************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 112 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 30, 2011
Q & A 112
"Genesis and the Ninth Commandment"
Lies, lies, lies, and more lies. They are all around us. Think of Bernie Madoff who conned about $50 billion from investors who trusted him with their savings. Under oath, Bill Clinton said "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." President Nixon famously claimed "I am not a crook" when asked about his involvement with Watergate. Hitler and the Nazis spread lies blaming Jews for all of Germany's problems, including the loss of World War I. Harold Camping made another prediction – not just the rapture this time: he predicted the world was going to end two Fridays ago on October 21, 2011. Thank God that we all know these to be lies and that most people rightly recognize these to be wrong.
All Men are Liars
A Now, what did the children of Israel think of the book of Genesis when they heard the ninth commandment? God says, "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor" (Ex 20:16). As the Catechism puts it, this means "I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind." Yet, Genesis is full of liars and their lies. Every single narrative in the book contains an incident of lies and deception – with the exception of the creation account and the story of the Flood. Because God forbids the lie Israel is forced to admit that God condemns the actions of men like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the patriarchs of Israel.
Let me run through the list of lies in Genesis:
-Gen 3 The serpent's deception of Adam and Eve
-Gen 4 Cain's lies about his brother Abel
-Gen 12 Abram's lies to Pharaoh
-Gen 20 Abraham's deception of Abimelech
-Gen 26 Isaac's deception of Abimelech
[How gullible was Abimelech that he fell for the same lie twice?]
-Gen 27 Rebekah and Jacob deceive Isaac and Esau
-Gen 29 Laban deceives Jacob regarding Rachel
-Gen 31 Laban deceives Jacob regarding his wages
Jacob deceives Laban
Rachel deceives Laban
-Gen 34 Jacob's sons deceive Shechem's people
-Gen 37 Joseph's brothers lie to Father Jacob
-Gen 38 Tamar deceives Judah
-Gen 39 Potiphar deceived by his wife
-Gen 42 Joseph deceives his brothers
-Gen 44 Joseph deceives his brothers again
Doesn't it seem like everyone is deceiving and lying to everyone else?
We find that the lie in Genesis is no respecter of persons. It is to be found at every level of society and covers every aspect of man's social experience. The deceptions include the serpent who deceives Adam and Eve, tribal leaders deceive kings, a mother and son deceives a father and son, an uncle deceives a nephew (and vice versa), a daughter deceives her father, brothers deceive an entire city, sons deceive their father, a daughter-in-law deceives her father-in-law, a wife deceives her husband, a brother deceives his brothers. Family – and other – relationships sure were messy in Genesis already.
How are we to explain all the lies and lying in Genesis? What is going on in this opening book of the Bible? And, what are we to say in response to all the lies of the patriarchs – after all, we normally view them as heroes of faith whom we are called to imitate?
When Abraham lied about Sarah being his sister and when Isaac said the same lie about his wife, do you know what both men were doing? They chose to take matters into their own hand rather than trust in God. That was their first sin – their failure to trust in God. They added to this sin with the lie. And, by saying a lie, they endangered the covenant line out of which the Savior someday would come.
As individuals and churches we are so often tempted – like Abraham, like Isaac, like Jacob – to take matters into our own hands. When life becomes uncertain and chaotic and scary we choose the lie rather than trust in the protection and provision of God.
B There is nothing strange or unique in what Genesis shows us. Genesis gives us a picture of man, of fallen and sinful man. Keep in mind what is said by both Jeremiah and the psalmist:
(Jer 17:9) The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?We are liars. Everyone of us. Adam. Cain. Abraham. Jacob. Peter. Judas. Ananias. You. Me. My parents. My sons. We are all liars. That is our natural inclination. Even with the regenerating Spirit within us we are still liars because the old man of sin isn't dead yet, it is merely dying away; and, the new man of righteousness is not fully alive yet, it is merely coming to life.
(Ps 58:3) Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.
(Ps 116:11) And in my dismay I said, "All men are liars."
As in Genesis, we see that the lie today is to be found at every level of society and covers every aspect of our social experience. The lie is to be found on the lips of Presidents and Prime Ministers, ministers and elders, parents and children, husbands and wives, teachers and students, police officers and citizens, employers and employees, IRS agents and Wall Street brokers. The lie is everywhere. Think of President Bill Clinton. Think of President Nixon. Think of the church secretary who lied in her financial reports and has been found guilty of embezzling $2.1 million from the Visalia First Assembly of God church. Think of the many politicians lately who have lied about inappropriate relationships. Think of the sports heroes who lie about steroids.
C Whether it is Genesis or today do you know what all of these lies show us and tell us? As I already said: that we all are liars. If a saint like Abraham could lie, then who are we to think we are immune to such a sin? If a church-father like Peter could lie about knowing Jesus, then who are we to think we are above such things?
Someone I know makes it sound like he never ever lies. He doesn't even admit to mis-statements on his part. Rather, there are times I don't properly understand him. So, it is my fault and not his. This man doesn't know or ignores Psalm 116:11 which says, "All men are liars."
D "All men are liars." All liars need to know and hear the words of God about their sin:
(Prov 12:22) The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.Do you hear what the Bible says? God hates the lie. And, God punishes the lie.
(Rev 21:8) But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.
When we look at Genesis from this viewpoint, we see our need for the Savior. We see that our hearts are so corrupt and so deceitful that we need divine intervention (Jer 17:9). We are so naturally inclined toward the lie that nothing but the Savior's blood will save us and nothing but the Savior's Spirit will renew us.
II The Father of Lies
A Do you remember what Jesus said about Satan one day when He was talking with the Jews who no longer believed in Him? Jesus said,
(Jn 8:44) You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Jesus tells us Satan is a liar. As we see in our Bible reading from Genesis, Satan lied three times to our first parents. First, Satan asked, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (Gen 3:1). Satan knew better. He knew exactly what God said. Second, Satan said, "You will not surely die" (Gen 3:4). Another lie. Satan knew first-hand that death was the consequence of rebellion against God. Third, Satan stated, "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen 3:5). Another lie.
B Satan is a liar. Which means he is an enemy to truth and, especially, to Christ Who is the truth (Jn 14:6). He hates the truth. But he was not always this way. Like everything else in Creation, Satan was created good. Satan was furnished in his mind with a true knowledge of His Creator and things spiritual, in his will and heart with righteousness, and in all his emotions with purity. Indeed, he was holy in all his ways. However, when he rebelled against God, he deprived himself of these outstanding gifts.
C Satan is a liar. Which means he has no truth in him. When Satan has a choice between a lie and the truth, he picks the lie even if there is nothing to be gained by using falsehood. We've all met people like this who say a lie even if the truth doesn't hurt.
Satan is a liar. He is a liar through-and-through. Everything about him is a lie. His interest in the world is based upon lies and falsehood. What he says is lies and falsehood. His standards of right and wrong, good and evil, are lies. The proofs he advances for his cause are lies. His temptations – as we see in the Garden of Eden – are based upon lies. His prophets are lying prophets. His promises are lies.
D Satan is a liar. Jesus says the lie is Satan's "native language" (Jn 8:44). I've gone to the death-bed of more than one person who immigrated from overseas. Many times, as they are dying, they revert to the language of their childhood – even if they have been here for years already. Why? Because that is most natural to them. Satan's native tongue is the lie. This is the language he speaks most easily and most naturally.
E Satan is a liar and the "father of lies" (Jn 8:44). He is the first liar. He is the first one to speak the lie. He is the first one to twist the truth and deny the truth.
Satan is the "father of lies" (Jn 8:44). This means Satan is not only the first liar but every lie can trace its ancestry back to Satan. When men speak a lie, they borrow it from the devil. It is Satan who fills mens hearts to lie – as he did with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3). Satan is the father of every lie; he is the author and founder of all lies. When men speak lies, they speak from him and as his mouth.
Satan is the "father of lies" (Jn 8:44). This means that when men speak lies, they bear Satan's image. Jesus says, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire" (Jn 8:44). Jesus mentions a well-known principle here: that sons are like their father. For instance, my dad can never sit still; he is forever twitching and tapping and moving around. My son Josh is the exact same way. I claim that this family trait shows up every other generation; my wife says it has not skipped a generation.
In the spiritual realm, if God is your Father, then you share God's nature (2 Pet 1:1-4). But if Satan is your father, then you share in his evil nature. In this light, think of Cain. What did Cain do? Cain murdered his own brother and then he lied about it. Cain showed himself to be a son of Satan because, like Satan, he murdered and he lied.
When we lie, congregation, we are being like the devil. When we lie, says the Catechism, we are using "devices the devil himself uses." Now, let me offer a needed correction: Our Lord does not say that every liar is a "child of the devil. Nor does our Lord say that every time we lie we become a child of Satan.
III The Ninth Commandment
The lie is part of our fallen nature that God hates and that God punishes. The lie is a tool of the devil. It is not surprising, then, that God's will in the ninth commandment
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.That is the negative side of the ninth commandment.
The Christian also knows another side to the ninth commandment:
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.This is the positive side of the ninth commandment.
IV God Accomplishes His Purposes
A Lies occur throughout the book of Genesis, from beginning to end. Nevertheless, God continues to advance His plan of salvation. We see that God accomplishes His purposes in spite of, and even by means of, man's deceitfulness. Why? Because God is not limited by human deceitfulness.
For instance, God acted to preserve the covenant line at the time of Abraham. Remember what God did when Abraham lied about Sarah? God inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household (Gen 12:17) and God warned Abimelech in a dream to keep away from Sarai (Gen 20:3).
Don't we see this again and again in Scripture? Don't we see God accomplishes His purposes in spite of human deceitfulness? For instance, Tamar's lie – according to the plan of God – resulted in the birth of Perez and eventually of David and ultimately of Jesus (Gen 38). The lies of Joseph's brothers resulted in the preservation of the covenant line in Egypt (Gen 38 ff). The midwives lie to Pharaoh to save the male children of the Hebrews (Ex 1). Rahab lies to the king of Jericho in order to save the Israelite spies (Ex 2). Jael lies to Sisera and kills him while he is lying down in her tent (Judges 4). In each and every instance, our mighty God is not stopped by the lies of sinful men; rather, He uses those lies to advance His eternal purposes. He uses those lies to bring about "the saving of many lives" (Gen 50:20).
B Along this line, more than one person has wondered why Satan worked so hard to have Jesus killed. For instance, it was Satan who poisoned the hearts of the Jewish leaders against Jesus so that they plotted how to kill Him (Mk 3:6). It was Satan who entered Judas to betray Jesus. (Lk 22:3; Jn 13:2,27). And, it was Satan who put it into Peter to deny Jesus (Lk 22:31). Yet, the cross and the grave of Christ signaled the defeat of Satan. So, why did Satan work so hard to have Jesus killed? The early church fathers believed that God fooled Satan into thinking the cross was a good thing. God deceived the Great Deceiver. As Peter put it in his Pentecost Day sermon,
(Acts 2:23) This man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.God used the lie in order to bring about salvation.
C God works out His purposes. He even uses the lie to accomplish His purposes. But this does not mean the lie is a good thing. There are people who argue this way. I had an argument with a Christian woman about her marriage to an unbeliever. She argued her mixed-marriage was a good thing because her husband became a Christian. I told her good results do not make a bad thing good. The ends do not justify the means. In the same way, someone might point to the good results of a lie. But it is still a lie and thus does not measure up to the will of God.
Lies, lies, lies, and more lies. Isn't it sad that they are all around us? Isn't it sad that even the saints of God are guilty of this sin?
Among Muslims, lies are expected and even rewarded. Among Christians, however, there is a higher standard. He Who is truth and Who died for the truth says, "You shall not bear false witness."
As people saved by the blood of the Lamb let us hate every form of lying and let us love and speak the truth.
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