Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Corporate Responsibility and Murder in the Book of Deuteronomy

Accept this atonement for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, O LORD, and do not hold your people guilty of the blood of an innocent man” (Deuteronomy 21:8).

All blood shed in the holy land of Israel defiled the land and had to be atoned for by the shedding of the blood of the criminal. We have seen that in the case of premeditated murder the land was cleansed by the execution of the murderer. In case of accidental manslaughter, the land was cleansed by the death of the high priest. But what if a corpse was found in a field and it was clear that the person was murdered? In such a case the land was indeed defiled and someone had to pay for it, or the whole land would be under a curse.

Since judgment was the duty of the elders of the “gate,” it was the responsibility of the elders of the city nearest to the corpse to take care of matters. They were to take a heifer and kill it next to a flowing stream in the presence of the priest, and swear before God that they were innocent of the crime. Just as the ashes of a heifer cleansed humans from defilement (Numbers 19), so the blood of the heifer cleansed the land of defilement as the waters carried its blood downstream and out of the holy land.

The blood rituals of the Old Testament no longer apply in the new covenant, nor do we live in a land under special rules of symbolic holiness. God does not hold nations responsible for murders that cannot be solved, since the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed all the land of the earth permanently. Nor is it necessary for an accidental manslayer to hide in a city of refuge until the death of a high priest, for the death of the Great High Priest has already taken place.

Yet there is still an important meaning in this passage for us today. God held the entire Hebrew nation accountable for any act of murder. Today, premeditated murder still carries the death sentence. The only way a nation can remain clean in God’s sight and receive His blessing, is if she diligently investigates every crime and does everything possible to bring criminals to justice. If a nation takes a lax view of crime, God will bring the nation into judgment.

What applies to the nation applies even more forcefully to the church. In our day when many church leaders, fearing lawsuits, are reluctant to hold accountable the people under their authority, take time today to pray for your minister and the elders or your church. Pray that God would give them the wisdom and courage to keep your church clean of gross sin, and that God would enable them to maintain sound discipline in the body of Christ.