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Food For Your Soul
The Expository Teaching Ministry of Dr. D. Richard Ferguson 

Spreading & deepening delight in Christ

Q&A Episode 1                                      Next Episode  ...

 Question 1
Is the original language of the sixth commandment to not "kill" or not "murder?" How does scripture differentiate between killing and murder? How does this commandment reconcile with God ordering the Israelites to kill many people, other nations/war/conquering, and even among themselves for disobedience/rebellion?

Murder is any intentional killing of another human being that is not sanctioned by God. God has not given us the freedom to take human life at will. God, however, does have the right to take human life. He is the author of life. He gives it to everyone who has it, and he takes it when he chooses. In fact, God takes every human life. Everyone dies eventually and it is divine providence that brings that about.

It is evil for us to do it and not evil for God to do it for a couple reasons. First, he’s the creator, which means all human life belongs to him. He made us and can dispose of it as he chooses—just as you have rights over your creations. If you write a poem, you can put it in a frame on the wall or you can ball it up and throw it away. It’s totally up to you because you created it.

Human life belongs to God, and it does not belong to us, so we cannot dispose of it as we choose—not even our own life. All life belongs to God alone.
Secondly, all human beings are guilty of treason against God, and so we all deserve the death penalty from him. That’s another reason why it’s not wrong from God to take human life.

And not only does God have the right to take life; he also has the right to decide what method he will use. In the case of capital crimes, God has given the sword to human governments

Romans 13:4 For [the ruler] is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

In the case of ancient Israel, God sometimes commissioned Israel to carry out his judgment on wicked nations.

So the short answer to the question is this: if God gives someone the authority to take a life, then he can take that life. Otherwise, it’s murder. And God has only given that authority to governments, not individuals.

One exception would be self-defense. There’s no direct statement in the Bible condoning lethal force in self-defense or defending others, but I believe that can be deduced from Scripture. I gave my argument for why that is in the ethics class on

Question 2
When it says that Levites don't share in the same inheritance as their brothers, but that the Lord is their inheritance (Deut. 10:9), what does that mean? I don't think everyone else gets "less" of the Lord, so what does it mean that they have the Lord as their inheritance?

The purpose of the inheritance was to provide sustenance to the people. Each tribe got a portion of land so they could farm and make a living. The Levites did not get any section of land, so the only way they could make a living was for God to supply what they needed.

Imagine I was going to take a youth group on a camping trip. I gathered all the supplies that each kid was going to need and put them in backpacks. I handed each kid a backpack and say, “that’s your provision for the trip.” Then my little six-year-old son comes up to me and says, “What about me?” And I tell him, “I’m your provision.” In other words, he doesn’t have to do the work that the other kids have to do. I will set up our tent and cook our food and provide everything he needs.

That’s what God did for the Levites, and the way he did it was by requiring all the other 11 tribes to give 10% of everything they produced to the Levites. If you do the math, 10% times 11 tribes means all those other tribes had to live on 90%, and the Levites got 110%. That’s what it’s like when God is your portion.

Question 3
Why did God choose circumcision to seal a covenant with His people? Seem like a strange part of the body to mark.

The Bible doesn’t tell us, so I don’t know. One possibility is that God wanted to make a point about how the sinfulness of man is passed on through reproduction from generation to generation. So even the life-giving part of us needs to be cleansed by God.

Question 4
What was the purpose of having a list of unclean animals to avoid eating or touching? Clearly, it's not the animals themselves that really defile people, according to the new testament, so what was the purpose of that command originally?

The message on Mark 7:14-23 is an entire sermon on this question. Click here to listen . So I’ll just give a quick answer here. All of the uncleanness codes in the Old Testament were designed as illustrations of sin. The Pharisees got confused and thought that sin is all about the illustrations, rather than actual evil in the heart.

In the dietary rules also had a 2nd function—to set Jews apart from Gentiles. It was one of the things that made them distinctive reminding them that they were God’s holy people. That’s one of the reasons why those rules were abolished in the New Testament, because God united Jew and Gentile in the church in no longer wanted any distinction or separation. The illustration of holiness in the Old Testament has been set aside, and now we focus on the reality of holiness (being set apart from the world not in customs, but in righteousness).

Question 5
How does one balance the reality of financial hardship while still wanting to honor God with the tithe? If there is not enough, or barely enough money for bills/obligations, then is it still required/advised to tithe, even if it means doing so would prevent being able to pay a bill? It seems like a test of faith, but it also seems like God wouldn't want us to be negligent on a payment obligation either. Additionally, is it important to include monetary gifts or income other than from working in tithing?

It’s only a test of faith if you tithe no matter what. If you don’t tithe in times when money is tight because you’re afraid you won’t be able to meet your obligations, then that’s not giving God firstfruits and it’s not trusting God. It’s just getting God leftovers. God will not accept leftovers. It’s not like he needs money. It’s not an act of faith if you already have all your bases covered.
Also, God promises to bless us and take care of us and meet our needs if we honor him with our firstfruits. So it could be the reason there is not enough money for bills and obligations is because of lack of tithing. That’s how it happened in my life. Tracy and I were in a position where I was working 3 jobs and we were getting farther in the hole every month and were in desperate straits. At that time we were giving God about 2% of our income. So we decided to give God 10%. And from that day forward we were always able to pay our bills even though I didn’t get a raise or any increase in my income. God blessed that decision. And I’ve had countless other people tell me the same thing.

So I believe you should go ahead and tithe, and then do all you can to meet your obligations.

As for tithing on gifts, I think it’s good to honor the Lord with all your increase, but you have to be careful with a question like that. It’s kind of like asking your wife to write down a list of exactly how many flowers and other gifts you need to get her for in the course of a year, followed by questions like, ‘Well, do I have to do this? And does this count as a gift?” That would spoil it. You don’t want to turn it into a legalistic rule rather than an expression of love and honor. God loves a cheerful giver. So the goal is to give as cheerfully as possible. And to have a heart that rejoices each time more money comes because it enables you to give more.