Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening
Service on 4/19/2018
(edited September 2021)
Similar to our little study last month, we are looking at God’s preparation of Ancient Israel to enter the Promised Land. They are really on the doorstep now, and there is an urgency to Moses’ instructions:
Verses 1-2: “And the Lord spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them.”
Jericho is on the western side of the Jordan river. They were currently in Moab on the eastern side, near what we call the Dead Sea. They were right where many song writers have poetically stated that we, the living, are today: just West of the Jordan River and preparing to “cross over” into eternity! (Some theologians disagree and say that our Canaan is also to be found on this earth through righteous living! Not so sure about that theory.)
Did you notice that the priests of God get no inheritance of their own but are to be supplied and supported by the “lay” people of Ancient Israel once they all occupy the Promised Land?
Verses 3-5: “And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts. And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about. And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities.”
Wow, it almost sounds like the Levites were being set up on “ranches” for them and their families. As they served the Lord, they were to have no other occupation, as I imagine it, or income than the offerings of the people. Offerings made to God, not directly to the priests. So, the Levites were not “hired” by the people. We all need to remember today that our clergy are not our employees just because we threw some coins in an offering plate! They answer, first and foremost, to the Lord and not to us.
Verse 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.”
We are told today never to mix government, politics, criminal justice, etc. with religion. But that was not the case with Moses, not at all! My opinion is that our “separation of church and state” in the US was never intended to keep God out of our government (if you have a quarter or a penny in your pocket take a careful look at its full inscription sometime soon). I think the real intention was to keep corruption out of our institutions of worship and our government, to protect them from each other but not to keep them apart!
Verses 7-8: “So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs. And the cities which ye shall give shall be of the possession of the children of Israel: from them that have many ye shall give many; but from them that have few ye shall give few: every one shall give of his cities unto the Levites according to his inheritance which he inheriteth.”
Please, don’t ever try to just skip or skim through the Old Testament! To some it makes God seem cruel and unfair, but if you take the time to read it carefully and be fair about it yourself, there is a lot in there about His absolute goodness and fairness! We are about to see some of that right now:
Verses 9-14: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan; 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. 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. And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge. Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.”
In their culture the family of the victim, not necessarily the government, would attempt to enforce these laws by which they lived. A family member, not a police detective, would “come after” someone accused of murder in that day. And here God is making provisions and a place to protect the rights of the accused.
Verse 15: “These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.”
The Lord also wanted to protect the rights of the foreigner, the immigrant, etc. You know, it’s true today too, God is interested in the well-being of all people!
Verses 16-19: “And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.”
This certainly isn’t in force in the US today where the average murder results in seven years imprisonment, at least that’s what I have been told! God calls for both meaningful justice for the victims and real fairness for those being accused. I don’t believe He wants or expects anything less today.
Verses 20-23: “But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die; Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him. But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait, Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm:”
Amazing, isn’t it? How much lower would our culture and legal system be, as imperfect as it is now, just think how much lower it would be without the influence of God and His Word.
Verses 24-28: “Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments: And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil. But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled; And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood: Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.”
True justice, and true compassion, both for the victim’s family AND for the accused.
Verses 29-30: “So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings. Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.”
Have you ever been falsely accused of anything? God knows that can happen and He has compassion on that situation. Ancient Israel was to occupy Canaan with dignity and fairness, not the corruption of the heathen nations they were replacing.
Verses 31-33: “Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest. So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.”
This sounds harsh today, I guess. It might even sound crazy to you. But that was God’s advice, through Moses, to the People of God as they prepared to march into Canaan. They were not to take the Lord’s commands lightly. Have we taken them too lightly today? You can decide that for yourself. You may think that the modern Church and our society in general has evolved beyond all this and beyond the need for capital punishment. Our society seems to think that way. But we all need to remember that the Word of God says that on the Day of the Lord the rule of Lord will once again be established on the earth!
That will include capital punishment for the unbelievers of all the ages. That will include you, if you have never received Christ into your heart and accepted His offer to cover all your sins by means of His death for you on Calvary. The world’s brand of justice, and the world’s lack of justice, will not be allowed to defile Heaven:
Verse 34: “Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.”
God’s Word, rightfully understood, will be the only standard of practice that matters once we cross over into our Eternal Promised Land. Now is the time to try to understand and accept it in preparation for that Day. Let’s pray.