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TO KILL OR NOT TO KILL, THAT IS THE QUESTION
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
16 April 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
2 Samuel 11:1-5
1 John 1:9
Preparation Verse: (1 John 1:9)
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Sometimes we are faced with answering a very hard question, and one such question involves that of capital punishment.
Are we to execute someone because of the crime they committed?
Or perhaps, are we to execute them for the intent of the crime they committed?
Or maybe it has more to do with the extent of their crimes.
Or maybe we are not to execute them at all.
None of us is God so that we can judge all things as He does; so let us turn to Scripture and see what we are told about capital crimes and punishment.
In Leviticus 24:13-23, we are told the consequences of a man who blasphemed the Name of God and cursed; and we are also told what the punishment should be for people who commit other crimes:
13. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
14. "Bring the one who has cursed outside the camp, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head; then let all the congregation stone him.
Is there anyone in this room who has not taken the Name of the Lord in vain, or heard others doing so?
Perhaps this occurred within our own families.
If we live under the Law, we should be punished under the Law; but we haven't been.
15. "And you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'If anyone curses his God, then he shall bear his sin.
16. 'Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.
So, immediately after this service, we are all going to go outside, lay hands on each other, and stone each other to death; and the one who is left shall be considered righteous.
Doesn't that sound like a good idea for getting rid of the sin around us?
I get the feeling that you are not too pleased with my suggestion.
Perhaps we should table that suggestion until we hear the rest of what God's word has to say.
17. 'And if a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.
18. 'And the one who takes the life of an animal shall make it good, life for life.
19. 'And if a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him:
20. fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him.
21. Thus the one who kills an animal shall make it good, but the one who kills a man shall be put to death.
22. 'There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the Lord your God.' "
23. Then Moses spoke to the sons of Israel, and they brought the one who had cursed outside the camp and stoned him with stones. Thus the sons of Israel did, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
It is interesting to see that, under the Law, blaspheming the name of God is considered as serious as murder and deserves the same punishment.
How do you think Jesus would handle this?
Let's take a look.
In Mark 3:28-30, we are told about blasphemies and other sins:
28. "Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter;
29. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"
30. because they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit."
Also listen to what Jesus has to say about an "eye for an eye" in Matthew 5:38-41:
38. ''You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'
39. "But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40. "And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.
41. "And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two.
This sure doesn't sound like the Old Testament message we looked at previously, does it?
But listen to what it says in Proverbs 25:21-22:
21. If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
22. For you will heap burning coals on his head,
And the Lord will reward you.
These burning coals refer to two different things:
The burning coals of conviction that would lead a sinner to repentance;
The burning coals of punishment in hell, for the unrepentant sinner.
Or perhaps they are one and the same: prior to our physical death they are a reminder that we need to repent, but after our death they are a constant reminder of our failure to repent and accept the Lord as our Savior.
Our lifestyle and the way we interact with others is testimony of the presence of God within us, and it is this attitude that can lead sinners to Christ or make them turn further away.
The Law was made so strong and such a dividing line between good and evil, and life and death, that everyone was to realize that they could not truly live up to all of God's standards, all the time; thus they truly needed to rely upon God's grace and mercy.
And the people knew this from the way that God dealt with Abraham and Moses.
Moses even killed a man forty years before God called to him to lead His people out of Egypt.
And in our Old Testament lesson for this morning, 2 Samuel 11:1-5, we heard of the sin of adultery that King David committed.
We also saw that there were other sins reflected in this passage.
Let's take another look at it:
1. Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.
Here we see the first sin.
All the people of the land watched the king to see how he lived, as an example of how they should live.
And all of the peoples of the world watch Christians, to see if they truly live the life they preach, so that they might know if what they hear is the truth.
David was to go to the battle, to give courage and leadership to his soldiers; but he stayed at home.
Thus he brought about the sin, and opened doors to other sins.
2. Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.
And here we see the second series of sins.
The people were to be very modest. They were not to be seen undressed.
Why then was Bathsheba bathing where she could be seen?
Was it because she knew that David walked on his roof at night, and that he hadn't gone to the battle with her husband?
David obviously continued to look.
3. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"
David now knows that this woman is married, and he knows the Law and what it says about adultery in Leviticus 20:10:
10. 'If there is a man who commits adultery with another man's wife, one who commits adultery with his friend's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.'
So, knowing this, what example does David set for the people and what does he do?
4. And David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.
5. And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, "I am pregnant."
Both of them have involved others in their sin, and both willingly
participated in their sin.
Then David further compounds his sin by bringing Uriah back from the war to be with his wife, in order to cover up his sin.
But righteous Uriah would not go home because others were in the battle and it wasn't right that he should have pleasure while others were suffering.
And being foiled at this attempt to cover up his sin, David sends Uriah back to the battle with his own death warrant.
Thus David involves Joab, the commander of his forces, in the murder of Uriah.
And for these crimes, David should be stoned to death several times.
But what happens to David, for God is very angry with him?
God sends the prophet Nathan to him with the message of what he did, and that he will be punished and punished severely.
But what about David's attitude, and the requirement of stoning him to death?
Let's take a look at what we're told in 2 Samuel 12:13 and 14:
13. Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.
14. "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die."
We know from further passages that the child goes to heaven and probably because of the grace of God, for many people would have talked about the relationship that brought him into being.
God's grace, and not the Law, also dealt with David.
There was no capital punishment for these capital crimes.
But because of David's acts, others are using what he did as an excuse to turn away from God.
In our New Testament lesson for this morning, John 8:1-11, we looked at how Jesus dealt with an adulteress.
Let's take another look at this passage in light of what we have been talking about:
1. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2. And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.
3. And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst,
4. they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.
It is very interesting that they did this just as Jesus began to teach, as if
it was to disrupt His teaching so that the people would not hear the truth.
And it is also very interesting that they did not bring forth the man as well, in accordance with the Law, for they quote the Law:
5. "Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?"
This type of statement is very common among those who use God’s word but don't follow it.
The Law strictly stated (as we saw in Leviticus 20:10) that both the man and the woman were to be stoned; and for the woman to be caught in the very act, the man must have also been present.
This is the type of twisting of Scripture that the serpent used on Eve, and which Satan tried to use on Jesus, and by which we are also tempted by false teachers.
6. And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground.
7. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."
8. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
Whatever Jesus wrote on the ground, no one knows; but that, coupled with His self-examining question about their own sin, must have had a profound effect upon them.
9. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she had been, in the midst.
When we first have to look at the sin in our own lives, and in the way God sees it, it becomes harder and harder to condemn others.
10. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?"
11. And she said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more."
We do far more condemning of each other than the Lord will ever do.
If adultery and murder are considered as capital crimes by the Lord, they are equally as serious in His eyes; for we have only one life to give in payment for that crime.
Yet the very fact that she recognized Jesus as Lord is evidence that she must have repented.
And the Lord forgave her and told her to go forth and sin no more.
The Lord forgave David for adultery and murder in the same way.
So are we to kill someone for their crime, or are we not to kill them?
Let the Lord's words minister to you, and at the same time consider your own lives in accordance with God's standards, and evaluate what punishment we each deserve.
Once we have done this, I guess we will be able to judge whether each of us is righteous enough to cast the first stone, or whether we are in the same position as this woman, repentant and relying upon the Lord's mercy.