I am fairly sure, however, that this does not mean we cannot hypothesize, based on “some” input, what may or may not come to pass on a particular issue. For example, a jubilant mother telling her friends that, based on what she observes, a certain young man is going to propose to her daughter soon is not necessarily a false rumor, especially if she adds, “but of course, we will have to wait and see.” For her friends to then tell the neighbors that “Bob has proposed (or even ‘will propose’) to Alice” is spreading a false rumor.
Next, God tells us not to be party to anyone who is putting forth a false statement. Chuck Smith says, “don’t be a party to perjury (lying or misrepresenting, especially under oath).” David Guzik is much stronger on this passage. He says, “The only way to obey this command is to put a stop to a false report. Doing nothing or remaining ‘neutral’ is to allow the false report to circulate.” We have to ask and demand “proof from the person bringing the report, and proof as required in the Bible – from two or three witnesses.” The reference to a “wicked” man is there because in one sense he who spreads the false rumor and he who accepts it, are equally evil.
Next, God turns to protesting, but more specifically “rioting”. It is in our human nature to follow a crowd. It started with Adam following Eve. (I personally like to follow fire engines to get to the action, but my passengers won’t let me.) God says, “don’t join a mob that intends to do evil.” You can speak up against what you believe is wrong. Maybe even protest peacefully to show that support. But God outlaws rioting and looting and throwing stones. Unfortunately some of us take this to an extreme and stay home and watch television rather than make our voices heard at all.
In the latter part of the second verse, God warns us against being persuaded by the crowd (perhaps our friends or even our families) to side with wrongdoing or untruth in a way that prevents and perverts justice. It is often so convenient to side with those with whom we have associated for years. Not doing so causes us to be shunned or ridiculed or at best, tolerated. It takes a strong person to be able to withstand the crowd that has been a crucial part of his/her life to this point. Most of us are not that strong and only by the power of God indwelling in us can it be done. For this reason, Matthew Henry informs us “among the Jews, the junior upon the bench voted first, that he might not be swayed nor overruled by the authority of the senior.” Henry goes on to imply that our job is to inquire of God as to what we individually are to do, not to see what the majority is doing because while we may be asked to judge a matter, He is judging our choices.
Finally, God who loves the poor to no end as we have seen His constant warnings for us to take care of them throughout Scripture, allows His value of truth and justice to trump their needs. Here in verse 3 of this passage, He tells us not to show any partiality to a poor person who has a dispute. The fact that he/she is poor is no reason for unfair or inappropriate preference when it comes to what is right or wrong. This came home to me recently when I read the story of a 14-year old girl in Africa that had been stolen from the hospital just three days after she was born. A poor woman who raised her had taken her. The girl’s identity was discovered when she joined a high school were her birth sister was attending and later DNA proved the real connection. Interestingly some psychologists and social workers have implied that we needed to be fair to the poor lady that stole her given the fact that she had raised her up all these years. First, I find it difficult to be fair in this case of pure theft and greed, albeit under some difficult circumstances of the woman who did the stealing. Second, I think this is the kind of thing God had in mind in this verse.
Bottom line is that God expects His people to speak the truth, challenge those who do not, and always and only support the truth. This is not only when it comes to cases before the law but in our everyday conversations and interactions with others – at home, at work, at church. How are you doing, especially when it hurts to do so because it involves a friend or a relative, or worse still, you?
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