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God’s Word for You

Obadiah 11-12 The Eighth Commandment

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, April 14, 2018

11 On the day that you stood aloof,
  on the day strangers carried off his wealth
  and foreigners entered his gates
  and cast lots for Jerusalem,
  you were like one of them.
12 You should not have looked down on your brother
  in the day of his misfortune.
  You should not have rejoiced over the people of Judah
  in the day of their destruction.
  You should not have boasted
  in the day of their trouble.

In these verses, the Lord shows the Edomites how they broke the Eighth Commandment, and how this was connected to the Fifth, Second, and First Commandments. They broke it by not standing up for their relatives, the Israelites. This caused death and destruction, and showed that the Edomites put themselves above God’s holy will.

The Eighth Commandment is this: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” In it, God protects the gift of a good name: “A good name,” Solomon said, “is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:2).

Why is a good name important? It determines whether or not people will respect us or trust us. It is easy to lose and very hard to regain. “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

God forbids us to lie to another person or about each other. “Do not lie to each other” (Colossians 3:9); “Do not lie” (Leviticus 19:11). God forbids us to betray another person’s secrets. “Do not betray another man’s confidence” (Proverbs 25:9); “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13). God also forbids us to say anything that will give another person a bad name. “Do not slander one another” (James 4:11).

When God forbids false testimony, he isn’t just talking about a courtroom, or a published document. He means all communication, whether true or untrue, written, spoken, blogged, or tweeted, anything that comes from a heart with evil intentions. A naïve heart can also do great damage and sin with devastating consequences. The difference will be in their repentance, but it might be identical with regard to the consequences for the one betrayed. Here the Wise Men from the East give a fine example. When they traveled to Jerusalem to find the newborn Messiah, they did not know Herod would be murderously jealous of the baby. Warned about Herod in a dream, they did not return to Herod as they had promised, and the infant Jesus was spared from the slaughter (Matthew 2:16).

In the Eighth Commandment, God wants us to defend the good name of others, and to speak well of them. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9). God also wants us to speak well of others. Even when on trial, Paul spoke respectfully to the governors and even to King Herod Agrippa (Acts 26:2-3, 26:25).

Jesus forgave our sins against the Eighth Commandment, but that doesn’t give us permission to toss God’s will aside when it comes to gossip or telling lies. Remember Luther’s explanation:

We should fear and love God that we do not tell
lies about our neighbor, betray him, or give him
a bad name, but defend him, speak well of him,
and take his words and actions in the kindest possible way.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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