I Plead the Ninth

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I must admit that I am not sure what the ninth amendment says, but the 9th commandment from Exodus 20:16 reads like this: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” When we read this in scripture, we often translate it as: “Do not lie”. This, of course, is a part of the meaning, and as Christian’s we should not lie. However, that is not a complete picture of what this commandment is communicating. The idea of bringing false testimony against your neighbor has to do with bringing someone to court and not telling the whole truth…nothing but the truth…so help me God. It has to do with twisting the truth and perverting justice. 

I grew up with three other brothers, and I just so happened to be the third. As is expected with such an arrangement, we engaged in many a conflict. Quite a few resulted in wrestling matches and tears. Fortunately for my brothers and I, we had two judges who reigned and instilled order in our chaos. They were fair, loving, and desired to raise us with love and respect for one another, although we failed time and time again.

This system worked well. There was love and justice. No matter how rough things got in the moment, they would be smoothed out by the judges in the long run, which resulted in peace. This peace and justice, though, were more delicate than I thought, for it all rested on the truth. A lie from my brother convincing me to instigate a fight or break a window would result in unjust punishment and an untried perpetrator. These instances quickly tore down any peace and justice, and instead built resentment with plans for revenge. A cycle that, once begun, almost became impossible to slow down or eliminate.

For a family, it is damaging. For a society, it is devastating. Lies breed injustice, injustice breeds resentment, and when resentment is fully grown, hate and death are what are left. On the other hand, when Truth is known, justice can be administered, and peace and life will follow. The Ninth Commandment received from Moses,“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor,” is a lynchpin in which the Israelite nation and its ability to live at peace with one another rests. Without obeying this commandment and a dedication to the truth, justice becomes a cynical joke where belief in them is lost.

In 1 Samuel 8, Samuel appoints his sons as the new judges of Israel for he is too old to perform his duties. His sons start taking bribes, directly resulting in false testimony. Truth is distorted and injustice happens, resulting in the Israelite people rejecting God as their king and asking for Samuel to anoint the first king of Israel so that he instead may be judge over them.

1 Samuel 8:6-7: “But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.’”

Did God fail them? No. They had made a covenant with God. In that covenant, they swore to not bear false witness. Again, who was bribing the judges of Israel? Israelites. Who was distorting the truth? Israelites. Yet, they rejected God and chose for themselves a king (one of their own) to be their judge. Why did they do such a thing? Well, I believe it is because justice is something we all thirst and hunger for, especially when others are doing the wrong. However, we all too often fail to accept the responsibility on our part. We all desire mercy for ourselves and justice for others. This is one of the reasons why I believe some people are comfortable with a God who would send someone like Hitler to Hell but simultaneously believe that a loving God would never send anyone to Hell. The contradicting belief exists because for God to be good he must be just. Evil must be dealt with, but we refuse to accept any part in our own wrongdoing.

Fortunately for us, God is just…but He is also love and He is truth. This is proclaimed throughout all of scripture. Psalm 89:14: “Righteousness and Justice are the Foundation of your throne: Lovingkindness and truth go before you.” Psalm 111:7: “The works of His hands are truth and Justice; all of His precepts are sure.” Psalm 101:1: “I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, to you, O LORD, I will sing praises.”

We ultimately see the culmination of God’s Love and Justice on the cross when God took on flesh and became the perfect sacrificial lamb so that we can receive the Love of God and become part of His fold. All the while, he delivers justice by receiving the punishment we deserved by dying on the cross in our place. 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

One of my favorite words in all of scriptures sums up this idea— “propitiation”, which means “the satisfaction of the wrath of God.” Why this word is one my favorites is simple. 1 John 4:10 explains it this way: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God’s wrath, His justice, is satisfied in Jesus’s work on the cross. Love and justice, instead of being exclusive, are made perfect in Christ. We are recipients of the mercy of God. We are forgiven because of the good news of the redemption of Christ and we are called as Christians to bear rightful witness to the love and justice that we have been given by our savior.

God is love, He is just, and Jesus Himself bore witness of the truth. He even says it is the reason for Him coming to earth. Read with me John 18:37: “Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’” The truth, and the response to it, sets apart those who know Christ from those who do not. This isn’t surprising for Colossians 1:13-14: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

The ruler of the domain of darkness, the adversary, is the exact opposite of Christ. Satan is known as the Father of lies, the Accuser, The Enemy, Murderer, and the Devil, which when translated means “slanderer”. He bore false witness to Eve in the Garden and slandered the character of God; He directly opposes the truth and seeks to see as many as possible become guilty before God. We are called to rebel against this Tyrant to wage war against his schemes, to put on the belt of Truth and be ambassadors and citizens of God’s kingdom, to represent Him truthfully as sons and daughters with allegiance to the True King, and proclaim the truth of His gospel to the world.

Our hope is firmly placed in the only righteous Judge who promises, according to Romans 2:16, that nothing hidden will go unjudged, and that He will one day reign over us, according to Revelation 21:5 which says: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’ And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’”