Exodus 20:13 ~ 20110821 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
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:
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:
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.
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:
God as Creator and life-giver also has the right to take life away. God himself says:
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.
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:
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.
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.
James picks up this thread of love:
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:
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:
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:
Jesus is our example in love. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.”