Exodus Teaching - 12 - A Neighbor to Love

Title: Exodus Teaching - 12 - A Neighbor to Love
Category: Bible Studies
Subject: Exodus Study

Exodus Teaching Series #12

TITLE: A Neighbor to Love

TEXT: Exodus 20:12-20

[Editor's Note: This message has only one Roman Numeral point since it is tied to the previous message on the Ten Commandments.]

Dr. Paul Brown quotes some of America’s great leaders of the past to show how they viewed the Ten Commandments.

“President William McKinley, in his 1897 inaugural address, said, “Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers...who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps.” Another time McKinley said, “The more profoundly we study this wonderful Book, and the more closely we observe its divine precepts, the better citizens we will become and the higher will be our destiny as a nation.

“In 1950 President Harry S. Truman declared, “The fundamental basis of this nation’s laws was given to Moses on the Mount.”

“James Madison, the man most responsible for the writing of our country’s Constitution, declared: “We have staked the whole future of American civilization not on the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” [Quoting from the first of 12 sermons by Dr. Paul E. Brown posted on the SermonCity.Com web site]

In the two preceding sermons in this Exodus Teaching Series, we looked at the first four of the Ten Commandments recorded in Exodus 20, including the first commandment: “Do not have other gods besides Me.” (Ex 20:3, HCSB) The New American Standard Bible reads, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” The King James Version has the more familiar, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

During His earthly ministry the religious leaders in Israel were constantly trying to trap Jesus with their religious questions. One of my favorite discussions is found in Mark 12:28-34:

“One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” (29) “This is the most important,” Jesus answered:

“Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, The Lord is One. (30) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (31) “The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

(32) Then the scribe said to Him, “You are right, Teacher! You have correctly said that He is One, and there is no one else except Him. (33) And to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more [important] than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” [bold added for emphasis]

(34) When Jesus saw that he answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to question Him any longer.
(Mark 12:28-34, HCSB)

Jesus summarized the first four of the Ten Commandments with the words, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” He summarized the last six commandments like this: “The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus added, “There is no other commandment greater than these.” In other words, these two great commandment sum up our responsibility to God and to one another. Jesus’ answer was so brilliant that even this scribe who questioned Him had to agree with Him - and that ended the debate for the moment.

We must be sure we understand what Jesus was saying, because He was not just saying these things to a group of scribes, but to you and me. Note what comes under the first great commandment:

1) “Do not have other gods besides Me” (Ex. 20:3, HCSB).
2) “Do not make an idol for yourself” (Ex. 20:4)
3) “Do not misuse the name of Yahweh your God...(Ex 20:7)
4) “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy...” (Ex 20:8)

If you love the Lord with all your heart you will not (1) seek or accept other gods; (2) make any idols or permit anything to come between yourself and the Lord; (3) you will not misuse His holy name; and (4) if you really love the Lord you will remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Jesus’ second great commandment controls and guides us in our relationship with others. If you love your neighbor as you love yourself you do not lie to him or about him, you do not murder him, you will not commit adultery with him or her (or his/her spouse), you do not steal from him, you do not lie to him or about him, and you do not covet what is his.

Those who keep those commandments will be blessed, but those who break these laws will be punished, and we have God’s word on that. How will they be punished? The Lord will decide the punishment, but let me ask you a question: If you tell lies what have you become? Right, you become a liar. If you steal from your neighbor what have you become? A thief, or course. If you lust after another person what have you become? Let us look at Revelation 21:8: “But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” However, if you are a born again believer in Jesus Christ this is what you may expect: “ The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son” (Rev.21:7).

We have looked at the first four of the Ten Commandments (which cover our responsibility to the Lord our God). Now, we will look at numbers five and six of the Ten Commandments, which deal with how we should treat one another.


“Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you.” (Ex. 20:12)

I have more than forty volumes under “Commentaries” posted on SermonCity.Com, and there is a Dedication page for all of them, as far as I can recall. I dedicated volumes to my grandchildren, to family members, friends, and associates. Did I mention my grandchildren (!)? If I were to add a dedication page this Exodus Teaching Sermon I would dedicate it to my brother-in-law, F. S. (Bud) Turner and to his two sons Todd and Wade. Bud has faithfully demonstrated his love for his sons and their families over the years. At present he is going through radiation therapy and chemotherapy for cancer that has invaded his lungs and moved on to other parts of his body. Both Todd and Wade minister to him daily and support their mother, Patsy Turner, whose help and support are indescribable . Todd and Wade’s children honor their grandparents with their presence and in many practical ways. What a testimony it is to their faith and commitment to the Lord that they remember His commandments and obey them.

Each of the Ten Commandments is important and needs to be understood and explained to people in general, but in particular to those who profess to believe in the Lord and follow Him. The Lord did not leave it up to the individual, or even to the nation draw conclusions as to the importance of the commandment to honor one’s parents. Blessings are promised to those who honor their parents and the price of disobedience is spelled out in no uncertain terms: “Whoever curses his father or his mother must be put to death.” (Ex. 21:17) Where does that leave the son or daughter who refuses to stand by their parents in a time of need? Some do just that and they do it intentionally, while others do so without thinking. They are both still guilty of sin and need to repent, but those who commit that sin with their eyes wide open will face a more severe punishment if they do not repent.

In Deuteronomy 21:18, the Lord has more to say on this subject:

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father or mother and doesn’t listen to them even after they discipline him, (19) his father and mother must take hold of him and bring him to the elders of his city, to the gate of his hometown. (20) They will say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he doesn’t obey us. He’s a glutton and a drunkard.’ (21) Then all the men of his city will stone him to death. You must purge the evil from you, and all Israel will hear and be afraid.” (Deut 21:18-21)

Countless stories and illustrations could be used here to highlight those who dishonor their parents, but it is just possible that we see and hear of too many of those cases, and not enough about those who really honor their parents, as do Todd and Wade whom I mentioned earlier. I will mention some of those who dishonor their parents, and then share a little information about some who love and honor their parents.

We live in a time when a lot of attention has been given to child abuse, and that is good. However,
when people take that to an extreme there can be some unwanted consequences. We live in a day
when you hear people everywhere saying, “You can’t spank a child, or you will be arrested.” My older son John is the chief Juvenile Prosecutor for the District Attorney’s office where he lives and at times he teaches Criminal Justice classes for people for those who are going into law enforcement. He stresses that it is not against the law to spank a child, it is against the law to abuse a child, and they need to be able to tell the difference. He tells them they should not arrest a parent, finger print them and book them when they have broken no law.

I led a conference in central Louisiana a number of years ago and the wife of one of the deacons told me their son came in from school and when she told him she wanted him to do something he ignored her. She tried again but he arrogantly told her that if she spanked him he would call the police. She said, “Don’t you know when the police come they are going to take you away and not me?!”

We may anticipate the question today: Is God not being too severe here? How can a God of love advocate stoning a rebellious son? Many people will never accept an answer to that question, but there is one. We must remember that these commandments were given to a people who were destined to live in a theocracy in the Promised Land were Yahweh would be their King. God is holy and He chose Israel and planned for them to be a holy people. Open rebellion within the home is evil and that kind of evil spreads through a community, including the schools. What the Lord orders here may seem extreme to us today, but it did not seem extreme to Him. Remember His words which are recorded in the Book of Isaiah:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is⌋ the Lord’s declaration. (9) “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

At some point every true believer needs to come to grips with this divine truth. I would say “principle” but some have a tendency to claim a “principle” as something we ourselves have discovered, adopted, and developed, something that belongs to us. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. When people get to the point that they think of themselves as more compassionate than God, they know nothing of the holiness of God. Obviously, they have not stopped to consider the fact that when the time of judgment comes some of the most popular people they know, some of their friends and family members are going to be condemned to an eternity in hell. The Lord reveals Himself and His salvation to us in countless ways: His self revelation within us, the Scripture, creation, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit (see Romans, Chapter 1). With all of that, if we look God in the face and declare, “I don’t want you,” you are going to get the desires of your heart. Forever!

If there is no discipline in the home how can we expect to find good behavior in the community? Sadly, the number of babies born to unwed mothers in America today have sky-rocketed to the point that almost seventy-five percent of black babies are born out of wedlock, and a growing number of whites and Hispanics fall into that category. In America today many children are being reared in a home with no father and when boys become bigger than their mother some of them rebel and there may come a time when there is very little she can do to enforce the rules. They rebel against the person who loves them more than any one else in the whole world. What a testimony to what the devil produces in the mind and the heart.

The fifth commandment states, “Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you.” We do not honor our parents when we do not obey them in our youth, nor do we honor them when we do not care for them when they become elderly parents with health problems. The child or youth who refuses to obey his or her parents is guilty of breaking the Fifth Commandment. The same can be said of the adult who ignores his or her parents, especially those who offer no help, and do not visit their aging parents. Years ago, I made a point of visiting a very gracious elderly woman, over 90, as I recall. I was told that one of her sons would come to the nursing home and give someone at the desk a check for her care - and then turn around and leave the nursing home. He wouldn’t even walk down the hall to see his mother!

I remember my father. He was orphaned when he was four years old and lived with his grandparents until his grandfather died, and then he lived with his grandmother part of the time and with his father’s sister at times. He dropped out of school in the seventh grade and started pulling a cross cut saw with grown men to help make a living for himself and for his grandmother. On his thirteenth birthday he picked up a 500 pound weight at a sawmill. When he was in his early twenties, he stood five feet, six inches tall and weighed around 145 pounds, but he carried a 500 pound bale of cotton on his back from a platform at a cotton gin to a truck. He was strong, he was tough, and he was courageous. He was also intelligent and gifted, but he never had an opportunity to finish high school. When my brothers, sister, and I were growing up we heard him say, from time to time, “You are going to finish high school and college. If you want any more after that it is up to you, but you are going to finish high school and college.” I never questioned that, but after the Lord called me to preach the Gospel I knew I would go Mississippi College and a seminary - whatever a seminary was!

I remember other things about my father. I remember how hard he worked, and I remember how intelligently he worked. He repaired our tractors, cars, trucks, houses, barns, and doctored farm animals. All he had to do was walk by and listen to as someone was welding to know if he was getting a good weld. As he said to me, “You want it to sound like bacon frying.” I don’t think he heard bacon frying when he made that statement to me. My dad was a good hunter and fisherman and he taught his sons to hunt and fish safely.

I remember when he was drafted toward the end of World War II, which turned my world upside down for a while. I remember when he returned from Germany in 1946. He wired our house when they ran electricity through the area. He repaired our first television, which baffled the man who ran a TV repair shop (he wanted my father to go into business with him!). He welded things that needed to be welded. He brazed a crack in a piston from an outboard motor that I had borrowed from a neighbor. It “ran like a top.” As his farming operation expanded he had to give up many of the favors he did for neighbors, but we still saw his work at home.

Those are interesting things and I am glad I remember them, but there are more important things I remember. I remember our relationship. We worked, talked, hunted and fished together. I also remember the day I came in from school one day and announced that my coach and history teacher had told us something rather amazing (as I recall) in class. When I finished my father said “I don’t believe that.” I said, “Oh, yes, sir! He said....” My Dad said, “I still don’t believe it.” I continued, “But he said....” (I added to what I had said). He said, “I still don’t believe it.” When I insisted that it was true, he looked up from some tractor part he was working on, pointed his finger in my face and said, “Boy, you don’t argue with me!” You know what I said? “Yes, Sir.”

When I was a little older I rode down the road with my father to the little country store where a couple of my parents’ friends from church operated the store and farmed land in the community. Miss Edna told my daddy something her son and her husband’s younger brother had done that frustrated her. They were four years older than I, but I played baseball with one and boxed with the other. Actually, since he was a lot bigger and stronger than I, I sparred with him. One day, Homer threw a right hand punch at my shoulder and when I tried to blocked it he hit me on the jaw. I chewed in slow motion for a week! Miss Edna’s son was an outstanding baseball player, but did not box with his friend and relative. So, I was recruited for that job. Speaking of the two of them, the lady at the store said, “When they get that old you can’t make them do anything.” My daddy said, “I can.” I was surprised by his answer, but Miss Edna insisted, “You may tell them what to do but you can’t make them do anything.” My father said, “I can. She argued, “No, you can’t, either. You can tell them what to do but when they are that old you can’t make them do anything,” Once again, my dad said, “I can.” They continued this discussion through a few more rounds and I don’t know that he ever convinced Miss Edna. But he convinced me!

Years later, when my older son was about 12 or 13 years old, I waited for him to say something to his mother that was not respectful. Boys that age sometimes answer a mother in something less than a respectful manner. He never had, but one day he said something to his mother that just bordered on disrespect and I stood up in front of him and looked him in the eye and told him what was going to happen to him if he ever said anything disrespectful to his mother. He had never seen me get in his face like that before and I could see the surprise, and the recognition of the fact that I would not tolerate a disrespectful response to his mother. I don’t know that I ever heard him speak disrespectfully to her after that, and he may not have realized that he was being disrespectful then.

John and his friends from church and school laughed and joked all the time, but when time came for a service, Sunday School class, or any kind of program all you had to do was tell them it was time to start and they shut it off immediately. They respected their parents, too. I drove a van load of young people to a Christian camp in south Louisiana and after the first night, the director told those of us who were serving as sponsors or leaders that some on the back row in one service were talking and creating a disturbance the first night and he would like for us to help him to deal with that behavior. The next night, I had my boys there early and seated them on he back two rows. They were talking and laughing when another counselor came in and said, “All right, I want all of you boys to get up and move to the front.” I stopped him and told him I had told them to sit there. He began telling me about the talking and other activity the previous night that disturbed the speaker. I said, “I know. That is the reason these boys are sitting back here.” They couldn’t understand that our boys were so easily controlled. I am not sure they ever did. They came from families, a church, and a school where they were expected to behave.

As John grew older, even after I had been rather strict with him when he was younger, I began to back off and allow him a little more freedom from time to time. We did not discuss those changes but I could tell it meant something to him. When I made changes to give him a little more freedom we did not handle it like a set of rules, but as the Lord guided, I made the kind of adjustments that would have been appreciated by someone a little older. When some of the young people he knew were getting into trouble and their parents were trying to impose new, stricter rules, he was enjoying a little extra freedom. He didn’t go out too often, but when he did we talked about it and when there was a reason he could go a little farther from home and come in a little later (just a little). In those days, before cell phones, I reminded him that my mother and father were going through some serious health problems and I could get a call any time and have to leave and drive to northwest Mississippi or to a hospital in Memphis. Therefore, if he should be running late, I wanted him to stop and call me. He was getting a little more freedom all the time, but it came incrementally and in small steps. Did I know my method would work? No, but I was praying and believing it just might work with John and Mark.

There is something else that can make a lot of difference in the relationship between parents and children and that is an appreciation on the part of one for the other. Parents want their children to obey them and follow the rules, but it is also important for parents to show respect for children, to affirm them when they are obedient and cooperative. It is not enough to intimidate, bully, or even bribe them to get their cooperation. James Dopson was right: Love Must Be Tough, but it must be more than tough. Even the strongest disciplinarians must show that they love their children, and that they respect them.

When my son John was in high school he worked at a number of jobs, including a working one summer on a rice farm, at a hardware store, and mowing lawns. He worked on the rice farm for Tom Sharplin, who had the reputation of being one of the hardest working man in the area. Tom once told me, “I can tell whether or not a man will work by the way he walks up to me when he comes to work in the morning. The first time I drove John up to the farm headquarters to work he got out and walked casually up to Tom and others. After that day we had a little talk and I explained to John what Tom had said. The second day he got out of my car and walked straight up to Tom and his two sons, looked them in the eye and in short order he earned their respect. They would let anyone know he was willing to work.

John has always been interested in music and he has always been good with electronics, sound systems, and things like that. I had bought a new car and he came in one day and said, “Daddy, the radio you have in that car would work better in my truck and the radio I have in my truck would work better in your car. Will you let me swap them out?” He had worked, saved, and ordered the radio in his truck and installed it himself. You can imagine my first thought: “You gotta be kiddin’!” But I didn’t say that. I told him to go ahead and do it. I went into he house and stayed for some time and then went back out to see how he was doing. He was leaning across the driver’s seat in my car and when I looked over his shoulder I could see the pavement through the hole where there had been a console! I stood there a minute or two and then went back inside. When I checked later he had completed the job and everything worked fine. I was much more pleased with my son than I was the radio. Of course, there were times when I said “No”, or “let’s try something else.”

Unless John reads this on SermonCity.Com he may never know what my real reaction was when he asked permission to do that. I felt like it was a good time to trust him and I was glad I did. It may not always be easy, but we need to look for opportunities to so our children we have faith in them. That, however, doesn’t mean we have to be stupid.

When John was in Law School at LSU, he told me that when Thanksgiving break came he mentioned going home and some said, “I am going to Florida, I am not going home. My father and I don’t get along.” He couldn’t imagine that.

For a number of years, John has been the chief juvenile prosecutor for the DA’s office and in that capacity, he meets with a lot of parents who are having trouble with their sons and daughters. I mentioned how I began by being strict with him, and then backing off and allowing him a little more freedom as time passed, and as he showed he appreciated the extra freedom and respected his parents. He said, “You don’t know how many people I have told about that.” Without my telling him what I was attempting to do, he figured it out for himself. Juvenile issues are receiving more attention today than they did a generation ago. John has spoken at a governor’s conference, done work for the Supreme Court and the legislature, and now he is scheduled for national and international conferences. More people are looking at juvenile issues today than in the past.

It is important to remind children and young people that the Lord expects them to obey their parents and He expects older sons and daughters to honor their parents. My father had a series of heart attacks and strokes over a period of eight years and my mother had a brain tumor that should have brought death to her in less than 8 months, according to her surgeon. She lived 8 yeas. During that time I drove from Louisiana to northwest Mississippi once every week. I took no vacation and I never took an off day except to go to check on my parents. I usually had things to do for my parents, like running errands, setting up the medicine for a week at a time, doing repairs, or yard work. I thank the Lord that I had that opportunity. I wouldn’t have missed if for anything. If John was out of school he went with me and he was a lot of help. Mark was too young for that most of the time.
I was convinced that my sons should learn that I never abandoned my parents after I was grown and had a family of my own. Mark was younger but he also learned that lesson.

As I have already mentioned, when my son John was around 12 or 13 years old I began applying some rules I prayed would be right for him. I asked, did I know it would work?” My answer was, No, but I prayed it would. Now, I would like to share a letter he sent me on my seventieth birthday:


Every year on my birthday, you like to talk about the day I was born and what I put you through and I wanted to return the favor. I guess I could talk about what you put me through growing up, but we're probably even there! I have been thinking about your 70th birthday - that's right I said 70th - and how much 41 years of that have meant to me.

My job brings me into contact with families daily, but seldom do I see fathers involved with their children. I find myself thinking (and sometimes saying) "if only my daddy could get ahold of that kid for a little while." I never had to deal with the things these kids get into because at first I knew you'd kill me and then the values that you were trying to teach me kicked in and I knew you were right. I wish other fathers and sons could enjoy the relationship we have had over the years. I never fell into that trap of believing we were "pals" because a young man doesn't need "pals" he needs a father and that's what I have. I'm constantly thinking of things that you taught me or you were responsible for me learning myself, yet I hardly ever start a project without wanting to get your opinion on the best way to start.

I know there were times you were disappointed with me and I deserved it. I look back at mistakes I made and opportunities I blew and I am disappointed in myself still, but I came through it all and I think I owe that to you and the character you instilled in me. You taught me how to work and how to give someone an honest days labor. You taught me not to turn down work from someone because they might not call again. You taught me how to deal with the Dxxxxxs, Lxxxxxs and Jxxx.Wxx.s of this world without letting it get personal - which comes in handy daily in my job.

I saw the relationship between you and Mother and knew how Christian parents lived and worked together to provide for their family and teach their children. I am thankful for the example you gave me as a Christian man, father and pastor - I don't know if any "preacher" will ever totally measure up because I judge them all by the high standards you have brought to the pulpit.

The other day, Robin was laughing at something I said and she commented that if she hadn't known better she'd have thought it was you sitting there talking and I thought about it and decided that wasn't a bad compliment after all.

I love you,

Happy Birthday

#1 son of the #1 man

Johnny L. Sanders II
Asst. District Attorney
Fourth Judicial District

I have no comment to add to what John wrote - I simply never thought I deserved his note of appreciation. I thank the Lord that both John and Mark have brought such joy to my life, and to their mother’s life. They honor their parents. Paul was inspired to repeat this commandment and urge Christians to obey it:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right. (2) Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise— (3) that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land.” (Eph 6:1-4, HCSB) In Colossians 3:20, he wrote: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing in the Lord.” (Col 3:20) If you love your parents you will honor them and if you honor them as a child or youth you will obey them. If you really love and honor them they will know it. You cannot keep something like that a secret.


“Do not murder” (Ex. 20:13)

The news is filled with, and often focused on murder. On September 16, 2013, a man entered a Naval unit and kills 12 people before he was killed himself. He committed murder. A Muslim Army officer Nidal Malik Hasan opens fire at Fort Hood and kills 13 and wounds 30. Murder. On September 11, 2001, radical Muslims hijacked planes and flew them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and a fourth plane was targeted the Pentagon. Premeditated murder by Islamic extremists. The president of Syria has reportedly killed something like 1400 of his own people with poison gas. Murder. Years ago, in Jackson, Mississippi, a man married a woman, took out a life insurance policy on her, and killed her ten days later. Murder. I saw that man pray for forgiveness and ask the Lord to save him. I preached to him at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman months later. His crime was still murder, but when he repented the Lord forgave him.

Some have questioned the meaning and extent of this commandment. What about war? The King James Version reads, “Thou shalt not kill.” The New American Standard Bible has, “You shall not murder.” There is nothing in the Ten Commandments that tell us we should not kill an enemy in war. Tim (not his real name) and a friend were ordered by their captain to take several captured German soldiers, along with their commanding officer, back behind the lines and turn them over to those who were in charge of POWs. The captain was watching through field glasses when suddenly the soldiers and their prisoners stopped. The two American soldiers jumped onto the bank at the top of a hill as the Germans sat down in the roadway. Suddenly, the American soldiers opened fire on the Germans and killed them all. The captain was determined to see his men kill the enemy in battle, but shocked to see two of his men open fire on those prisoners. He brought charges against the two soldiers.

Tim explained that the German officer, in English, told them he had a stone in his boot and asked permission to stop and take his boot off and shake it out. He and his friend told them all to sit down while the officer got the rock out of his boot. He watched as the officer reached for his boot to remove it. He did not put one hand in back of the heel to remove it, he ran his right hand into the top of his boot and Tim yelled, “He’s got a gun!” They opened fire before the officer could use the .25 automatic, shot him and then they shot the German soldiers who seemed to have been waiting for the officer to fire before they launched their attack on the two American soldiers. That was war.

The American officer told them he was going to prefer charges against them for murdering those prisoners. Tim, after the war, told my father that the other soldier (I believe he was from Pennsylvania) stopped the captain’s jeep and asked him if he really was going to file murder charges against them and the captain cursed as he told him he was. That soldier lowered his carbine and shot the officer in cold blood. That was murder! He looked at the sergeant who was driving for the captain and asked, “Did you see that?” The sergeant said, “I didn’t see a thing!” The soldier let him go. They did have to go to a hearing, but the army did not push the murder charge in the killing of the German prisoners, and I suppose those in authority assumed an enemy round had killed the captain.

It is always sad to hear about the death of a soldier during a war or during a particular battle in a war. When I was at Mississippi College, 1955-1959, it dawned on me that some of those elderly men I observed on campus were actually students, not professors. I mean some of those old men must have been thirty-five years old! What were they doing there?! In time I came to know some of these men and discovered that they had dropped out of school and volunteered for one branch of our military or another to fight for their country after the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and attacks on ships by the Germans.

My father, various relatives, and some of our neighbors had served during the war. My father was preparing to board a ship for France when the announcement was made that he war had ended. He served in Germany during the reconstruction. I was anxious to hear those veterans talk about their experiences in the war, but they didn’t talk much about the battles. They talked about many of their experiences, but not about their courage in battle.

As I mentioned, I went to school with a number of veterans of World War II. Sitting around in a dorm room or coffee shop, some of them talked to each other and I listened. I did not ask questions, I listened. Some of these brave men who had laid their lives on the line for their country - for me - would talk about some of their experiences. I wanted to hear stories about their heroism, but you know something? Not once during all those years in college and seminary did I hear one veteran hint at his own heroism. Not one time! Jesse Sabastian shared stories about how frightened he was at various times. He was sent to reconnoiter a street to the right at an intercession. He was so sure he would see the street full of German soldiers, and that those soldiers who would see him, that he stretched out on the side walk just before he reached the corner, pulled off his helmet, and held his carbine back by his side as he slid forward on the side walk. When he was inches away from the corner of the building that blocked their view of the other street, absolutely certain he was going to find the street filled with German soldiers, he quickly stuck his eyes around the corner - and almost butted heads with a young blonde haired, blue eyed German about his same age, doing the same thing he was doing. They almost bumped heads! He said they both jumped up and ran back to their troops.

These heros never told me their stories. I had discovered that if I really wanted to get to know these men I needed to keep my mouth shut and my ears open. They talked with each other and I simply listened. Bill McCain was from Grenada, Mississippi, hometown of Senator John McCain’s grandfather, an admiral in the Navy at one time. Bill’s company had taken a town in Germany, and soldiers were ordered to occupy rooms on the second floor of buildings along a main street of the town. The second floor there was more like the height of a third floor in America, or so I was told. They heard the sound of a vehicle and prepared to open fire. As it turned out, there was a German soldier on a motor cycle with a side car coming down the street. Bill said, “We opened fire on him but no one hit him. He gave it the gas and got through that block without being hit by the trained American marksmen. He had not gone far before he realized he was on a dead end street, so he turned around and headed back the other way. They opened fire on him again, and again he rode through all that rifle fire without receiving a scratch.

Hollis Bryant’s story was not humorous. It was miraculous. Three times when it seemed that he was marked for death the Lord saved him. He was wading through mud that came near his knees when he heard a mortar round whistling toward him. He could not run so he threw himself to the side as the mortar round hit within three feet of his right foot. It was a dud, something “that never happens.”
Within minutes, Hollis heard another mortar shell coming right toward him. Again, he threw himself to the left and this round fell four feet from his right foot. It, too, was a dud! That, he said, just didn’t happen.

Hollis Bryant told of the time his squad was ambushed by the Germans in a valley. The fighting was hot and heavy, and men were falling all around him. Between the fog and smoke, they couldn’t see but a few feet in any direction. He dropped to the ground and was surprised to discover that he could see beneath the fog and smoke as long as he stayed about eighteen inches from the ground. He began crawling and as I recall, he was the only one to escape that day.

On another occasion, Hollis Bryant’s squad was ambushed and, with people falling all around him, He began to run and discovered a levy by a lake was just ahead and to his left. He dived over the levy and again he was the only survivor. You see, the Lord had saved Hollis and called him to preach the Gospel. The Lord wasn’t about to lose Hollis Bryant. Amidst all that death, the Lord miraculously brought Hollis Bryant through it all, led him to go to Mississippi College, and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and placed him where he could faithfully serve the Lord who had protected him. At one point he served as Director of Missions for Riverside Baptist Association and shared some these experiences with my home church. My parents and my younger brother and sister heard him tell how the Lord had protected him.

Another question about killing another person concerns execution. Is it a sin to sentence a murderer to death by execution? Many people are convinced that this is what God orders when He says, “Thou shalt not kill.” In reality, the verse reads, “Do not murder” another person. William Wetzel was sentenced to life in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman for a murder he had committed. He had not been in Parchman long before another prisoner crossed him and he killed him. Murder charges were filled and he was convicted and sentenced to death by electrocution (in the electric chair). Chaplain Roscoe Hicks (from my hometown of Sledge, MS) spoke for me at the church I served while a student at Mississippi College. He told the story of William Wetzel.

Wetzel, according to the chaplain, had the highest IQ of anyone who had ever set foot on the grounds at Parchman. He was learning the Bible faster than anyone he had ever seen. Chaplain Hicks was convinced that Wetzel would have been a powerful influence on other prisoners if he had the opportunity, so with encouragement from the chaplain, officials filed an appeal to have the death sentence commuted to life without parole. The governor at the time was J. P. Coleman, but since he had been the judge when Wetzel had been given life for the first murder, he had the appeal sent to Lt. Gov. Carroll Gartin, who let the appeal die on his desk without signing it.

William Wetzel had, at first, rejected any effort by Chaplain Hicks to share the Gospel with him, but after he was sentenced to death he sent for the chaplain. The chaplain shared Scripture with him and he prayed, repenting of his sins, asking the Lord to save him. Wetzel began reading his Bible and he not only read it, he remembered what he was reading. The chaplain was convinced that Wetzel’s sentenced should be commuted to life without parole so that he could work with other prisoners, teach them and counsel them. When this opportunity was denied him and the date was set for execution, and the official witnesses gathered around to witness the termination of his life. Chaplain Hicks said there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The executioner, who had never shown any emotions before, had tears in his eyes. All of the witnesses were convinced that he would have been a blessing had his sentence been commuted. A Mr. Fleming, whose family came to our church, Dockery Baptist Church, Cleveland, Mississippi, told me about the execution of William Wetzel: “I have witnessed a lot of executions, but I will never witness another one.” The State of Mississippi executed William Wetzel, they did not murder, in spite of the pleas for his life.

Some ask about self defense. If you kill another person in self defense, or in defense of your family, is that a sin that will condemn you to hell? There again, the right translation is “Do no murder,” not “Thou shalt not kill.” Someone might set up a murder to make it look like a suicide, and avoid murder charges, or if charged, be declared innocent. The prosecutor may make a mistake, and the jury and judge may make a mistake, but let us remember that DNA evidence has saved lives, as it has caused the state to release prisoners who were wrongfully convicted. Better scientific evaluation of evidence, highly trained forensic scientists, modern electronic surveillance, and better training of police officers help to avoid many errors of the past.

I do not remember my great grandmother, my father’s paternal grandmother. She kept me, or so I was told, when I was an infant and a toddler. I heard stories about her all my life, both when I was growing up and when I was a young adult. She heard a noise in her chicken house one night and slipped out side in time to see two men leaving with some chickens. She shot both of them, but they managed to get away. They didn’t make it to work on the railroad the next morning when all the workers came together to begin laying tracks. Those two were in the doctor’s office having number 6 shot removed from their back sides. At the time, there were no telephones, no 911 calls, and no modern day motion lights. The property owner protected his or her home and other properties.

My family told me that a neighbor of hers was arrested and tried for murder. He denied guilt, saying, “I have done a lot of things that I deserve to be hanged for, but I did not kill that man!” He was convicted and sentence to hang by the neck until dead. My great grandmother, who remembered that she was eight years old when her father returned home from the Civil War, took the man’s wife to her home and kept her while her husband was being hanged. At one point they heard the sound of horses racing up the road leading to their house and went out onto the porch to see what they wanted. In a rather jubilant mood, one of the men yelled at the widow and then threw the noose used to hang her husband at her feet, laughed and rode off. Years later, a neighbor confessed on his death bed that he was the one who had committed the crime for which that man was hanged. A mistake like that would lead some to want to end capital punishment, but others are convinced that it should be continued. Since investigators are better equipped today to discover the truth, that may well be a factor.

The ultimate Judge will make no mistake. In the Revelation the Lord pulls back the curtain a little to allow us to have a picture of what hell is going to be like:

“But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Rev 21:8, HCSB)

When I was a student at Mississippi College, I preached at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman every Sunday morning at 8:00. The chaplain, R. B. Hicks, as I mentioned earlier, was from my home town of Sledge, Mississippi and two of his nieces had taught me in high school. That may have been the reason he gave me the privilege of going to any camp at Parchman and telling them he sent me. I always enjoyed talking with some of the prisoners, if only very briefly. On one visit I talked with a trustee (stripes running up and down the pants) or half-trustee (stripes running around the leg, except for one stripe running up and down the outside of the leg). I discovered that he was from Lambert, Mississippi, just south of Marks, the county seat of Quitman County. He was in prison for killing his mother-in-law at Crowder. Before I left he asked me to write a letter to the governor to see if he would get him out. He had been in prison for two years! For killing his mother-in-law!

The next summer I returned to the Quitman County ASCS office and began my summer job, which was commonly referred to as measuring cotton. In reality, we plotted cotton fields on a large ariel photograph so the ladies in the office could measure the fields, using a planimeter, which had a tiny point which they would place over the line we had drawn around a field. It would give the correct acreage, but for quality control they would run it around the field three times and then divide it by three. The summer after I had visited with the former marshal, I was measuring the plow-ups (those who had over-planted had to destroy all cotton over the alloted acreage. I normally worked in the north west part of the county but one day they gave me an assignment to work a farm in the south eastern part, near the town of Crowder.

I located the farm, met the farmer and measured his plow-up. As I was doing the paper work we talked about his crops, the rain, or lack of rain, I remembered that the lady who had been murdered by the marshal had lived at Crowder. I told the local farmer about the visit with the marshal and his asking me to write a letter to the governor to try to help him get out of prison. I stressed, “After serving only two years!”

The farmer said, “Well, some folks around her think they should have given him a medal for killing that woman.” I was hesitant to reply to that, but he went on to tell me that the marshal’s wife had left him and taken their children to her mother’s home in Crowder. When he went to see them, his mother-in-law said, “Over my dead body!” He shot her. I didn’t ask why the neighbor thought he should have been given a medal, and I was not sure I wanted to know. Any way you look at it, that was murder, even if it was not pre-meditated.

I have mentioned Kenny Wagoner many times over the years. In the message in which I deal with the Eighth Commandment, “Do not steal,” I will have more to say about this man. At the chaplain’s invitation, I spent some time visiting with the most notorious killer in the history of the sate of Mississippi. He was in the hospital, but like so many in the state at that time, I had read a lot about him in the newspaper. He had surrendered to authorities after being free for many years. He was the man who trained blood hounds and used them to run down escaped prisoners. He was the most talked about prisoner in Parchman, the state penitentiary, and for good reason. The reports about his surrender and his health issues that placed him in the hospital were fresh on everyone’s mind when I visited with him.

According to his testimony, and according to interviews with reporters, he had killed several law enforcement officers. The first time, a man who was rooming with him had stolen something and when the sheriff and his deputies came to arrest him the man pulled out a revolver and started for the door. Kenny Wagoner said, “No you are not!” He made him give him the gun and go out and surrender. When the man opened the door he was shot down before he could tell them he was surrendering. Kenny Wagoner grabbed up the gun and shot it out in making his escape. He killed one deputy and started a long life of hiding from the police, and shoot outs in various states. He was ambushed by five deputies in West Virginia and he killed three of them. Two state troopers kicked the door in where he was sleeping in motel room in Tennessee. He, according to reports, and his testimony, was asleep when he heard the noise, but at the first sound he reached over, grabbed his .38 and killed both officers as they crashed through the door. There may have been others, but even if he killed all of them in self defense, he still killed people. According to him, he never committed murder.

A number of years earlier a new officer was hired at Parchman and when he learned that no officer at Parchman had ever “thrown” Kenny Wagoner, he decided to do so, and apparently without provocation. He had other prisoners to “throw” him down of a side walk and he whipped him with “Black Annie”, the wide belt with a handle used to whip prisoners for punishment in those days. They had two, one was small and it was used with one hand. The other was the big “Black Annie” which was about 4 - 5 inches wide and longer than the small one. It had a larger handle for use with both hands.

Kenny Wagoner took his punishment, but a few days later he walked by that officer and handed him a slip of paper. When the officer opened it he saw that it was a detailed map of one block of Calhoun City, Mississippi - with that officer’s home drawn on it, showing every door and every window.
Was that murder, or was he simply playing on the guard’s mind? The Lord tells us that when we hate and take such action, should we be sincere, it is murder. I believer he accomplished what he set out to do when he caused the fear in the man’s mind, but I don’t know that.

Right after handing the officer that map, Kenny Wagoner was riding in a truck with a sergeant, looking for an escapee, when he began talking about dogs and why you could rust them. He then said, “You can’t trust a man. Let me show you what I mean.” He stuck his .38 in the officers’ ribs and said, “stop right here.” He had trained the blood hounds to trail anyone but himself! That guard quit his job and the whole family moved out of Calhoun City and according to reports, none of their neighbors knew where they went.

What Kenny Wagoner did in this case, if he was serious, is classified as murder by Jesus, who said,

“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. (22) But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire. (23) So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, (24) leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (25) Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. (26) I assure you: You will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny!” (Matt 5:21-26, HCSB)

Kenny Wagoner escaped and was not seen for something like 12 - 14 years when he contacted the superintendent and offered to surrender. The chaplain asked me if I though he would ever be saved. I said, “No, he has too much pride.” He took pride in his self imposed moral values. He died eight days after our visit.

He had escaped before that and moved around among people he knew. Kenny Wagoner, when he was a younger man, stood six foot, five inches and had a 56 inch chest. His hands were enormous. I have shook hands with people who were taller, but only Wagoner’s hand swallowed mine. Perhaps the most amazing thing about him was his personality. People loved talking with him. I certainly did.

The day he died I was preaching a revival at a church on the south side of Highway # 6, between Marks and Batesville, Mississippi. That night the owner of a local grocery store told the pastor Orbie Wheeler, and me an amazing story. Having learned that Kenny Wagoner had died, he seemed to be relieved to tell a story he had kept secret for some 20 years. He had called on a store at Curtis Station, north of highway # 6, between Marks and Batesville, and as he made a curve in the gravel road he saw a man standing in the middle of the road with both hands up. He said the only options he had were to stop or to run over the man, so he stopped. When he did, this giant of a man came around to the passenger side, opened the door and got into the car. Immediately, he showed him his revolver and said, “Don’t worry, I don’t want to hurt you. You are going to take me somewhere and let me out. Don’t make me kill you!” The salesman told his passenger that he always stopped at a service station in Marks, and if he didn’t and they called to check on him someone might call the cops and they might try to stop them. Wagoner told him to do exactly what he always did. As they pulled up to the pumps at the service station Kenny Wagoner said, “Just do what you normally do. And don’t make me kill you.” Would he have killed him? If so, it would have been a horrible murder.

The salesman said he was scared half to death, but tried not to appear too nervous. He told Kenny Wagoner he always went to the restroom here, so Wagoner told him to do whatever he normally did, and added, “Don’t make me kill you, now.” The man said he was petrified, but Kenny Wagoner who seemed perfectly relaxed, visited with the service station attendant the whole time they were there.
After that, his passenger gave the salesman driving directions, and somewhere out from Corinth, Mississippi, he calmly said to driver, “Stop right here.” There was no house or business anywhere in sight. He stopped and Kenny Wagoner said, “I know your name, I know your family, I know where you live, and I don’t ever want to hear that you have told anyone about this.

He told it to this store owner that morning. He had not mentioned it in 20 years, he said. He feared for himself and for his family. Would Kenny Wagoner have killed this man and his family? Not if he had been arrested and taken back to Parchman, but had he escaped from the police, would he have harmed this man or his family? The salesman was taking no chances as long as the notorious passenger lived. He told it the first time he day he heard on the new that Kenny Wagoner was dead.
He took the threat seriously and did not tell anyone until Wagoner was dead. There was the threat of death. Was that a sin? This was certainly more than an amusing story. I may have been like so many others who worked with him and lived with him while he was taking his break from Parchman. I don’t believe he would have been a threat to him. I had heard too many stories about how well he handled a .38 Special. He was a friendly man who assured me he would not tell me a lie, and that he would respect my sister just like he did his own sister. He had his own code of ethics, but eight days after I visited with him in the hospital at Parchman, Kenny Wagoner departed this life for a place called hell, unless he repented before he died. Revelation 21:8 assures us of that.

There is one other subject that should be mentioned here. That is abortion. According to a recent report, in America alone, 56 million unborn human lives have been killed in the place that should be the safest place on earth for them. I know, I know. The pro-death, pro-abortion people insist that a woman should have control over her body, and I agree with them. She is responsible, and accountable, for the behavior leads to the conception. After that, she is accountable for a new life living within here womb. If you disagree, please study carefully Psalm 139. God writes the information in the earliest cells that determine so many things about that baby’s life.


It is a sad state of affairs when Americans shamefully abort millions of babies in the nation whose founders testified that they founded this country on the New Testament Christianity. No, it was never legally a “Christian Nation”, but as Francis Schaeffer said, “There was a Christian consensus.” When I was growing up I had friends who were not Christians who would occasionally say, “It is a sin to do that.” They might get it mixed up at times, like my teammate who said, “It’s a sin to kill a dove.” When we sat down in our classrooms we could look above the teacher’s desk and count on seeing a picture of George Washington on one side, and possibly a Bible verse or the Ten Commandments on the other side. We began the day with prayer at that time, but the Supreme Court removed prayer and Bible reading from public schools, and thanks to them immorality sky-rocketed over the next half century.

We have looked at two of the Ten Commandments today: number five (“honor your parents”, 20:12) and number six (“Do not murder”, 20:13). The rewards for knowing Jesus Christ and obeying Him rank beyond anything we can imagine, but the consequences of rejecting the Lord, or disobeying Him are severe. He spells out Himself in the Revelation:

“Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” (6) And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty from the spring of living water as a gift. (7 The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. (8) But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Rev 21:5-8)

If you know the Lord and trust Him, then you will obey Him. If you don’t trust Him you really don’t know Him. What does He command us to do? Listen carefully, because in these verses he tells us what He expects of us:

“When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together in the same place. (35) And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: (36) “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (37) He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (38) This is the greatest and most important commandment. (39) The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (40) All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:34-40)