AUGUST 23 2015

The Ninth Commandment


[I. Intoduction] One of the names for God’s law under the Old Covenant was “the tablets of the testimony.” We see this in Exodus 32:15.             “Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written.” Why are they called the tablets of the testimony? Because God’s law testifies who He is. They reflect His character. They tell us what He is like.


This is why the person who has been born again loves God’s law. When we were rebels we ran away from the law. We either ignored it or found ways around it. But when the Lord supernaturally changed our hearts we began to love God and we loved His law. We love His law because it is an image of God. It testifies of God, the One we love.


This is why in Psalm 1 David wrote: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

And stands not in the way of sinners,

Nor sits in the seat of scoffers,

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,

And on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm1:1,2)


The first phrase in psalm 1, “Blessed is the man…” applies to each subsequent phrase in the first two verses. Blessed is the person who delights in the law of the LORD! Also, blessed is the person who meditates on His law day and night. It is daytime, so we will meditate on a portion of God’s law this morning. And we shall be blessed!


The commands of God also testify of Jesus because Jesus lived out the law perfectly. It testifies of Jesus, the One we love! if we love Jesus we will love His law. If we delight in Jesus we will delight in His law.


The ninth commandment if found in Exodus 20:16.       You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Some versions, like the Living Bible, translate this verse simply as, You must not lie.


Richard Nixon was the 37th President of the United States and served in that capacity from January of 1969 to August of 1974, resigning a year and a half into his second term. The reason he resigned is because he was going to be impeached. His impending impeachment was fallout from the Watergate scandal. He did accomplish some good things as President, such as mending relationships with China and ending the Vietnam War. If it were not for Watergate he probably would have been considered one of our better Presidents rather than one of our worst.


In 1972, the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, then located on the sixth floor of the Watergate Hotel and Office Building, was burglarized, documents were photographed, and telephones were wiretapped. The investigation into the burglary revealed that high officials in the Nixon administration had ordered the break-in and then tried to cover up their involvement. President Nixon denied knowledge of the break-in, but it was later proven that he did have knowledge via audio tapes made in the Oval office. He lied to cover up his malfeasance. He probably would have been impeached either way, but lying and covering up for months on end simply made matters worse.


In 1998 the House of Representatives impeached the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton, for perjury and obstruction of justice because he lied under oath covering up his illicit relationship with Monica Lewisnsky. Since the Senate did not have enough votes to impeach the President (50/50 on obstruction), he survived the impeachment. Experts agree that if he had told the truth about his relationship with Lewinsky there never would have been an impeachment. His record stands tarnished as only one of two Presidents to ever be impeached.


Even men of great accomplishments succumb to lying and their lies get them into even more trouble than they would otherwise possess. This is the story of us all.


Lying is possibly the second most common sin in America (gluttony is probably the most common) and the most common sin on earth. In a recent survey, 61% of people admit to lying which means that only 39% responded by saying that they do not lie. Of course, if they were lying about that question then the percentage of truth-tellers is even smaller. Since these surveys are anonymous, hopefully most people would see no need to lie about that question!


Twenty percent of the respondents said that they had told a lie in the past week. But here is an interesting fact: generally, as people get older they lie less. Teenagers lie the most. Why do you think that is? [Ans: they get in trouble more often than adults do.] One third of adults between the ages of 18 – 34 said they may have told a lie in the past week. Only 13% of adults 35 and older told a lie in the past week.


There is a danger in thinking that because lying is a common sin that it is not serious. All sin is serious. It is serious enough that it made it into God’s top ten!


It is serious enough that the Holy Spirit lists it, through Solomon, as one of the seven things that God hates!         There are six things that the LORD hates,

                        seven that are an abomination to him:

(Proverbs 6:16 ESV)

            …a false witness who breathes out lies,

(Proverbs 6:19 ESV)


As in all the commandments, there is a negative aspect and a positive aspect.


[II. Negative Aspect] Negatively, we are not to bear false witness nor to lie.


The ninth commandment addresses being a witness. It has to do with oath taking in public. Oaths were established because people have a tendency, a proclivity, to lie if it will protect them from financial loss or physical harm. People will even lie to avoid shame. People will lie to evade embarrassment. People lie often. Hence, to bind a person to telling the truth God instituted the oath. An oath was not to be taken lightly and God Himself would judge those who lied under oath.


We carry on this tradition in our court systems today.


[A.] This commandment forbids making false statements under oath. We must not be a false witness in the matter of oaths and vows because this is the plainly stated prohibition of the command. The matter of taking an oath is serious enough that Jesus discouraged it in his sermon on the mount. He did not forbid an absolute taking of oaths, as his statement in Matthew 5 is sometimes taken, but Jesus desires that His children be people of their word. Swearing to tell the truth, or taking a vow, is a serious matter and we must be those who do not speak falsely under oath.


[B.] The ninth commandment is not at all limited to being under oath. It forbids lying. We must not lie because God does not lie. I affirmed at the outset that the law of God reflects His character. It shows us Who He is.


When Saul was rejected as king because of his disobedience, he pleaded with Samuel. But Samuel replied,          And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”

(1 Samuel 15:29 ESV)

The “Glory of Israel” is God. Samuel is saying that God will not lie. The New Testament is even stronger in this matter. Hebrews 6:18 states, “It is impossible for God to lie.” Why is it impossible? Because God cannot act outside of His divine character.


For us it is not only possible, but a great temptation. But, we must be imitators of God in the matter of not lying. We are called to be like God. We must not lie because God does not lie.


[C.] We must not lie because it gets us into more trouble. There are three reasons people lie. People lie:


  • To make a financial gain
  • To get people to like them (to gain attention), but most commonly,
  • To avoid shame or embarrassment over something they have done.


The most common reason people lie is to stay out of trouble because of something they have done that they shouldn’t have.


Sometimes that works. You can sometimes stay out of trouble by lying. But there is a price to be paid.


  • One price is a guilty conscience. Even if the person you lied to believes you, there are two people who know you’ve lied. There is God, of course. He knows all. But you also know you’ve lied. Your conscience will be affected.
  • Another price is that you will respect yourself a little less with every lie you tell. The most miserable old folks are those who have made a habit of lying until they have no respect for themselves in their old age nor for anyone else.
  • The greatest price to be paid is that of sin. Lying is a sin. And sin is bad. Very bad.


However, much of the time lying does not work. You might think that the person you are lying to does not know that you’ve lied. But, often, they do. They just don’t let you know that they know. Shannon Wiersbitzky, in her book What Flowers Remember, makes this simple observation: “Eyes aren’t good liars.”


Still, even if you do fool people, lies have a way of coming out later. And, when they come out and you are exposed as a liar, you are in more trouble than you would have been if you just faced the music at the beginning. By the way, does anyone know where the phrase “face the music” originated? A man was able to join the Emperor of China’s orchestra, although he could not play a note. Whenever the group played, he would hold his flute against his lips, not daring even to blow softly for fear he might cause a discord. He received a modest salary and was able to live comfortably.

One day, the emperor happened to desire that each musician play for him solo. The flutist became desperate. He tried to take quick professional lessons but to no avail, because he really had no ear for music. He pretended to be sick, but the Royal Physician who attended him knew better, causing him to be increasingly apprehensive.

On the day of his solo appearance, he took poison rather than face the music. From this comes the old Chinese proverb: “He dared not face the music.”


People will always think less of you when they find out that you lied. We must not lie because it gets us into more trouble had we told the truth to begin with.


[III. Positive Aspect] God is not interested in us merely avoiding certain behaviors. He is after us thinking, doing, and living in a different way. If we are not to lie then we are to speak the truth.


[A.] We must tell the truth because God is truth. He is called the “God of truth” (Is 65:16). Jesus said, “I am the truth.” (John 14:6). The Spirit is called the “Spirit of truth.” (John 14:17; 15:26; I John 5:6).


Speaking the truth is a higher standard than merely not telling a lie. It means that you intend on revealing what is true as opposed to just refraining from lying. But this is the way God is. This still leaves the option of not speaking at all because sometimes (it is true) people are not ready to receive the truth. However, it means that, when we do speak, we speak the truth.


If you are going to speak, speak in a way that does not leave the wrong impression. One can technically tell the truth knowing that it can be taken the wrong way. Two men worked on a large ocean-going vessel. One day the mate, who normally did not drink, became intoxicated. The captain, who hated him, entered in the daily log: "Mate drunk today." He knew this was his first offense, but he wanted to get him fired. The mate was aware of his evil intent and begged him to change the record. The captain, however, replied, "It's a fact, and into the log it goes!" 

A few days later the mate was keeping the log, and concluded it with: "Captain sober today." Realizing the implications of this statement, the captain asked that it be removed. In reply the mate said, "It's a fact, and in the log it stays!"


We must tell the truth because God is truth.


[B.] We must speak the truth because it is a testimony of what God has done in us. When the father of the great Emmanuel Kant (c 1740) was an old man he made a perilous journey through the forests of Poland to his native country of Silesia. On the way he encountered a band of robbers who demanded all his valuables, finally asking: “Have you given us all?” and only letting him go when he answered, “All.” When safely out of their sight his hand touched something hard in the hem of his robe. It was his gold, sewn there for safety and quite forgotten by him in his fear and confusion.

At once he hurried back to find the robbers, and having found them, he said meekly: “I have told you what was not true; it was unintentional. I was too terrified to think. Here, take the gold in my robes.” Then to the old man’s astonishment nobody offered to take his gold. Presently one went and brought back his purse. Another restored his book of prayer, while still another led his horse toward him and helped him to mount. They then unitedly entreated his blessing, and watched him slowly ride away. Goodness had triumphed over evil.


The testimony of truthfulness can impact even the ungodly. If you always speak the truth it will touch hearts and it will testify to what God is doing in you.


[C.] We must speak the truth because it is good for the soul. Oh, what peace of mind it brings! Abraham Lincoln said, “No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.” Speaking the truth all of the time is paving the road to peace of mind. One never needs to worry about someone finding out about something because all has been told. One’s conscience is not afflicted by telling things false.


[IV. Conclusion and Application] The ninth commandment condemns lying and enjoins us to speak the truth.


  • We must speak the truth because our God is the God of truth and we are called to be like Him.
  • We must speak the truth because it is a testimony of what God has done in us.
  • We must speak the truth because it is good for the soul.


How do you react to the demands of the ninth commandment? The answer to that depends on whether we are in the 61% who admit to lying or the 39% who say they do not. I have a fair amount of skepticism about that 39% figure. There are three reasons I am skeptical.


The first reason is that it is human nature for people to think more highly of themselves than they ought. All of us tend to overlook our own faults and magnify the faults of others. I think it is inevitable that a good portion of that 39% chose not to remember their own lies.


The second reason is that it seems that so many people we talk to stretch the truth and we know that they stretch the truth. It seems as if it is more than 60% or so.


Third, I know my own heart and I do not think it is terribly more different than most. I know that when I do something that I know I shouldn’t have done I am powerfully tempted to contort the truth a little to make my transgression appear not so bad.


I do not know what the real figure of completely honest people is. I suspect it is somewhere between 10 and 20%. If you are not in that group then how should you react? You should not feel good about yourself. When we are faced with our own condition when compared to God’s law there ought to be a certain amount of dejection as we realize that we fall short. This is one of the functions of His law: His commands are a mirror showing us who we really are.


As one man of God has well said: “The law of God was not given to save us. The ten commandments do not serve as a stepladder up which we climb to heaven. Rather, God’s law was given to pinpoint sin, to define it, to bring it out of its hidden place. We are confronted by the seriousness of sin. It is an offense against God.”


You might be here this morning having been under the impression that you must live a good life to be right with God. You may see that the ninth commandment all by itself condemns you. It condemns more than you think. For God is after even more than not telling lies and speaking the truth. In Psalm 51:6 David wrote, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being.” It is not just true speaking in which we must engage. We need truth in the core of our being.


If you have seen your great lack then know that God has made a provision for you. That provision is a new life with a new beginning through Christ. Every falsehood that you have ever uttered can be done away with in God’s record book if you will come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is only in Him that forgiveness is found. As the apostle Peter has said, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) God can take away not only the sins of lying, but every sin and give you a new life. He asks you to do two things. Repent of your lies and all your sins. That means to turn away from them and set your mind on obeying the Lord. And, to believe that Jesus died for your sins on the cross and rose from the dead.


Trying to obey all the commandments does not make us right with God. Trusting in His beloved Son makes us right with God.


If you are already a follower of Christ, then resolve this very day to live by His commands in a greater way and know that there is power in His name to overcome every temptation to speak that which is not true. There is even power to have truth in our inward being…right now…and henceforth. Let us speak the truth and let us live the truth.