Prayer Targets: Henry on Innocent Bloodshed; National Day of Prayer; Little Sisters of the Poor
May 06, 2020
Accept this atonement for your people... Lord, and do not hold your people guilty of the blood of an innocent person. (Deuteronomy 21:8-9)
Dear Praying Friends,
Matthew Henry died over 300 years ago, yet his Bible commentaries may still be the most widely read, referenced, and cherished commentaries today. Many of our Founding Fathers studied his commentaries (1708-10). Spurgeon prescribed them. It is said that "Whitefield read them through four times, the last time on his knees" (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia). This is Henry's exposition of Deuteronomy 21:1-9:
In this chapter provision is made: 1. To put away the guilt of blood from the land, when the person who shed it had fled from justice (Vs 1-9). Care had been taken in the preceding laws to vigorously and effectively prosecute a deliberate murderer (19:11-13). When such a murderer was put to death, the guilt from the shedding of human blood was put away from the land. If this could not be done, however - if the murderer could not be discovered - they must not think that the land was not in danger of being defiled just because it was not through any neglect of theirs that the murderer was unpunished. A great ceremony is provided here to put away the guilt, to express their abhorrence of that sin.
1. The case described is that one is found slain, and it is not known who slew him (v.1). The providence of God sometimes brings to light these hidden works of darkness, and unusual circumstances conspire to find out the sin of the guilty. But it is not always so; now and then the Devil's promises of secrecy and impunity in this world hold true. In fact, this is only for a while. A time is coming when murders committed in secret will be revealed; the earth shall disclose her blood (Isa 26:21) when investigations uphold justice. Eternity is coming when those who have escaped punishment in this world will come under the righteous judgment of God. And the impunity with which so many murders and other evils are committed in this world makes it necessary that there should be a Day of Judgment, to require (call to account) that which is past (Ecc 3:15).
2. Directions are given concerning what is to be done in this case. Notice: 2.1. It is assumed that a diligent search has already been made for the murderer, witnesses examined, and circumstances closely investigated, so that if possible, they might find out who is guilty. But if after all this, the guilty person cannot be found and no one is accused, then: 2.1.1. The elders of the next city (v. 3, 6) ... were to take up this matter. If it was not sure which town was the closest, the court authorities were to send commissioners to measure the distance (vv. 2 -- 3). This shows us that those who hold public office must be concerned for the public well-being, and those who are in positions of power and authority in towns and cities must put themselves out to deal with grievances and to reform wrongs in the neighborhoods and countryside around them. Those around them should benefit from their good influence, as those who minister good on behalf of God. 2.1.2. The priests and Levites must help in and lead this ceremony (v. 5), so that they might oversee it according to the Law, and especially so that they might be the people's mouthpiece to God in the prayer that was to be offered on this sad occasion (v. 8). Because God was Israel's King, his ministers must be their judges, and every dispute must be tried by those who were knowledgeable about the laws. Israel had the great privilege of having such guides, overseers, and rulers, and they had the duty to use them on all such occasions, especially in holy matters such as this.
2.1.3. They were to bring a heifer down into a rough valley which had never been plowed or planted and to kill it there (vv. 3-4). This was not a sacrifice - because it was not brought to the altar - but a solemn affirmation that this was how they would have put the murderer to death if the murderer had been caught... It must be brought into a rough, unplowed or unplanted valley, which shows how horrific the murder was and that the defilement which blood brings on a land makes it barren. The Jews add that unless after this the murderer was discovered, the valley where the heifer was killed was never to be tilled or sown in the future. 2.1.4. The elders were to wash their hands in water (v. 6) over the heifer that was killed, and to confess not only that they had not shed this innocent blood themselves, but also that they did not know who had (vv. 6-7), that they had not knowingly concealed the murderer, helped them to escape, or in any way aided or abetted in the matter. David alludes to this custom when he says (Ps 26:6), I will wash my hands in innocency. If Pilate had it in mind (Mt 27:24), he misinterpreted it when he condemned Christ, knowing him to be innocent, and at the same time acquitting himself from the guilt of innocent blood. It is no good making assertions if the facts... contradict what you are saying.
2.1.5. The priests were to pray to God for the country and nation, that God would be merciful to them, and that he would not bring on them the judgments that involvement in the sin of murder would deserve. It might be presumed that the murderer either was one of the inhabitants of their town or had escaped to there. They must therefore pray that worse things might not come upon them because the murderer was among them (Nu 16:22). Be merciful, O Lord, to thy people Israel (v. 8). When we hear about the evil acts in our country, we need to cry fervently to God for his mercy on our land, which groans and trembles under such evil. By our prayers, we must empty out what others are filling up to the limit by their sins. 2.2. Why this ceremony was appointed: 2.2.1. So that it might lead to the murder being generally discussed in public, which perhaps might in some way result in the murderer being brought to justice. 2.2.2. So that it might instill in people a fear of the guilt of shedding blood, which defiles not only the conscience of the person who sheds it - which should make us all pray with David, Deliver me from bloodguilt (Ps 51:4) - but also the land in which it is shed. The ceremony calls out to the judge to see that the criminal is brought to justice, and if that cry is not heard, it cries out to heaven for judgment on the land. If so much care had to be taken to save the land from guilt when the murderer was not known, it was certainly impossible to keep it safe from guilt if the murderer was known but still protected. This ceremony would teach everyone to work as hard as they possibly could to prevent, discover, and punish murder so that we might all learn to beware [of] participating in the sins of other people and making ourselves accessories to their evil ways by supporting their sin or the sinners. We have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph 5:11) if we do not rebuke them and if we do not stand up and say they are wrong... (Henry, Dt 21:1-9, The New Matthew Henry Commentary with updated language)
The implications of this scripture for the American people, given the 62 million innocent unborn human lives that we have allowed to be intentionally killed, are huge. What must be the accumulated weight of the guilt we bear? Every careless, thoughtless vote cast in favor of a power-hungry politician who champions abortion adds to this weight. God help us all. We will not know the full weight until judgment day. While perhaps not equally, we all share this guilt. How true was Matthew Henry's final injunction, written 300 years ago, regarding this Bible passage: "This ceremony would teach everyone to work as hard as they possibly could to prevent, discover, and punish murder so that we might all learn to beware [of] participating in the sins of other people and making ourselves accessories to their evil ways by supporting their sin or the sinners. We have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph 5:11) if we do not rebuke them and if we do not stand up and say they are wrong..." We must not stand idly by today and do nothing.
- Father, thank you for the steps our president and the governors and legislatures of several states have taken to undo, restrain, and prevent the wanton practice of human abortion. Each new step saves lives and gives us all hope for the future. Thank you Father, for the army of pro-life activists who persistently stand in the gap for the unborn and all of us in so many ways. And thank you for the prayer warriors who cry out for mercy and offer sacrifices of prayer continually, pleading the precious blood of JESUS the Lamb of God who only and alone, takes away the sins of the world and make the guilty clean again. (Pr 28:13, 31:8; Is 1:17, 10:1, 62:6; Ez 22:30; Lk 18:1-8; I Tim 2:1-3)
Supreme Court Hears Case Against the Little Sisters of the Poor Again! -- Most readers can remember how the Obama administration attempted to crush the Little Sisters of the Poor for refusing to violate their religious consciences to provide their employees with health insurance that covers contraceptives and abortifacients, threatening them with fines of thousands of dollars per day per employee for each day the Sisters failed to comply. In 2016, the High Court ruled against the Obama administration and for the Little Sisters and sent the case back to the lower courts to correct. California and Pennsylvania filed lawsuits essentially to start all over again. Today, the nuns' lawyers argued their case in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania addressing the court "virtually," each Justice participating by phone. According to CBN News, were the Sisters to lose, they would face fines of $60-70 million per year ($100 per day per employee). In October of 2017, the Trump administration (HHS, Treasury & Labor Departments) finalized rules protecting religious objectors from the guidance the Obama HHS defined as requiring coverage for all contraception methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including those considered by many experts to be abortifacients, as well as sterilization procedures. The Trump HHS Rules are also under scrutiny. A Becket Fund Senior Counsel said that these are "Catholic nuns who serve the elderly poor and dying -- truly the most vulnerable among us, especially in the midst of this pandemic." The historic case was aired allowing the public to hear and view the arguments and the Justices' questions via television (see Becket case, C-Span).
- Lord, visit our Justices as they ponder this case and guide them to reaffirm the constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and freedom of conscience and to reinforce the government requirement to make accommodations in individual cases except when government has a compelling interest to do otherwise, and even then in the most unimposing way possible. Help our nation hold the banner of religious liberty high here in the U.S. and around the world! (II Chron 19:5-7; Ps 82:8, 140:12; Pr 19:17; Is 33:22; Micah 6:8; Mt 22:37-38, 25:40; Lk 10:27)
THE NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER - Tomorrow, May 7th -- Due to COVID-19 guidelines, praying believers will observe this important day of prayer in a variety of ways. The national event will be broadcast from 8-10 PM Thursday night via God TV, Daystar Television Facebook Live, Moody Broadcasting and more. State-wide events will also be aired virtually. Local events will take place in various ways (find a virtual or in-person event near you). This day (with the exception of Thanksgiving Day) was established by law by the United States Congress to be observed on the first Thursday of May every year. Since it became law in 1952, every president, from both political parties, has issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation and many presidents have also hosted National Day of Prayer gatherings at the White House. Many churches and parachurch ministries also support the National Day of Prayer and it is one day that all who pray can come together to thank God for our national religious heritage and join to intercede for our nation. This year's theme is Pray God's Glory across the Earth based upon Habakkuk 2:14. Our friends at NDP anticipate the possibility that virtual observances could draw even more participants than past years in which 40-50,000 Christian observances have taken place with crowds both small and large.
- Father, thank you for allowing us to be citizens of a nation in which religious freedom is a foundation stone, where we are free to worship and obey you according to our God-given consciences. Thank you for our national heritage and our motto "I n God We Trust" and the declaration "One Nation Under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance. Help us to keep this blessed observance sacred and growing until all Americans pray with all their heart for the nation. May this year's observance literally fuel fires of revival that will spread your glory around the world! (Dt 4:29; Ps 33:12-22; Is 55:6-7; Jer 29:13; Jas 5:16; 1 Pet 5:6)
Finally, Please pray over these matters as the Holy Spirit leads you: 1) Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry are using COVID-19 as an opportunity to push and popularize telemed and web-ad abortion services using the abortion pill, which they see as the future for their evil practices (Planned Parenthood is cheering the spike in webcam abortions; Abortion Dealers Sweep Truth under the Drug; Pro-life Leaders Urge FDA: Protect Women, Enforce Regulations on Dangerous Abortion Drugs; Signers); 2) As mentioned last week, Planned Parenthood will spend $45 million dollars to defeat pro-life candidates and back "pro-choice" candidates in November; 3) Abortion will be a part of any effort to improve our health care problems; 4) David Daleiden and his group were ordered to pay $1.5 million in a Planned Parenthood baby parts case; 5) FRC: New report shows rising hostility against Christians in China.
As always, thank you for praying!