Laws of Murder and Manslaughter--Part 2
Jan 14, 2008
At the end of Part 1, I questioned the wisdom of modern political attempts to try to Christianize Babylon by demanding the death penalty for murder--or for any crime, for that matter. In my view, the modern judicial system is too flawed in every way to be given such authority. Periodically, there are people on death row who are proven to be innocent by more modern DNA tests or other evidence. How many more are put to death who are actually innocent? No one can say.
The adversarial system in a court of law, which we have here in America, pits the genius of one lawyer against the genius of another. In more high-profile cases, it often resembles a political race, because each side may have an ambition to hold political office, and his future may depend upon his winning the case. And so winning--not justice-- often becomes the goal, and this naturally can lead to a perversion of justice.
Then there is the issue of the laws themselves, which are increasingly divergent from biblical law. We have volumes of man-made traditions that far exceed the traditions of the elders in Jesus' day. And most of these laws do not even pretend to have a basis in God's law. Actions which God condemns are allowed by American law, and actions allowed by God's law are condemned regularly. The extent of this divergence is the measure of injustice built into American law itself.
A man-made government legislates laws according to the mind of man. A Christian nation interprets the laws of the Bible in the best way that imperfect men know how to do so. The Kingdom of God knows the mind of Christ and interprets it perfectly, which brings true justice (which includes mercy, of course). All authority in earth functions as a subordinate power structure that is directly accountable to God. Romans 13:1 says,
"Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except [ei me, "if not"] from God, and those which exist are established by God."
God is sovereign, but He has delegated authority to man to carry out His will. Man's governments function out of privilege, not by natural right. When God and man's governments are in agreement, heaven and earth then are able to bear witness, and Jesus' prayer in Matt. 6:10 is answered: "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." When they are not in agreement, it is because man has instituted some form of injustice toward his fellow men that God did not authorize. If man does not heed God's warnings, then God causes those governments to fall, usually by the hand of some other ungodly government whose iniquity is not yet full.
When God sells a nation into the hands of another, the new master nation is normally worse than the previous one. This is because God is judging those men who thought that man's rule was more beneficial than God's rule. So God gives them their desire--more of man's rule--to show them the dark side of man's rebellious nature. It is God's way of opening our eyes to see the truth--that God's way really is better than man's way, even if man's way seems right to him at the time (Prov. 14:12).
There is a long-standing disagreement with God about the nature of true justice. Men question God's wisdom that the law sets forth. The Enlightenment, as it is called today, was a movement a few centuries ago which looked at the Church's laws and practice, and said, "God's law is unjust; man can do better." They made no real distinction between Church law and God's law. Church laws are the new traditions of the elders.
The world is only partially liable for its rejection of Christ. The greater responsibility must be placed at the doorstep of the Church, for "from everyone who has been given much shall much be required" (Luke 12:48). God gave rulership to the Church at Pentecost in Acts 2. This was the Church's coronation, as we see in the example of King Saul (1 Sam. 12:17). King Saul was crowned at Pentecost and is a type of the Church in the Pentecostal Age. Being King brings responsibility and accountability equal to the measure of authority given. If the Church had not lost its first love, the world would have been converted long ago, and peace with justice and mercy would have reigned supreme.
King Saul was not destined to rule forever. He ruled Israel as if it were his right to rule, instead of ruling under privilege. He usurped the throne and decreed his own will instead of enforcing God's law and will. And so he was disqualified (1 Sam. 13:14). Likewise, the Church in the Pentecostal Age has been called and crowned, but has been disqualified for the same reason and will not rule in the age to come.
The rule of the Church (Saul) ends with the coming of David and His overcomers. Those who would rule and reign with Him as priests of God and of Christ must go beyond Pentecost to Tabernacles. Anyone who is content with either Passover or Pentecost is not even in the running, for they do not know where the finish line is. Fulfilling the Feast of Tabernacles is the ultimate qualifier to reign with Christ, because this is the point where a person receives the full mind of Christ to know the intent of the law and to apply it accordingly.
Quite literally, the only way to do this is to live by constant revelation as Jesus did. This is what it means to fully put on the mind of Christ. It is to be in constant, perfect communication with Christ and to be in full agreement with Him on every issue. Anything short of this would be leaven which would soon spread and thereby prove to be just another form of Pentecost (Lev. 23:17).
It is more important to know the mind of Christ than to have a perfect knowledge of every law. Yet as we live our lives as led by the Spirit, He teaches us by experience the application of the law in our own lives.
In a capital offense, a biblical trial was by jury to determine if the killing was done with premeditation or if it was accidental. Numbers 35:11-15 tells us that Israel was to set up six cities of refuge, and that the one who killed another was to flee to one of the cities of refuge to await trial. This served two functions. First, the killer's flight to the city of refuge was a self-confession that he killed someone. Second, he was pleading that it was an accident, not premeditated murder. If guilty of premeditated murder, he might want to avoid trial altogether by fleeing from the land or by hiding. In those cases, he was admitting guilt and waiving his right to a trial by jury, and the goelwould have the right to execute him without trial (Num. 35:19).
If the killer fled to a city of refuge, it was there that he would be tried by the edah, "congregation, assembly" in this case, the representatives of the people, known today as the jury (Num. 35:24). If they found that he was guilty of premeditated murder, he was to be executed. But if it was determined that it was an accident, he would have to remain within 2,000 cubits of the city's walls until the death of the high priest. This effectively removed him from the land while allowing him to earn a living as a tradesman or craftsman within boundaries, and thus did not cost the taxpayers anything.
All bloodshed pollutes the land, whether premeditated or accidental (Num. 35:32), and only blood will expiate it. The city of refuge was God's merciful provision, allowing the death of the high priest to expiate the blood that he shed. The high priest represented Christ, who was to come as the True High Priest. The believers of the Old Testament had to await the death of the True High Priest before being released into the liberty of the sons of God.
This is the second part of a series titled "Laws of Murder and Manslaughter." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones