Exodus 20:13

Sermon preached on May 11, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

The current best selling video gaming title is
Grand Theft Auto IV. It has broken all sales records and reportedly sold 3.6 million units on its first day of release and grossed more than $500 million in its first week. It is selling so well that I saw a news headline that stated that it would be almost impossible for a future game to overtake it. What's the game about? Here's what one reviewer said,

"this is another GTA game in which you'll likely spend the bulk of your time stealing cars and gunning down cops and criminals…"

Ouch. I'm not sure of the relationship between violence in games and that in real life, but retired military psychologist, Lt. Col. David Grossman, an expert on teaching people to overcome their natural reluctance to kill, was shocked when he realized that people who watch violence on TV and play violent video games are, as Philip Ryken says, (p. 140)

'subjected to the same methods—the conditioning and the desensitization—that the army uses to train soldiers. We are teaching our children how to kill, and we should not be surprised when they do."

Personally, I'm not sure about the relationship between violence in games, movies and TV and whether it transfers over into reality. But they could be right.

I was recently watching an episode of a real life TV show about police solving crimes and it reminded me of some of the things that I've heard about violent video games. A guy went up to someone who was standing on his front porch and shot him multiple times. After he shot him he walked away, strutting like a peacock. There was someone passing by and the guy said to him,

"I just merked him."

Apparently the word, 'merk' is a slang word for 'murder'. He proudly announced it. He then passed another passerby and said the same thing. It seemed like the guy was acting in a video game.

As I watch those police crime shows I'm amazed at how many murders must take place in our country. The disregard that so many have for human life is shocking.

If there's something that people in our country need to be reminded of it's this commandment. The great principle that we see here is that

human life is sacred.

This commandment reads, (Exodus 20:13)

"You shall not murder."

We are forbidden to unlawfully take life. In Genesis 9:6 God said to Noah and his sons,

"Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
for in the image of God has God made man."

John Calvin tells us that man being made in the image of God has great implications. He writes, (Commentary on Genesis 9:6)

"Men are indeed unworthy of God's care, if respect be had only to themselves; but since they bear the image of God engraven on them, He deems Himself violated in their person."

Calvin says that if you injure or kill another person, in a sense God takes it personally. In a sense it's an attack on Him and the order that He has set up. In Zechariah 2:8-9 the Lord told the people of Zion to escape from Babylon because He was going to punish it. He said He,

"has sent me against the nations
that have plundered you
—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye—
I will surely raise my hand against them
so that their slaves will plunder them.
Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me."

God took it personally when His people were violated. His people were so close to Him that if someone touched them it was like they were touching the eye of God Himself.

Although that was said respecting God's people of Israel, in a sense it applies to everyone. Everyone is made in the image of God and if someone injures or kill them, God is violated. It's just like when David refused to kill King Saul. He said to Abishai, (1 Samuel 26:9)

"Don't destroy him!
Who can lay a hand on the Lord's anointed
and be guiltless?"

King Saul was the Lord's anointed and to touch him was to fight against God. In the same way, every human being is made in God's image, and it's like we can say,

"Who can lay a hand on the Lord's image and be guiltless?"

John Calvin writes, (Commentary on Genesis 9:6)

"although they (men) have nothing of their own by which they obtain the favor of God, he looks upon his own gifts in them, and is thereby excited to love and to care for them. This doctrine… is to be carefully observed that no one can be injurious to his brother without wounding God himself."

Remember what God said to Cain after Cain had killed Abel? He said, (Genesis 4:10)

"What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood
cries out to me from the ground."

Why was Abel's blood crying out to God from the ground? It's because Abel's murder was an offense to God. Not only was God's justice violated, but God was violated because Abel was made in God's image. John Calvin writes, (Quoted from Ryken, p. 138)

"Our neighbor bears the image of God: to use him, abuse, or misuse him is to do violence to the person of God who images himself in every human soul."

Human life is sacred. Man is made in God's image. As such man is to reflect God's glory. J. L. Koole writes, (The Ten Commandments, quoted from Ryken, Written in Stone, p. 138)

"A person may not be killed for this reason, that he is, either actually or potentially, someone who declares God's praise, and therefore anybody who kills another person thereby robs God."

One of the reasons God gives people life so that they may praise His great name. As the psalmist said in Psalm 118:17,

"I will not die but live, and will proclaim
what the LORD has done."

If you take someone's life, you are injuring God. You are robbing Him of praise, either actually or potentially.

The second thing that we see from our text is that

human life is so sacred that you are forbidden to take it.

You are not to take someone else's life. It is a great crime to do so.

"You shall not murder."

Genesis 9:6 again,

"Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
for in the image of God has God made man."

Yet killing is something that is glorified in our society. But it's not just in video games, in movies or TV shows. To me, what is much more worrisome in our society is where some politicians brag about protecting certain types of murder. A man namede Greg Macpherson is running for Attorney General in Oregon. On one of his TV ads he bragged,

"I protected a woman's right to choose."

An attorney general is in charge of the Department of Justice and is a state's 'Top Cop'. He has a responsibility to protect citizens and catch and punish criminals. Yet he brags about protecting 'a woman's right to choose'. A right to choose what? Abortion is choice they're really talking about—I don't believe many ever questioned a woman's right to bear a child she was carrying. He's bragging about protecting abortion—where an unborn baby is killed in its mother's womb.

Unborn babies are human beings. In
Psalm 139:13-16 David said about God,

"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because
I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body."

A child in the womb is a living human being who has a relationship with God. Its life is sacred. Its life is to be protected. Indeed, in the very next chapter of Exodus we see that there were laws protecting the unborn. Verse 22 of Exodus 21 says that if men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely, and there is serious injury,

"you are to take life for life."

John Calvin writes,

"for the foetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy."

(Should that be 'a most monstrous crime'??)

Euthanasia is also prohibited by this commandment. Yet it's accepted in many countries. Physician assisted suicide is commonplace there. Philip Ryken writes, (p. 142)

"Voluntary euthanasia almost always becomes involuntary. This has been the experience in the Netherlands, where thousands of medical patients are killed each year. What is especially frightening is that most of the requests for those so-called mercy killings do not come from the patients themselves, but from their families, who frankly are trying to get rid of them."

Abortion, euthanasia, they are all prohibited by the commandment. We are not allowed to murder people.

The third thing we should understand about this command is that

God is the one who has the right to decide issues of life and death.

One of the great principles that we should understand is that life is in God's hands. He has the right to give it and take it. In Genesis 2:7 we read,

"the Lord God formed the man
from the dust of the ground
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,
and the man became a living being."

In Acts 17:25 the apostle Paul told us that God,

"himself gives all men life and breath…"

Then in verse 28 he said,

"For in him we live and move and have our being."

No one should take decisions of life and death to himself. If he does so, he is trying to usurp God's place. Joseph recognized this when his brothers were afraid that he was going to kill them after their father Jacob died. When Joseph saw their fears he said to them, (Genesis 50:19)

"Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God?"

He understood that God is the One who has the right to make such decisions. Joseph, even though he was the second most powerful man in Egypt, did not believe that he had the right to take his brother's lives. That was God's place.

David knew this as well. Even though King Saul had rebelled against the Lord, David told Abishai, (1 Samuel 26:9-11)

"Don't destroy him!
Who can lay a hand on the Lord's anointed and be guiltless?
'As surely as the Lord lives,' he said,
'the Lord himself will strike him;
either his time will come and he will die,
or he will go into battle and perish.
But the Lord forbid that I should
lay a hand on the Lord's anointed.'"

W. Harrelson writes, (Quoted from Enns, Exodus, p. 422)

"the sixth commandment stakes out the claim of God over all life and serves notice to human beings… that God's claim upon life is to be give priority in the decisions take by a community of its individual members."

The fourth thing that we should understand about this commandment is that it has a positive side.

Human life is so sacred that you are called to actively help others.

Not only are you forbidden to take someone else's life, but that you are to do everything that you can to promote your neighbor's well-being.

One of the things you should understand about Exodus after chapter 20, the giving of the 10 Commandments, is that much of it expands on the commandments and gives instances of how to apply them. Thus in Exodus 23:4-5 we read,

"If you come across your enemy's
ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him.
If you see the donkey of someone
who hates you fallen down under its load,
do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it."

John Calvin writes, (Institutes, II:8:39)

"The purpose of this commandment is: the Lord has bound mankind together by a certain unity; hence each man ought to concern himself with the safety of all. To sum up, then, all violence, injury, and any harmful thing at all that may injure our neighbor's body are forbidden to us. We are accordingly commanded, if we find anything of use to us in saving our neighbors' lives, faithfully to employ it; if there is anything that makes for their peace, to see to it; if anything harmful, to ward it off; if they are in any danger, to lend a helping hand."

You are to do everything you can to help others when they are in need. It is not enough to refrain from harming them. when they are in need you are to help them.

After all, isn't that what Jesus' story of
the Good Samaritan teaches us? Who are the bad guys in the story? First, there's the robbers who beat the man. Second, there is the priest and Levite who walked by the man and didn't stop to help him. The hero of the story is the Samaritan, who stopped to help an enemy, a Jew, and took care of him.

Calvin, (Institutes, II:8:40)

"if we do not wish to violate the image of God, we ought to hold our neighbor sacred. And if we did not wish to renounce all humanity, we ought to cherish his as our own flesh."

The fifth thing we should see about this commandment is that human life is so valuable that

if you even think a bad thought about someone else you are guilty of murder.

This commandment covers our thoughts and forbids us thinking evil about anyone else. We see this in 1 John 3:15 which reads,

"Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer…"

Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 5:21-22 as well. He said,

"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."

This commandment prohibits angry words. As Philip Ryken writes, (p. 147)

"when we use angry words—when we put people down, when we whisper about their reputations, when we make racist or sexist remarks—we reveal that there is murder in our hearts."

Proverbs 12:18 says,

"Reckless words pierce like a sword,"

One of the biggest lies I ever heard when I was a kid was the little ditty,

"Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me."

Words can hurt. Words can kill.

In October 2006, 13 year old Megan Meir committed suicide in Missouri. She was the victim of cyber-bullying. Soon after she opened an account on MySpace, Meier received a message from a boy calling himself Josh. But Josh was fictional and the account was set up by a rival teenaged girl and her mother. After being very friendly for awhile, the tone of the messages from the fictional Josh changed and he said that the didn't want to be her friend anymore and sent her several derogatory and hurtful messages, telling her she was fat etc. Megan's state of mind was very frail and this rejection hurt her terribly. The next day she hung herself.

I'm not sure if the case is still in the courts or not or if legally the mother of the rival is liable. But it's certain that she has broken this commandment.

The sixth thing that shows us how sacred human life is the fact that

the punishment for taking a human life is death.

In Genesis 9:6 God said,

"Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
for in the image of God has God made man."

I know that many Christians today are opposed to capital punishment. But the fact is that in the Old Testament there were crimes that were to be punishable by death. Nothing less would satisfy the demands of the law.

The Hebrew language has many different words for killing. The Hebrew word that is used in this commandment is, rtzch. One of the things to note is that rtzch is never used in Old Testament in reference to the
legal system. So this means that this commandment does not forbid capital punishment. This is obvious from the context of the commandment as well. In the chapters that follow God puts forth some capital crimes.

For instance, in the very next chapter, Exodus 21, and
verse 12, we read,

"Anyone who strikes a man and kills him
shall surely be put to death."

In verse 15 we have another exception. It reads,

"Anyone who attacks his father
or his mother must be put to death."

That chapter continues with the penalty for kidnapping in verse 16. It says,

"Anyone who kidnaps another
and either sells him or still has him
when he is caught must be put to death."

It continues in verse 17. It says,

"Anyone who curses his father or mother
must be put to death."

I could go on and on. What we should understand is that these were commands from God. In ancient Israel capital punishment was not optional for these crimes. God demanded it. The whole community was to be involved. For example, in Leviticus 20:2 we read,

"Any Israelite or any alien living in Israel
who gives any of his children to Molech
must be put to death.
The people of the community are to stone him."

Leviticus 24:14 tells of the punishment for someone who blasphemes. We read,

"Take the blasphemer outside the camp.
All those who heard him
are to lay their hands on his head,
and the entire assembly is to stone him."

In the New Testament the principle of capital punishment is not revoked. In Romans 13:3-4 Paul wrote,

"For rulers hold no terror for those who do right,
but for those who do wrong.
Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority?
Then do what is right and he will commend you.
For he is God's servant to do you good.
But if you do wrong, be afraid,
for he does not bear the sword for nothing.
He is God's servant, an agent of wrath
to bring punishment on the wrongdoer."

Rulers bear the sword. They have an obligation from God to punish evildoers. The punishment for taking a life is that the guilty one forfeits his life.

So capital punishment is not forbidden in the Bible. Rather it is vindicated. This commandment is does not prohibit capital punishment.

Nor does it prohibit all other types of killing. At times God told the Israelites to conduct war. A soldier who is involved in a just war is blameless.

Neither does this command prohibit self-defense or the protection of your family or others who are in imminent danger from a violent person. Policemen and others are blameless when they protect innocent people. What makes such killings legitimate is the fact that they are done to protect innocent life. Life is to be protected, even with lethal force.

In closing, there are three applications we should make.

First, for Christians,

this commandment should spur you on to evangelism.

John Calvin writes about the duty that we have to our neighbor in this command not to murder, (Institutes, II:8:40)

"if there is so much concern for the safety of his body, from this we may infer how much zeal and effort we owe the safety of the soul, which far excels the body in the Lord's sight."

If we really love other people we need to tell them about Jesus. Without Him they're going to face eternal death.

Secondly, for Christians,

this ought to make you love Jesus with everything in you.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. You were lost. You have broken this command. Even if you hadn't killed someone, when you felt hate in your heart toward someone—that was murder. When you failed to help someone who was in need—you broke this commandment.

If it wasn't for Jesus your punishment would have been an eternity in hell's fires. But Jesus took your punishment. Think of the shame He endured on the cross. Think of the humiliation of being crucified naked. Such a death was fitting for murderer. That's what your sins of murder deserved. But Jesus endured it instead. He died in your place.

You will not spend an eternity in hell's fires as you deserve but instead you will spend it in glory, with God, in perfect happiness in a new heavens and a new earth. It's all because of God's grace and what Jesus has done. Christians, love Him! Rejoice in Him!

Thirdly, if you're not a Christian, this commandment shows you that

Jesus is your only hope.

We're all murderers. We haven't loved our neighbor as ourselves. We have entertained hatred in our hearts. Some, like David, and Saul of Tarsus, have been involved in actual murder. But they are in heaven today because of Jesus.

He can save murderers. Go to Jesus. Find life in Him.