We get to compare two different kinds of witnesses. One who simply repeats what they think they heard, like in the gossip game. And one who really listens.
I’m GLAD my bible helps had a few words to share with me on this verse. I had that “huh?” look on my face and in my heart after reading this a few times. My bible helps was able to set me on a good path of understanding.
I trust I’m not doing what the first ”witness” did, giving false information. I have a feeling that the Holy Spirit would ‘call me on the carpet’ if I did. PRAISE GOD that HE is in charge! Let’s see where He takes us today.
There are two kinds of “false witnesses”, or at least there are two that I can identify. The one who intentionally lies or misrepresents the truth and the one who got it wrong because he didn’t pay close attention. The first is the one I believe will be punished for his/her actions. One of God’s Ten Commandments has this action listed as a BIG no-no. This witness can be acting out of self-preservation (blaming someone else for their mistakes), out of malicious intent (out to get someone in trouble), trying to make themselves more important in the eyes of others (being part of the ‘in’ crowd), or they could be doing it for some kind of reward (a promise from another party for their ‘services’). ALL of these are sin. Plain and simple. They KNEW what they were saying was false.
The second kind of “false witness” can be doing it for some of the same reasons but they didn’t set out to be giving “false testimony.” They either didn’t take the time to listen beyond the ‘juicy part’ or weren’t really paying attention in the first place. They grabbed the parts that resonated with them and ran with their version. This witness can be as devastating as the first kind.
Solomon tells us something special about this kind of witness; “A false witness will perish”. I don’t know if this means that the person themselves will perish or what they passed on will. I would say if it is the first, they are probably getting their ‘just reward’ from God. The second possibility is the one I like the best. It is where the truth of the matter is uncovered and the ‘false testimony’ is blown away in the light of day.
I would like to look at a few examples of each kind of witnesses before we talk about the person whose words will endure.
The first kind of “false witness”, the one who deliberately alters the truth, is seen prominently in Jesus’ trial before the high priest. We could pick several reasons for their behavior from that first list; to make themselves sound important, for a reward, and out of malicious intent towards Jesus. These men’s words helped ‘prove Jesus’ ‘guilt’. These witnesses were search for by His adversaries. Many of them couldn’t stand in the face of truth. These few, however, were able to put just enough truth in their statements so they could twist them into a convincing testimony. These men could also fit the second kind of false witness, if it wasn’t for the intent behind their testimony. They heard what Jesus said but weren’t really listening beyond the ‘juicy part’. They didn’t REALLY understand what He was saying.
The apostle Paul was originally another of the first kind of “false witnesses”. His intent was to find and kill as many followers of Jesus as he could. He most likely used every trick in the book to trap those he judged guilty from the beginning. ANYONE who had the remotest interest in Jesus, beyond condemning Him, was fair game. His twisted everything and anything he could into cause for detaining and delivering death to those he found guilty.
Paul/Saul’s original reasons for heading out came, most likely, from the second type of ‘false witnesses’. What he heard was twisted by those who truly had malicious intent in their hearts. They twisted Jesus’ words before passing them to Saul. He took what was told to him as ‘gospel’ and ran with it. He may have also only listened to the ‘juicy parts’ before making up his mind. When he FINALLY stopped and listened to the TRUTH he became a mighty force for God.
The Pharisees were definitely of the first kind. They were out to protect their positions of power. They twisted Jesus’ words every way they could but they KNEW the truth. Jesus saw through their pretense and deception. And He said they would pay for their guilt before the Father. He prayed for forgiveness while on the cross but I don’t know if He meant for ALL the Pharisees and Sadducees had done. Maybe He did forgive them but then their actions afterwards condemned again. They continued to tell their lies and pass them on to others. Their lies are still being spread today.
Peter engaged in the first kind of ‘false witness’ for self-preservation reasons. While in Caiaphas’ court he lied when asked if he was one of Jesus’ followers. As soon as realization of his actions settled on him he was broken by guilt. Jesus restored him after His resurrection.
ONE of the two women who appeared before Solomon arguing about the single baby engaged in the first kind of false witness. She did it out of malicious intent. Not specifically to condemn the other woman but to make her suffer as much as she was. If it weren’t for the wisdom Solomon received from the Lord she might have prevailed.
I can’t really think of an example of the second type of false witness in the bible. I’m not sure if this is a deliberate omission by the Holy Spirit. Solomon says their lies would perish so maybe the Spirit kept them from being recorded forever. It’s also possible that I just don’t remember the relevant stories.
On a MUCH more important scale, our Bible has been protected from both kinds of false witnesses. God has seen to it that His message of love has been preserved throughout all history. Yes, there have been those who have made alternate translations that have fallen by the wayside. I’m CERTAIN this is due to the Holy Spirit’s intervention. They may have done it intentionally or out of understanding errors but their words DO NOT stand the test of time. God sees to it that their motives are exposed and His truth remains.
On a personal note, I’m guilty of both kinds of false witnesses at some time or another in my life. I’ve passed on information that I was mistaken about, deliberately misrepresented facts, and even convinced myself that a specific lie was in fact true. I have repented of all of them and my most sincere is to NEVER engage in that behavior again.
I have to admit to still keeping secrets. Some of them are simple secrets, like what Christmas present I’m giving, while others are ones that I never want to see the light of day. Not because they are horrible but because I am ashamed of my actions. I have partially revealed some of them before but today I am weighed down by the fact that I still have some. I feel like I am being prompted by the Holy Spirit regarding my secrets but I don’t know what to do with them. Other than NOT engage in their like again.
Father God, first of all, THANK YOU for protecting Your word down through history so I can be confident that what I have in my hands is EXACTLY what You wanted to give me. I trust in its completeness, authenticity, and message. NO ONE can convince me otherwise.
Second, Father God, please forgive me for any lies that I have not already laid at You feet. Even the ‘lies of omission’ or secrets that I carry. They are wounds that turn inwards on me and leave me bleeding. Please complete the work in me that their existence is spawning and then remove the sting of them. Don’t let go until the job is complete Father. I don’t know what that will look like but I trust You just the same. Create in me a CLEAN heart Father. One free of stains. I know there will be scars on it from the lessons I have learned along the way. But You have such a beautiful way of disguising them as Your ‘art work’. I can’t wait to see the tapestry You are weaving of my life from Your view instead of mine where all the knots are.