborn male children. Or Rahab's lie as she spared the spies from death and enabled Israel to advance on Jericho. Those are rare exceptions. 

Usually the case is exactly as the catechism puts it: “Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are devices the devil himself uses, and they would call down on me God's intense anger.”

Part of what makes sin so evil is that it is following after the ways of the evil one and not after the way of the Lord. While all sin is a transgression against the Lord, and heinous in His sight, some sins are most closely linked to Satan. Among them are the sin of pride and the sin of deceit. Satan’s pride led to his downfall, and then he used deceit to cause the downfall of all humanity.

The devil’s names include Adversary and Accuser, and in those roles he does not hesitate to bear false witness against God and God’s people. And as the catechism points out, that is another reason why bearing false witness is so serious: It makes us an accomplice of the evil one. As Jesus said, in John 8:44, “When he (the devil) lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

When we use our tongue to lie, deceive, twist another person’s words and slander them, or to give false testimony, we are using our tongue the same way as the devil uses his. No wonder Proverbs 12:22 says, “The LORD detests lying lips, but He delights in men who are truthful.”

Our Response

Often perhaps, when we think of God’s commandments, we only think of what the commandments prohibit us from doing, whether it is stealing, coveting, committing murder, or any other commandment. But the commandments not only have a negative aspect, but also a positive one. As the catechism points out, God’s will for us in the ninth commandment is that we, first of all, love the truth.  

Had the most deceitful liar ever, Satan, loved the truth, he would have never become the deceiver that he is. But he hated, and still hates with an even greater hatred, the truth. The truth is that God alone is all powerful and glorious. Satan wanted that power and glory for himself.  When he could not receive the glory of God for himself he used his tongue to plunge Adam and Eve – and all humanity – into sin. 

But as children of God we are to love the truth. The catechism references 1 Corinthians 13:6, Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  Philippians 4:8 adds:  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Did you notice how truth leads the list of excellent and praiseworthy things that we are to think about? You see, part of keeping the ninth commandment involves loving the truth and keeping the truth foremost in our minds and hearts.

Secondly, when we love the truth, then we should, in the words of the catechism, “speak it candidly and openly acknowledge it.” In other words, another part of keeping the ninth commandment involves speaking the truth in love.

Speaking the truth in love is part of what the blameless person described in Psalm 15 does, “(he) speaks the truth from his heart” (Psalm 15:2). That concept of speaking the truth from the heart is woven throughout Scripture. Perhaps it’s best known reference is from Ephesians 4:15, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

There are people who love to tell the truth about someone else – especially if it makes the other person look bad. It is possible to speak the truth in a way that is harsh and harmful, and there is a way to speak the truth in love, to where it is helpful and healing. Part of keeping the ninth commandment includes speaking the truth in love.  

The last sentence of the answer to question 112 describes a third way that we are to keep the ninth commandment. It says, “I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.” 

It is often noted that your neighbors make all the difference in the world. You can live in a beautiful house with every amenity available and have neighbors that drive you crazy. Or you can have neighbors, regardless of your neighborhood, who will do all they can to help you. Most of you have probably experienced both type of neighbors. And if you have had really bad neighbors, you really appreciate good neighbors.

Part of keeping the ninth commandment includes being a good neighbor to others. Being a good neighbor involves, in the words of the catechism, “do(ing) what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.”  But it also involves more. It involves encouraging our neighbors and especially encouraging them to see their need for Christ.  We make it our aim to live a life that reveals Christ to others, and then we also are to look for opportunities to speak about Christ to our neighbors.

There is no better way to advance your neighbor’s good name than being used by the Holy Spirit to give your neighbor the name “Christian,” to live and speak in such a way that they too, by the Holy Spirit’s power and grace, are brought into the family of God.

The Only Blameless One

While we make every effort to live out the ninth commandment, heeding its prohibitions and seeking to live out its requirements, we also recognize that the only blameless One is Jesus Christ.

In Psalm 15 David answered the question of verse 1, “LORD, who may dwell in Your sanctuary? Who may live on Your holy hill?”  by writing in verse 2 and 3: “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman.”

But David could not point to his walk as blameless. He is well known for coveting his neighbor’s wife. David’s reputation as “a man after God’s own heart” is terribly marred by adultery. David’s life includes the bloody charge of murder, as through deceit and falsehood he arranged for the death of his neighbor, Uriah the Hittite, so that he could have Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, for himself.

But as we look at David’s walk, and see that it was not blameless, we also must look at ours.  Is there any commandment of the ten that we can truthfully say we have kept perfectly, in our minds and hearts as well as our actions? I can’t say that. I have broken every one, if not by the deed, then by the thought. My walk is far from blameless. And so is yours.

Consequently, as we look at David’s question in vs 1, “LORD, who may dwell in Your sanctuary? Who may live on Your holy hill?” we see that the answer is not in ourselves, but in Christ.  It is because of His imputed righteousness that we dwell in God’s sanctuary. And it us because of Christ that we are secure and “are not shaken” as verse 5 puts it.

But that doesn’t mean that we do away with the Law. We don’t say, “Since only Christ could perfectly keep the ninth commandment, I won’t try.”  Instead, out of deep, heartfelt gratitude we strive to keep this commandment and all the others. 

Our spiritual growth involves becoming less like Adam and more like Jesus in our conduct and speech.  May that always be your goal and mine, as we strive to keep the ninth commandment and all the others, for God’s glory and for our good.  Amen.

- Bulletin Outline - 

LORD, who may dwell in Your sanctuary? Who may live on Your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue…
                                                                                                                                             Psalm 15:1-3a
“God’s Will for Us in the Ninth Commandment”
Psalm 15:1-5; Lord’s Day 43
I.  The 9th commandment prohibits:
     1) False testimony, gossip, and slander (3a; Proverbs 19:5)
     2) Condemning others without a hearing or just cause (4; Luke 6:37)
     3) Lies and deceit of every kind (3; Proverbs 12:22), which are the mark of the devil (John 8:44)
II. The 9th commandment requires:
     1) Loving the truth (2; 1 Corinthians 13:6)
     2) Speaking the truth in love (2-3; Ephesians 4:25)
     3) Doing all possible to advance our neighbor’s good (3b; 1 Peter 3:8, 4:8)
III. Application: The only blameless One (2) is Christ. It is because of His imputed righteousness that
       we dwell in God’s sanctuary (1) and are not shaken (5)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2014, Rev. Ted Gray

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