Ironically, while throughout much of the world today, the value of human life is respected and protected by law and medical science as never before, killing is nevertheless on the increase.

WAR—It is estimated that during the two short months of shooting in the recent ‘Desert Storm’, over 100,000 lives were taken. This experience reveals that the awful extremity of war and mass killing sometimes seems the only solution for peace.

CRIME—We read that global statistics on crime-related deaths indicate homicide is continually on the increase. Law enforcement in many places appears overwhelmed by the magnitude of death due to crime.

How long must this continue? What is the answer?

“They Shall Not Hurt Nor Destroy”

“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” —Isaiah 11:9

ONE OF THE TEN commandments given through Moses by God was, “Thou shalt not kill”—the sixth commandment. (Exod. 20:13) This commandment is very familiar, not only to Hebrews and Christians, but to the majority of people worldwide. Why has this emphatic statement of God’s Law been repeatedly ignored and violated throughout the centuries? The Bible tells us the reason: In the beginning, when Adam and Eve were still alone on the earth, Adam chose to disobey God. His disobedience brought the entrance of sin and human imperfection into his family yet to be born, and with it a curse.—Gen. 3:15-19

Our first parents delighted in the paradise which God had created for their home. Death was not a threat to them. They knew they could live forever under his benevolent hands. (Gen. 2:22,23) They were surrounded by a garden replete with fruit trees and shade trees, flowers, shrubs and grasses, all of which were a treat to their senses. Lovely perfumes filled the air, bright colors adorned the flowers, birds sang sweetly, breezes wafted gently by, rivers and waterfalls and pools completed the perfection of Eden. And to this paradise, gentle and friendly creatures had been added for their delight—beautiful and strange animals, all designed for man’s pleasure.

However, God required obedience to him as the basis for the continuation of these scenes of beauty and tranquility in Eden. God’s simple, clear command had been only this: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof dying thou shalt die.” (Gen. 2:16,17, Marginal Translation) Adam disobeyed God’s commandment. He and Eve succumbed to the temptation of the Adversary and ate some fruit from the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. (Gen. 3:6) The sentence of death was passed upon him, and upon his progeny.

A tremendous and terrible change occurred immediately. Adam and Eve were evicted from their Edenic home. God said: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:17-19) And the Lord sent Adam and Eve forth from the Garden of Eden so they could not take the fruit from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.—vss. 22,23

Suddenly, Adam was forced to deal with the effects of the curse. Only a very tiny portion of earth had been brought to perfection by God, as an example for Adam and his children after him to follow. As the race multiplied on the earth and men needed more room in which to live, God expected them to subdue the earth. “God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”—Gen 1:28-31

After Adam sinned and was banished from the Garden, he discovered that the ground from which he had to eke out a sustenance was ‘cursed’. ‘Thorns and thistles’ were abundant, symbolic of the overpowering, persistent, prickly problems Adam and his children would encounter and must deal with throughout the long centuries ahead. Each day man must toil ‘by the sweat of his brow’ to maintain his existence in the unfinished, imperfect earth.

The first problem Adam confronted was the literal controlling of weeds in order to make way for more useful plants which would be cultivated for food. The definition of a weed is “any undesired, uncultivated plant that grows in profusion so as to crowd out a desired crop.” In the wild they can be of great beauty—for instance, a field of daisies or black-eyed susans, wild asters, or crown vetch. But in a vegetable garden, they could be damaging if they were not controlled, because they could choke the more productive plants out of existence.

Adam had to battle the ‘thorns and thistles’ constantly until the day he died. His life was difficult in every sense. Being the first man, his ingenuity came into action to design and create a shelter and provide clothing to protect him from the elements, as well as to cultivate or locate enough food for himself and his family to eat. There were no tools to work with. There were no men before him to break the way—no doctors to heal their hurts or ills. Each day there were more ‘thorns and thistles’ to be overcome.

The Apostle Paul also spoke of ‘thorns and briers’ in a symbolic manner. He taught that God’s blessings came upon those who were called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. They were first fed ‘milk’ in order that they might grow in knowledge. Later they were given ‘strong meat’, so that they could develop into mature Christians. But, he said, sometimes these benefactions of God were not used properly, and so God’s blessings were wasted on these unappreciative ones. Then he used the simile: “The earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.” (Heb. 5:11 - 6:8) From this reference, we see how descriptive this phrase is as a symbolic expression.

After Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden, two angels wielded flaming swords to guard the gate, preventing their return to paradise. (Gen. 3:23,24) And so it was imperative for them to make their way in the imperfect earth. In time they settled into life outside the garden, where children were born to them. Their first two sons, Cain and Abel, grew to early manhood, pursuing different occupations in the young world.

Both brought offerings unto the Lord from the works of their hands. Cain brought “fruit of the ground” as an offering, because he was a farmer. Abel brought “the firstlings of his flock,” probably a kid or a lamb, because he was a shepherd. (Gen. 4:3,4) God accepted Abel’s offering, but he did not accept Cain’s. This situation revealed a serious flaw of character in Cain (I John 3:12), for he became uncontrollably angry. In a jealous rage he slew his younger brother, Abel. This terrible incident, which occurred so early in man’s history, was the first of many ensuing violations of God’s commandment as it was later succinctly expressed to Moses, “Thou shalt not kill.”—Exod. 20:13

It is significant that the very first death among Adam’s race was not due to so-called ‘natural causes’ such as old age. Rather, it was as a result of a violent crime. This called for stern measures to be taken by God against Cain. Cain became a marked man, to be shunned and looked down upon in derision. Cain considered it a terrible retribution, and said, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” (Gen. 4:13) The Apostle Paul made mention of this sad event, and showed what a great waste Abel’s death was—one which accomplished nothing. In contrast, he pointed out that Jesus’ shed blood served the highest possible purpose—that of the redemption of mankind from sin and death, and the eventual establishment of the New Covenant.—Heb. 12:24

Since the time that Cain murdered Abel, the world has experienced countless murders of passion—murders of vengeance—murders for greed—murders for power. War—which is simply humanly legalized mass murder—is a result of all these elements of motivation. In judging what the world considers criminal murders (not war!), capital punishment has been practiced by the courts of all nations, including Israel, as a deterrent to this carnage. God’s Law stated: “If any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Exod. 21:23,24) Verse 12 reads: “He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.” This regulation was repeated in Leviticus 24:17 and 24:21, so there would be no mistaking God’s will in the matter.

But still God’s sixth commandment has gone unheeded by the unscrupulous, or the passionate, or the insane. In fact, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, during 1990, projected that year as one in which the largest number of murders in history would occur to that time—23,220 murders—surpassing the all-time record of 23,040 in 1980. The chairman of the committee deplored the situation, stating, “The toll it is taking on our families, police officers, hospitals, cities, and towns is devastating.” When we pick up our daily newspapers and read about children being shot from rooftops, or from the windows of housing projects in. large cities, while simply walking down the street—or when we listen to the stories of our heartbroken friends or families who have lost loved ones through violent crimes—we might consider the chairman’s comment a gross ‘understatement’!

There is no doubt that our modern society has benefited by the many new inventions which have come to light in the past one hundred years. We realize that in God’s arrangement it is time for the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel 12:4: “[In] the time of the end … knowledge shall be increased.” We read, too, that “His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. … at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.” (Ps. 97:4) And again, in Luke 17:24, the Gospel writer stated: “As the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.”

It is the second presence of our Lord Jesus here on earth as the representative of the great Lord of the universe, whose lightnings are bringing illuminating flashes of knowledge to mankind. Note that it is knowledge, and not wisdom which comes at this time to mankind; this knowledge, despite its great value to mankind, is not yet being used wisely. When Christ’s kingdom is established upon earth, his illuminating, healing light is depicted by the sun—“the Sun of righteousness [will] arise with healing in his wings.” (Mal. 4:2) We know that when the sun is shining brightly, everything is clearly revealed; whereas, when lightning flashes, only small, incomplete revealment is possible.

The advancement of knowledge has indeed made possible many wonderful, useful inventions. However, the use to which they are put often causes injury, pain, and even death. One of the more common and obvious of these—the automobile—has become a common killer. Every year because of careless driving, ineptitude, drunkenness, anger, etc., many thousands of people are killed. But this is insignificant when compared with the ‘Damocles’ sword’ which hangs over every human being, every living creature large or small, every tree, plant, bush, or blade of grass. The threat is the possibility of the misuse of the unimaginable power which can be released from the atom. This science, which can bring untold blessings of inexpensive energy to power man’s machines, heat our homes, and otherwise serve us, has also made nuclear war a possibility—thereby threatening the extinction of all life on earth. This menace has been said to be “like an executioner’s sword poised over the head of our society, ready to bring an end to all.”

Mankind in general has seen the wisdom in God’s Law against killing. Some have even advocated the abandonment of capital punishment for murderers, in their efforts to carry out their interpretation of God’s Law, “Thou shalt not kill.” A movement in this direction in the United States resulted in the Supreme Court ruling of 1965 making the death sentence illegal. But after ten years had passed with crime still increasing, the Supreme Court ruled that any state would be allowed to reinstitute the death penalty if they voted to do so. Many states have done just this in their attempts to curb the ever-rising wave of crime.

Bible students who understand God’s plan of the ages realize, of course, that man’s suffering and death during this Gospel Age serves several invaluable purposes. For one thing, the permission of evil by God will be a never-to-be-repeated, unforgettable lesson of the results of disobedience to God’s laws. Through Adam’s one simple act of disobedience about 6,000 years ago, men will eventually be led to the very brink of total annihilation in Armageddon. Secondly, the permission of evil provided an arena for testing—under the most difficult conditions—the complete faithfulness of the Lord Jesus, and also for his footstep followers.

When the thousand-year kingdom of Christ is established, and mankind has been raised from the dead, the Adamic sentence of death will be lifted forever. (Rev. 21:4) But, until God himself lifts the curse which he placed upon Adam at the time of his disobedience, we realize that any efforts to do so by man are futile. Man’s valiant attempts at solving the problems of disease and hunger and crime which plague this present evil world are, of course, very commendable. And the great advance of knowledge which God has permitted to occur during the last one hundred years has given man many tools with which to chip away at the complex problems of the world. But without God’s removal of the curse of death, and the ‘thorns and thistles’, and until men’s hearts have turned from selfishness to unselfishness, their attempts will fall far short of the mark.

We can be certain that God will indeed remove the curse in his due time. The Scriptures are replete with his promises to do so. In fact, salvation and restoration to favor with him, resulting in life-everlasting, joy and peace, is the theme of the entire Bible. In the first book of the Bible we read of man’s disobedience, fall, and sentence to death. In the last book of the Bible we find a most inspiring description of man’s restoration to God’s favor through obedience.

In Revelation, chapters 21 and 22, the Lord tells us about the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth, for which Jesus taught his disciples to pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) John wrote, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

“I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev. 21:1-5) In Revelation 22:3, God assures us that when that wonderful government is in power, “there shall be no more curse!”

The Prophet Isaiah wrote concerning the ruler of that kingdom, saying, “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid: and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.”—Isa. 11:1-10

What a beautiful picture Isaiah’s words conjure up in our minds! His prophecy portrays Jesus as the branch springing forth from Jesse, the father of David, who will fulfill the “sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:34) by establishing his everlasting kingdom of righteousness upon the earth. Isaiah assures us that Jesus will be a great leader—a great governor of this kingdom. He possesses the perfect capability, power, and spirit to lead mankind lovingly, tenderly, as a shepherd guides his sheep, into the beautiful, righteous kingdom of God.

When Saul, Israel’s first king, fell from God’s favor, God instructed the Prophet Samuel to go to Jesse’s home to anoint one of his sons as Saul’s successor as king over Israel. (I Sam. 16) David, the man after God’s own heart (vs. 7), was the one chosen. When David became king, he desired to build a magnificent house in which to place the Ark of the Covenant and to magnify the worship of Jehovah. But God forbade him. Nathan the prophet was used by the Lord to inform David that his son, Solomon, would be the one who would fulfill David’s dream. “He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (II Sam. 7:13,16) In this respect, Solomon pictured the rightful king of earth, our Lord Jesus. Jesus, then, is that son of David who was foretold prophetically. And it is Jesus of whom the prophecy speaks, saying, “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”—Isa. 11:1

Never in its history has the world seen one as capable or qualified to take over the judging and administration of earth’s affairs as Jesus will be. He possesses the wisdom, the power, and the mercy necessary to deal with fallen mankind, gently and effectively restoring them to sonship with God. And he exercises these qualities in an attitude of reverence for his Heavenly Father. Isaiah, in another place, assures us that “unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”—Isa. 9:6,7

It has been truly said, “Man can judge the act, but only God can judge the motive.” The resurrected, divine Jesus has the ability to judge the intents of the heart. The Apostle Peter summarized the words of Moses relating to Jesus and the authority he would possess, saying, “Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.”—Deut. 18:15,18,19; Acts 3:22,23

Jesus will not govern his kingdom alone to accomplish the restoration of earth’s society to a condition of security and happiness. Joining him in this work will be those selected as his “bride” (Rev. 21:2,9; 22:17) to share in his glory because they were willing also to share his suffering. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” they are promised. (Rev. 2:10; 22:17) They too will be engaged in the work of instructing the world in the knowledge of the Lord. That they will be successful in this work we know, as the Prophet Isaiah assures us that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”—Isa. 11:9

In that day it will be truly said, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.” Then the sixth commandment will be fully kept inviolate, forever, by every intelligent creature. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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