Exodus 20:1313 “You shall not murder.
Dear Friends in Christ,
I came across a true story recently about a 19 year old fellow from Washington, D.C. who was driving around our nation’s capital one day and according to his own testimony, he was bored. So when he saw a 36 year old woman sitting in a car next to his, I guess to add some excitement to his otherwise dull and boring day, he pulled out a gun and shot her at point blank range. He then calmly put the gun back down on the seat and continued to drive around the city. Later that day he was apprehended by the police who asked him, “Why did you do that? Did you know the lady? Did you have a grudge against her? Was there a traffic situation that developed between the 2 of you?” He said, “No, I was just bored, so I decided to kill someone.”
Another situation I came across: a gang member was on a TV talk show and he was talking about what it was like to be part of a gang. They even showed video footage of him holding up a beer to the nationwide audience and saying with a smug grin on his face, “Human life means nothing to me.” The next day he proved that as he and 5 of his fellow gang members attacked two young teenage girls who were about 14 or 15, raped them multiple times, and then strangled and killed them. All 6 of those men were found guilty of murder.
Consider the following hodgepodge of statistics I pulled off the Internet. The United States currently has the 14th highest violent crime rate out of 203 countries. Worldwide, one person commits suicide about every 40 seconds and one person is murdered every 60 seconds according to the World Health Organization. The American Psychiatric Association now estimates that by the age of 18, a United States youth will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence. And if that’s not enough, consider that the 20th century was the most violent murderous century in the history of all mankind. There were an estimated 125 million people killed in revolutions alone. Joseph Stalin, it is believed, killed approximately 60 million of his own people while Adolph Hitler did away with 6 million Jews.
And into this modern day carnage of killing God comes and he proclaims loudly and clearly in our text for today: “You shall not murder.” Into this day of technological sophistication but moral disintegration God places a boundary, a hedge of protection around the most precious commodity on this planet. And to him that most precious commodity is human life. So this morning as we begin our study of this 5th Commandment we want to see how it applies to us who may have never murdered anyone in cold blood but who have still been guilty of breaking it over and over again.
Now when we examine this commandment in the original Hebrew language it was written in, it consists of only 2 words. A literal rendering of those words would be: “No murder” – my sermon theme for today. In the Hebrew language there are actually 7 different words for the idea or concept of killing. The word that is used here carries with it the idea of premeditation and intent to take another person’s life. I make that point to help you understand that the Bible does not prohibit all forms of killing. For example, this word is not used in reference to the killing of animals. It’s not used in reference to accidental death or what we call manslaughter. It is not used in reference to killing someone in self-defense. It is not used in reference to capital punishment or the killings that occur in a just war. God does not forbid all killing. But the 5th Commandment makes it very clear that he does forbid all murder.
So what really is behind this commandment? Why is God so opposed to one human being killing another human being? The answer can be found in Gen. 9:6 where God says: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” Did you catch that, my friends? Every human being from the strongest to the weakest, from the wealthiest to the poorest, from the oldest to the youngest, from the most virile to the most feeble, the born and the unborn – every human being has been made in the image of God. Every human being bears the thumbprint of his or her Creator. So if you can imagine what it would feel like if you received a phone call one day telling you that some 19 year old kid got bored and shot your child point blank, a child that bore your image, if you can imagine the anger and rage, the sadness and hurt, you would feel under those circumstances, that’s how God feels when any one of his precious human children dies in a senseless killing.
In Job 14:5 we’re told: “Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” That’s just Job’s way of saying that God is the one who calls the shots. He’s the one who determines the length of a person’s days and no human being has the right to tamper or interfere with that. No human being has the right to say, “You know, that life isn’t worth as much as this one. That life is old and decrepit and doesn’t contribute anything to society anymore. That life is going to be a major burden or inconvenience to its parents if it is allowed to be born. That life is mentally handicapped and will never develop to its full potential, so why have it around?” No one has the right to pirate God’s plans and purposes for a person’s life by ending that life prematurely.
Now there are some very obvious and blatant examples of how this commandment is broken that we need to look at. For example, there’s homicide which is the willful, malicious, premeditated killing of another human being. Now I know most of you fairly well and I’m pretty confident that there’s not a lot of homicide going on in any of your lives, but it happens. Everyday it happens. Just a month ago it happened in 2 separate mass shootings that occurred in less than 24 hours.
But not only do you not have the right to end someone else’s life prematurely, you also don’t have the right to end your own. In other words, suicide is forbidden in this commandment. Of course, some people would object and say, “But it’s my life and I can do with it as I please.” I’m sorry, but that’s not true. It’s not your life. I Cor. 6:20 says: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” And that price consisted of the holy precious blood of Jesus who died on the cross so that you could have hope in even the most hopeless of situations. So if you ever find yourself contemplating suicide, my friends, if the devil ever manages to plant that thought in your brain and he makes it look like it’s the only solution to all your problems, please think again. Think of the impact that that act will have upon your family. Trust me here. I’ve walked with families who have all of a sudden found themselves reeling from a loved one’s suicide and there is so much sorrow, so much pain, so much guilt, and so many unanswered questions. So please don’t ever do that to those who love you most. They deserve better than that. Having said that, though, I’m also well aware of the fact that many people who end their own lives are not in their right mind. They’re not thinking clearly. Depression and overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and despair can lead people to do things they would have never considered before. So again, if you find yourself fighting such battles, please seek professional help or counseling.
Then a third type of killing that is forbidden by this commandment is feticide, which is the killing of the unborn. In other words, abortion is a direct violation of the 5th Commandment. And yet we have allowed the legal killing of the unborn in our country since 1973, resulting in approximately 63 million babies being denied the most basic and fundamental right of all, the right to life. And in case you missed it, on Tuesday, May 28th, the Illinois House voted 64-50 to pass SB 25 — described by the pro-life community as an abhorrent bill creating a fundamental “right” to abortion throughout all 9 months of pregnancy. Three days later, the Illinois State Senate voted 34-20 to pass it as well. And on Wednesday, June 12, a jubilant Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker held a signing ceremony to fulfill a campaign promise to make Illinois the most “progressive” abortion destination in the country. May God have mercy on our beloved state!
Now back in 1973 when the Supreme Court handed down its infamous Roe v. Wade decision we did not have the medical technology that would allow us to look inside a mother’s womb and see what is really there. But now we do and there is no doubt about it. What is destroyed in abortion is not some formless blob of tissue or mass of cells as we were being told back then, but rather a living, growing human being. And if you think that’s just my opinion, please listen to one who is much more qualified than I to make that judgment. Her name is Dr. Micheline Matthews Roth who has served as the principal researcher in the Dept. of Medicine at Harvard University. She says: “It is an accepted fact that life of any individual organism reproducing by sexual reproduction begins at conception, or fertilization.” So to kill the pre-born is to take a human life. It is indeed a direct violation of the 5th Commandment.
It goes without saying then that infanticide, which is killing babies shortly after they have been born, is also a violation of the 5th Commandment. Now you might be thinking, “But how could that happen? Who would ever do something like that?” And yet it does happen. It happens when children are born alive following a botched abortion. In fact, currently 19 states allow abortionists to leave babies who survive an abortion to die rather than offering them medical assistance. It happens in countries like China and India, especially with female infants because male babies are favored much more highly than females. It has happened in our own country through the heinous abortion procedure known as partial birth abortion which is so unimaginably evil I can’t bring myself to describe it from the pulpit. Though this procedure was outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, there are still some politicians who are fighting to have it made legal again. By the way, I looked up the Supreme Court’s decision in this matter and it said that under this law, “Any physician who…knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.” Now what’s so strange about that decision is that a human fetus is killed in any other type of abortion that is performed, but then it’s ok. It’s a double standard that exists. Very similar to what happens when a pregnant woman gets shot or stabbed in the abdomen and both she and her unborn baby die. In that case, the killer can be charged with 2 murders. And yet a doctor can perform multiple abortions each day in his clinic and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sorry. I just don’t get it.
And that takes us to one more violation of the 5th Commandment that I want to talk about that typically occur on the other end of the age spectrum in what is called euthanasia. That word is made up of 2 Greek words that mean “good death.” Now I’m not talking here about passive euthanasia which would be like removing a person from life support who is already brain dead. Rather I’m talking about active euthanasia, about people who have difficult medical problems and who don’t want to deal with them anymore. So they request to be euthanized, to be put out of their misery. Sometimes this is referred to as physician assisted suicide. Currently there are 10 states in our nation that allow it. But I will go out on a limb here and say that over the next few years we will see more and more states legalizing this practice because as somebody once said many years ago when the abortion issue was being debated, “When you open the door to death (which we have done in our culture), it does not close easily.” The moment we start saying “This life deserves to live and this one doesn’t. This life has value and this one doesn’t,” we find ourselves on a very slippery slope that will lead to more and more lack of respect for human life.
So homicide, suicide, feticide, infanticide, and physician assisted suicide – these are the most obvious and blatant violations of the 5th Commandment today. Stated positively, we are to cherish our neighbor’s life as much as we cherish our own. That’s really at the heart and core of the 5th Commandment. And I would say as I did earlier that most of us do pretty well in this area. I don’t know of anyone here today who is wanting to break the murder habit. But there are some not-so-obvious applications to this commandment that we need to look at before we leave this subject. So the next time I preach, which will be 2 weeks from today, we’ll devote our time to those and discover that we are guilty of breaking this commandment as much as any of the others, and therefore we all stand in dire need of the forgiveness and pardon that was purchased and won for us by Jesus when he shed his blood and gave his life on that old rugged cross so long ago. Amen.