Moses' fifth speech, Part 22, False witnesses
Feb 13, 2013
The importance of the law of witnesses applies also to situations where someone bears a false witness. The Ninth Commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” When we see how the double witness establishes all things in the earth, including the knowledge of God’s will, this command is quite serious. It goes far beyond the act of telling a few lies to one’s neighbor.
Deuteronomy 19:16-21 says,
16 If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, 17 then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. 18 And the judges shall investigate thoroughly; and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. 20 And the rest will hear and be afraid; and will never again do such an evil thing among you. 21 Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
If a man falsely accuses his neighbor of premeditated murder, the judgment is that he should receive the punishment that was meant for his neighbor. In such a case, he could receive the death penalty, “life for life,” unless his victim forgave him. If he falsely accuses his neighbor of stealing 100 dollars, then he must pay his victim double restitution, or 200 dollars.
As always, the judgment of the law is in direct proportion to the crime itself, and the victim has the right to forgive or collect whatever penalty is due.
Isaiah applies this law in a prophetic manner, saying to Israel in Isaiah 43:10-12,
10 “You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and My servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me, there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me… 12 It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you; so you are My witnesses,” declares the Lord.
In other words, Israel was to bear witness that there is no other god before Him, even as the First Commandment states. This is ironic, of course, because Israel was usually full of false gods, and for this reason, they were cast out of the land. But Isaiah speaks first of the remnant of grace within Israel (Romans 11:7), who did indeed keep the First Commandment; and secondly he speaks of a future time when Isaiah 45:25 will be fulfilled, saying,
25 In the Lord all the offspring of Israel will be justified and will glory.
Of course, Isaiah does not limit this salvation to Israel as a nation, for he wrote a few verses earlier,
22 Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. 23 I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
The Apostle Paul comments further on Isaiah’s teaching in Romans 9-11, showing not only that “all Israel will be saved” (11:26), but with them will come “the fulness of the nations” (11:25). In other words, all mankind at some point in time will bow their knees to Jesus Christ and confess their allegiance to Him. Paul changes the wording slightly in Philippians 2:11, telling us that they will “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
To be a true witness of God, one must not have any other gods before Him. That is the primary focus of Isaiah’s prophecy. At the present time, only the remnant of grace have attained this promise, as Paul says, but the promise will be far greater in the end. God in His wisdom has fashioned a plan by which His purpose for the earth will be fulfilled.
Meanwhile, however, the big question of history is this: Who is the Christ? Who is the chosen Heir of the world? Who is the anointed King of creation? There are many contenders for the throne, and each has witnesses. Which witnesses are true, and which are bearing false witness?
The number 34 is the number of Identification in Scripture. For this reason, the 34th psalm speaks of this conflict in identifying the Messiah who was to come. Keep in mind, however, that Psalm 35 is the 34th psalm, because Psalm 9 and 10 are two halves of the same psalm. (See the Septuagint, where the psalm numbers are correct.) I explained this in my book, The Genesis Book of Psalms, which also includes my book on The Biblical Meaning of Numbers from One to Forty.
In Psalm 35 (i.e., the 34th psalm), we see David identified as God’s yahid, “darling” (KJV), which is the Hebrew equivalent of the New Testament word monogenes, “only-begotten” (son). It is the messianic title of the Son of God, applied first to Isaac (Genesis 22:2) later to David (Psalm 35:17), and finally to Jesus Himself (John 1:18).
The point is that Psalm 35 is a messianic psalm with its theme of identifying the only-begotten son, who is the anointed one and the early type of Jesus Christ. David spoke of his own experience, while looking back to Joseph, but also looked to the future by prophesying of Christ. In the course of this psalm, we read in verses 11-16,
11 Malicious witnesses rise up; they ask me of things I do not know. 12 They repay me evil for good, to the bereavement of my soul… 15 … They slandered me without ceasing. 16 Like godless jesters at a feast, they gnashed at me with their teeth.
This psalm is part of the Genesis book (Psalms 1-41), and it correlates specifically with Joseph’s recognition and identification as the anointed one in Genesis 44-45. Both Joseph and David were types of Christ in different ways, so David’s experience was similar to that of Joseph. Hence, David wrote in verse 7,
7 For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my soul.
David’s enemies “dug a pit” for his soul, even as Joseph’s brothers “threw him into the pit” in Genesis 37:24. Joseph’s brothers did not believe his prophetic dreams in which he was chosen to rule. Likewise, many in David’s day refused to accept him as God’s anointed king, preferring one of Saul’s sons or, more importantly, preferring Absalom. And so, this psalm also prophesied of what would happen to Jesus a thousand years later, when he was falsely accused by malicious witnesses who brought about His rejection. We read of this in Matthew 26:59 and 60,
59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death; 60 and they did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward.
Those false witnesses were attempting to please the Council which had already refused to bear witness to Jesus’ right to the throne of David. The deeper problem, of course, was that they were not acting as true witnesses of the sovereignty of God, for they had already violated the First Commandment in their hearts. They had usurped the throne for themselves and did not want to give up power to Jesus. They considered Jesus to be their competition, rather than their King.
And so the chief priests called as many false witnesses as they could, but even then they were unable to find any credible witnesses against Jesus. Jesus remained silent until the high priest adjured Him to speak (Matthew 26:63), at which time Jesus bore witness to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Then they condemned Him as a blasphemer, assuming that His witness was not true.
As we saw earlier, Isaiah said that Israel would be God’s witness that He was the only God. This witness centered around the First Commandment. If anyone—even today—considers himself to be one of God’s witnesses, let him or her bear witness that Jesus Christ is King of the nations and that He is the rightful Heir of all things. Let all of God’s true witnesses work toward the establishment of His Kingdom and reject any view that removes Christ from government, education, or public life in general.
Anyone who bears witness to a secular America (or any other country), and labors to keep Christ from His rightful place, is not a true witness, but a false witness, for he has rejected Jesus Christ in the same manner as they did in Matthew 26. It is not right to accept Christ on a personal level while rejecting Him in other areas of life.
This brings us to another important application of this law against bearing false witness.
If we claim to be Christians, yet do not show forth the character of Christ, we are false witnesses of Christ. The world would have been converted to Christ centuries ago if Christ’s “witnesses” had manifested the character of Christ in their lives. But virtually all Christians, myself included, have fallen short in our witness. The Great Commission commanded us to bear witness of Christ. Luke 24:46-49 says,
46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Jesus said that the disciples were His witnesses, but He also said to wait until they received the “power from on high” promised in Isaiah 32:15. Apart from the Holy Spirit, it would not be possible to be God’s witnesses. Perhaps those few disciples would be able to testify, “I saw this,” or “I heard Jesus say that,” but in the long term, all witnesses must be filled with the Holy Spirit to be a true witness. This is especially true for later generations, for these would need a genuine experience with the Spirit of Christ in order to have a real testimony of what He has said and done.
I believe that the main reason why the Church has failed to bring righteousness into the earth is because they did not comprehend the Holy Spirit’s purpose in daily life. Paul saw this problem developing even in his life time, for he prophesied of “difficult times” ahead in 2 Timothy 3. In verse 5 he writes of those “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.”
In other words, many would arise in the Church who held to religious forms of worship, but who would deny the power of the Spirit that actually makes Christianity real in our lives. As the Church lost the power of the Spirit, they replaced the Sword of the Spirit with the physical sword. The result was that the Great Commission turned into a crusade of conquest and coercion, which created church members but did little or nothing to change lives or give people a knowledge of Christ. People were forced to have a relationship with the Church, but had no direct relationship to Christ Himself.
The Great Commission was designed to turn ordinary people into witnesses of what Christ had done in their own lives. But when men’s personal experience with the Holy Spirit waned, men began to bear witness of the Church. Yet in calling themselves Christians, they unknowingly bore false witness against Jesus Christ, for their lives did not bear witness to the character of Christ.
I know of no one who fully bears witness to the character and work of Christ at this time, but we should all be in the Holy Spirit’s training center to learn and grow into full spiritual maturity. We may not become true and faithful witnesses in the ultimate sense until we receive the fullness of the Spirit at the feast of Tabernacles, but this should not prevent us from moving toward that goal even today.
As we grow in Christ, we become better witnesses and are able to keep the Ninth Commandment in greater ways.
This is the twenty-second part of a series titled "Moses' Fifth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones