First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ November 20, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Speak Truth When It Matters Most!”
Exodus 20:16; Colossians 3:1-10
We are nearing the end of our series on the Ten Commandments for Today, and today we come to the ninth commandment, which has to do with lying and giving a false testimony. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor,” said the Lord God in Exodus 20:16. There is a story in 1 Kings chapter 21 that captures the meaning of the Nineth Commandment in such a profound yet a sad way. The story involves Israel’s King, Ahab, and his wife, Queen Jezebel. King Ahab wanted to buy the vineyard of a man named Naboth. The property was right next to the King’s Palace. Naboth wouldn’t do it because the property was part of his family’s ancient inheritance for generations. Land had great importance to the people of Israel. Jezebel heard about this and basically told Ahab, “I got this one. No worries. You will get it your majesty!”
Jezebel wrote letters to some men in the city in king’s name. She asked two to host a feast. At the feast accuse Naboth of cursing God and the king, which he never did. Both capital crimes. They did it. As soon as it happened, Naboth was sentenced to death. They went out and stoned Naboth to death. This injustice was a direct violation of the 9th Commandment.
The story of Naboth doesn’t end there, and this is really important. The sin of giving a false witness did not go unpunished. What happened next to Ahab was that “the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite,” the great prophet in Israel. In 1 Kings 21:17, He prophesied that “dogs shall lick the blood” of Ahab in the same spot where Naboth died. And “the dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel” (21:23). A few years later Ahab would die in battle and his blood would be found on the exact spot of Naboth’s death (22:37–40). And then Jezebel herself would be thrown over the walls of Jezreel and die from it. The dogs ate her blood on that very spot (2 Kings 9:30-37).
The point of this is that no one gets away with intentional, malicious injustice. God is a heavenly judge who always does right. Part of doing right is judging the world with perfect “righteousness” and “equity” as Psalm 98:9 reminds us. It’s true that God’s sense of justice doesn’t always look like we want it to. But He never fails.
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” There’s a good chance that some of us have been the victim of people bearing false witness against us, maybe even in such a way that we experienced financial or legal troubles. Or at least relational ones. Two observations as we reflect on the Nineth Commandment this morning:
First: Speak Truth No Matter What
The 9th Commandment calls us to speak truth no matter what. The false witnesses in King Ahab’s court failed to speak truth. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” The command prohibits false witness in any formal and informal settings. It prohibits bearing false witness in a courtroom as well as a casual conversation, a tweet, a Facebook post, Instagram, a text message, or e-mail note. These rumors, gossip, and slander are as destructive as bearing a false witness in a courtroom.
The New Testament adds a positive application of this commandment and that’s speaking truth in love. In Ephesians 4:15, Paul writes about “speaking the truth in love.” It has been said that love without truth is hypocrisy, but truth without love is brutality. God doesn’t want you running around telling someone how ugly their dress is, or that you hated the gift they gave you, or what a lousy solo they sang. We must always speak the truth, but we must balance the truth with love and grace.
Second: Speaking Truth is an Evidence of the Lordship of Christ
Our liturgical calendar marks this Sunday as, “Christ the King Sunday.” I find it fascinating that Jesus stresses absolute truthfulness as evidence of our recognition of His Lordship. This is what Jesus says in Matthew 5:33-37, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
As you notice here, Jesus only has two categories of speech. Speech either reflects the Lordship of Christ or it reflects the dominion of the evil one. Your speech either reflects your submission to the Lordship of Christ or it reflects the influence of Satan. It’s that simple. All speech falls into one of those two categories. It’s that black or white. Speaking truth in love is an evidence of the Lordship of Christ who is the Lord of our tongues and hearts.
Friends, our testimony of truth telling is a crucial part of Christian witness. Do we have a reputation of speaking truthfully to and about others? As Christians we should have an appreciation for the truth because of our union with Christ. Therefore, may we never entertain any gossip. May we never slander others. How can we avoid the sin of bearing false witness? How can we overcome it? The passage from Colossians 3 tells us we need to do some deep cleaning. We need to clothe ourselves with the new self. Get your heart right with God. That’s where the trouble always starts – down inside. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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