Mattot / Masai
Numbers / Bemidbar 30:2 - 36:13
For the week of July 25, 1998
2 Av 5758
A Place of Refuge
Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities
of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone may flee
One of the things that God established in ancient Israel was six cities of refuge. These cities provided a place of protection for anyone who may have unintentionally killed someone. That person may not be guilty of murder, but would immediately be in danger at the hand of someone seeking to avenge the dead person.
Justice was an important element of the society that God was creating, but for justice to be truly just, it must also be fair. Guilt by assumption or association was to be avoided. Vigilante behavior was intolerable. The accused person was to be tried fairly and objectively by the society.
Perhaps the most wonderful element of the cities of refuge was that the accused person was protected. It was possible that that person was involved in a wrong, but the wrong may not be worthy of the kind of punishment desired by some. So the accused had a place to go. As long as the accused remained in the city of refuge they were safe from those seeking revenge.
In this way God looked after the misunderstood, for those who inadvertently got into trouble and thus became most vulnerable to the anger and retribution of others. While not in any way glossing over the wrong done, God made sure that things did not go from bad to worse through unjust punishments.
The cities of refuge remind us that God himself is our refuge. We have all been in situations where we have been misunderstood and as a result find ourselves in threatening situations. The society we live in may not have literal cities to which we can flee, yet we can run to God who will care for us when others may not.
In Yeshua the Messiah, we see this in its greatest expression of all. Through him all of us can find refuge no matter what. Because of our sins we face the possibility of harsh judgment against us. But he has taken upon himself the consequences of our wrongs. Just like the accused was safe while remaining in the city of refuge, as long as we remain in Yeshua, we are protected from the coming judgment.
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