Are you guilty of hate? While they are NOT the same, they share the same heart condition.
Last week, David gave us an intro to this section of the sermon on the hill with the six intensifications of the law. Today we are going to talk about “murder”.
What comes to mind when you hear the word, “murder”?
As we continue learning from Jesus’ sermon, please open your Bibles or tap in your apps to Genesis chapter 4:
Genesis 4:1–12 CSB
1 The man was intimate with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, “I have had a male child with the Lord’s help.” 2 She also gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel became a shepherd of flocks, but Cain worked the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but he did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? 7 If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” 8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” 10 Then he said, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11 So now you are cursed, alienated from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood you have shed. 12 If you work the ground, it will never again give you its yield. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
The account of Cain killing his brother Abel is perhaps the most famous murder in history, and an odd way to begin a book about Yahweh. This is chapter 4 of our Bibles, only the second generation of humanity, the first born out of humanity and we already have a murder, a trial and a punishment.
Let’s think about this passage together for a few minutes:
THERE WAS NO PRECEDENT. There were no societal or behavioral stimulus that would have planted the idea in Cain’s head. There were no previous cases or murder, no crime that we know of at all for that matter.
THERE WAS NO INTERVENTION. God did not stop it! It is obvious that God knew what was going on and even warned Cain. But God did not step in to prevent it. Wrestle with that and it will open a lot more questions before it starts to settle.
THERE WAS NO WRITTEN LAW. There was no law that we know of - representative or exhaustive - that said, “Do not murder”, yet there was a punishment given when it was accomplished. It was innateness to it.
It seems that all cultures have adopted a form of morality that declares murder wrong. It is an innate belief that permeates all societies. IF you ask someone, “Is it wrong to murder someone?” the answer will likely be a resounding YES.
Though there was no law saying, “Do not murder”, Cain seemed to know it was wrong because he not only enticed his brother to a place where no other humans were present, but he also lied to try to cover up his actions.
We innately know it is wrong to murder.
What I find equally as significant is the way that the Bible teaches what motivated this horrific event. Some details seem to be omitted, for instance we are never told the specific reason God rejected Cain’s offering, but other details are highlighted - like the motives and the cover-up attempt.
Through this passage we see an underlying cause for the killing: anger or jealousy.
Cain was upset because God did not accept his offering but God DID accept Abel’s offering. The passage says that Cain was furious. The word “furious” means to become hot. It is same word used to describe God’s “burning anger”. We read about that a lot in the Exodus story later on!
Cain was a hot mess of anger and rather than heed the warning of Yahweh, he planned a way to get alone in a remote place with his brother and take his life. This killing was one done out of jealously or rage.
SIDE NOTE: One of the concepts we get from this passage is the spilling of blood. Abel’s blood was spilled on the ground. Tuck that aside for a bit.
QUESTIONS: If there was no written or oral law against murder, why was it considered wrong? Why did Cain sneak away to kill his brother and try to cover it up? How was God justified in punishing him?
Perhaps one reason we can surmise from Genesis is that Cain was guilty of “un-creating”. God has just created life (chapters 1-2) and allowed humans to pro-create (chapter 4). By taking a life, Cain was making himself out to be a god and choosing to oppose Yahweh God by undoing what Yahweh had done. God created life. Cain opposed God and took life. The blessing of God was to multiply - recreate life. It would be the anti-blessing to take a life. The giving and taking of life belongs in the hands of the divine - something we still struggle with today.
This patterning of becoming like god was the first temptation in the garden, and a pattern that continues throughout the Biblical storyline. Fast forward a few hundred years and we find that this self-deification, wickedness and killing got so bad that God hit the reset button and wipes out everyone on earth except Noah and his family.
SIDE NOTE: God did not do this in his anger, it was regret! The first time we read about God getting “angry” is with Moses and his excuses.
God flooded the earth, and after the flood waters receded, God made a covenant with Noah, which was basically a restating of the blessing to Adam and Even in the garden, only with a few extras. Let’s read that Garden blessing to Adam & Eve: ⚡
Genesis 1:28 CSB
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”
God goes on to say that he has given them every plant to eat - fruit and seeds. Now, read the blessing to Noah: ⚡
Genesis 9:1–7 (CSB)
1 God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear and terror of you will be in every living creature on the earth, every bird of the sky, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are placed under your authority. 3 Every creature that lives and moves will be food for you; as I gave the green plants, I have given you everything. 4 However, you must not eat meat with its lifeblood in it. 5 ⚡ And I will require a penalty for your lifeblood; I will require it from any animal and from any human; if someone murders a fellow human, I will require that person’s life. 6 Whoever sheds human blood, by humans his blood will be shed, for God made humans in his image. 7 But you, be fruitful and multiply; spread out over the earth and multiply on it.”
This “refresh” of the blessing to Noah makes a few adjustments to the original. Meat is now given as food and God invokes capital punishment for taking a life. If any animal or human takes the life on a human (sheds or spills human blood), God will expect that a human will spill that person or animal’s blood.
I think this is the FIRST social law that is recorded in the Bible. This law will be expounded on later in the Torah, but here we have the first representative law given, with punishment.
God also added the phrase, “for God made humans in his image”. I am not confident that I understand all of the implications of that statement on this set of verses. Does that mean it is wrong to take a life because humans are the image of God, or that humans have the right to carry out the punishment that God pronounced because they are the image of God, or both? I believe there is valid support for both, though I think this passage primarily supports the idea that mankind can enact justice and carry out God’s decree because mankind was made in the image of God to subdue and rule the earth in a way that honors God.
This law, “do not murder”, was spelled out again to the descendants of Abraham through Moses. When God gave the ten words to Israel on the mountain, one of them was: ⚡
Exodus 20:13 CSB
13 Do not murder.
It is also repeated ⚡in Deuteronomy 5:17. In both of these cases the punishment is not specified, but we can assume it is still in place: if you take a life you life will be taken.
This is a pretty harsh law, isn’t it? If you kill someone you will be killed.
ASK: How many of you have already been running through case scenarios? “But what about…?” What scenarios have you questioned?
What if I kill someone in self-defense?
After the ten words were given, there was more explanation of the law given: ⚡
Exodus 22:2–3 (CSB)
2 If a thief is caught in the act of breaking in, and he is beaten to death, no one is guilty of bloodshed. 3 But if this happens after sunrise, the householder is guilty of bloodshed. A thief must make full restitution. If he is unable, he is to be sold because of his theft.
Why the sunrise? They did not have light switches they could just flip on, they had to find a lamp and light it, in which time the thief could have killed them or a family member, so they had permission to attack in the dark and were absolved from the consequences. However, when it is light it is possible for them to see that they were beating the thief to death, in which case their actions are no longer accidental, but malicious.
So, our representative law is starting to appear more like exhaustive law as we start to add case studied. It is permissible to defend oneself but still not OK to take a life intentionally - even in self-defense.
More explanation will be required as the Israelites try to live up to the law.
What if I kill someone accidentally?
As they leave the wilderness to “enter” the promised land, there are some more insights given as to what is right or wrong in the area of murder.
FIRST, we must acknowledge that the Jews were taking the land of Canaan by force and were commanded by God to put all their enemies to death. That was not considered the same as murder. THAT is an entirely different sermon for some other time!
In book of Numbers we read this:
Numbers 35:9–12 CSB
9 The Lord said to Moses, 10 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11 designate cities to serve as cities of refuge for you, so that a person who kills someone unintentionally may flee there. 12 You will have the cities as a refuge from the avenger, so that the one who kills someone will not die until he stands trial before the assembly.
Comparing Numbers 35 with Exodus 22, we see that there seems to be a difference between willful murder and accidental. A bit further down in Numbers 35 we actually have more case studies of what should be considered when that person goes to trial: ⚡
Numbers 35:16–21 CSB
16 “If anyone strikes a person with an iron object and death results, he is a murderer; the murderer must be put to death. 17 If anyone has in his hand a stone capable of causing death and strikes another person and he dies, the murderer must be put to death. 18 If anyone has in his hand a wooden object capable of causing death and strikes another person and he dies, the murderer must be put to death. 19 The avenger of blood himself is to kill the murderer; when he finds him, he is to kill him. 20 Likewise, if anyone in hatred pushes a person or throws an object at him with malicious intent and he dies, 21 or if in hostility he strikes him with his hand and he dies, the one who struck him must be put to death; he is a murderer. The avenger of blood is to kill the murderer when he finds him.
While we may be tempted to call that exhaustive law, it is still representative. What if the object is steel or bronze or made from an animal bone? What if he runs him over with his chariot?
The key here is the intent: “in hatred”, “with malicious intent”, “in hostility”. There was willful intent to cause harm to someone, even if they did not intend to kill them.
Let’s read abut more:⚡
Numbers 35:22–25 CSB
22 “But if anyone suddenly pushes a person without hostility or throws any object at him without malicious intent 23 or without looking drops a stone that could kill a person and he dies, but he was not his enemy and didn’t intend to harm him, 24 the assembly is to judge between the person who kills someone and the avenger of blood according to these ordinances. 25 The assembly is to protect the one who kills someone from the avenger of blood. Then the assembly will return him to the city of refuge he fled to, and he must live there until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.
The one who killed out of innocence is to flee to one of the six cities of refuge and live there until the high priest dies. After that, he/she can return to their land and their families. IF they leave before the high priest dies and they are found outside the city, they are to be killed.
Why the high priest bit?
It takes the death of the anointed one, the high priest, to provide freedom for those who are bound by guilt. Wow… marinate on that one for a while.
It is very clear in the law that the person is a murderer when their actions are motivated by their anger or hatred towards someone else. It appears as though the Law & Prophets condone killing :
when in battle
when by accident protecting yourself
when enacting justice for murder
But, again, that is an entirely different sermon and beyond the scope of what we want to cover today.
When dealing with the issue of murder there is an examination of motive. Hating someone, or not loving someone enough to take their life is wrong. It was wrong before there was any written law and it was spelled out in detailed representative law throughout the Torah.
Going forward in our Bibles and back to last week’s message, Jesus was sitting on the hill teaching his disciples. He was about to confront 6 teachings in the law and point out how people had misunderstood the law or were abusing it. ⚡
Matthew 5:17–20 CSB
17 “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
Now that we have a very small glimpse into what the law and prophets said about murder, lets read what Jesus was teaching and see if we can understand how he fulfilled the law: ⚡
Matthew 5:21–26 CSB
21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire. 23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him to the court, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny.
In verse 21, Jesus appealed back to the original law which was passed on to our ancestors. No doubt he is referring to the Ten Words (Exodus 20:13) when he says, “do not murder” and you can see how he is referencing Numbers 35 when he says, “will be subject to punishment”.
If you murder you face judgement. Pretty easy law to keep on the surface, right? Do not murder should be a simple law for us to keep, especially for those who follow Jesus. Don’t take a life.
What happens when you take a representative law and act like it is exhaustive? You get what we are dealing with in Matthew 5 - legalism and misrepresentation of God’s justice and just requirements. THIS is something the modern church must be extremely careful to consider as we approach law in the context of OUR culture, often neglecting the culture in which the TORAH was written.
Then Jesus says, “but I tell you”...
Remember, Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law, so he is not saying, “that is silly, let me give you something different”. Rather, he is pointing out that they have misunderstood or misapplied that law in the present time and Jesus wants them to understand what it really means.
“[Jesus], being who and what he is, can issue directives that rank with the honored law. It is not correct to say that he replaces the law with his own commands, for in no case does he relax a provision of the law. Rather, he shows that, rightly understood, the law goes much further than his hearers had reckoned.”
Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (p. 114). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.
And what is it that Jesus is saying?
The heart is the issue, not the action.
Jesus stated that the person who is angry with someone else, or insults them out of anger or bitterness, or who belittles someone else is guilty of the same judgement.
How did Jesus come to that conclusion? By understanding WHY the law was given and what it was representative of. As we looked at the Old Testament laws regarding murder, we were given a glimpse into this. Let’s go back and read the passage in Numbers again:
Numbers 35:20–21 CSB
20 Likewise, if anyone in hatred pushes a person or throws an object at him with malicious intent and he dies, 21 or if in hostility he strikes him with his hand and he dies, the one who struck him must be put to death; he is a murderer. The avenger of blood is to kill the murderer when he finds him.
Notice the motives - hatred, malice and hostility (anger).
What was the motive of Cain when he killed Abel?
Genesis 4:5–6 (CSB)
5 … Cain was furious, and he looked despondent. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent?
That word furious meaning being in an angry rage.
Jesus is taking his listeners back to what makes killing wrong - the motive. He then says if any of us have those same feelings we are just as guilty. Though our actions are not the same as murder, our heart is in the same condition. That means that we are guilty and are to face judgement.
While you and I can only see what is on the outside (I didn’t murder anyone), God sees the heart (Am I loving others?). The Word of the Lord is meant to judge the HEART: ⚡
Hebrews 4:12 CSB
12 For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Jesus said in his sermon that his followers must have a righteousness that surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees. That type of righteous living looks at the heart and meaning behind the laws, not just the letter of the law: ⚡
John 7:24 CSB
24 Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.”
Read the context of that passage and you will see that Jesus is addressing this same issue only regarding keeping the law of the Sabbath. Same teaching, different context.
The Apostle John takes this teaching and goes hardcore on it: ⚡
1 John 3:15 CSB
15 Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
He makes this claim based on the application of the Law that Jesus made in the sermon on the hill. Since the HEART is what is being judged the murderer and the hater are the same. Both have failed to live up to the standard of God’s law.
The Apostle Paul tells gives a bit of a commentary on this in his letter to the Romans:
Romans 13:8–10 CSB
8 Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.
To HATE is to fail to love, which is to fail to keep God’s law.
To hate someone is to have the same heart condition as the murderer, you just didn’t follow through with the actions (like Cain did). Since God judges the heart, that makes the hater the same as the murderer.
EXAMINE: we need a hard reality check on this. Right now, is there someone you have held anger or hatred towards? Is there someone you have been insulting or speaking bad about? If you were being judged today, and God examined your heart, would he call you a murderer because you are failing to love someone?
So what should we do if we find hatred in our hearts?
If the two great commands are to love God and love others, if we have failed to love others we need to reconcile BOTH with others and with God.
Reconcile with others.
The second part of our passage speaks about this: take care of it, immediately! Drop what you are doing, leave the Sunday service and go take care of it.
Jesus was speaking in Galilee which was quite a distance from the temple in Jerusalem, and he told his listeners that if they were in the temple and remembered that there was some way they had wronged someone else, they were to leave the temple, go back to that person (probably days away), fix the problem and then come back and offer their gift.
Not every relationship is reconcilable. Not everyone will want to settle issues, however: Romans 12:18 “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Reconcile with God.
The second thing we need to do is face the judge and make peace with him. Seek forgiveness and ask God to show you how to be a creator of life instead of death, bringing peace instead of murder and demonstrating love instead of hate.
An honest evaluation of our society will reveal that the church has not been careful to follow Jesus’ teaching in this area.
The heart is revealed by our actions.
Matthew puts this teaching in the first section of Jesus’ teaching in his gospel account. However, he will have more to say about this. As we wrap up this topic I think we need to see the way this law, “do not murder”, is played out later on in the story.
The religious leaders, who commanded people not to murder and who obviously had a wrong interpretation or understanding of this law, will eventually be guilty of breaking it. Let’s skip ahead in the story to Matthew 12.
Matthew 12:9–14 CSB
9 Moving on from there, he entered their synagogue. 10 There he saw a man who had a shriveled hand, and in order to accuse him they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” 11 He replied to them, “Who among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out? 12 A person is worth far more than a sheep; so it is lawful to do what is good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out, and it was restored, as good as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted against him, how they might kill him.
Jesus stated that the disciples righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees and Scribes. Then he addressed the topic of murder and hatred. Here in Matthew chapter 12 we observe the reaction of the Pharisees: they plot to murder Jesus. That tells us that there was a heart issue there. There was no love, only jealousy or hatred.
Jesus on the other hand, willingly gave up his life for those same Scribes and Pharisees, as well as all of mankind - even those who hated him. In this way he fulfilled the law by living in such a way that the INTENT of the law was displayed perfectly in his life: ⚡
John 15:12–13 CSB
12 “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus called his disciples to a life of love. It is what his disciples will be known by ⚡ (John 13:35). It is what you and I are called to live by and be known by.
In order for us to live in a way that is right in God’s eyes, we need to examine our hearts. Do we have anger and hatred in our hearts for someone? Are we unwilling to forgive someone? Is there someone we think and say only bad things about? Do we only love that that love us?
If we can reconcile that relationship, we need to. And in ALL cases, we need to go to the righteous judge, our Father in heaven, and ask for his forgiveness and for him to cleanse our hearts and help us to love. Perhaps David’s prayer needs to be ours:
Psalm 51:10 ESV
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.