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Exodus 20:13 Word #6 – Value Life

08/21 Exodus 20:13 Word #6 Value Life

We are studying the law of God, his ten words to his people whom he rescued out of slavery and into his service. This is what life lived in relationship with God should look like. He starts with the vertical, our relationship with God, and then moves to the horizontal, how life is to be lived in community with other people under God. We are to worship only the correct God; we are to worship the correct God in the correct way; we are to treat his name with great honor; we are to give him priority in our use of the time that he has given us. In relation to others, we are to give honor to whom honor is due. And then comes #6:

Exodus 20:13 “You shall not murder.

God demands that we honor and value life that he created. To understand this properly, we need to understand who we are and to whom belongs the authority over life and death, and we need to clarify what this command means and what it doesn’t mean. Then we will look to Jesus, who takes this deeper, to the heart level.

Man in the Image of God

This is not the first time God has prohibited murder in the bible. When one of the children born to our fallen first parents killed his brother, the Lord confronted him and cursed him. God said to Noah:

Genesis 9:5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

This, by the way, is after God gave to man all living things for food. God gave us the right to kill and eat plants and animals, but man is in a different category of created being. If an animal kills a man, that animal is to be put to death. If a man kills another man, that man is to be put to death. And God gives us his reason for the distinct value of human life: “for God made man in his own image.” Back in Genesis, we are told that God created man in his image and likeness to have dominion over the rest of creation under him. Man, as image-bearer of God, was created to uniquely reflect God’s character and nature as ruler, so to kill a person is to deface God’s image. Murder is an attack on God’s authority. We have seen, that to honor mom and dad is to honor God who established their authority, and to value human life is to hold sacred what bears God’s image. Even the horizontal commandments of how we deal with other people have at their root a God-centered motive.

God’s Rights over Life

God, as Creator, has rights over his creation.

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

God as Creator is the life-giver. God gives life, and God sustains life. And God alone has the right to take life away. Job, at the loss of the lives of his children, says:

Job 1:21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

God as Creator and life-giver also has the right to take life away. God himself says:

Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

God as Creator has absolute rights that we as his creation do not have. We are all sinners, and the wages of sin is death, so any of us who are alive are experiencing God’s patience and mercy – and praise God, he is abundantly patient and merciful! We have not gotten what we deserve.

The Meaning of the Command

Now let’s look at what the command actually means. It is very short, very abrupt, very terse, only six consonants in the original Hebrew – a four letter word for murder and a two letter negative. It could be translated ‘no murder’ or ‘no killing’. Actually, both of these translations fall short, as we will see. The word here translated ‘murder’ or ‘kill’ (xur ratsach raw-tsakh’) is a relatively rare word, only showing up about 40 times in the Old Testament. There are several other much more common words that carry similar meaning. This particular word is never used when God or angels put to death. It is never used to describe killing animals. This word is never used for killing in war. It is never used to describe capital punishment. It is never used to describe lethal force in self-defense. So our English translation ‘thou shalt not kill’ is too broad a translation, including many types of killing that the sixth command does not forbid. The bible goes on to establish the death penalty for murderers, it authorizes us to defend ourselves and our families, it puts the sword in the hand of government to execute justice among its people and defend them from hostile enemies. However, the translation ‘you shall not murder’ is too narrow a translation, as indicated by the footnote in the ESV bible: “The Hebrew word also covers causing human death through carelessness or negligence” – something we would usually consider ‘manslaughter’ rather than ‘murder.’ So, some have suggested translating this ‘no unlawful killing’ or ‘no illegitimate killing’, which may be more precise but awkward.

So this command specifically applies to people killing other people. It does not forbid war or capital punishment or self-defense. It does include negligence or carelessness, as in the case where an axe head comes off the handle and kills a man (Deut.19:5) or the failure to put a rail around a roof where someone could fall and die. (Deut.22:8). This command clearly includes suicide, the taking of one’s own life, abortion – the gruesome murder of a child in its own mother’s womb, and euthanasia, the murder of our elderly.

Jesus on Murder

Now that we’ve seen what this command does and does not include, let’s look at what Jesus says about it.

Matthew 15:18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

Jesus brings us to the heart of the matter. He goes back from what we do, to what we say, which shows what is in our heart. Murder is ultimately a heart issue. I’m guessing most of us here have never committed murder. If there is someone here who has, praise God, there is forgiveness in Jesus even for that. And to those of you that are uncomfortable with the thought of worshiping alongside a former murderer, listen to what Jesus says:

Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Jesus, who claimed never to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it, includes under the sixth command anger, insult, and slander. Jesus moves us from thinking only about the outward act in to the attitudes of the heart. What we think and feel and say about our fellow man matters deeply to Jesus. In fact Jesus puts reconciliation before worship. We can’t legitimately worship God when we are at odds with our brother. Seek reconciliation. Get your heart right before God.

The Command to Love

Jesus is not adding to God’s law something that was not there. He is returning us to the original intent of the law, raising it back up to God’s high standard. We can see this in Leviticus 19:17-18.

Leviticus 19:17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Obedience to God’s law is a heart issue. How we feel about someone is just as serious as how we treat them. Carrying a grudge is sin. We are commanded to love.

Paul tells us that all the commands of God are summed up in the command to love.

Romans 13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

James picks up this thread of love:

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Partiality, or showing favoritism based on appearances, is considered a violation of the law of love, akin to murder. James is concerned with how we speak and how we act. Remember, the command ‘no murder’ extends even to carelessness and negligence? James continues:

James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

If it is careless to not properly maintain your axe or to swing it in such a way that it could endanger another person; if it is negligent to fail to build a rail around your balcony, then what does that say about how we value life if we see someone in a life threatening situation and do nothing to help? If we truly value life as God intends, we must not be careless or negligent with anyone’s life. Man is created in the image of God. If we want to honor God, then it will have implications on how we treat our fellow man. James addresses this in chapter 3:

James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body …6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. …8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words pierce right through my soul. It is inconsistent to worship God with our tongue and with that same tongue tear down those who are made in the image of God. This sixth command extends to what we say and think and feel.

John points us in the same direction:

1 John 3:11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;

Jesus is our example in love. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.”

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, … ungodly. … 8 …God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

August 21, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment