In Summary: It seems like we will never actually get to getting into the Promised Land, doesn’t it? There are several administrative details to deal with, though, and no job is finished until the paperwork is done. This is something many of us are familiar with: waiting.
Waiting while details we think will never matter are worked out. Numbers 35 deals with one detail, the creation of cities of refuge for accidental manslaughter. Then we’ll have a chapter dealing with inheritance for a family with no sons.
It seems frustrating when this happens in our lives, too. Every detail pertaining to us is handled, so why can we not move forward? Yet there is more to life than us, and sometimes that means we wait while other people’s details get worked out. I get frustrated with that, you likely get frustrated with it, but we are not walking alone. Unless, of course, we choose to walk away from everyone else. Yet often the loneliness we complain of is not because others abandoned us, but because we never stopped to wait for them.
In Focus: I do want to take a look into the cities of refuge concept we find in this chapter. First, of course, is the provision of grace in case of accidents. The whole concept of justice courts and cities of refuge cuts across the knee-jerk responses that we as people have. Of course, if you are going to avoid the knee-jerk executions when someone does not understand what happened, you have to submit to the public scrutiny.
Second, though, is the further examination that occurs in these court structures. The circumstances must be considered, the actions examined. If a killer took even one action that made the situation lethal, like picking up something that could be used as a weapon, then all protestations about intent are null and void. Intentions and motivations are judged here based on actions.
Third is this: even if innocent, the killer still had to handle the consequences of relocation. Rather than being free to return to life as before, he had to stay in the city of refuge to which he fled. Life did not go back to normal, because human life is valuable.
In Practice: I find these three principles to echo forward from the cities of refuge:
- Extend grace until you know the facts. This does not mean that you do not seek the facts. This also does not mean that you get an exoneration without others looking at the facts. And this includes that the avenger of blood is right there, making his plea for your head.
- As your actions are examined, your motivations will be discussed. Your actions reveal some of your intentions and motivations, people. That’s reality. You can claim that no one knows your heart, but if you picked up iron and struck instead of a feather pillow, then your motivation is on display. At the very least, your lack of concern for the outcome is clear, and that reveals your heart.
- Realize that you may be innocent, but you are still going to carry some consequences for the damage you do. In this case, you might do well to do as little damage as possible.
In Nerdiness: This isn’t particularly nerdy, but notice how quickly we shift from “How can you guys want to stay on this side of the river?” to “There’s equal cities of refuge on both sides.” Learn to adapt.
Second, consider how this chapter speaks of blood polluting the land. This should drive us to be peaceful people, willing to work out issues without violence. It is only when justice clearly demands either individual violence (defense, punishment for definite crime) or corporate violence (warfare commanded by God) that bloodshed did not pollute. Even then, as in the case of David, being a person who used violence too often was still harmful.