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                          COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: PART FIVE

SERMON PRESENTED ON 01-23-16

       Last week we continued in our series on the book of Proverbs and began to discuss the seven things God hates as listed in Proverbs 6:16-19. After a lengthy discussion of what it means for God to hate, we discussed the first of the seven things God hates which was the issue of haughty eyes.

       We saw that the English word haughty is a rendering of a Hebrew word that means to be high or lofty.  Solomon uses it here to signify a look of pride arrogance and defiance.   Today we will continue to discuss the seven things God hates. 

       Proverbs 6:16-19: There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,  a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

       God hates a lying tongue.  The English word translated “lying” in this passage is the Hebrew word sheqer (sheh’ker).  This Hebrew word means to lie, deceive, commit fraud, testify falsely, swear falsely and so fourth.  It is found 113 times in the OT.  It is the word used in the ninth commandment.

       Exodus 20:16: "You shall not give false (sheqer) testimony against your neighbor.     

       Some see the ninth commandment as having a limited application in that it speaks of being a false or lying witness against ones neighbor.  It is felt this commandment is dealing with saying false things about another person and not the telling of lies in general.

       In a footnote to Exodus 20:16, the New English Bible (NET) explains that the Hebrew construction of Exodus 20:16 denotes a “lying witness” and literally means “you will not answer as a lying witness.”  It is suggested that the prohibition is against perjury and seems to reference a legal proceeding.

       So to repeat: Because the fourth commandment appears to be dealing with giving lying testimony against another person, some have concluded this commandment does not directly prohibit other forms of lying that don’t directly involve saying false things against another person. So are we to conclude that other forms of lying are OK with God.

       For example, is it OK to falsify information on your tax return?  In this case you are not saying false things about another person but you are bearing false witness against yourself in that you are lying about your financial situation.  Is that OK in God’s sight?  

       What if you borrow your neighbor’s car and hit something with it putting a small dent in the bumper.  When you return the car, your neighbor notices the dent and asks you about it and you claim to know nothing about the dent.  Is that OK with God?  After all you’re not saying anything false against your neighbor, you’re just not telling him the truth about what happen to his car while in your care.

       Let’s say you are shopping at Milk ‘N Honey health food store and you buy a bottle of vitamin C which happens to be in a glass bottle inside of a box.  You get home and open the box and drop the bottle and it breaks and your vitamin C caps are now all over the floor.  So you put the caps back in the broken bottle and return the bottle to Milk ‘N Honey and tell the clerk that when you removed the bottle from the box it was broken and you want to exchange it for a new bottle.  Is that OK with God?  Is God only against saying false things about your neighbor but other types of lying are OK.  Or does God hate lying in general?

       Let’s begin to explore this issue by taking a closer look at how Solomon uses the Hebrew sheqer.

       Verse 17: haughty eyes, a lying (sheqer) tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,   Verse 19: a false (sheqer) witness who pours out lies (kazab) and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

       Solomon uses sheqer twice in Proverbs 6:16-19. He says in verse 17 God hates a sheqer tongue and then goes on in verse 19 to say God hates a sheqer witness.  The English word “false” is taken from the same Hebrew word sheqer.  That we find in verse 17 where Solomon is saying God hates a sheqer tongue.  

       In verse 17 Solomon is apparently using sheqer in its broader sense of lying in general and in verse 18 he is using this word in a more restricted sense in saying God hates a false witness who pours our lies.  Even if one were to conclude that the ninth commandment is only dealing with the giving of false testimony against ones neighbor in a court trial, we see here in Proverbs that God not only hates testifying falsely against ones neighbor but also hates lying in general.

       Remember, Solomon is listing seven things God hates.  One of the seven is a lying tongue and another of the seven is a lying witness.  God is seen as distinguishing between the two and hating them both.  In reviewing the 113 occurrences of sheqer in the OT, one does not find sheqer used in the context of a court trial as such.  What ones finds is that sheqer is used multiple times to describe speaking falsely about others in general and in so doing the violation of the ninth commandment is made evident.  

       Psalm 27:12: Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false (sheqer) witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.

       Psalm 31:18: Let their lying (sheqer) lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

       Psalm 109:2: for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying (sheqer) tongues.

       So here we have a few examples of many I could provide that show sheqer referring to speaking falsely about another person which is what the ninth commandment appears to be primarily addressing. However, it must be noted that it is not only in speaking falsely about another person where we find sheqer used by OT authors.  We also find sheqer being used to refer to lying in general and we see this with the author we are currently studying, King Solomon. 

       As already discussed, we see the contrast between God hating a lying tongue and a lying witness.  Since Solomon is not saying the same thing twice, it is apparent God hates both a lying tongue in general and also a lying witness.

       Verse 17: haughty eyes, a lying (sheqer) tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,   Verse 19: a false (sheqer) witness who pours out lies (kazab) and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

       Proverbs 12:22: The LORD detests lying (sheqer) lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

       Proverbs 21:6: A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.

       I think we all understand how lying can cause great harm and virtually ruin lives. How many people have been bilked out of many thousands of dollars by a lying investment broker who provided a glowing picture of profits that could be made by making certain investments while knowing all the while the only one who would really make serious money was the broker who pocketed the fees charged for processing the investments?

       I recently watched a documentary on the TV show Date Line where a oncologist doctor (a cancer doctor) diagnosed patients as having cancer and proceeded to give strong chemo therapy for extended periods of time.  In so doing he was raking in millions of dollars in both private and government insurance payments.  He had built a multi million dollar clinic, a multi million dollar home for himself and family and was living high off the hog as the saying goes.  There was only one problem, a number of the men and women he diagnosed as having cancer didn’t have cancer and he knew it. 

       He was bilking hundreds of thousands of dollars from his patients savings along with private and government insurance programs all based on bogus diagnoses. He was inflicting tremendous physical and psychological damage to his patients.  He ruined the lives of hundreds of people and several of his patients died because of unnecessary chemo therapy.  This man is presently serving a long prison sentence and rightly so.  As Solomon wrote, a fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.

       We see in the writing of the prophets a great deal of warning about lying being a dominate dynamic in the community of Israel.   Over and over again the prophets pointed out to Israel how they were being governed by liars and that they were virtually living a lie.

       Jeremiah 5:30-31: "A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies (sheqer), the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.

       Sound familiar?  We are currently embarking upon a National ritual that occurs every four years called the Presidential Primaries.  You have already and will continue to hear many lies and counter lies.  Many people will participate in campaign events and voice their approval to what they hear said even though much of what is said will be lies and at best a shading of the truth.  Yet as Jeremiah said to the people of ancient Israel, “the people love it that way.”  It is apparent from the way people react to what is said at campaign events that people love to be lied to, “the people love it that way.”

       I earlier discussed Proverbs 6:17&19 where Solomon writes that God hates a lying (sheqer) tongue, and a false (sheqer) witness who pours out lies (kazab). The Hebrew word for lies at the end of this verse is not sheqer but kazab and this word appears thirty times in the OT.  Since Solomon points out that God hates a false witness who pours out kazab, it may be appropriate to take a look at how this word is used in the OT.

       The basic definition of kazab is to tell a falsehood and to deceive someone. In reviewing the thirty occurrences of this word it appears to often be connected with giving false testimony regarding someone or something.  However, it also is used to simply identify someone who doesn’t’ tell the truth.  

       Psalm 58:3 Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies (kazab).

       The Psalmist, in a somewhat hyperbolic statement writes of the wicked being wayward from birth and associates such waywardness with speaking lies. The thing to remember here is that the writer associates lying with being wicked. We know God hates wickedness. So when Solomon says God hates a false (sheqer) witness who pours out lies (kazab) God is saying such person is wicked.  To be a liar is to be a wicked person.  I have to wonder how that would play out in the world of politics if politicians caught in a lie were to be called out as being wicked.    

       There is another word that appears twenty-three times in the OT that simply means to lie and not tell the truth.  This word is kachash (kaw-khash).  This word is used to identify someone who is not truthful with someone else as to any matter that may come up.  This word appears to identify the kind of general lying that takes place constantly in human interaction. 

       Leviticus 6:1-4: The LORD said to Moses: "If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving (kachash) his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies (kachash) about it, or if he swears falsely (sheqer), or if he commits any such sin that people may do-- when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found.

       Notice that lying is associated here with sin and being unfaithful to YHWH.  When we lie to our fellow man we sin and in sinning we become unfaithful to God.  God has established moral law.  When we behave contrary to God’s moral law we sin which means we are unfaithful to God.  There are dozens of Scriptures that speak to being faithful to God as well as the consequences of being unfaithful to God.

       When we lie to our fellow man we are being unfaithful to God.  The LORD said to Moses: "If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving (kachash) his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care. To lie to your neighbor about something left in your care is to sin and be unfaithful to God.

       Earlier I asked that if you borrow your neighbor’s car and hit something with it putting a minor dent in the bumper and when your neighbor sees the dent and asks you about it you claim to know nothing about the dent if that is OK with God?  I think Leviticus 6 gives us the answer to that question.

       I earlier spoke of someone shopping at Milk ‘N Honey and buying a glass bottle of vitamin C in a box, getting home and taking the bottle out of the box,  dropping it and breaking it and then returning it and saying the bottle was broken when the box was opened. I asked whether this was OK with God.  I think Leviticus 6 answers that question as well.

       Jesus associated the giving of false testimony with evil thoughts. Jesus said For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander (Matthew 15:19).  Paul instructed that we must put off falsehood and saw engaging in falsehood as a return to putting back on the old sinful self.

       Ephesians 4:25:  Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 

       Colossians 3:9: Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

       That God abhors lying is well demonstrated in the account of Ananias and his wife Sapphira as recorded in Acts 6. These two had sold some property and had told Peter that they had given all the money to the church when in reality they had kept some back for themselves. As the story goes, keeping some money back for themselves wasn’t the problem.  Lying about having done so was the problem.  

       Acts 5:4-5: Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God."  When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.     

       Peter sees Ananias’ lying as lying to God.  How many of us have over the years lied to God.  How many of us have promised to do this or that for God and than reneged on the promise.  How may of us have promised God we would serve Him better if He would heal us of an illness or help us overcome a problem and then when things get better we forget all about our promise to God and go on living as if nothing had changed.

       God wants us to be faithful and trustworthy.  Lying is the antithesis of these character traits. Lying can cause great harm and long lasting damage.  It can ruin people’s lives.  I mentioned earlier how people are preyed upon by unscrupulous financial advisers resulting at times in the loss of their life savings.  I mentioned the doctor who gave bogus cancer diagnosis and how it ruined the lives of hundreds.

       God hates lying because it runs contrary to His law of love. To love someone is to have outgoing concern for their wellbeing.  Lying is a self centered behavior.  It is often done to enhance or protect the self.  People lie all the time in an effort to shield themselves from facing the consequences of their sinful behavior.

       Having said all this, are there times when it is OK to lie?  Is lying always a sin?  We are all familiar with Rahab the harlot.  The story is found in Joshua, chapter two.  Joshua sent two men to spy out the city of Jericho. The two spies stayed with a prostitute named Rahab who had a house on the city wall.  The king of Jericho found out about the two spies staying with Rahab and ordered Rahab to release the two men to Jericho’s authorities.  Instead of releasing them Rehab hid them on the roof of her house under stalks of flax.

       When the authorities came to her house, she told them that the spies had been there but had left at dusk and she didn’t know which way they went.  She encouraged the soldiers to pursue them.  The account of this event reveals that Rahab knew about Israel conquering various nations and that Jericho was next.  She feared for the safety of her family.  So she made a deal with the spies that if they would spare her family when Israel conquered Jericho, she would protect them from the government authorities. 

       Hebrews chapter 11 is called the faith chapter.  It lists several dozen examples of people accomplishing certain things in their lives based on what they believed to be true.  Hebrews 11:31 records that, “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient."

       Rehab welcomed the spies because she knew what Israel had already accomplished in their quest of gaining the Promised Land and she feared for her life and that of her family. Her lying to protect the spies was also a lying to protect herself and family.  Is it OK to lie to protect yourself and family?

       Say Barb and I went on a mission trip to a foreign land where the people were not very friendly toward Christians.  Christian missionaries had been killed in this land and Christian women had been abducted, raped and murdered.  While living in this country, one evening, while Barb and I were at home, there is a knock on the door and two men are standing there not looking very friendly.  They ask where my wife is.  Immediately the light bulb goes on in my head and I perceive these men are here to abduct my wife, rape her and probably kill her. 

       What do I do?  Do I tell the men my wife is here with me or do I deny she is in the house and do so loud enough so that she hears me and hopefully escapes out the back door before the men come in and search the house.  Would it be OK with God that I lied to the men about the whereabouts of my wife in order to save her life?  Do we have any Scriptural evidence that it is OK with God to lie to save lives?  We have a story in Exodus chapter one that may throw some light on this issue.

       The King of Egypt, because he feared the rapid increase of the Hebrew population, ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill newborn boys and only allow the girls to live.  It’s recorded that the midwives didn’t do this and when asked by the king why they didn’t do this here is what they said.

       Exodus 1:18-19: Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, "Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?" The midwives answered Pharaoh, "Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive."

       It appears to be a lie that the Hebrew women were giving birth before the midwives arrived. The whole purpose of being a midwife was to help with a delivery.  It is unlikely they would be constantly arriving late to carry out their duties.  The Midwives appear to be simply covering their tracts by saying what they said to the king of Egypt. Yet we see recorded in verse 20-21 that “God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous.  And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.”

       It is evident the midwives feared God and weren’t about to kill newborn baby boys.  But to protect themselves from the wrath of the king and save the lives of the baby boys, it appears they fabricated the story about the Hebrew women giving birth before the midwives arrived on the scene and the response of God indicates there was nothing sinful about this.

       We also have the story of Ahab and Jehu as recorded in 2 Kings 10.  Ahab was a wicked king of Israel and was succeeded by Jehu.  Ahab had been a worshipper of Baal.  Jehu proclaimed that he would worship Baal in a greater way than Ahab did and invited all the priests of Baal to gather together to sacrifice to Baal.  When the priests of Baal all came together Jehu had then all killed.  He had deceived them into thinking he was a Baal worshiper so he could destroy them and rid Baal worship from Israel. How did God respond to this?

       2 Kings 10:30: The LORD said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation."

       It is apparent God was pleased with what Jehu did even though what he did involved lying to the priests of Baal in order to get them to come together so he could kill them and wipe out Baal worship in Israel.

       In Exodus 3 we have the account of Moses and the elders of Egypt appearing before the king of Egypt to request the Israelites be granted a three days journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to God.  The implication being this would be a temporary departure after which the Israelites would return.  Of course there was no intention of returning to Egypt as from the beginning God had promised to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage and have Moses lead them into the Promised Land.

       From these examples and others like them that I could provide, it would appear that lying in order to obtain a righteous result may be acceptable to God in some circumstances.  We must be careful, however, to not fall into the trap of what is called situation ethics.  Situation ethics is where we allow the situation to dictate how we behave.  This is a dangerous way to behave as it allows us to be the arbitrator of right and wrong.  We are not the arbitrator of right and wrong.  God is.  God is the one who defines right and wrong.  It is God who has set the ethical and moral standards by which we should live.  It is because of situation ethics and what is called moral relativism that we have the mess we have in the world.

       As to lying, God has made it quite evident that lying is one of the things He hates and, therefore, we should hate it also. We need to learn to hate what God hates.  If we hate what God hates we will embrace the character of God and Christ Jesus and live moral/ethical lives in harmony with the standards of behavior God has established.

PART SIX