It would be easy for Christians to assume that there is not much to say with regard to this commandment — God says not to murder people. But as is true with so many other things, we are most prone to error in the things we think we know. The Word of God says that this sin cries out; bloodshed speaks to the Lord (Gen. 4:10). And we must seek to learn what this means. “You shall not murder“ (Ex. 20:13).
Murder is a sin accomplished by envy and hate. As the great Puritan Thomas Watson points out, a murder may be committed in many different ways. It may be done with the hand (2 Sam. 20:10); it may be done with the mind (1 John 3:15); it may be done with the tongue (John 18:30); with the pen (2 Sam. 11:15); close to this, with a plot (1 Kings 21:9-10); by witchcraft (Dt. 18:10); by intention (Matt. 2:8,13); by consenting to murder (Acts 22:20); by cowardice (John 18:38); and by hard-heartedness (Dt. 24:6).
We know that murder is bad, but we do not have murder in perspective. We want to content ourselves with saying that murder is “evil,“ or that it is “always bad.“ But our understanding of this commandment should be measured by our response to the breach of it.
“Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man“ (Gen. 9:5). “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten . . “ (Ex. 21:28).
In our therapeutic age, we make every conceivable excuse for men who murder (who had their feelings hurt as children), while God allows no excuse for brute beasts when it comes to this issue. Nothing is plainer than that there is no excuse to be made for this.
But we are a “nation“ of individualists, which means we don’t really think we have any civic covenantal identity. God says otherwise. A passage from the law of God is worth considering in detail.
“If anyone is found slain, lying in the field in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him, then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance from the slain man to the surrounding cities. And it shall be that the elders of the city nearest to the slain man will take a heifer which has not been worked and which has not pulled with a yoke. The elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with flowing water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and they shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister to Him and to bless in the name of the LORD; by their word every controversy and every assault shall be settled. And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. “Then they shall answer and say, ‘Our hands have not shed this blood, nor have our eyes seen it. ‘Provide atonement, O LORD, for Your people Israel, whom You have redeemed, and do not lay innocent blood to the charge of Your people Israel.’ And atonement shall be provided on their behalf for the blood. So you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD” (Deut. 21:1-9).
An unsolved murder defiles the land, and not just the murderer.
Secondly, doing nothing about it does nothing. But then, how much more is this true of known murders, defended as a constitutional right by the elders of the land? And the people of God, who should know better, have refused to address this national abortion abomination scripturally. Even those who have actively opposed abortion have not done so with this understanding. “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?“ (Prov. 24:11-12).
We have to learn to pray like Daniel. Daniel was a godly individual, but he prayed with his people who were not godly — “we have sinned and committed iniquity“ (Dan. 9:5). We, as the people of God, in the midst of an unclean people, must learn to confess the sin of our bloodshed. We are guilty of blood because of wholesale abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, genetic research, bogus wars, tyranny and governmental oppression, scofflaw rebellion, lawless streets, glorified murder in entertainment, lenient magistrates, institutionalized envy and hatred, and through our hatred of sound doctrine, our murder of souls.