“Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.” Psalms 35:11 NLT
Throughout the Bible much is written about “bearing false witness”. It means telling lies about someone. Or accusing them of something that they haven’t done. Or gossiping about them, particularly on social media. But not to bear false witness against your neighbour was the ninth commandment that Moses delivered to the Israelites. God gave this commandment to the Israelite nation for a reason – “bearing false witness” strikes at the very fabric of society because it destroys relationships. And here we have David in Psalm 35 complaining that he was being accused of crimes he didn’t commit, caught up in the middle of a storm of rebellion in the society he was trying to lead. But this wasn’t just an Old Testament problem. It was prevalent in New Testament times as well – Jesus Himself was similarly accused (Matthew 26:60) and also Stephen, one of the early church leaders, in Acts 6:13.
And the problem hasn’t gone away today, with a constant stream of false accusations and comments about sports people and others being posted on social media. People’s reputations are easily destroyed by careless words in the workplace, or in conversations with others. The problem is all about the evil thoughts that people have within their hearts and Jesus thought this problem was important enough to teach about – we read what He said in Matthew 15:19. And the Apostle James wrote about the dangers of the spoken word in the third chapter of his epistle.
So what is to be done about this perennial problem? The bottom line is that each one of us must be careful about what we say and how we say it. We must think carefully before hitting the “return” key. We must ask ourselves the question, “is what I am about to say or write true, helpful, necessary and encouraging?” And we must strive to apply the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:18, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”
“My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with Me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”” Psalms 27:8 NLT
What an amazing verse! That the Creator of the universe and all that is in it would want to talk to David, the Psalmist? Really? But God favours no one more than any other. David’s experience of dialogue with God wasn’t just for him – it’s for everyone. And note this – God initiated the conversation. So I have to face into the fact that my amazing God wants to talk to me. So how do I respond? “Sorry, God, but I’m too busy right now?” Or ”sorry, God, there’s a TV programme I need to watch?” I can invent any number of excuses. But the truth is quite clear – He wants to talk to me. There is only one response that is acceptable – “Lord, I am coming”. God knows my busy schedules. He knows what living on planet earth demands. But there will be times when He wants to talk to me and I need to turn up my spiritual receptors so that I respond in His timing, not mine.
God talks to me through His Word. Through a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit. Through a comment from a fellow pilgrim in my community of faith. But He invites me to talk with Him. To join Him in an intimate conversation devoid of religious jargon. Full of honesty and grace. And He whispers with love and mercy, what I need to hear.
God is inviting you, my friend, to talk with Him as well. How will you respond?
“May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in You.”
“Declare me innocent, O Lord, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.” Psalms 25:21, 26:1 NLT
Two verses from adjacent Psalms. Both mentioning the word “integrity”. And both in the context of the Psalmist David’s relationship with God. The God we worship is a God of integrity, a God who is totally honest, who never lies, and He put within us the same seed of integrity. This is why if we lie, we immediately have a problem with our conscience, causing feelings of guilt which can lead ultimately to mental health issues if unaddressed. Whether human beings like it or not, within them is God’s DNA. It’s how He created us. And to this problem of a lack of honesty and integrity, the word “sin” has been ascribed. But God, in His mercy, could see the problem of sin and guilt and He sent His Son, Jesus, to be the propitiation for our sins. Through Jesus we have the remedy for sin, and the means to return back to God’s presence, to a place of integrity and honesty. Yes, there may be earthly consequences to our sins, but nevertheless, God will forgive.
It was very important to our Psalmist that God recognised his integrity, because through that he knew that God would protect him. Through that relationship, that closeness to God, he knew that he was in the best place, the place God had designed for him. And so it is with us. By reaching out to God this morning, confessing our sins before Him and allowing Him to forgive us, we too can be in that “sweet spot”, that place of relationship with God.