This week we are in Exodus 20:16 as we look at the importance of a truthful testimony. While we find many verses throughout the Bible admonishing us to not lie, especially in Proverbs, this verse from Exodus is a specific command against speaking mistruths about the people in our lives. Let’s jump right into reviewing the Ten Commandments and then ponder how we speak about other people.
Pause to Read or Listen
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. “You shall not murder. “You shall not commit adultery. “You shall not steal. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.”
Just before the great shutdown of 2020, I served as an alternate juror in a criminal trial. During voir dire I swore an oath to truthfully answer the questions that the judge and the attorneys in the case asked me. I promised to not lie about my life and experience. Then, after a “truthful” bunch of us was chosen, we listened to witness after witness pledge to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
I was asked to not lie about myself, so the attorneys could decide if I would weigh the evidence in the case without entangling my personal feelings. The witnesses were essentially asked to obey the ninth commandment from Exodus 20:16 — You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. We all promised to tell the truth, knowing that our words would impact the lives of an entire community. In this particular heart-wrenching case, an abusive grandfather was convicted and sentenced to spend his final days in a prison cell. A brother and sister were handed a new life free from fear, though the emotional and physical scars will remain for life. And everyone in the courtroom, especially the jurors who rewatched video testimonies and poured over evidence, left with their own scars from what they had heard and seen in court. Everyone is impacted by the lies and the truths told about others.
How have you been personally impacted by the lies another person told about you?
How have you impacted the life of another either negatively or positively through your testimony?
While we might tell the truth in legal settings because we don’t want to be in contempt of court, think about how often we break the ninth commandment as we move through our daily lives. As Jen Wilkin’s points out in her book Ten Words to Live By, we are guilty of breaking this law when we revile (through sarcasm, shaming, gossip, and slander), flatter to cajole or control, remain silent when we should defend others, and misattribute information to garner credit or shift blame.
Ouch. Just like the other commandments we’ve studied this summer, we are all guilty of breaking this law on a regular basis.
Which of the points Wilkin makes about false testimony do you struggle with the most?
In Proverbs 26:24-28, Solomon tells us that lies flow from deep hatred rooted in our hearts:
Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling. A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.
In your earlier examples of how you have been wounded or been hurt by lies, how did hatred fuel the lies?
As we look at the ninth commandment through a lens of expansive obedience, we see that the antonym of hatred and lies is love and truth — two names for the One who is our role model for righteous living.
The apostle Peter says this about Jesus Christ:
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.I Peter 2:21-25
How is God pulling you back to Him today?
In response, spend time praying.
- Acknowledge that God is the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul, that He is Truth, that He is Love, the antonym of hatred.
- Confess how you have broken the ninth commandment.
- Thank Him for uncovering the sin in your heart and for His forgiveness.
- Ask Him to show you the steps you need to take to root out hatred in your heart and to bring life through your testimony about others.