Once again we turn to the Ten Commandments and their treatment in the Heidelberg Catechism for the next installment in our nearly-complete URC Psalmody series. Today’s focus is the ninth commandment (via Lord’s Day 43), which concerns false testimony against our neighbors.
112 Q. What is God’s will for us in the ninth commandment?
A. God’s will is that I
never give false testimony against anyone,
twist no one’s words,
not gossip or slander,
nor join in condemning anyone
without a hearing or without a just cause.
Rather, in court and everywhere else,
I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind;
these are devices the devil himself uses,
and they would call down on me God’s intense anger.
I should love the truth,
speak it candidly,
and openly acknowledge it.
And I should do what I can
to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.
17, “Help, Lord, for Those Who Love Thee Fail” (Psalm 12)
“God’s will is that I never give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor join in condemning anyone without a hearing or without a just cause.” Although the imprecatory psalms do call for God’s judgment on the wicked, often their primary motive is to emphasize the danger of sin itself. Psalm 12 concerns itself, as the Psalter Hymnal puts it, with “flattering lips” and “boasting mouths” that spew forth lies. In contrast to these rebellious liars, the psalmist praises the Lord for his “pure words” (v. 6, ESV), and reassures himself that “you will guard us from this generation forever” (v. 7).
Help, Lord, for those who love Thee fail,
Thy faithful ones fall from the ranks,
And leave the liars to their tale,
False gratitude and treacherous thanks.
Lord, may those flattering lips be lashed,
The boasting mouths stripped of their pride,
Those tongues that murmur unabashed,
Who is this God? We shall abide!
And what He saith is purified
Like silver, sevenfold assayed.
Though by this evil age defied,
His word of truth shall be obeyed.
His promises shall stand secure,
His saints are safe, though ill betide;
He will protect His humble poor,
Though rogues are honored far and wide.
60, “Be Thou My Helper in the Strife” (Psalm 35)
“Lying and deceit of every kind…are devices the devil himself uses, and they would call down on me God’s intense anger.” In Psalm 35 David laments the affliction he has undergone from those who bear false witness against him, but he looks expectantly to the Lord for justice and salvation.
Unrighteous witnesses have stood
And told of crimes beyond belief;
Returning evil for my good,
They overwhelm my soul with grief.
When in affliction they were sad,
I wept and made their grief my own;
But in my trouble they are glad
And strive that I may be o’erthrown.
O Lord, how long wilt Thou delay?
My soul for Thy salvation waits;
My thankfulness I will display
Amid the crowds that throng Thy gates.
Let not my enemies rejoice
And wrongfully exult o’er me;
They speak not peace, but lift their voice
To trouble those that peaceful be.
97, “O Mighty Man, Why Wilt Thou Boast” (Psalm 52)
“I should love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it.” Grave judgment lies in store for those who love “evil more than good,” according to the Psalter Hymnal’s versification of Psalm 52. In Christ’s words, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matt. 12:34, 35).
O mighty man, why wilt thou boast
Thyself in hateful cruelty,
When God Almighty is most kind,
And ever merciful is He?
Thy tongue deviseth wickedness,
A weapon treacherous and keen;
Thou lovest evil more than good,
And falsehood in thy sight is clean.
Since, O thou false, deceitful tongue,
In deadly words thou findest joy,
The Lord shall pluck thee from thy place
And all thy wickedness destroy.
63, “Fret Not Thyself, Nor Envious Be” (Psalm 37)
“I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.” Once again we conclude our study of this commandment with a call to wisdom from Psalm 37. Envying the wicked for the prosperity they gain through fraud and deceit will only drag the Christian into depression and despair. Rather, we ought to “Trust in the Lord and still do well,” in confidence that to the Lord our way is known. “And to thy heart He will accord/The good it would possess.”
Fret not thyself, nor envious be,
When wicked workers thou shalt see,
Who prosper in their way;
For like the grass they perish soon,
And, like the herb cut down at noon,
They wither in a day.
Trust in the Lord and still do well,
Within the land securely dwell,
Feed on His faithfulness;
Delight thee also in the Lord,
And to thy heart He will accord
The good it would possess.
Yea, to the Lord thy way is known;
Confide in Him who on the throne
Abides in power divine;
Thy righteousness He shall display;
Resplendent as the light of day,
It shall unclouded shine.