July 10, 2022 . . .“Back to the basics: You shall not murder” Exodus 20:13

July 10, 2022 . . .“Back to the basics: You shall not murder” Exodus 20:13

July 10, 2022

“Back to the basics: You shall not murder”

Exodus 20:13

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

She was only ten years old.

On Sunday, April 24th, Iliana Peters, known by her friends and family simply as “Lily,” a fourth-grader at Parkview Elementary School in Chippewa Falls, had spent the afternoon visiting her aunt. But when she didn’t return home when she was expected, her father was worried. So at nine o’clock that night, he reported her missing. Two hours later, at eleven o’clock, he went out to look for her, and that’s when he found her bike near the Duncan Creek Trail, not far from the Leinenkugel’s brewery. The next morning, just before nine o’clock, a searcher discovered her body, not far from where her bike was found.

So what happened?

Her cousin, fourteen-year-old Carson Peters-Berger, told investigators that he helped her get her bike from her home in Chippewa. And as she rode her bike, he rode his hoverboard. Then after asking her to leave the trail and explore the woods with him, he punched her, knocked her down, hit her with a stick and strangled her. Then he went home, took a shower and washed his clothes. When he heard she was reported missing, he went back and covered her body with leaves.

Today, he remains in custody under a $1 million cash bond. If he’s tried as an adult, two of the three charges each carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

On Tuesday, May 24th, eighteen-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos first shot his grandmother, then a little after 11:30, crashed his car, then stormed his way into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas where he reportedly fired on anyone who got in his way. When it was over, twenty-one were dead, including nineteen children and two adults.

Beth Potter was an associate professor at the UW-Madison Medical School and her husband, Robin Carre, worked in the college admissions process. But in March of 2020, their daughter’s boyfriend, Khari Sanford, felt as though they didn’t respect him enough and even treated him “like a slave.” So he kidnapped them, then took them to the UW Arboretum where he shot them and left them for dead.

I could go on, but that’s more than enough. And it’s more than enough reason to look for hope and help in God’s Ten Commandments.

I’ll read the words of Exodus chapter 20: “And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth…You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:1-4, 7-8, 12-13).

In the words of pastor and professor Kevin DeYoung, “The Ten Commandments are not prison bars, but traffic laws…but even if you get impatient when you’re at a red light, try to zoom through the yellow, and turn left on a very stale pink---overall, aren’t you glad that there’s a semblance of law and order? People stop and go. People slow down when driving by schools. They stop for school buses. You wouldn’t be able to drive your car to the grocery store without laws. When you drive on a switchback on a mountain pass, do you curse the guard rails that keep you from plunging to an untimely death? No, someone put them there at great expense, and for our good, that we may travel about freely and safely.” And he wrote, “The Ten Commandments are not instructions on how to get out of Egypt. They are rules for a free people to stay free.”

So it is with the fifth commandment: “You shall not murder.”

It’s easy to say that the fifth commandment is one of the most important commandments of all. In fact, it’s one of two commandments, murder and stealing, that’s universally accepted as illegal and punishable by just about every culture around the world. And while either one will always get you into trouble, murder is more often seen as the more serious of the two, in that its punishable either by long imprisonment or even execution.

So you see, not only does the Bible take murder very seriously, our secular society takes it very seriously too.

Also, you should know that the fifth commandment is one of the shortest commandments. While the third commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” goes on for a full ninety-eight words and the second commandment holds at twenty-seven words, in the original language, Hebrew, the fifth commandment is only two--”Lo tirzah”--”No murder.”

Nearly five hundred years ago, in 1529, Luther wrote this in the words of his Small Catechism: “You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.”

And he wrote in the words of his Large Catechism: “Hereby, God would protect, set free, and keep in peace everyone against the crime and violence of everyone else; and would have this commandment placed as a wall, fortress and refuge about our neighbor, that we do him no hurt nor harm in his body.”

But while this is such an important commandment and a universally accepted commandment, it’s also one of the least obeyed.

For example, the FBI reports that last year, in 2021, the United States experienced its largest-ever recorded increase in murders, with the national rate rising nearly 30%, the biggest jump in six decades. While certain property crimes fell, nearly five thousand more Americans were murdered across the country last year than the year before, bringing the total to 21,570. And they say that, every thirteen seconds, someone somewhere in our United States is either beaten, stabbed, shot, robbed or killed.

And the reasons are many. Some happen because of violent crimes, while others come through domestic squabbles. Some come through love triangles, while others come through gang warfare. And some are the result of arguments, while others are the result of fights or conflicts or misunderstandings.

Murders have become so commonplace, they hardly even make the newspaper anymore.

And why is murder so bad? Not only does it take the life of a human being, it also takes the place of God.

Think of it like this--who’s the Author of life? God is! Not only does He give life and sustain life, He is life! So when a murderer takes a life, he, in effect, claims that he’s superior to, that he’s greater than God.

And how about abortion? That’s murder too! Since 1973, as many as sixty-three million children have lost their lives, ten times more than the civilians who died under the Nazis in the Holocaust. Every year, more children die from abortion than Americans died in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the war in Iraq combined!

In the words of Luther’s contemporary, John Calvin, “If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to kill a child in the womb before it has come to light.”

And as much as we might hate to say it, the Bible is full of murderers too. In the Old Testament, Cain, the very first son, was the very first murderer. He took the life of his own brother, Abel. Lamech was a murderer and so were Pharaoh and Absalom and King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Even David and Moses were murderers too!

Even the New Testament has its share of murderers, for Herod was a murderer when he killed the little boys of Bethlehem, and so were Barabbas and Herodias and her daughter, Salome, too.

And who’s the worst murderer of all? Satan is! For Jesus said in the book of John: “He was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).

But before you start to feel good about yourself, thinking, “Well, at least I don’t have to worry about this commandment. I haven’t murdered anyone,” think again, for Jesus said in the book of Matthew: “You have heard that it was said to people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister shall be guilty before the court…and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be subject to the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:21-22). And He said, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immorality, thefts, lying and slander” (Matthew 15:19).

So who’s a murderer? If you’ve ever been angry, if you’ve ever called anyone a name, if you’ve ever cursed anyone, if you’ve come to worship with bitterness in your heart, if you’ve held a grudge against someone, if you’ve allowed conflict or hatred or anger to burn inside your heart, then you are a murderer too.

Author David Powlison, in his book Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining and Bitterness, has an entire chapter, Chapter 2, entitled, “Do You Have a Serious Problem with Anger?” And though it’s an entire chapter, it’s only one word long: “Yes.”

And what punishment awaits those who murder? Revelation chapter 22 says: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. For outside are the…murderers” (Revelation 22:14-15).

So where’s the good news in all of this? If it weren’t for our Savior Jesus, there wouldn’t be any good news at all! And as strange as it may sound, since He was murdered at the hands of men, we murderers are forgiven for all of our sin. There on the cross, through the most heinous of all crimes, God accomplished the greatest of all His blessings.

As John wrote in his first epistle: “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7).

Pamela Perillo grew up in the 1960s, just outside of Los Angeles, in a tiny, two-bedroom rental house, with four siblings and a mom and a dad. Her father worked on an assembly line during the day and her mother worked as a waitress at night. Church, religion and the Bible were completely unknown.

Then came the day when her mother ran off with the cook, so her father turned to alcohol. And feeling completely isolated, unloved and abandoned, at the age of ten, she ran away, only to end up in one foster home after another--eight in all. She couldn’t stay too long, they told her, or else she’d get too attached. Most gave her food and water, but not much else.

When she was thirteen, she met a boy named Sammy Perillo, who was nineteen. They got married, not long after, in Mexico. To get closer to him, she started to use heroin, his drug of choice. After she gave birth to twins, she never saw him again.

Needing money for her addiction, she teamed up with a man named Mike. High on PCP, she killed a man and his friend, then left for Colorado.

But not able to deal with the guilt, she confessed to the police, and after a swift trial, was given a sentence of death by lethal injection.

But as she waited in a Houston prison to die, a woman came to tell her about Christ and His path to forgiveness. Later she said, “After twenty-four years of being tossed about like a dry chunk of dirt, God poured in the waters of my life and began molding me for His purpose.”

Still she wondered, how could God ever forgive her for the horrible crime she had committed? Her soul was in torment.

Finally, after receiving and reading a Bible, she came to realize that, in Christ, God can forgive anyone, no matter how severe their transgressions.

And after her sentence was reduced from death to life in prison, she said, “As grateful as I am to have escaped death row, I am a thousand times more grateful for the promise of eternal life.”

As the apostle Paul once wrote in his letter to Timothy: “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man, but God had mercy on me” (I Timothy 1:13).

Have mercy on us, dear Father, for we are all murderers just the same. And grant us Your grace that we may find peace and hope in the cross, for Jesus’ sake. Amen