Bible Study on Standing Up for the Falsely Accused
There is a theme through the Book of Isaiah about defending those falsely accused or are poor, etc. By the time we read Isaiah 50, we will see the Servant-Messiah will be falsely accused. God will come to plead His cause. Then the Servant in turn will plead the cause of the innocent who are falsely accused. The theme of Messiah is He and God are advocates against false accusations, oppression, and mis-judgment.
This theme begins in Isaiah 1, where we read:
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17, NIV.)
This is akin to the plea in the Psalms:
Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked. (Psalms 43:1, NIV.)
The Psalm 82:3 likewise reads in the ESV: "Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute." The passage of Proverbs 31:9 is likewise: "Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice." (NLT). This includes seeing that they get a fair hearing.
It is akin to Proverbs 22:22-23 that promises God will afflict those who afflict the poor:
Do not rob the poor, because he is poor,
or crush the afflicted at the gate,
23 for the Lord will plead their cause
and rob of life those who rob them.
Later in Isaiah, the prophet speaks the words of a Messiah-Servant who says Yahweh gave him a "tongue" to help the weary with a word which those who are trained would acquire by study. Speaking of the Messiah-Servant who has such a word (implicitly with no study), we read:
The Lord [Yahweh] God has given me
the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
him who is weary. (Isaiah 50:4.)
Those who are taught the word are the lawyers who plead the cause of the innocent. The servant speaks as one well-trained in the Word which can strengthen those who are weary from accusation. But first, the servant himself will be falsely accused. It is God-Yahweh who will come to defend his innocence.
In verses 7-9, Yahweh's servant knows Yahweh will defend the servant's innocence and vindicate him in the end:
But the Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
8 He who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who is my adversary?
Let him come near to me.
9 Behold, the Lord [Yahweh] God helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up. (Isaiah 50:7-9.)
Thus, Yahweh will stand up for the Servant's innocence, and thus no one can declare him guilty or truly put him to shame.
In Isaiah 51:21-23, Yahweh begins to speak as the legal advocate who pleads the cause of the innocent, and the result willl be a vindication that leaves the accusers in torment.
Therefore hear this, you who are afflicted,
who are drunk, but not with wine:
22 Thus says your Lord, the Lord [Yahweh],
your God who pleads the cause of his people:
“Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering;
the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more;
23 and I will put it into the hand of your tormentors,
who have said to you,
‘Bow down, that we may pass over’;
and you have made your back like the ground
and like the street for them to pass over.”
Then after declaring the Messiah's role in Isaiah 53, Yahweh-God promises protection in Isaiah 54 for God's people. Part of the Messiah's kingdom is to reddress the strife and judgment falsely brought against God's people. Their accusers will be "refuted" and God's "vindication" will come:
whoever stirs up strife with you
shall fall because of you.
16 Behold, I have created the smith
who blows the fire of coals
and produces a weapon for its purpose.
I have also created the ravager to destroy;
17 no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord [Yahweh]
and their vindication[e] from me, declares the Lord [Yahweh].” (Isaiah 54:15-17.)
In Isaiah 59, Yahweh-God reviews that false accusations are made in Court, and lying is rampant. Then Yahweh-God declares in Isaiah 59:15-19 his lament that no one will "intercede" to defend the innocent, and so God Himself rose up to do so:
Truth is lacking,
and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
The Lord [Yahweh] saw it, and it displeased him[a]
that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no man,
and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
and his righteousness upheld him.
17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
18 According to their deeds, so will he repay,
wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies;
to the coastlands he will render repayment.
19 So they shall fear the name of the Lord [Yahweh] from the west,
and his glory from the rising of the sun;
for he will come like a rushing stream,[b]
which the wind of the Lord [Yahweh] drives.
When God intercedes for the innocent against false accusations, He has not only zeal, the breastplate of righteousness, and the helmet of salvation, but also His "garments of vengeance" -- to punish wrong. The wrongdoers are in his Royal Court -- without knowing it.
What about us? If we step forward to intercede for the innocent, as God says is righteous to do, we are not the final judge, and thus we leave vengeance up to God-Yahweh to do through the civil or religious authorities.
The Prayer of the Oppressed
David gives us an example of those who are oppressed. King Saul distrusted David, and wanted him killed. But David had no desire to hurt Saul. Yet, Saul hunted David down like a dog. David proved his noble intention for once he and his men were hid in a cave when King Saul entered to pee, and David cut a piece of the king's clothing off while peeing, and held it to prove later that David could have killed the king but did not, demonstrating there was never any aim to harm the king. Regardless, David prayed this prayer over this conflict with King Saul:
Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. (Psalm 35:1.)
A similar verse appears in Isaiah 49:
I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. (Isaiah 49: 25 NIV)
David when captured by King Saul prayed:
"May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand." (1 Sam. 24:15.)
Verses of Encouragement When Falsely Accused
Jeremiah 20:11 - But the LORD [is] with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: [their] everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.
Psalms 109:2 - For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue
Isaiah 54:17 - No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue [that] shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This [is] the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness [is] of me, saith the LORD.
Proverbs 11:9 - An hypocrite with [his] mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.
Matthew 5:11 - Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
The Blessing of Repentance for The One Who Falsely Accuses
Gossip among Christians where false accusations are made without closing your ears until a one on one fails is a serious wrong. Jesus in Matthew 18 verse 15 requires that you go privately first to your brother to raise the accusation with him or her before you tell anyone else about it.
The consequences can be devastating to a Christian group:
"A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends." Proverbs 16:38, NIV.
So what happens when a brother or sister does not comply with Matthew 18:15 and does not go personally to you first with a complaint, but instead spreads lies about you to your church brothers and sisters?
Because Matthew 18:15 was not followed initially by whomever is responsible for defaming a brother or sister, the person responsible for the defamation cannot try to limit the solution now to Matthew 18:15 -- a one on one with the defamed brother or sister. The accused brother or sister is now entitled to Matthew 18:16 to be complied with -- a meeting of responsible witnesses in a church group setting who hear out the case, and try to resolve the accusation. It would be a violation of Matthew 18:16 to not follow its directive once 18:15 is violated. This is now the only means that the accused has available to clear their name besmirched to third persons by a violation of Matthew 18:15, absent a written retraction of the accusation.
Amicable resolution by recanting a lie may be hard, but it is good for the soul. For as brothers and sisters, we cannot bear false witness against one another. This is the Ninth Commandment. Exodus 20:16. Jesus was asked how to have eternal life, and He quoted obedience to several of the ten commandments, including: "18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ (Matt 19:18.)
Whoever has spread a slanderous lie, it is good for that person or persons to clear the air by telling the truth in the same manner and to the same persons and in the same way that the lie was spread. This is what God commands. As 1 Peter 3:16 says: "Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame."
The wrongdoer must accept the shame publicly of their false witness. This is proper repentance. Just apologizing to the victim one-on-one will never heal that person's soul before God, or undo the wrong. It is for that soul's good that the false witness must endure the same result they intended to bring on the falsely accused, and bear that shame themselves. Such a process "purges" out evil.
As Deuteronomy 19:18 says: "The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst."
This step of recanting is thus a blessing for the brother or sister who needs to repent. Their soul is otherwise in jeapardy, if you listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:18.
The US criminal law reflects the same Mosaic principle: one accused of perjury can "purge" the perjury by telling the truth, and the perjury charge goes away.