In the law of God, we learn much about the value of human life. In several instances, we see that God demands a reckoning for the shedding of the blood of mankind. If a man kills another, even accidentally, his life is changed forever. And, in the passage I read in my daily reading from Deuteronomy 21, we see that God demands that leaders take responsibility for the loss of life, even if they bear no personal responsibility for that death.
Deuteronomy 21:1-9- 1 If in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess someone is found slain, lying in the open country, and it is not known who killed him, 2 then your elders and your judges shall come out, and they shall measure the distance to the surrounding cities. 3 And the elders of the city that is nearest to the slain man shall take a heifer that has never been worked and that has not pulled in a yoke. 4 And the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. 5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister to him and to bless in the name of the Lord, and by their word every dispute and every assault shall be settled. 6 And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, 7 and they shall testify, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. 8 Accept atonement, O Lord, for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and do not set the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of your people Israel, so that their blood guilt be atoned for.’ 9 So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord.
This statute is pretty straightforward. If a body is found, but nobody can determine who did the murder, the leadership of the nearest town takes responsibility. They have to take a special heifer, sacrifice it, and then declare formally that they did not do the murder or know who did.
Take special note of verse 8, “Accept atonement, O Lord, for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and do not set the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of your people Israel, so that their blood guilt be atoned for.” Bloodguilt must be atoned for. Failure to do so is a stain on the land. And it is a big deal for a people to bear the guilt of shedding innocent blood.
Here is a good example of an Old Testament law we need not attempt to follow by the letter, but from which we can extract universal principles. Jesus has died the final sacrificial death that will do anything to atone for human guilt. Thus, there is no offering that any people should make for bloodguilt. But so much is clearly true. We should realize that murder is serious. We should realize that it is bad for a people to bear the guilt of shedding innocent blood. And, I think that it would be easy to extract from this that we ought to do all we can to stop the shedding of innocent blood so that our land is not storing up wrath against it.
Note that when we talk about the shedding of innocent blood, we are not declaring the victim of a murder as innocent of all human sin. The point is that blood is shed unjustly. A person is killed without having committed a crime that is worthy of the death penalty. That is the shedding of innocent blood.
Now, look at our world. Look at our nation. We are guilty of the shedding of innocent blood. Unborn children by the millions are slaughtered. They have committed no crime. They are not dying for the taking of other human lives. They are dying, in the vast majority of cases, for the mere convenience of another. These little human bodies are crushed and then torn apart in the name of sexual freedom.
There is no longer a heifer that we can sacrifice, wash our hands, and say that we did not know. We, in our land, do know. WE know exactly who are those who are taking lives by the millions. We know why it is happening. And we, as a nation, bear that guilt. WE must wonder how much innocent blood the Lord will allow to be shed before we fall. Christians, pray. Pray that the Lord will help us put an end to the shedding of innocent blood in our land. If in Israel, the finding of a dead body in the countryside was a big enough deal to require a formal statement from the nearest city leaders, accompanied by a sacrifice, in order to atone for bloodguilt, how much more bloodguilt is on a nation that willingly, often exuberantly, takes the lives of children every single day? We do not need a heifer. We need to repent and to turn to Jesus for his mercy.