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Value Life

The Covenant  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God determines the value of life, so only God can take it away.

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Reading: Deuteronomy 5:17
Deuteronomy 5:17 ESV
17 “ ‘You shall not murder.
We’ve been taking an in-depth look at the Ten Commandments - we’ve already seen the commands prohibiting other gods, false images, and misappropriation of God’s name. We’ve been instructed to keep the Sabbath day holy and to honor our father and mother. Now we come to commandment number 6: “You shall not murder.”
That is such a simple sentence. It only has four words in our Bibles. In Hebrew, it’s only two words - the negation “not” and the verb, “murder.” So this sermon should be really short then, right? Don’t kill other people. That’s it!
But this commandment says a lot more than just the words on the page. Let’s start with the one giving this command. What is it about God’s nature that makes murder so wrong?
What Does This Commandment Reveal about God?

God Is the Author of Life

To see God as the author of life, one needs only look at the first chapter of the Bible. God created the universe in Genesis 1: since he is the Creator, he is the one who gives life to all living things. Whether it’s the most simple single-cell micro-organisms, or the most complex creatures, God is the one who brought all life into being.
There are many times in Scripture where God is recognized for being the author of life. Elihu, speaking to Job, recognizes this truth:
Job 33:4
4 The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
In several Psalms, the psalmists ask God to “give me life.” Psalm 119, for example, has this request at least 10 times! Psalm 119:88
Psalm 119:88 ESV
88 In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
In Acts 3, Peter and John heal a lame man in the temple. People who were there flocked to the disciples to see the sight, and Peter uses that opportunity to speak about Christ:
Acts 3:15 ESV
15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
Jesus is not only the Author of life, but he also is the one who holds the keys to death:
Revelation 1:17–18 ESV
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
Since God is the author of all life, what makes human life so special? God created cows and chickens, trees and bees, ants and anteaters all, so why is there a commandment that only applies to murdering human beings? Well, look at Genesis 1:27:
Genesis 1:27 ESV
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

The Image of God in Us Makes Our Lives Valuable

The imago Dei is what separates us from all other living things. Amoeba, bacteria, orange trees, lilies, varigated liriope, holly bushes, fungi, salamanders, ostriches, hares, catfish, mountain lions, cows, hens, sloths, elephants, whales, hammerhead sharks: none of them are created in God’s image. It’s not communication, cognition, or our status as the top of the food chain that makes us different - it’s God’s image in us. And that image, by the way, is why murder is prohibited:
Genesis 9:6 ESV
6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.
We are valuable because God puts his image in us. Now, we’re not exactly perfect image bearers: we often look nothing like the God who we are supposed to image. That’s the uniqueness of Christ - he bore God’s image perfectly. But still, we are image-bearers of God and that makes each and every one of us human beings as incalculably valuable. So God is the one who authors life and the one who gives life its significance. That leads to a third observation:

Only God Has the Right to Give or Take Away Life

Since life is God’s to give, life is also God’s to take. Only God has the privilege of determining life’s boundaries. After Hannah, Samuel’s mother, finally has her prayers for a child answered, she sings praise to God in 1 Samuel 2:6:
1 Samuel 2:6 ESV
6 The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
We see God striking people down, such as Uriah when he touched the ark of the covenant, or the sons of Aaron when they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, or when the firstborn of Egypt where all killed in one night. God is life’s author and sustainer, but he has every right to take away life as he deems fit. Johnathan Edwards preached a sermon called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He says,
There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God. (WJE 2, 7).
What Does This Commandment Require of Us?

We Must Seek to Protect Life, Not Harm It

Obviously, murder is expressly forbidden by this commandment. If you’re reading the King James or some other versions, your Bible might use the word “kill” in this commandment. But the murder it’s talking about isn’t just any taking of life. This word is never used of killing in battle, nor is it used for capital punishment.
This word is used of intentional murder, but it’s also used of what we might call “homicide” or “man-slaughter.” There were other laws and provisions, like the cities of refuge, whereby the accidental “murderer” could be spared. But the main use of this word “murder” is intentionally slaying someone without just cause.
Instead of murdering, God expects us to protect life. We are to defend the helpless and protect the vulnerable, whether they are fetuses in the womb or the aged in their final days or anyone in between. We cannot call ourselves pro-life if we do not seek to protect human life wherever possible. So we are not to be actively engaged in taking the life of another without just cause. But there’s another side to this:

We Must Not be Negligent with Life

Just as we cannot actively participate in taking the life of another person, we also cannot be passive, neglecting to protect life when we have the ability to do so.

We Must Care for Ourselves

This commandment requires us to take care of ourselves. We must care for ourselves so we can have the maximal ability to follow God’s commands. So we should not seek to harm ourselves by attempting suicide. We cannot be negligent with our own lives.

We Must Care for Others, Especially the Most Needy

Proverbs 31 is known for the description of the godly woman. But the chapter also has the wisdom of a mother to her son. The mother tells this son that he must care for those who need him most:
Proverbs 31:8–9 ESV
8 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
God does not merely want us to not murder - he wants us to stand up and care for those who are entrusted to us. No matter what the situation is, if life is threatened and we are able to do something about it, we must protect life.

We Must Not Be Controlled by Anger toward Others

All throughout this sermon, we’ve focused on the action of murder. But Jesus reminds us that the command isn’t just about the action of murder, but the heart behind it:
Matthew 5:21–22 ESV
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 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.
It’s so important to resolve anger and hatred of a brother, that Jesus tells us to handle our anger quickly:
Matthew 5:23–26 ESV
23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
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