Devotion on Exodus 20 (6th Commandment-revised), 17January 2015 Anno Domini (Revised 1-18-2015)
“13 Thou shalt not kill.” (Ex 20:13)
We now take up the shortest of the Commandments in length, but one of greater depth and preeminence than some others. What does this Commandment mean when it says, Thou shalt not kill? When the word kill is used in connection with the sixth Commandment, it invariably means ‘murder’ – “Thou shalt do no murder” as the traditional Book of Common Prayer declares in the Decalogue for Holy Communion. The word for kill is ‘murder, or slay’ in both the Greek and Hebrew renderings. It means to kill with evil and premeditated intent. (xcr Ratsach). This is the word meaning in verse 13 above, and it refers to the wanton taking of human life. Moreover, Jesus uses the term ‘murder’ in quoting the Commandment in Matthew 19:18. I believe that will settle the issue altogether.
Just as the Passover was brought to fuller meaning and depth by Christ, as was the Sabbath, so was the application of all other of the Commandments. If to look upon a woman to lust after her is not only ‘equivalent’ to adultery, but is, in fact, adultery; so is the mental resolution to hate someone enough to desire their death. That, too, is murder. Hate is murder for it would destroy the life of the object of its scorn. Though the inward desire may not be outwardly satisfied, the guilt remains from the standpoint of intent. The fact that we do not consummate the act of murder for fear of retribution or imprisonment does not mean that the guilt of the crime does not linger.
Before proceeding to a further account of murder, let us first of all define the difference between murder and killing. We will first observe the legal definition from Black’s Dictionary of the Law (Ed 6):
“The crime committed where a person of sound mind and discretion (that is, of sufficient age to form and execute a criminal design and not legally “insane”) kills any human creature in being (excluding quick but unborn children) and in the peace of the state or nation (including all persons except the military forces of the public enemy in time of war or battle) without any warrant, justification, or excuse in law. with malice aforethought, express or implied, that is, with a deliberate purpose or a design or determination distinctly formed in the mind before the commission of the act, provided that death results from the injury Inflicted within one year and a day after its infliction.” That is one legal definition rendered by the publishers of Black’s. However, did you note the intended exemption for abortion?
According to the Holy Bible, life begins at conception. God knows us before we are ever conceived in our mother’s womb. Job 31:15 Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb? Psalms 22:10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. Psalms 139:13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. Psalms 139:14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. Proverbs 31:8 Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Isaiah 49:15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yes, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Perhaps the most compelling biblical text that condemns abortion as murder would be the following: “22If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart [from her], and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges [determine].23And if [any] mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life.” (Exodus 21:22-23)
There is a distinction between the termination of life by the authority of the state in righteous causes such as enforcement of the death penalty for heinous crimes, military combat, etc. But the willful and malicious taking of human life by any is a different category of killing and is classified as murder. Murder is the term used by Christ in quoting the Commandment in matthe 19:18.
Murder is the actual act of forcefully depriving another of the means of life by violent measures with malicious intent. Intentional abortion, as well, is an active and violent act of murder.
It might be well to observe how this Commandment, and others, are related by Christ back to the very first of the Commandments demonstrating how dependent all of the other succeeding Commandments are upon the keeping of the first. Please read this narrative in the life of Jesus from the Gospel of St. Mark:
“17. And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18. And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:17-22)
Please note the manner in which the young man approaches our Lord. The Gospel of St. Mark describes the young man as running to Christ and kneeling before Him. “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him.” (Mark 10:17). This was well and good so far; however, see how the young man addresses Jesus: “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? (Mark 10:17) Bear with me as we examine the deeper meaning of the exchange revealed in this passage. What was wrong with the young man’s address of Jesus? It was the fact that he referred to Jesus as “good Master” – a term that merely meant good teacher. He did not recognize Christ as Lord and the divine Son of God. Now, if we have digested that small kernel of meaning, let us answer another question that follows hard on: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” What is wrong with THAT question, friends? Is there any good works we can do to merit eternal life? No, “For Grace ye are saved….and not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8…9)
Jesus then asks the young man a searching question: 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” Why do you suppose Jesus asked that question? Was Jesus saying that He Himself was not good? Not at all! Jesus is hinting to the young man of Himself as Lord and Savior. Jesus is God the Son, and Jesus is good; but the young man has failed to recognize His Lord in the flesh.
But to provide the young man with a meaningful answer, Jesus gives the young man a reminder that no man is capable of a perfect obedience to God’s Commandments: “19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.” Jesus is cleverly leading the young man to a self-realization of his immense failure in keeping the Commandments. “20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” Do you believe it is true that the young man has perfectly kept the Commandments from his birth? It is not likely – as a matter of fact, it is not possible! It must be noted that the young man probably FELT that he had done so. Many consider themselves righteous with vain pride.
Jesus has engaged the young man with a spirit of love to lead him into a growing knowledge of the righteousness of God and complete depravity of himself. The motive of Jesus in His interview is strictly love and not antagonistic: “21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” Herein lies the crux of the matter of sin revealed in the heart of the young suppliant. What did Jesus mean in telling the young man to go and sell all that he had and give to the poor, and take up his cross and follow him? Does God expect every person of means to sell all that they have and become a pauper for Christ? Not at all! The point is this: The young man considers himself righteous in keeping the Commandments. He even boasts of it. But, in fact, Jesus has proven that the young man has not even kept the very first Commandment. He has another god besides God Almighty – the god of riches and power. We are the light of the world insofar as we are the reflected light of Christ (in the same way that the moon, generating no light, reflects the light of the Sun). If we allow any physical body to come between us and our Light Source, we are eclipsed in utter darkness. The young man allows his wealth to be his god instead of the God of Heaven.
This idea is proven in the next line: “22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” This is a sad conclusion to a hopeful encounter. He went away grieved. He could not put his love for God above his love for money. It was his downfall.
So keeping all of the other Commandments, including the sixth, Thou shalt do no murder, depends totally and completely upon our keeping the first Commandment. Loving, honoring, glorifying and worshipping God Alone means loving and honoring all that is His. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will do no murder upon them. “Thou shalt not kill” is the first of the Commandments solely particular to our relationship with others. Why is that the case? I believe it is because to kill is to violate each of the following Commandments of duty to others. Murder forecloses the hurt and ruin of all other violations of Commandments that follow because it deprives the person of his very life and all possessions and future hope. Without life, there can be no theft of property. But murder has stolen all that the man owns in total.
In conclusion, murder is a grave sin (no pun intended), but all killing of others is not necessarily sin. Killing in defense of one’s person or property, or his family relations, or friends, is not murder. It is warranted by Holy Scripture. Killing in the righteous cause of a person’s country and liberties is not murder. To cowardly flee the duties of defense of country and liberty, leaving them exposed to certain death or deprivation, may be considered murder in the eyes of the Lord since it may result in the wanton killing of fellow citizens – of this I am not certain, but believe it to be the case. God will resolve that issue to our hearts in due time.
Have you ever hated another human being in your heart? Has your hate blinded your eyes to your duty of love and honor of God’s Creation and creatures?
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.