June 1, 2017

Protection for the guilty . . .

Those Old Testament laws can be puzzling. One of them concerns what today we call manslaughter:

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there. The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment . . .’” (Numbers 35:10–12)

The rest of the passage describes the difference between murder and manslaughter, and the necessity of atonement by shed blood. This law reveals both the mercy and the justice of God.

Even though I know that Jesus is spoken of throughout the OT, I’d not connected this passage to Him until today. The author of my devotional points to the New Testament verse that makes the connection.

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul . . .” (Hebrews 6:17–20, italics show the connection)

Our sin may not be manslaughter, but whatever we have done against others and God, judgment is due. However, God provides a way of escaper. We can flee for refuge to the Lord Jesus Christ. Restitution for some sins against people might be necessary, but those who find refuge in Christ will not perish or experience God’s wrath because of Jesus.

Those already in that place of safety must clearly show the way, just as was done in the time of the OT. Fortner cites ancient Jewish rabbis who relate that at least once every year, the magistrates of each city of refuge were responsible to make sure the road was clear and easily passable, without obstacles that would hinder any who flee to their city. Work crews removed all large rocks, fallen trees, and every stumbling block. Low places were filled; high places leveled. Not only that, they put markers along the road with the word ‘refuge’ written in bold letters. When a fugitive came to a cross-road, he knew where to go. Once in that city of refuge, he was secure.

As a sinner saved by grace, I know that my ‘city of refuge’ is Jesus Christ. By running to Him, I am secure from the wrath of God. The road signs say: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” By his righteousness and blood, Christ removed every obstacle so I found Him. He sent his Spirit to reveal the way and lead me safely to Him, my refuge.

This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. (2 Samuel 22:31)
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:12)
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)
The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. (Psalm 34:22)
Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (Proverbs 30:5)
The LORD roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the LORD is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel. (Joel 3:16)

Jesus, it is right to fear the wrath of God, yet You took that wrath so I do not have to be afraid. You are my hiding place. You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance. How amazing that the God who punishes sin took that punishment upon Himself — and all who flee to Him are set free and kept safe.

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