Opening Prayer: Almighty God, as we consider the sixth commandment this morning we ask that you would empower your word by the Holy Spirit. And wherever we have made any peace with sin and death, grant us the strength and courage to take up the fight. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!
We consider the Sixth Commandment again this Lord’s Day, and in particular its application to warfare and unsolved murders. As we celebrate Advent, it is necessary to consider the Lord Jesus as the warrior who comes to destroy death.
The Priority of Living
Moses says that the prohibition against murder does not preclude lawful warfare (Dt.20:1). Not only will this warfare be permissible, but Yahweh will go with them into battle. This means that Israel may not be afraid because Yahweh will fight for his people and save them (20:2-4). Because this is the case, God does not need every able man. Men may return who have not yet dedicated their homes (21:5), eaten of newly planted vineyards (21:6), are betrothed and not yet married (21:7), or even fearful (21:8). This also implies the fact that warfare is for the establishment of peace and life (21:10). Those who have not tasted of those elements of life are sent home to enjoy them. Likewise a proclamation of peace is made to those cities which Israel goes to war with. These guidelines also make the significant distinction between combatants and non-combatants (20:13-14). There is also a distinction made here between the typological holy war that Israel engaged in to conquer the Promised Land and those cities that are far off which are more normative for us today (20:15). The priority of life is even revealed here in that the “utter destruction” of the nations of Canaan is required so that Israel may not learn their abominations and sin against Yahweh and fall under his condemnation (20:18). This protection of life is to extend to the rest of creation as well: Israel was not to destroy food-bearing trees during military campaigns and sieges (20:19-20).
Putting Away Innocent Blood
This love of and protection of life even extends to someone who has been found “slain” and it is not known who “killed him” (21:1). The atonement for this guilt is provided by the elders of the city nearest to the event (21:3). Moses says that when murder occurs it brings guilt not only on the one who performed the act but also on the whole land and the people (21:8-9). This is surely why Abel’s blood cried out from the ground to the Lord (Gen. 4:10). This establishes the fact that God has designed the world with more than one kind of gravity. This is the gravity of guilt. Guilt demands blood; and when humans do not accept the blood that God provides, they seek out other blood instead. A new heifer’s neck is broken by the elders in “living water” while they take an oath before the priests declaring their innocence of the matter (21:4-7). This oath includes the prayer that God would not “set the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of your people” (21:8). This is at least one reason why Christians ought to be busy erecting a witness against various forms of legalized murder; we plead with God not to place the guilt in our midst.
Conclusions & Applications
As we celebrate Advent, we celebrate the coming of the Living One, the One who came to destroy sin and death. We celebrate the fact that our God has come with us into our warfare. Yahweh has come with us into battle, but notice that instead of only sending a few of us home, he has sent us all home to live. He has gone into battle alone in order that we may build homes, plant vineyards, and love our wives. When sin and the flesh and the devil were laying siege to our lives, our hopes, our world, Christ our King came as our champion, our hero to fight for us and send us home to live and rejoice in life. He came to chase away darkness and death. This is the gift of salvation.
But since God has won this gift of life for us, since Advent celebrates the gift of God’s life breaking into history, we need to remember what this life is for. Remember that Yahweh brought his people out of Egypt in order for them to worship him. Life is for worship. The Psalmist says “ I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord,” and “Will the dust praise you? Will it declare your truth? (Ps. 118:17, 30:9). Or, “all my bones shall say, “Lord, who is like you…?” (Ps. 35:10). Murder fundamentally robs God of worship that he rightfully deserves. And when we refuse to worship, we are refusing to fully live, we are at war with life.
In an ultimate sense, Jesus our Champion sends us home to build His house, the Church, to rejoice in the produce of His vineyard, with wine at his table, and to rejoice in our families, in His family. In the midst of the sin and death and darkness that surrounds us, worship itself is an act of war. But ultimately it is a kind of defiance against war itself. Because God has come and fought for us, our warfare has ended. He sends us home to live, to rejoice in the gifts of life because he has removed the guilt of our sins. He has provided the blood, and therefore our guilt has been atoned for. God has not allowed the guilt of our sins to remain in our midst. Your sins are forgiven. Therefore go home and live and rejoice.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty God, you sent your Son to destroy the darkness of death and sin. You sent your light into the world in order that we may live. You have redeemed us and given us life. You are our champion, our defender, and our king, and therefore we declare your praise. We worship you, and we glory in your wisdom.