INTERESTING FACTS : It will greatly help you to understand scripture if you note not only what is spoken and written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows. --Miles Coverdale [16th-century Bible translator who produced the first complete printed translation of the Bible into English.]
DAILY READING : [NUMBERS 35 - 36] [DEUTERONOMY 1 - 2]
TEXT : Num 35:6 And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities. Num 35:10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan; Num 35:11 Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares. Num 35:12 And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.
THEME : SALVATION
As we finish the Book of Numbers, we close with the order for the Levites to have "cities of refuge," in chapter thirty-five. The Book of Deuteronomy or "The Second Law" is a reiteration of the Law given to the generation that would enter Canaan. As we begin Deuteronomy, we see how much care God gives to instructing the children of Israel to make sure they do not forget their past or their future with God. The Lord draws attention to the rebellion of their parents [since forty years has passed and the audience of Deuteronomy is the grown children of the first generation that left Egypt - now dead, except for Joshua and Caleb].
The idea of course, is - do not repeat the sins of your parents and grandparents against God. We need to remind ourselves in a similar fashion as we study the Bible. What is written is there as both encouragement and warning to us to walk with God properly. The figures of the Bible stand as testimony to either faith or unbelief. About this truth, Matthew Henry comments.
"Moses spake to the people all the Lord had given him in commandment. Horeb was but eleven days distant from Kadesh-barnea. This was to remind them that their own bad conduct had occasioned their tedious wanderings; that they might the more readily understand the advantages of obedience. They must now go forward. Though God brings his people into trouble and affliction, he knows when they have been tried long enough. When God commands us to go forward in our Christian course, he sets the heavenly Canaan before us for our encouragement."
It is incredible that an eleven-day journey would take forty years! How many Christians walk in circles like the children of Israel, and in some Churches are held up as "the faithful," when in reality, they have only gone around the same block repeatedly, learning nothing. Some preachers are this way. They go from place to place, then claim they had forty years of ministry, when the truth is, they have only had one year of ministry forty times! This is why the Bible records the following fact. "Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment." [Job 32:9] We must follow those whose walk was straight with God and not circular.
TRUTH FOR TODAY : CHRIST IS OUR REFUGE!
On the cities of refuge, we learn they were for the safety of an accused killer to discover innocence or guilt. Remember, in societies where the law is in the hands of the people, lawlessness and anarchy are apt to take over. Nevertheless, the cities of refuge were not to keep a guilty man safe from prosecution or death. They were to keep the one who unintentionally killed someone as opposed to one who premeditated murder.
When a killing took place, the family would appoint "the avenger of blood" and this man would seek out the perpetrator and execute them. Yet, God distinguishes between willful and premeditated murder and accidental death. The same is true in our courts of law. The penalty for involuntary manslaughter is never the same as one that is calculated and planned. The reason is simple - one is unintentional, unintended, and inadvertent. The other is malicious, deliberate, and wicked. The Levites, the priests of Israel, controlled these cities.
However, if the party accused of murder was guilty, execution was the penalty. On the other hand, if the death was accidental, the accused must remain in the city of refuge and never leave. That was the condition for his safety and security from the avenger of blood, and protection by the priests. On this point, John Wesley comments.
"These cities are assigned among the Levites, partly because they might be presumed to be the most proper and impartial judges between man - slayers, and wilful murderers; partly because their presence and authority would more effectually bridle the passions of the avenger of blood who might pursue him thither; and perhaps to signify, that it is only in Christ (whom the Levitical priests represented) that sinners find refuge and safety from the destroyer."
We, like the manslayer, have fled to Christ for refuge as recorded in Hebrews 6.
Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. [Heb 6:17 - 20]
Still, like the manslayer, we must stay in Christ. We are safe from prosecution of our crimes [sin] against God as long as we are in Christ even as the Scriptures state.
And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. [Rom 11:17 - 22]
Therefore, by the grace and goodness of God and His having mercy on us let us continue in the faith and abide in Christ. Remember, Christ is the source of all refuge and comfort. Without Him, we can do nothing!
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. [Joh 15:1 - 6]