The Heart of the Law: Part Two
Look at Exodus 20:13 for the sixth commandment:
“You shall not murder.”
Notice the ESV Bible does not say “You shall not kill.” It says you shall not murder.
What this commandment forbids is any unlawful killing of a human being. In Hebrew, there are at least eight different words for killing. The word used here has been chosen very precisely.
In his book Written in Stone, Philip Graham Ryken states that in the original language the sixth commandment is read “Lo ratzach.” The word ratzach is never used in the context of killing within a legal system or in a military context. In others words, when a court carries out the laws of justice and executes a guilty man for his crimes – that is not a violation of the sixth commandment. But if the victim of that crime was to take the law into his own hands – he or she would be in violation of the sixth commandment.
The Apostle Paul makes it clear in Romans 13:4 ESV that the governing authorities have a God-given authority to carry out justice:
“…for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.”
The Bible makes it clear that it is always wrong to avenge ourselves in the book of
Romans 12:19 ESV:
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Self-defense is not in violation of the sixth commandment, neither is defending your nation. Genesis 9:6 states:
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
So we can see from the Word of God that not all killing is sin. What the sixth commandment forbids is the unjust taking of a legally innocent life.
We can also break the sixth commandment with our words.
Jesus warns in Matthew 5:21-22:
“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.
When we speak in anger, in vengeance, in judgment, or in slander we reveal that murder is within our hearts because Jesus said in Matthew 12:34 “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Why is this so important to understand about the sixth commandment? Because it reveals to us that at the Heart of the Law is concern not only for our actions but for what is happening inside of our hearts. (To be continued…)