Ten Commandments, Lesson 7: You Shall Not Murder

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


The sixth commandment forbids: taking our own or anyone else’s life, except the pursuit of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; neglecting or withholding the necessary means for the preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, or desire for revenge; all excessive emotions and distracting anxieties; intemperate eating, drinking, working, or playing, speaking in a provocative way, oppressing, quarreling with, hitting, or wounding others, or anything else conducive to the destruction of anyone’s life. (The Westminster Larger Catechism)

I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor – not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds – and I am not to be a part to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge. I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either. Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.

By forbidding murder, God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness. In God’s sight all such are murder. (The Heidelberg Catechism)

All life belongs to God. Human life is especially sacred because we are created in God’s image, and because Jesus came to give us new and abundant life in him. Christians, therefore should act with reverence toward all living things, and with special regard for the sanctity of human life.

As a witness of the Gospel and a follower of Christ, I can also keep this commandment by forgiving those who wrong me, patiently refraining from ungodly anger and hateful words; defending the unborn, vulnerable, and oppressed; rescuing those who harm themselves; and seeking the well-being of all. (To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism)


Introduction

The following observation may perhaps be an overgeneralization, but I don’t think it’s too far off the mark. If you asked a group of people to name the Ten Commandments, most could name commandments 6-9,  prohibitions against murder, adultery, stealing, and lying. I’m not sure the other ones would come to mind as easily.

But even with these commandments we find that there is a misunderstanding, or an “incompleteness” to their understanding of what all these commandments are meant to convey. This comprehensive view was evident in the old covenant but became much clearer (and convicting) in the new. For example, Jesus said to his audience in the Sermon on the Mount that they had heard it said they should not murder. “Good,” he said, “you shouldn’t.” “But I tell you, if you have unrighteous anger or hatred in your heart for someone, you have committed murder in your heart against them” (Dale Tedder paraphrase). And the same was true with adultery (lust), stealing (coveting), and lying.

In each case, far more than the mere outward behavior was involved. Jesus cared about the attitude and motive of one’s heart, which Jesus, and the other New Testament authors, assured us was the birthplace for evil and sinful deeds. Therefore, Jesus was very concerned about the condition of one’s heart. Do we love what God loves? Do we desire what God desires? Are we pursuing the right things, for the right reasons, in the right ways? These questions and more are involved when we talk about Christian ethics – about faithfully living the Christian life.

The commandment this lesson focuses upon, the sixth commandment, used to be understood as, “Thou shalt not kill.” But more accurate translations came along and it became clear that what was in mind was murder. And even as our laws represent today, so too the Old Testament had rules about those who murdered others with malice of forethought, those who did so accidentally, and those who did so in self-defense. And, then, of course, this topic of murder opens up into greater societal issues such as capital punishment, abortion, and other politically charged issues of the day.

But what we can all agree on, with regard to this commandment, is that there is a high premium placed on the value and respect for life. Why? Each life is sacred because it has been created in the image of God and has an inherent significance and dignity. Sin has crept in, and our fallen nature has made a mess of things, yet that does not remove God’s image inherent in each person. Therefore, even while we seek to be obedient to God and better understand his will for the issues related to life, we must always treat others with dignity and respect. My hope is that the following questions will guide you in wrestling with these topics, giving you both a better understanding of what the commandment does and does not mean, as well as appreciation for your neighbor, those you know and those you don’t, for they each have a sacredness to them as human beings created in God’s image.


Bible Study (Each chapter in the book is followed by an in-depth Bible study)

Ten Commandments Study, Lesson 6: Honor Your Mother and Father

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


[This commandment means] I should love, serve, respect, and care for my parents all their lives, and should obey them in all things that are reasonable and conform to God’s Law. …I also keep the fifth commandment by showing respect for teachers and elders; by obeying, as far as is lawful, those who hold authority in the Church, my employment, and civil government; and by conducting myself in all things with reverent humility before God and my neighbor. (To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism)

But the fifth commandment and similar Bible passages use the vocabulary of fear, honor, and worship, on a human level, to indicate the proper attitude of children to parents. And, moreover, they demand such reverence for parents as a consequence of our reverence for God. Our reverence for parents is not in spite of our reverence for God, but because of it. Deuteronomy 5:16 adds, “as the Lord your God commanded you.” Leviticus 19:32, Ephesians 6:1–3, and Colossians 3:20 also invoke divine sanction for the content of the fifth commandment. Jesus too… strongly defends the fifth commandment, even though he demands for himself a higher honor than for parents. (John Frame)

The terms “father” and “mother” remind those in authority that, like fathers and mothers, they are responsible for and should act in a loving and tender way, appropriately reflecting their particular relationship, toward those under them; and those under them are also encouraged to accept their authority more willingly and cheerfully, as if they were their parents. (Westminster Larger Catechism)

Introduction

In this lesson we move from primarily focusing on our vertical relationship with God to our horizontal relationships with our neighbors. The Ten Commandments are usually understood in the way Jesus defined the Great Commandment. The first tablet, commandments 1-4, emphasize our love for God, while the second tablet, commandments 5-10, focus on neighbor-love. Of course, it’s not quite as neatly divided as that description makes it out to be. For our love for other people, of necessity, shows up in our love for God, expressed in the first four commandments. Moreover, our love for God is the foundation for how we should treat other people. And we show our love for God when we show our love for our neighbors.

As you have no doubt noticed in the previous lessons, there is much more packed into each commandment than meets the eye. That will continue to be true throughout the rest of this study, and this commandment is no exception. The language of “father and mother” encompasses much more than one’s biological parents. Instead, the Israelites would have understood that to mean those in authority over you. The natural starting place is the home. But the impact of this commandment extends out in concentric circles to other spheres of authority, such as one’s teachers, employers, spiritual leaders, and civil government leaders, just to name a few. Yet, as the third quotation above, from the Westminster Larger Catechism emphasizes, those in authority should also act in loving and tender ways to those under their authority.

The last introductory note to emphasize before we get into this lesson is to point out that honor denotes respect and care, and in appropriate seasons of life, circumstances, and relationships, obedience. For example, a child living under his or her parents’ roof, ought to obey the loving guidance and discipline of his or her parents. Later in life, the adult child may choose to honor his or her parent by listening to their advice, but are under no obligation to necessarily obey what the parent’s advise. I hasten to add that honoring one’s parents should extend throughout the parents’ lifetime. As parents age, it is a loving and tender expression of honor to care for them, as parents once cared for their child.

As this lesson will help us understand, to honor one’s parents, or anyone else in authority over us, is ultimately to honor God who set those in authority over us. Yet, honor and obedience to human authority should only be expected insofar as the human authority conforms to the authority of God and his Word. Our first commitment is to God (commandments 1-4). Learning how to honor and respect those in authority over us in the home at a young age, ideally helps us better live in society, thereby making it a stronger and healthier society in which all may live and flourish.


Bible Study (Each chapter in the book is followed by an in-depth Bible study)

Ten Commandment Study, Lesson 5: Remember the Sabbath

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


First, under the repose of the seventh day the heavenly Lawgiver meant to represent to the people of Israel spiritual rest, in which believers ought to lay aside their own works to allow God to work in them. Secondly, he meant that there was to be a stated day for them to assemble to hear the law and perform the rites, or at least to devote it particularly to meditation upon his works, and thus through this remembrance to be trained in piety. Thirdly, he resolved to give a day of rest to servants and those who are under the authority of others, in order that they should have some respite from toil. (John Calvin)

 Q. 103. What does God require in the fourth Commandment?

A. In the first place, God wills that the ministry of the Gospel and schools be maintained, and that I, especially on the day of rest, diligently attend church to learn the Word of God, to use the holy sacraments, to call publicly upon the Lord, and to give Christian alms. In the second place, that all the days of my life I rest from my evil works, allow the Lord to work in me by His Spirit, and thus begin in this life the everlasting sabbath. (The Heidelberg Catechism)

How do we keep the fourth commandment? By worshiping the Lord on his day. To keep something holy in the biblical sense is to dedicate it exclusively for worship. …To keep the Sabbath “to the Lord” is to give the day over to God, setting it apart for him and his glory. …The Sabbath is not only a day for worship, but also a day of rest. It is a day for ceasing from work, and especially from common labor. (Philip Ryken)

Introduction

We have now arrived at the most controversial of the commandments. Throughout church history, there have been a variety of perspectives on what the fourth commandment means and does not mean. What makes this commandment especially difficult to honor today is that our culture largely ignores it. It is merely the second day of the weekend. It’s a day for sleeping in and reading the paper, or it’s the last day of our child’s soccer tournament or our round of golf. It is a day for traveling home from a weekend getaway or vacation. Honoring it as a holy day does not appear to be on the radar screen of the world in which we live. In fact, some treat it as any other day of regular work. But that ought not be the way Christians view the Sabbath. But therein lies the question: How should Christians view this sacred, set-apart day?

A minority view has been that this commandment has been abrogated by virtue that the Sabbath day of the old covenant, Saturday, has been replaced with Sunday as the Lord’s Day, changed because it was the day our Lord rose from the dead. It is functionally the day the church still makes holy through rest and worship, but primarily because it is practical to do so, not because God has commanded it. Christians are called to gather corporately to worship God and since this day has already been set aside, it makes sense to keep it as a special day on the Christian’s weekly calendar.

On the other side of the spectrum, from a Christian perspective on Sabbath-keeping, is that Sunday is indeed the Sabbath of the new covenant. Christians are, therefore, commanded to focus on God in worship, both corporate as well as private, including with one’s family. It is also a day of rest from one’s regular work. This stricter view would prohibit any sports or leisure activities that were not focused upon, and set apart for, worshiping the Lord. This view does not intentionally promote legalism, but does emphasize that Sunday is a day to be made holy unto the Lord and therefore, the Lord’s should be our focus. I even read one proponent of this view that suggested naps would not be considered in keeping with this commandment.

A third option is not quite in the middle of the previous two; it leans closer toward understanding Sunday as the Christian Sabbath, or Lord’s Day. It is grounded in an understanding that the Sabbath is based in creation, following the example of God who worked for six days and rested on the seventh. Thus, not only does it emphasize resting from regular work on the Sabbath, but like the people of Israel who were called to remember their escape from slavery in Egypt, Christians are called to remember God delivering us from slavery to sin and death through the redemption Christ won for us through his Cross and Resurrection.

In Luke 4 we read that it was our Lord’s custom to worship on the Sabbath, so he clearly did not think it had been abolished. Yet, he did indicate in Mark 7 that all food was now permissible to eat, in the apparent abolishment of the Mosaic dietary restrictions. Furthermore, keeping the Sabbath was included in the decalogue, a summary of the moral law of Israel, which as we saw in an earlier lesson, remains authoritative and required for Christians to obey today. This view would not prohibit doing household chores, enjoying family recreation, and the like. Yet, it might still encourage one to ask: “Am I honoring the Lord on this day?”

Thus, the issue for most Christians today is not whether or not the Sabbath should be kept, but how it should be kept. What does it mean and not mean to keep the Sabbath holy? What is prohibited and what is permissible? Moreover, even if something is not expressly forbidden, what is the best and most integrity-filled way of keeping the spirit of the commandment, without degenerating into legalism? Paul cautioned his readers to beware of doing whatever they desired and hiding behind a claim of grace to cover their licentious decision. That seems an especially apt caution for Christians today when it comes to the fourth commandment. We want to walk the right path that guides us between the ditch of legalism on one side and licentiousness on the other.

Hopefully, the questions below will help you better understand the intentions and requirements of this commandment and enable you to find ways to obey and honor God’s desire for you to set apart the Sabbath as a special day to rest from your labor and to honor God with your worship of him. This lesson will also focus on the nature of work, rest, and time. May God help us employ all these spheres of our life to bring him glory and be a blessing in the lives of others.


Bible Study (Each chapter in the book is followed by an in-depth Bible study)

Ten Commandments Study: Lesson 4, Honoring God’s Name

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


Third Commandment: Honoring God’s Name

Taking the Lord’s name in vain refers primarily to someone taking a deceptive oath in God’s name or invoking God’s name to sanction an act in which the person is being dishonest (Lev. 19:12). It also bans using God’s name in magic, or irreverently, or disrespectfully (Lev. 24:10–16). The Lord revealed his name to Moses (Ex. 3:14–15), and he has continued to identify himself in connection with his acts on Israel’s behalf (see 6:2, 6–8). Yahweh is warning Israel against using his name as if it were disconnected from his person, presence, and power. (Note for Exodus 20:7, from the ESV Study Bible)

The idea of “taking”… Yahweh’s name may refer to an oath… though its broad semantic range… would permit interpretations forbidding vain oaths, use in magic or idolatry, or frivolous, thoughtless use… The commandment ultimately prohibits people from trivializing His name. The ancients held the name to constitute the essence of the named. This commandment thus forbids any careless, flippant, or crass use. Israel is forbidden from any use of the divine name that is less than fearful, reverent, thoughtful, and calculated. (The Lexham Bible Dictionary)

The third commandment requires the holy and reverent use in our thoughts, meditations, words, and writings of God’s name, titles, qualities, regulations, word, sacrament, prayer, oath, vows, casting lots, his works, and anything else by which he makes himself known. This treatment will be reflected in holy affirmations of our faith and conduct that matches our affirmation, to the glory of God and the good of ourselves and others. (The Westminster Larger Catechism)

Introduction

I had a professor in seminary who once said that if you pray for your team to win a game, you are taking the Lord’s name in vain. That was the first time I remember coming to understand that “taking the Lord’s name in vain” means much more than using God’s name as common swear word. To be sure, blaspheming the holy name of God by using it in such a profane way ought to also be off limits, but as the quotations above reveal, it means much more than that.

When we trivialize God’s name by using it to swear or promise that something we are saying is true, all the while knowing we are lying, that is taking God’s name in vain. When we do something sinful or evil in the name of God, we are misusing God’s holy name, which is always tied to his holy character. And frankly, when we are known to be followers of Jesus Christ, and yet live lives that are contrary to his will and character, we are telling a lie about the God we profess to love, follow, and worship, and thereby are misusing his name.

Thus, as you can tell from the preceding quotations and introductory remarks, “taking the Lord’s name in vain” covers a lot more ground than only using God’s name as a common curse word. In the questions below, you will have an opportunity to dig into Scripture related to this topic and explore a wide range of application of this third commandment. I believe God’s desire for us is to always seek to honor and glorify his name and live in such a way that when others see our lives, they will be compelled to praise our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).


Bible Study (Each chapter in the book is followed by an in-depth Bible study)

Ten Commandments: Lesson 3, Keep Yourself from Idols

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


IDOLATRY — the worship of something created as opposed to the worship of the Creator Himself. Scores of references to idolatry appear in the Old Testament. This shows that idolatry probably was the greatest temptation our spiritual forefathers faced. While we find bowing down to a statue no temptation, they apparently slipped into idolatry constantly. So serious was this sin that the prohibition against the making and worshiping of images was included near the beginning of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:4–6). (Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

While the first commandment prohibits worshiping gods other than the one true God, this commandment prohibits worshiping the one true God in a way that makes us think of him as having a physical form like something in his creation. To think of God’s very being as having a physical form is to diminish him, to dishonor him, to ignore the immense difference between the Creator and the creature. (Wayne Grudem)

After the first commandment rejects all other gods, so that only Yahweh remains, the second commandment rejects every wrong form whereby people desire to worship Yahweh. The first commandment opposes foreign gods, the second opposes self-willed worship of Yahweh. If you stand with your back to idols, then you must still learn to kneel properly before the God of Israel. You can get rid of all your religious idols, but in their place you must not erect an image of Yahweh. You may serve no other gods; but the Lord in turn wants to be served in no other way than He has commanded. (J. Douma)

Introduction

We often think of idolatry as worshiping a false god. We even understand idolatry as placing any person or priority in our lives before our commitment to God. And it is proper for us to think of idolatry in both of those ways. And yet, the second commandment also helps us understand that God requires us to worship him rightly. That means, among other things, we must be careful about too closely associating images with God himself. Religious images in our places of worship or prayer closets, or jewelry we wear around our necks, need to point beyond themselves, and not become the objects of our worship and devotion. Thus, even holy icons such as a sanctuary cross or stained glass window, if they garner our adoration, can become idols, or graven images, as the second commandment puts it.

Moreover, in some Christian traditions, to worship God in any other way than what he has explicitly commanded in Scripture, is to violate the second commandment. What does that mean? There has been no consensus in Christian history, but that does not mean Christians should not seek to be faithful to God regarding what he has said about our worship of him. We never want to be careless or too casual when it comes to our worship of God. The Old Testament is filled with examples of those who were not necessarily worshiping false gods, but they were guilty of worshiping the one true God in a way he did not prescribe. This lesson will help us think more thoroughly and carefully about what it means to focus too closely on images in our spiritual lives, as well as doing our best to worship God in the ways he has commanded, and by which he is most glorified.


Bible Study (Each chapter in the book is followed by an in-depth Bible study)

Introducing Prayer

The Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 45

116. Question: Why is prayer necessary for Christians?

Answer: Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness which God requires of us.[1] Moreover, God will give His grace and the Holy Spirit only to those who constantly and with heartfelt longing ask Him for these gifts and thank Him for them.[2]

[1] Ps. 50:14, 15; 116:12-19; I Thess. 5:16-18. [2] Matt. 7:7, 8; Luke 11:9-13.

117. Question: What belongs to a prayer which pleases God and is heard by Him?

Answer: First, we must from the heart call upon the one true God only, who has revealed Himself in His Word, for all that He has commanded us to pray.[1] Second, we must thoroughly know our need and misery, so that we may humble ourselves before God.[2] Third, we must rest on this firm foundation that, although we do not deserve it, God will certainly hear our prayer for the sake of Christ our Lord, as He has promised us in His Word.[3]

[1] Ps. 145:18-20; John 4:22-24; Rom. 8:26, 27; James 1:5; I John 5:14, 15; Rev. 19:10. [2] II Chron. 7:14; 20:12; Ps. 2:11; 34:18; 62:8; Is. 66:2; Rev. 4. [3] Dan. 9:17-19; Matt. 7:8; John 14:13, 14; 16:23; Rom. 10:13; James 1:6.

118. Question: What has God commanded us to ask of Him?

Answer: All the things we need for body and soul,[1] as included in the prayer which Christ our Lord Himself taught us.

[1] Matt. 6:33; James 1:17.

119. Question: What is the Lord’s prayer?

Answer: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.[1]

[1] Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4.

Prayer Journal: Week 45

You shall find this to be God’s usual course: not to give his children the taste of his delights till they begin to sweat in seeking after them. (Richard Baxter)

This Week’s Scripture

  • Genesis 28:10-19
  • Psalm 139:1-24
  • Romans 8:12-25
  • Matthew 13:24-43

Adoration

Romans 8:16-17

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Victory in Jesus (verse 1)

I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory,
how he gave his life on Calvary to save a wretch like me;
I heard about his groaning, of his precious blood’s atoning,
then I repented of my sins and won the victory.
O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever!
He sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood;
he loved me ere I knew him, and all my love is due him;
he plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood

(Eugene Bartlett)

Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.

Confession

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!(Psalm 139:23-24)

Thou whose mercy is without measure, whose goodness never fails, grant us the forgiveness of what is past, and a perfect repentance of all our sins; that for the time to come we may with a pure spirit do thy will, O God, walking humbly with thee and charitably with all men. In Christ we pray. Amen. (The Book of WorshipforChurch and Home)

As David did in Psalm 139, ask the Lord to search you and know you through and through. Confess the sins God brings to mind, knowing you are forgiven and that He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Thanksgiving

Heirs with Christ – Sons and daughters of God – Adopted into the family of God through the work of the Lord Jesus – Led by his Spirit – The reality that as we suffer with Christ we will also be glorified with him. Gracious God, this is too much to comprehend. The joy that wells up in our hearts as we consider all of this, for even a second, is beyond measure. Thank you for your goodness in not turning away from us, but bringing us to yourself, that we might not only know you but also be your children, redeemed by your love. Help us, therefore, by the power of your Spirit, to not lead lives of fear and sinfulness. Instead, enable us to live lives marked by ever-increasing righteousness, so that the world will see us and give you glory in heaven. In your most holy name we pray. Amen. (based on Romans 8:12-17)

Spend some time reflecting on the prayer of thanksgiving above and then thank God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.

Supplication (Petition – prayers for yourself)

  • Help me to mature in my faith and to increasingly please God by my thoughts, words, and deeds.
  • Particular struggles in various relationships
  • My activities for this day
  • Other needs

Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)

  • My Family
  • My local church 
  • My denomination
  • Para-church ministries, particularly Christian education and discipleship  
  • Evangelistic ministries 
  • Other needs

Faith is a reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God. (John Stott)