OT511 – Psalm 33

Reading the Old Testament with Jesus in Mind: Job through Song of Solomon (podcast)

There is an app that will allow you to automatically download this daily podcast to practically any smartphone.  Just go to your smartphone’s app store and search on “mike gantt.”

Suggestion:  If you are not already familiar with the New Testament, I would not advise you to listen to this podcast at this time.  First, get your grounding in the New Testament.  You can begin with one of these Bible Reading Plans which are focused on Jesus.  You can also listen to my podcast series Reading Through the New Testament a Chapter a Day (SCNT).  The Old Testament needs to be understood in the light of the New Testament; this is what Jesus taught us.  Therefore, we today read and understand the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.

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Ten Commandments: #9 – Examples of True Witnesses

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments, and today we conclude our discussion of the ninth commandment.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

Jesus’ apostles – Peter, John, James, and the rest – were all Jews.  Even Paul, who came later was a Jew.  Of course, Jesus Himself was a Jew.  Many people fail to appreciate how thoroughly Jewish was the original Christian enterprise.  Even the word “Christian” stems from “Christ,” which is the Greek way of saying “Messiah” – an entirely Jewish concept.

Because the New Testament came from this Jewish context, we can be sure that all Jesus’ apostles were thoroughly familiar with, and practitioners of, the Ten Commandments.  They would have been well aware of how grievous an offense would be the giving of false testimony.  In other words, they knew what the ninth commandment required and they knew what would constitute the breaking of it.

I mentioned in an earlier post on this commandment that, in a bitter irony, some Jews gave false testimony against Jesus at His trial.  We can be sure that those Jews did not have regard for the ninth commandment.  Giving them the benefit of the doubt, they must have thought that ridding Israel of a heretic was worth breaking the ninth commandment – that the end justified the means, that they committed in their minds the lesser of two evils.

Let us then consider Jesus’ twelve apostles.  Would they have been as willing to break the ninth commandment?  Here’s where I’m going: Unlike us, the apostles didn’t claim to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead; they claimed to know that He had been raised from the dead.  They claimed to have seen Him, heard Him, touched Him, and ate with Him…not just before, but after He had risen from the dead.  Therefore, when it came to Jesus’ resurrection, they were either telling the truth or they were lying.  They were either testifying truthfully or they were bearing false witness against all of us by saying things that they knew to be untrue.

Though historical records are scanty, it appears that all of these men except for one died a violent death because of their testimony.  These deaths included crucifixion, stoning, beheading, and even being flayed (skinned) alive.  The one who apparently didn’t suffer such a cruel death  – John – was boiled in oil to no negative effect.  Only because of this miracle was he able to later die a natural death.  All these men had to do to alter their fate was to alter their testimony.

I cannot, for the life of me, imagine for one second that the apostles testified as they did knowing that their testimony was false.  Nor can I imagine that they were deceived or confused about the matter; there were too many of them to all be deceived, and they were too bold and clear in their declarations to be confused.  Because of the culture in which they were raised, these Jews were too steeped in the importance of the Ten Commandments to disregard the ninth one in order that they might face the same sort of painful and ignominious death that their leader had faced.

I believe in Jesus Christ because of the apostles’ testimony, but they believe because of no one’s testimony.  They believe because they either did or didn’t experience, as they claim, a resurrected Jesus over a forty-day period beginning the third day after He was crucified and buried.  You’ll have to decide whether you think they were breaking the ninth commandment or not.

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

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OT510 – Psalm 32

Reading the Old Testament with Jesus in Mind: Job through Song of Solomon (podcast)

There is an app that will allow you to automatically download this daily podcast to practically any smartphone.  Just go to your smartphone’s app store and search on “mike gantt.”

Suggestion:  If you are not already familiar with the New Testament, I would not advise you to listen to this podcast at this time.  First, get your grounding in the New Testament.  You can begin with one of these Bible Reading Plans which are focused on Jesus.  You can also listen to my podcast series Reading Through the New Testament a Chapter a Day (SCNT).  The Old Testament needs to be understood in the light of the New Testament; this is what Jesus taught us.  Therefore, we today read and understand the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.

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Ten Commandments: #9 – No False Witness Doesn’t Require Constant Jabbering

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments, and today we will examine what the ninth commandment does not require of us.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

Keeping the ninth commandment – that is, speaking the truth in love – doesn’t mean you have to blab everything you know in every situation.  There’s a time to speak and a time to be silent.  Your conscience will help you decide which is which.

In general, God wants us to cultivate a quietness of heart.  Have you ever noticed how much noise a worried heart makes?  Angry hearts are likewise loud.  A noisy heart makes God’s voice hard to hear.  His voice, which is peaceful and calm, can be easily drowned out by the multitude of voices we leave chattering in our hearts.  The more anxious we are, the more we feel the need to speak in order to relieve our anxiety.  You can only control your tongue by first controlling your heart.

God has designed that our conversations with Him can be thought to thought.  That is, we don’t have to address Him out loud in order for Him to hear us.  We have a thought toward Him, He has a thought toward us.  We understand Him in our hearts without having to speak out loud.  This fosters having a quiet heart.

It’s in this quiet heart that we should cultivate only thoughts of truth.  Some thoughts we have to think to live practically in this world don’t seem like truth, but all truth does not have to be grand, magnificent truth.  Whatever you think, whether it’s important or mundane, let it be truth.  If you maintain a heart of truth, you will have little trouble in speaking truth.  Or, using the words of our commandment, if you bear no false witness against your neighbor in your heart you will have little trouble doing the same with your mouth.  If your heart is a place where you are always thinking the truth in love, then your mouth will be a place where only speaking the truth in love comes out.

The most important truth you will ever carry in your heart is the knowledge that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord of heaven and earth – and, therefore, your Lord and Savior.  This truth anchors your life in reality and keeps you grounded in every storm, large and small.  Nothing can bring more peace to your heart than knowing that He is, and that He loves us.  Yet sometimes nothing can bring more upset to the people around you than for you to utter this truth.  Jesus Christ is the most polarizing name in the world.  People either love that name or they want to run the other way when it is spoken.  Try mentioning Him in your next conversation at the office or at a cocktail party.

Jesus wants us to be unashamed of Him.  After all, He is unashamed of us so it’s not too much for Him to ask us to reciprocate.  Moreover, He has good reason to be ashamed of us, and is not.  How much less we have reason to be ashamed of Him!  Yet He also counsels us not to cast our pearls before swine or give what is holy to dogs.  That is, He’s not interested in our starting a riot at the office or cocktail party by carrying on about His importance.  As it is written, there’s a time to speak and a time to be silent.

I think it’s very unfortunate that new believers are often encouraged to go and immediately tell everyone they know of their newfound faith.  You’ve seen how it works.  With everyone’s head bowed and everyone’s eyes closed, the preacher asks the would-be believer to quietly raise his hand…then stand up…then walk down the aisle…to the front of the crowd.  By now, everyone’s eyes are open and the new believer is making the most public of statements.  I fear for such people in the days that will follow.  Some survive, but many die from the exposure like newborn infants left out in the elements.

In contrast to this, I urge new believers to love and serve Jesus in the privacy of their own hearts before revealing the decision to the world.  In this way, you can not only strengthen your faith, but you can make sure that your faith is indeed in God and not in other believers.  Alas, many Christians have faith in Christians rather than faith in Christ.

There will come a time when every believer is called upon to bear witness to Christ, and to be silent in that time will be to bear false witness to Him and thereby disobey the ninth commandment.  In order to have strength for that time, use the time until then to build up the truth in your heart so that when it becomes time to speak it from your mouth, the roots of it will run deep and wide in your heart.

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

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OT509 – Psalm 31

Reading the Old Testament with Jesus in Mind: Job through Song of Solomon (podcast)

There is an app that will allow you to automatically download this daily podcast to practically any smartphone.  Just go to your smartphone’s app store and search on “mike gantt.”

Suggestion:  If you are not already familiar with the New Testament, I would not advise you to listen to this podcast at this time.  First, get your grounding in the New Testament.  You can begin with one of these Bible Reading Plans which are focused on Jesus.  You can also listen to my podcast series Reading Through the New Testament a Chapter a Day (SCNT).  The Old Testament needs to be understood in the light of the New Testament; this is what Jesus taught us.  Therefore, we today read and understand the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.

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Ten Commandments: #9 – More on No False Witness

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments, and today we continue our discussion of the ninth.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

In this series of posts about the Ten Commandments, I have shown how Jesus intensified Moses’ fourth commandment (about the Sabbath) by explaining that in the kingdom of God the Sabbath is every day – not just one day a week.  I have also shown you how Jesus intensified Moses’ sixth commandment (against murder) by explaining that in the kingdom of God even thoughts of hate toward a neighbor are disallowed.  And I have shown how Jesus intensified Moses’ seventh commandment (against adultery) by explaining that in the kingdom of God not even private imaginations about a woman other than one’s wife should be tolerated.  Today I want to show how Jesus also intensifies the ninth commandment (against false witness).  I assumed it in what I wrote yesterday, but I want to be explicit about it today.

When Moses originally gave the ninth commandment, its wording implied a legal environment.  Moses’ comprehensive legal code for Israel had specified that some aspects of it were so important that violation of them called for the death penalty.  Yet Moses also said that no Israelite should be put to death except on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  Therefore, it would take such testimony before any Israelite could be condemned to death. The ninth commandment was there to emphasize how soberly such testimony should be given.  No Israelite was to be cavalier about bearing witness against his neighbor.  It was a matter of life and death.

The Jews took the issue seriously and, in the generations following Moses, developed a variety of means to make sure that proper heed was given to such testimony.  An Israelite could swear by (take an oath on) heaven, earth, Jerusalem, one’s own head, the temple, the altar, the offering on the altar – you get the idea.  The gravity of the testimony was to be related to the importance of what was being sworn upon.  Jesus came along and said “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.”  In other words, Jesus made clear that the subjects of His kingdom would have to tell the truth in every utterance that came from their mouths at any time of day or night – not just when a trial was taking place or an oath was being solicited.

Moses gave the Ten Commandments, but Jesus interpreted and applied them in a way that takes them to a whole new level.  The contrast between Moses’ way and Jesus’ way is dramatic.  Moses delivered the Ten Commandments to the ancient Israelites – not the whole world.  Moses’ focus of those commandments was comparatively narrow and literal, dealing generally with outward behavior.  Thus almost everything about Moses’ application of the Ten Commandments was limited in scope.  By contrast, Jesus applies them to every thought we think, every word we utter, every action we take.

The only way to make sure that only truth comes out of our mouths is to make sure we only have truth dwelling in our minds.  As computer programmers have long been taught to say, “garbage in, garbage out.”  If we allow garbage in our hearts, it will eventually come out of our mouths.  Some people try to control the garbage at the mouth, or even think that the garbage can be dressed up to look like something else when it comes out of the mouth – but such strategies are doomed to failure. Only by controlling garbage at the source can we control it at all.

Let us be careful therefore to think only the truth, lest anything other than truth come out of our mouths.  This honors the king of the kingdom of God – Jesus Christ our Lord.

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

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OT508 – Psalm 30

Reading the Old Testament with Jesus in Mind: Job through Song of Solomon (podcast)

There is an app that will allow you to automatically download this daily podcast to practically any smartphone.  Just go to your smartphone’s app store and search on “mike gantt.”

Suggestion:  If you are not already familiar with the New Testament, I would not advise you to listen to this podcast at this time.  First, get your grounding in the New Testament.  You can begin with one of these Bible Reading Plans which are focused on Jesus.  You can also listen to my podcast series Reading Through the New Testament a Chapter a Day (SCNT).  The Old Testament needs to be understood in the light of the New Testament; this is what Jesus taught us.  Therefore, we today read and understand the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.

Posted in Podcast | Leave a comment

Ten Commandments: #9 – No False Witness

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments, and today we have come to the ninth.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

One of the many ironies of Jesus’ crucifixion is that it was justified by a trial which based its verdict on the testimony of false witnesses.  That’s right.  The very people whom the Lord commanded not to bear false witness against their neighbors bore false witness against their neighbor – and their neighbor in this case turned out to be God Himself.  Imagine how the Lord must have felt giving this commandment, knowing that one day outright disobedience to it would result in His execution.

By contrast, Jesus Himself told nothing but the truth at His trial…and that, too, was used to convict Him!  Truth was in short supply that night.

As we have seen in our survey of the Ten Commandments, they were taken at face value in the time of Moses and therefore had a relatively limited scope.  As Jesus interpreted them, however, their scope became pervasive.  In the case of the ninth commandment, the essence of the commandment becomes an unyielding commitment to the truth…on behalf of others.  For this reason, the apostle Paul used the phrase “speaking the truth in love.”

I’ll get to the “in love” part shortly, but as for the “speaking the truth” part, surely you know that truth is in short supply these days as well.  It’s not that there’s no truth at all; it’s that what truth is presented to us is often distorted, twisted, and manipulated…for someone else’s purpose.  It’s not that we don’t get any truth; it’s that we don’t get “the whole truth,” and we don’t get “nothing but the truth.”  It seems everyone has an angle.  They emphasize the parts of the truth they want us to know and de-emphasize the parts of the truth that they’d rather we didn’t think about.  They don’t want us to think truth – they want us to think what they want us to think.

One of the most powerful ways to learn the importance of truth is life is also one of the most painful.  It is having to have a relationship with someone on whom you cannot rely to tell you the truth.  Being deceived is a painful experience.  It destroys quality of life; it destroys relationships.  You would normally avoid such a person at all costs, but sometimes you can’t.  Deceit corrupts life, and the trail of destruction it leaves is long.

We cannot control whether or not others tell us the truth, but we can certainly control whether or not we tell them the truth.  Jesus told us the truth, and we ought to follow His example.  He did not refrain from telling the truth just because it was unpleasant for someone to hear.  He told the truth that needed to be heard.

This brings us to the “in love” part of “speaking the truth in love.”  Love does not mean trimming the truth in any way, but it does mean that our motive in telling the truth but be for the other person’s benefit.

…love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly…
–  1 Corinthians 13:4-5

You have heard the truth told in bragging, in arrogance, in an unbecoming way.  That’s not how we are to handle the truth.  Rather, we are to speak the truth only in love.  That requires us to remember that:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous…it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,”
–  1 Corinthians 13:4-5

None of this is to justify so-called “little white lies.”  No lie is justified.  What it is to justify is being gentle with the truth while we are being bold with the truth.  Gentleness and boldness are not mutually exclusive; Jesus demonstrates this vividly.  In all that He said, He was the epitome of gentleness and the epitome of boldness.  He spoke the truth in love.  And when false witnesses kept testifying against them, He kept bearing a true witness to them and for them.

We could not have a better example of keeping the ninth commandment than the Lord Himself.

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

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OT507 – Psalm 29

Reading the Old Testament with Jesus in Mind: Job through Song of Solomon (podcast)

There is an app that will allow you to automatically download this daily podcast to practically any smartphone.  Just go to your smartphone’s app store and search on “mike gantt.”

Suggestion:  If you are not already familiar with the New Testament, I would not advise you to listen to this podcast at this time.  First, get your grounding in the New Testament.  You can begin with one of these Bible Reading Plans which are focused on Jesus.  You can also listen to my podcast series Reading Through the New Testament a Chapter a Day (SCNT).  The Old Testament needs to be understood in the light of the New Testament; this is what Jesus taught us.  Therefore, we today read and understand the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.

Posted in Podcast | Leave a comment

Ten Commandments: #8 – No Stealing

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments, and today we have come to the eighth.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

The commandment “Do not steal” is certainly among the easiest of the ten to understand.  Who cannot understand “Don’t steal”?

A sense of property rights comes early and naturally in life; one of the first sentences one child utters to another is “That’s mine!” just before turning to an adult and crying, “He took my (fill in the blank)!”

As we grow older, we become aware that stealing can take more subtle forms.  We can steal time from family in order to advance ourselves at work, or we can steal time from work to redeem ourselves at home.  In either case, it’s stealing and it’s wrong.

Some people attempt to whitewash their stealing, as when fudging on taxes is justified “because the government is already getting enough money.”  And some politicians make an entire career out of presenting themselves as Robin Hood:  “Vote for me and I’ll tax rich folks more so folks like you can be better off.”  Sadly, a democracy can be corrupted by Tom and Dick ganging up to take from Harry.  Yet stealing is stealing no matter how hard you work justify or disguise it.

A thief can be rich or poor because stealing is not a matter of how much you have or don’t have before you do the stealing.  All that matters is are you taking something that is not yours.  Greed is an equal-opportunity temptation; any person who thinks he’s exempt from it is self-deceived.

Children who are taught to respect the property rights of their parents and siblings will find it relatively easy to respect property rights of others once they’re grown and operating in the world.  And while it’s important to teach children to share, it must be done in a context of respecting the property rights of others – otherwise, the sharing loses its meaning.  If everything belongs to everyone then you’re not being generous when you share; you’re just taking turns with community property.  If, however, something is truly yours then the Lord will bless your soul for letting someone else use it because you are truly being generous.

Implicit in the command not to steal is a promise of the Lord’s provision for our lives.  That is, we don’t steal…and we don’t need to steal, because the Lord will always make sure our needs are met.  We know that we can obtain whatever shelter, clothing, and food we need through righteous means and will never need to resort to unrighteous means.  Thus adherence to the eighth commandment leads us to seek honest labor.

Before leaving the subject of stealing, we ought also to consider that just as we should not steal from people, neither should we steal from God.  All things belong to Him…including us!  We are His creatures.  When we seek autonomy, therefore, we are stealing what is His and trying to make it our own.  This concept is dealt with in the fourth commandment about keeping the Sabbath holy but also is addressed in “You shall not steal.”  No creature in his right mind seeks autonomy; it’s what made Frankenstein a monster.

You belong to God twice: once because He made you and again because He redeemed you.  Don’t steal from Him; let Him keep what is His.  There is no doubt He will be generous.

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

Posted in Obeying Christ | Leave a comment