RPM, Volume 14, Number 45, November 4 to Novemer 10, 2012

Choose Life

Exodus 20:1-17

By Mike Osborne

We continue our series of sermons on the Ten Commandments. Today we'll focus on the sixth commandment, "You shall not murder" (vs. 13). Literally, the Hebrew says, "No murder" (two words — same with commandments 7 & 8).

Is this commandment relevant to you and me today? After all, I doubt anyone here has actually taken a gun or a knife or used your bare hands and killed someone else in cold blood.

But it is relevant. Because everywhere you look there is death. We live within a "culture of death."

  • Every day there is news of another shooting, another drug bust, another car accident, another child abuse case, another roadside bombing, another tragic loss of life.
  • TV shows and movies show more brutality, crime, and murder than ever.
  • And there's the news you don't hear about. This week in the US, over 22,000 unborn babies will be aborted. In 2008, 94,000 children died by abortion in the state of Florida.

  • John Calvin: "If it seems horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man's house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light."
  • Clearly, the sanctity of life is under attack from many different directions.
  • When you went out into our community on the Saturday of Service, what did you see? When you go out to work or school tomorrow, what will you see? Signs of death. Chaos. Human suffering. Fractured relationships. Racial prejudice. Broken marriages. Poverty. Disorder. Evil. A culture of death.

Where did this come from? The Garden of Eden

  • Gen 2:17 — "When you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die."
  • And that's what happened. Adam & Eve listened to the lies of Satan (whom Jesus said was a murderer from the beginning), disobeyed God, ate the forbidden fruit, and died spiritually. Eventually they also died physically. Death, disease, decay, and all sorts of other difficulties became a part of the human experience.
  • Everything was suddenly harder, thanks to Adam's sin. Relationships became harder, work became harder, child-rearing became harder.
  • And worst of all, people started to hate each other, and hurt each other, and murder each other.

The next sin recorded in the Bible after Adam and Eve's was the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. A few generations later, Lamech killed a man in revenge (Gen 4:23). And then in Gen 6, we're told that, "the earth was corrupt in God's sight and full of violence."

Everywhere you look… death.

You've contributed to it. I've contributed to it. The sixth commandment kills us all. But in this commandment is also an invitation to life.

Let me show you 3 things:

I. In the sixth commandment, God tells his people to stop murdering.

The Heb word in vs. 13 is "murder," not kill.

  • There are 7 Heb words related to "kill" but the one used here almost always refers to the intentional killing of a person you consider your enemy. It's "the violent, willful, malicious assault of one person upon another" (J. Murray).
  • The Bible does not forbid all killing. Animals may be killed (not tormented, not treated inhumanely — a la Michael Vick — but killed, yes — OT sacrifices, food, etc.).
  • Killing is lawful in times of war. Killing is lawful when you must defend your life and your home. And killing is lawful as a tool of the state to punish murderers — that's what's known as capital punishment.
  • But murder is forbidden by the 6th commandment.
  • "Stop murdering," God says.

    Murderers were put to death in OT times. They had to be, because their sin brought blood guilt upon the land. Even animals that killed human beings had to be put to death.

    • •Now, in cases of accidental or unintentional killing, there were cities of refuge to which the people of God could flee and be protected from a revenge killing.
    • But in the case of murder — and even in the case of accidentally causing the death of an unborn child — it was life for life.

    Why? Because human beings are the very image of God. Human life is not the same as animal life. It is unique, precious, and sacred.

    • 1 Cor 11.7 — "Man…is the image and glory of God."
    • Gen 9:6 — "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image."
    • Illus.: C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory: "There are no ordinary people. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses."
    • So when you murder someone, you show contempt toward God. When you murder, someone has said, you kill God in effigy. You kill his image.

    Suicide is self-murder. It's not an unforgiveable sin, it doesn't automatically send a person to hell, but it is a violation of the 6th commandment.

    One of the reasons God rejected Israel was that they were a nation of murderers.

    • Hosea: "There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying, and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed."
    • What would Hosea say to America in 2012?

    But here's something very important: In the Bible, murder not only happens when you take someone else's life. It also happens when you hate someone in your heart or attack them with your words.

    • Matt 5:21-22 — "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."
    • Now we've talked about this before: Not all anger is sin. Not all judgment is sin. There is such a thing as righteous indignation. Jesus isn't talking about that. He's talking about treating others with contempt. He's talking about verbal abuse. He's talking about unrighteous anger, the anger of pride, vengeance, and hate.
    • "Raca" and "fool" were everyday terms of derision.
    • "Raca" probably means empty, nothing.
    • "Fool" is the Gk word "moros."
    • Ever call someone a moron? Ever treat someone with total disregard, like they're a nothing? Ever want to make someone pay because you hate them?
    • 1 Jn 3:15 — "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."

    John Stott: "Anger and insult are ugly symptoms of a desire to get rid of somebody who stands in our way. Our thoughts, looks and words all indicate that, as we sometimes dare to say, we 'wish he were dead.' Such an evil wish is a breach of the sixth commandment."

    Stop murdering.

    II. But as we've learned in this series, the Ten Commandments don't just tell us what not to do. They also tell us what to do. There's a positive side to each one of the commands.

    So God is not only telling us to stop murdering. He's also saying, Promote life. Bring life and light into the death and darkness of this world.

    That's why Jesus in Matt 5 goes on to say, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."

    You promote life whenever you make amends with people you've hurt.

    When you forgive someone who hurt you, you obey the 6th commandment.

    • When you care for the poor, feed the hungry, comfort the grieving, clothe the naked, heal the sick…
    • When you share the gospel and make disciples of all nations…
    • And when you protect people from death, you obey the 6th commandment.

    • Deut 22:8 — "When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof."

    So what are you doing about the culture of death around you? The call to discipleship is a call to die to your love of comfort, your self-absorption, your greed, and your idols in order to minister to the bodies and souls of people around us.

    • Prov 24:11 — "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter."
    • Prov 31:8-9 — "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

    In other words, the 6th commandment is just another way of saying (Lev. 19:18), "Love your neighbor as yourself."

    Illus.: Heidelberg Catechism #107

    • Is it enough that we do not murder?
    • Answer: No: for when God forbids envy, hatred, and anger, he commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves; to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and that we do good, even to our enemies.

    I know what some of you are thinking:

    • I can't do that.
    • I don't want to do that. You don't understand. I've been hurt too badly to really care about other people. I've tried to love my neighbor, but look where it got me. I'm in a bad marriage. I've been taken advantage of. I've been used and abused. People who were supposed to love me hated me. They were unfair to me. I need to hate. I need to hold a grudge. Because if I don't, I won't have anything to hold on to. I've lost the ability to trust people. I've lost the ability to trust God.

    III. If that describes you, even just a little bit, here's what I want you to know: God gave you the 6th commandment to reveal something that's true about him. He's the Lord of life. He loves life.

    And God loved YOU so much that he handed his Son Jesus over to death — he gave his Son to the murderers — that you might live.

    "I have come," says Jesus in John 10, "not to steal and kill and destroy, but that you may have life, and have it to the full."

    Jesus is called in the Bible the "Author of life." He's the one who created you and gave you life in the first place. He knit you together in your mother's womb. And when he went to the cross, he carried your sins with him. It was your sin and mine that drove the nails into his body, but he died that you might be justified, ransomed, restored, forgiven, made new. You've been made alive with Christ and you're now seated with him in heavenly places.

    God loves you more than you will ever know. If that's true, don't you think he can help you become a person who loves, a person who promotes life instead of death?

    The gospel of grace has broken into this culture of death and says, "Change is possible. Resurrection is possible. 'God makes beautiful things out of the dust.' Out of your pain, God can create something of beauty. Out of your loss, God can restore joy. In the midst of death, God offers life."

    So choose life this morning. Stop murdering. Bring life to the dead people and situations around you. And receive the life Jesus offers you through the gospel of his grace.

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