A false witness shall perish: but the man that heareth speaketh constantly.
Millions testify in court and other settings every day. Parents question children. A false witness may lie for a while, but he will be discovered and punished by God and men. But godly men, when put under oath, tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
A proverb is a short, dark saying (Pr 1:6). It is your duty to find the lesson. The first half is obvious – a man who lies under questioning will be punished. The second half, like many proverbs, teaches the opposite – a good man under oath always testifies the truth.
It is a good man in the second clause, because he is contrasted to the false witness of the first clause. Like many of Solomon’s proverbs, there are two clauses compared to each other either negatively or positively. It is a negative comparison here by the disjunctive “but.” Liars in court will be judged severely, but honest and faithful men tell the truth.
What does the honest man hear? He hears the magistrate swearing him to tell the truth. Moses warned, “And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity” (Lev 5:1). Jesus finally answered Caiaphas, after He was sworn to speak (Matt 26:63-64).
How does the good man respond to hearing the oath? He speaks constantly, meaning he speaks with mental constancy or stedfastness; confidently, faithfully, assuredly. He tells the truth firmly without equivocation or variation. His testimony is consistent with itself. He is always a faithful and true witness, upon which the integrity of every court depends.
Solomon gave this lesson elsewhere. He wrote, “Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not” (Pr 29:24). The accomplice of a thief heard the judge swear him to tell the truth, but he did not disclose the thief. Remember this rule the next time you stand in an American court and say, “So help me, God.”
Moses commanded early, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Ex 20:16). The blessed God of heaven is a God of truth, and He expects His children to be men of truth (Deut 32:4; Ex 18:21; Eph 4:25). Parents must enforce absolute truth at all times by punishing exaggeration, deception, and lying as very serious offences. Nearly any offence or sin can be worked through with repentance, but lying is nearly impossible.
God hates liars and lying (Pr 6:16-19). The devil is the father of all lies (John 8:44). All liars will be in the lake of fire (Rev 21:8). But God in grace punished the lies of His elect in Jesus Christ, and He gave them Jesus’ honesty and truthfulness as their own reputation in the wonderful legal transaction called justification. What a glorious Judge and Lawyer!