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Written In Stone: Part 8

10.27.16 | Bible Study | by Doreen Comis

Written In Stone: Part 8

    The Heart of the Law: Part Four

     The Ninth Commandment is found in Exodus 20:16

    “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”

    To help us gain a deeper understanding of the Heart of the Law through this commandment, we need to take a look at a little history. People living in the ancient world who were charged with a crime had very little protection. Those of us living in the West may not understand the principles that governed their judicial systems. As a matter of fact, many of these principles I’m about to share with you ring true in many nations of the East today.

    People charged with a crime in the ancient world were not presumed innocent until proven guilty but rather presumed guilty until proven innocent. There were very few guidelines in mounting a case against someone and in many instances the accused was never given a chance to defend themselves. In addition, most ancient courts would convict you on the strength of a single witness.

    Understanding this should give us a deeper appreciation for the language of GOD in the ninth commandment:

    “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”

    You see for many a false witness was a matter of life or death. The words of one false witness could condemn you. God, in His Sovereign Wisdom, establishes a different system for His Covenant people of Israel. Author and President of Wheaton College, Philip Graham Ryken wrote:

    “When someone from the covenant community was put on trial, he appeared before a jury of elders. There had to be more than one witness, for as God said in His law, “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 three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deut.19:15). This was especially important in a trial for a capital offense: No one could be put to death by a single witness (Deut. 17:6; Num. 35:30).

    Another protection was with regard to executing judgment. Deut. 17:7 established that when someone was sentenced to die – his accuser had to throw the first stone.

    This was a weighty precaution for as we all know it is one thing to accuse somebody and yet another thing to actually put them to death. Jesus uses the inference of this law when defending the women caught in adultery in John 8:7 but making even a stronger argument by saying:

    “Let he who is in the least of sin cast the first stone…”

    To makes things even more credible, in the Old Testament, Deut. 19:18-19 states that if the allegations that were against someone were proven to be false then the accuser was to be punished. All these safeguards were put into place to protect innocent people from the injustice of being falsely accused.

    What a revelation of the Heart of the Law-Giver in the ninth commandment! Our God is a God of TRUTH and JUSTICE! The ninth commandment teaches us that where there is no truth there can be no justice. A rush to judgment in any crime is a violation of the ninth commandment. God demands that we walk in truth with our neighbors. To walk any other way is to break the ninth commandment.

    To walk in truth with our neighbors and not bear false witness is to not be guilty of slander and gossip. Gossip is a cancer in the family of God. Many churches have been destroyed by the breaking of the ninth commandment. Strife and division based on gossip and slander have closed many a church door. I want to take a minute to define what these two words truly are.

    First, GOSSIP is information about the behavior and personal lives of other people. A “GOSSIPPER” is a person who reveals personal information about others without authorization.

    Here’s a great way of checking yourself before you share something. Ask yourself: “Has so and so given me permission to share this?” If the answer is NO – then don’t share it! To share it anyway is a direct violation of the ninth commandment.

    Second, SLANDER is to make a false spoken statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone. It is to mar someone’s reputation. It is character assassination. Gossip and slander produce strife and dissention. It is sowing discord among the brethren.

    Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV   

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

    Through the first four commandments God deals with us in our relationship to Him. In these last six commandments God deals with us in our relationship with others. What does this tells us about the God who gave us this law? He not only cares about how we treat Him – but He also cares about how we treat others.

    When we violate the ninth commandment we show God a disregard for His people which is a disregard for Him as well, because He has commanded us to love one another. Some people think because they say they love God, go to church, and pray that they are somehow exempt from the sins of gossip and slander. Church, you cannot say you love somebody and then gossip about them at the same time.

    Jesus said, “If you love me you’ll keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Love is demonstrated - not just spoken.

    How many of you know God wants the TRUTH, the WHOLE TRUTH, and NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH from us. God commands that we do not lie in any way, shape, or form.

    Ask the Holy Spirit today - who is the Spirit of Truth - to help you in keeping the ninth commandment. (To be continued…)

    Resources Cited: Written in Stone, The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crisis by Philip Graham Ryken