Before we get into today's passage, I want to add a little bit to what we talked about last time, and that is how we are to honor our father and mother. Today we see all kinds of TV show where the kids act disrespectfully toward their parents, being very smart-alecky and acting like their parents are the biggest dorks on the planet. Yet we know from Proverbs that Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15) and A child left to himself brings shame to his mother (Proverbs 29:15). And as if to reinforce this principle, and to show what a shamefully disgraceful display of hatred toward God it is to disrespect one’s parents, listen to these directions God gives Moses in Exodus 21:15—“And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.” That is how seriously God considers the authority of parents over their children, and how seriously He considers children’s duty to honor and obey their parents. A couple of fellows way back when said the following:
“In a modern court of justice, the smiting of a parent might perhaps receive the highest penalty incurred for the commission of an assault; but it would never be exalted to a special offence. But God in His government of Israel makes an offence against a parent to be one of the first magnitude. The severe penalty specified here corresponds with the position occupied in the Decalogue by the commandment to honor parents. God we see is ever saying and doing things to set great honour on the family, and indicate great expectations from it.” (from The Pulpit Commentary)In other words, God has established the family as the pre-eminent model of authority and submission. It is by learning how to obey and respect our parents that we learn to respect and obey all types of authority. And God considers this structure to be so crucial, that if a child could not learn to respect and obey his own parents, he was to be cut off—not only cut off from the camp, or from the nation of Israel, but that child was to be cut off from the land of the living. Period, paragraph. Unfortunately, in our current culture, that model has been turned upside-down, and we now live in a culture that bows to the whims and wishes of the very children who should be looking to their parents for guidance. And all this because parents have neglected their duties to the ultimate authority, which is God.
Well, that said, we are going to begin studying the next three commandments that, when you think about it, should really make us say “Do we really need a commandment to tell us that is wrong?” The answer is, “Yes.” And these are the commandments, Exodus 20:13-15—“You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal.” Do we really need to be told that it’s wrong to kill someone, or to sleep with another man’s wife, or to steal from our neighbor? Well, the answer to that question is yes…and no. While we may see these things as being wrong because they infringe on other’s rights, we don’t realize, in our sinful condition, that these actions are sins against God, so yes, we do need these commandments. I mean, think about it this way: Should texting while driving be against the law? Absolutely. But until somebody got it through their head that texting while driving should be illegal, there was no law against it. Until finally, when someone was killed by a driver who was working his phone’s keypad, the smart apples who make laws decided, “Hey, we ought to have some kind of law making this illegal.” DUH. So today we’re going to look at these commandments against actions that we should know are hated by God.
And think about this, too. Notice how short they are. Four or five words in English. Two each in Hebrew. Sometimes, the most forceful statements are short and to the point. What I'm about to say has nothing to do with the text, but please allow me a little folly here. During the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, the German commander sent this proposal to American general Anthony McAuliffe, short version: “There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town…If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne.” General McAuliffe gave the following response: “Nuts!” Not a lot of discussion. Just a simple declaration that said it all.
Just like these commands from God. Exodus20:13--“You shall not murder.” Quite simply, God tells us not to kill people. Is that so hard to understand? There’s not a lot of wiggle room there. “You shall not murder.” And just for the record, when I mention murder, I'm talking about murdering someone in cold blood, what we would call “premeditated” murder. I'm not talking about self-defense, or a soldier in war, or carrying out the death penalty. I'm not talking about anything similar to what we call “vehicular manslaughter”, where we run the red light and t-bone another car and kill the driver. I'm talking about murder that is thought about beforehand, the “I'm going to go over to Yitzhak’s house and put my mattock through his head” kind of murder.
The very first murder took place, as we all know, in Genesis 4:8—And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Now, God had not revealed His law to mankind yet. Did that let Cain off the hook? No. In fact, God told Cain in Genesis 4:10-11—“The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.” God has always considered the taking of another person’s life in cold blood to be a very grave matter. And in fact, any time a person takes another’s life, it should be a grave thing, whether it is murder or in times of war or the death penalty. But these days, if you have some kind of excuse for killing someone, or you “show remorse”, or if your parents just didn’t love you enough when you were a kid, they’ll let you get off with a lighter sentence. God doesn’t. Under the Law of God, if one person murdered another, that person was put to death. Leviticus 24:17—“Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death.”
This was what happened in the first hundred or so years in this country. You kill someone in cold blood, you were put to death. Things have changed over the years, however. Now that we have laws in this country that are based on people’s personal feelings, laws have come to be shaped by emotion rather than by a sense of justice and law and order. In fact, in some places, murder isn't even called murder anymore. If you don’t believe me, consider the following story. And these were actual events that took place in Campbell County, Virginia:
Deputies were called to a home in the 1200 block of Lone Jack Road…When deputies arrived, they discovered a baby had actually been born around 1:00a.m., about ten hours earlier. Investigators say the baby was already dead when deputies got there…They say the baby was under bedding and had been suffocated by her mother. Investigators say because the mother and baby were still connected by the umbilical cord and placenta, state law does not consider the baby to be a separate life. Therefore, the mother cannot be charged. Investigator Tracy Emerson says "In the state of Virginia as long as the umbilical cord is attached and the placenta is still in the mother, if the baby comes out alive the mother can do whatever she wants to with that baby to kill it…As long as it's still attached to her in some form by umbilical cord or something it's no crime in the state of Virginia." The Campbell County Sheriff's Office and Commonwealth's Attorney's office worked unsuccessfully to get the law changed after another baby died in the [same] county in a similar case. Emerson says they asked two delegates and one state senator to take the issue up in the General Assembly. He says the three lawmakers refused because they felt the issue was too close to the abortion issue. Emerson tells us there's a double standard with the law. (from WSLS-TV10, 12/15/2009, see full story here)If someone other than the mother harms a baby still attached to the mother, that person can be charged. You see now why I say it’s not that crazy to think that we need this commandment against murder. This twisted, convoluted story and everything surrounding it is a far cry from “Thou shalt not murder.” What do you think was going on in God’s mind when He saw this story happening? Does anybody really think that God said, “Well, gee, I guess I never thought of something like this happening. And ya know, I wasn’t really very specific with that command. I guess there’s nothing I can do about it now.”
“You shall not murder.”
In fact, God DID foresee the day when people would consider an unborn child to be less than a human. Fact of the matter is, God does not see that unborn baby as being anything less than another human being. Listen to Exodus 21:22-25—“If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman's husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Without going real deep into the Hebrew, what God is saying is that if two men fight and strike a woman who is with child—not “with fetus”—and if the child dies, then that is murder. Does this mean that there are no prohibitions against a man killing that child with the mother’s consent? Uh, no. God doesn’t do loopholes.
Now, with all that being said, is the definition of murder confined to the actual taking of a person’s physical life? Well, in the eyes of man it may be true. But what does God say about it? In Matthew 5:21-22, God tells us exactly what He includes under the umbrella term “murder.” Matthew 5:21-22—“You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.” So, we see from Jesus’ statement that murder does not begin when one picks up a gun or a knife and shoots or stabs someone. Murder begins in the heart.
He repeats this principle in Matthew 15:19—“Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” The hand simply does what the heart tells it to do. You can't commit premeditated murder unless you premeditate it. So what Jesus was doing was not so much relaxing the OT Law, He was taking it and laying it not only on the people’s actions, but also their thoughts. Much like what God said He would do in Jeremiah 31:33—“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts.” God wants to correct not only our actions, but our hearts and our minds and our thoughts as well. That is why salvation is not by works. Anybody can do “good works.” There is an entire unbelieving world out there that pats itself on the back for doing “good works.” And in much the same way, it’s not simply our actions that condemn us—it’s our hearts. Because the heart is the root of all that we do. It is the breeding ground for sin. James 1:14-15—But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Any time we commit a sin it is because something—or someone—has presented us with something that we desire. If we commit fornication, it is because the opportunity to sleep with that person was presented to us, and we followed that desire. If we steal, it is because we saw something we wanted, and it was there, and we wanted it so badly that we didn’t want to pay for it. Murder is no exception. If we commit murder, it is because, for some reason, whatever it may have been, we saw that person as an obstacle that stood between us and something we wanted. And if that person were allowed to live, they would ruin our comfort or our reputation or our social or financial standing. So that person must be eliminated so that we can have what we want.
I'll finish by talking about one fellow that is the perfect illustration of that principle. King David. Turn to 2nd Samuel 11. Let me set the scene for you. King David has led the armies of Israel on one successful military campaign after another. Every time he takes them out, he goes out in the strength of the LORD. And with success comes a little complacency. He takes for granted everything God has given him. And in 2nd Samuel 11:1--It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. He should have been out there with his troops, but he had perhaps gotten a bit too prideful, too lazy, and he stayed home. You’ve heard the saying “The devil makes work for idle hands?” 2nd Samuel 11:2-3--2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Uriah was one of David’s finest and most loyal generals. But that didn’t matter. He had set his heart on what he saw in front of him; he was drawn away and enticed. Then desire conceived and gave birth to sin, 2nd Samuel 11:4--Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. BUT. 2nd Samuel 11:5--She sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.” He was drawn away and enticed. Then desire conceived and gave birth to sin. Now here is where sin, being full-grown, brings forth death. David knows that if his sin is found out, he will lose the love and admiration of the people. He isn't thinking about his relationship to God. He isn't thinking about confessing his sin to God—he’s only focused on what it will mean for his popularity. So listen to what he does to cover up his mess, long story short, in 2nd Samuel 11:14-17--14 In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.” 16 So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also.
Murder begins in the heart. It ends with the physical act. The fact that someone would purpose and plan to kill someone is a sign that the person’s heart is not quite right. And unless that person seeks the mercy of God and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, they will die with a murderer’s heart, and will not see eternal life. 1st John 3:14-15—We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. So if you know someone who is walking around with hatred in their heart for anyone, then that person is a walking murderer and they are, as Jesus said, in danger of Hell.
Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen.