Murder for the Rest of Us

How We Break the Sixth Commandment

Article by Afshin Ziafat Pastor, Frisco, Texas

You don’t need to grow up in church to know that murder is a wicked offense. Murder is treated nearly universally as a heinous crime. And it ought to be. God makes plain his hatred of murder the moment it appears in Cain’s slaying of his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8). God legislates death as the appropriate punishment for those who unlawfully put others to death (Genesis 9:6).

Yet for all of our hatred of the murder out there, we can fail to hate the murder in here. But Scripture, and the words of Jesus in particular, will not allow us to hate murder at a safe distance. The sixth commandment, “You shall not murder,” exposes a universal problem and a universal need for forgiveness.

Different Kinds of Killing

The word used for “murder” in Exodus 20:13, Hebrew rasah, denotes the unlawful, premeditated, or immoral killing of another human, while also covering the unintentional causing of human death through carelessness or negligence. Of its forty-seven uses in the Old Testament, this verb is never used to describe killing in war, nor is it thought to apply to slaughtering animals or defending one’s home from invasion.

God’s law differentiated between willful and involuntary killing. Exodus 21:12–14 clearly states that the premeditated murder of another person was deemed worthy of capital punishment (see also Numbers 35:17–21).

“Seek to reconcile quickly with others. Replace hate and anger with words that give life and bless others.”

The accidental or involuntary causing of another person’s death, however, carried a slightly lighter penalty. Though it was not grounds for the sentence of death, the guilty party was banished to an appointed place (which later God would reveal as cities of refuge, Deuteronomy 19:1–13). This place offered sanctuary from the vengeful relatives of the deceased, but it was also away from home. The banishment often lasted for life because the guilty party would not be released until the death of the high priest (Numbers 35:2528).

So while discerning between consequences for different killings can be difficult, we all know it is a great evil to unlawfully take another’s life.

Why God Hates Murder

God shows his hatred for murder the moment it appears in Cain (Genesis 4:8). But why does God hate the act of murder so much? Two reasons stand out in Scripture.

1. The act of murder is an assault on God himself.

After God made a covenant with Noah never to destroy mankind by a flood, he set up a system to protect human life. Any man who unlawfully took the life of another would have his own life taken, “for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6). Here we see how precious and valuable human life is to God. To murder another human being is to murder what is most like God in creation. It is tantamount to an attack on the Creator of all life. This is why abortion is so grievous to God and Christians.

The Bible is clear that human life begins in the womb and not at birth. David declares that we were fearfully and wonderfully made in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). God says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). All human life is precious in the sight of God, and it is evil to think of any human life as disposable — whether the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, or the sick.

2. Murder assumes the authority and right reserved for God alone.

Only God has the right to give life and to take away life (Deuteronomy 32:391 Samuel 2:6). Job declared that life belongs to the Lord to give and to take away (Job 1:21). Consequently, the one who murders another human being is guilty of assuming the right and privilege that is God’s alone. He is guilty of rebellion against God and attempting to put himself in the place of God. In this way, murder is the offspring of the very first sin and breaks the first commandment by having a god (self) before the Lord.

A Sin Not So Easily Escaped

Now, one may say, “Well, I have never — nor will I ever — commit murder!” But two considerations give strong reason to take heed to this command and see it as relevant to all of us.

Carelessness or Neglect

As stated earlier, the Hebrew word employed in the sixth commandment would include causing someone’s death from carelessness or neglect. This command would have instigated a holy fear in the community to strive for caution and prudence in the affairs of life so that no one would be guilty of unintentionally taking someone’s life through recklessness.

There is a reason harsh penalties are given to people who drive under the influence of alcohol. Or consider a carelessness closer to home: texting while driving. We may put others’ lives in danger more often than we assume.

And then there is the issue of negligence. The principle of the watchman of Ezekiel 33 comes to mind. The Lord painted a picture through the prophet Ezekiel of a watchman who was put in position to warn the city of the coming sword against it. If the watchman failed to blow the trumpet and was negligent in his duty, then the blood of the people would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:7–9).

We can be negligent in failing to warn others of danger or to speak up on behalf of those who are vulnerable and powerless. It is easy to condemn the silence of so many in Germany who did not speak out against the murderous atrocities of the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. But are we equally vocal against the murdering of so many unborn here in our own country? Are we willing to speak up for the marginalized and the oppressed in our own culture?

Anger as Murder

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges his disciples to live according to the standards of the kingdom of God and not the standards of the world or even of the religious establishment around them. He tells them that their righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20), who sought merely outward conformity to the law instead of inward transformation of the heart.

Jesus displays this exceeding righteousness by using the refrain, “You have heard that it was said, but I say to you . . .” He is not saying that what was written in the Old Testament is not true. Rather, he is correcting what they heard the Old Testament saying and giving them the correct interpretation of the Scriptures, especially in the light of his coming.

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” 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. (Matthew 5:21–22)

The world understands that murder is a crime. The religious establishment focused on this outward nature of not murdering anyone. But the standard of the kingdom of God is not merely to avoid the shedding of blood. To be focused on the mere act of murder is to miss the heart of the command.

“It is not enough to not murder; you must eradicate hatred from your heart.”

Jesus insists that it is not enough to not murder someone; we must eradicate hatred from our hearts. Murder is not merely an action without any reference to the character of the murderer. Something more fundamental is at stake here. The sinful anger and wrath that lurked behind the deed itself is blameworthy and will be subject to judgment. John writes, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). The stakes could not be higher.

Repenting of Heart Murder

Do you feel the weight of this? Jesus is saying you are not safe from punishment just because you have not shed blood. If you have harbored anger, contempt, or malice toward someone else, you are guilty. Have you ever wished someone harm or, even worse, wished they were dead? Have you ever rejoiced over someone’s misfortune? Have you ever put someone down in your heart? Then your heart has known murder.

Again, the radical righteousness that Jesus demands is not merely a refraining from outward sin but a transformation of the heart by his love and grace. Our only hope is Christ, who fulfilled all righteousness and offers it to us as a free gift to be received by faith. So what must we do?

1. Confess.

Turn to God and confess the sin of anger. Make no excuses for it. The story of Jonah is instructive.

In Jonah 4, Jonah is angry with God because God didn’t destroy Nineveh. The Lord asks him, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4). In other words, God is calling Jonah to look at his own life and his own heart. Is his anger justified? Does he not depend on the same mercy from God that God has given to the Ninevites? Does he have the right to decide who receives mercy and who doesn’t?

We too rarely look at our own hearts to see the root of the problem. But it starts here with a confession: I am sinfully angry.

2. Receive the gift of God’s grace in Jesus.

Abel’s blood cried out to God for justice. But Hebrews 12:24 tells us that Jesus’s blood speaks a better word. The blood of Abel speaks a word of condemnation: the murderer deserves death. And we are guilty as charged. We break the sixth commandment with the anger in our heart.

This is why Jesus came. He lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose so that we could have life in him, now and after death. For those who believe in him, the blood of Christ speaks a word of forgiveness and acceptance. By faith, receive this gift of grace!

3. Reconcile specifically.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23–24)

Jesus calls for a specific action here toward a specific brother. And notice that it isn’t someone that you are angry with. No, this is someone who is offended by you. You have done something to offend him, and God brings it to your mind. The first act of worship is for you to make it right with him.

God calls us to sensitivity in our relationships with others — not a vague sensitivity to imagined offenses, but rather dealing with real offenses that the Holy Spirit brings to mind against specific people. Seek to reconcile quickly with others. Replace hate and anger with words that give life and bless others.

And when we reconcile, we can go forth and resolve, God helping us, to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).

Afshin Ziafat (@afshinziafat) is lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. His passion is to teach the word of God as the authority and guide for life, to preach Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Redeemer of mankind, and to proclaim the love of Christ as the greatest treasure and hope in life. He and his wife, Meredith, currently reside in Frisco with their three children.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/murder-for-the-rest-of-us

Warnings can be a Blessing in Disguise

Given a choice, what would you avoid.

Silly mistakes or major destruction.

Personally, I would prefer to stay alert and enjoy success and not loss.

I remember my first job ever.

I was supposed to learn a bit of accounting, but I did not take it too seriously. To facilitate my on-boarding the company arranged an experienced Chartered Accountant, a friend of the business owner from another city and sent him to train me to manage the accounts.

Youthful, with no prior experience I did not realise this individual’s expertise nor willingness to coach an inexperienced new employee and treated the incident with a matter-of-fact approach.

After the first lesson, I did not get what he explained because I obviously did not immerse myself into what was shared.

So, the expert tore the page from the accounting book on which he had done the explanation. He then went ahead to repeat the explanation, a little more slowly and deliberately this time.

I didn’t’ get it the second time either.

So, he tore out the page again, crumpled it and threw it aside.

The third time, before he began, he looked straight into my eyes and said sternly ‘If you don’t get it right this time I am not interested in wasting another page or my time. I am out of here.’

The warning woke me up.

It made me realise that there was a definite lack of intent from my side, a slothful spirit, a carelessness to realise the importance of what was being imparted and by who it was being done and this negligence was going to cost me big time.

As I pondered in those few moments, I deliberated the consequences of the outcome.


What if the trainer left in anger?


I would be left feeling humiliated. I would be termed unintelligent and dumb. I would be reprimanded that I could not get what an expert had taken the trouble and time to teach. And worse still, the incident threatened to destroy my confidence, my reputation and could make me lose a good job as well.

The warning needed attention if I did not wish anything negative to happen.


I decided to set myself up for the challenge. I had to tell my mind to get alert. I had to get everything inside to cooperate with me to win and not lose the opportunity that was presented.


No prizes for guessing what happened next. Yes, I got it right the third time around.


I had just avoided a potentially huge impending loss simply by asking my mind to get some sense and stay alert.

I believe we all have that special intuitive sense to respond to a warning and get alert, no matter how difficult the threat.


I learned a valuable lesson that day. Sometimes it is not other people or circumstances but we ourselves who open the door for trouble, often with dumb, ignorant, silly, and careless mistakes we make.


Dumbness, ignorance and carelessness can cost us much.


In the book of Exodus, the Bible mentions about God spending time with Moses to personally write down the ten commandments. These were oracles for His people to live a more successful life. Here was God who had decided to come down on Mount Horeb, lowering down to man’s level, scripting a great destiny with His own Jehovah-Jireh-hands. However, the people were acting dumb. They never seemed to get the point. They were busy grumbling and murmuring against Moses. They were busy creating idols for themselves. Deceiving themselves that a man-made idol that cannot speak that cannot write their destiny that cannot move was going to be their God.


And why was God going out of His way? Not for Himself but for their good, to get them out of a slave mindset.


But what was stopping these folks from receiving a great blessing?


The fact that they cannot get themselves to stop grumbling about their present circumstances. The fact that they are refusing to shift their minds from the I-want-it-right-now mentality. That is what is stopping them from a great testimony that lies ahead.


Their attitude upset God so much that He wanted to finish them off.

Bible Reference:
Exodus 32:1-10

After the people saw that Moses had been on the mountain for a long time, they went to Aaron and said, “Make us an image of a god who will lead and protect us. Moses brought us out of Egypt, but nobody knows what has happened to him.”


Aaron told them, “Bring me the gold earrings that your wives and sons and daughters are wearing.” 3 Everybody took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron, 4 then he melted them and made an idol in the shape of a young bull.


All the people said to one another, “This is the God who brought us out of Egypt!”


The Lord said to Moses: Hurry back down! Those people you led out of Egypt are acting like fools. 8 They have already stopped obeying me and have made themselves an idol in the shape of a young bull. They have bowed down to it, offered sacrifices, and said that it is the god who brought them out of Egypt. 9 Moses, I have seen how stubborn these people are, 10 and I’m angry enough to destroy them, so don’t try to stop me. But I will make your descendants into a great nation.

But being a God of Justice, He decides to warn them first.


God gives them time to gather some sense and make corrections so He could still write a great destiny for them and see them blessed.

How do we apply the lesson from Exodus into our practical life today?

Some people have created idols for themselves. Idols that are placed above God, some literal and some not.

The reason they have gone after things apart from the Living God is to attempt to seek a shortcut to success, on their own.

In the bargain, many have forgotten or have been ignoring the fact that it is God who is more concerned about ensuring man enjoys success in everything pertaining to life and Godliness.

Just imagine!

Is there anything that can be greater than a destiny that is scripted by the very Hand of The Great I Am, the Savior of the World?

https://sophialorenabenjamin.wordpress.com/2021/03/01/warnings-can-be-a-blessing-in-disguise/