Have you ever had to run for your life? What if someone accidentally died because of your neglect? You didn’t intend for anyone to be harmed, but accidents happen! How would you deal with the situation? How would it effect the rest of your life?
In today’s reading we see how God dealt with manslaughter, or accidental death and the provision He made for the guilty party. God knows the intent of the heart (I Samuel 16:7) and judges accordingly. We also see a move in thinking, getting ready to enter the Promised Land from a private family governed justice system to a communal responsibility. This system would include protection until trial, the intent to commit the crime, and if found innocent, a place of refuge until the accused could be released.
In order to accomplish this system of justice, a series of six “Cities of Refuge” were established throughout the Promised Land. They were the cities that were given to the Levitical priesthood to dwell in and were spaced so that everyone would have reasonable access to one if needed. The greatest enemy to a person in that situation would have been the “Avenger of Blood” or the nearest male relative to the deceased, who would have been responsible for killing the accused to satisfy the family for their loss. As in any governmental change; it would be some time before the system could eradicate the revenge factor.
The concept of the Cities of Refuge was very prophetic in its intent. The accused would only be released to go back to his home (even though found guilty) when the current High Priest died. Guilt hung over his head until a death erased it. What a picture of what Christ has done for you and I! Only the death of our High Priest could release the offenders to return home; just as Christ’s death on the cross released us from our sin that we might go to our heavenly home. These cities were the forerunner of the grace of God foreshadowing the release which mankind would experience when Jesus Christ, the great High Priest died.
In Numbers 35 there were several facts regarding these cities put forth: 1) they were set apart for the Levites (vs 6) 2) they were a place of refuge not only for Israelites, but also the alien and traveler (vs 15) 3) they were only for those who had stood trial and been found innocent of intending to murder (vs 11,12) 4) there was refuge only if one remained in the place of refuge (vs 26-28) 5) he could return home with no consequences when the High Priest died 6) If spilled blood was not dealt with or rectified in some way, the blood which was shed would pollute the land (vs 29-34).
We certainly see that life was precious to God and His Word verifies this time and again beginning with the first murder; Cain killing Abel. In that story, God states that the blood of the murdered cried out from the ground and up to God who gave the life in the first place.
So, it is unlikely that you and I will ever commit murder intentionally so what should we take from this reading? Where do you find that God considers murder any worse than any other sin that you and I are guilty of? We all need to run for refuge from our sinful natures, our temptor, the enemy of our souls. Where do we run? Where is our City of Refuge? Psalm 91:2 says: “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust.” Of course we find refuge in Him and His Word; His grace covers us with His blood so that He doesn’t see our sin but only the blood of Jesus that has covered us.
I think I like it best the way Paul puts it in Hebrews 6:18: “That by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”
Thank you Lord for providing a place of refuge and safety from the enemy. Thank you for being the All-Sufficient One who is able to deliver from the snares of this life. Thank you for covering us with Your wings, for providing the truth that provides our shield and buckler. For declaring that we no longer need to be afraid, because we have made You our refuge. Amen and Amen!