August 23, 2012

Cities of Safety

Joshua 20

[Anyone] who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed …
—Joshua 20:9


Let’s say you were involved in a head-on car crash in which someone’s daughter died. You feel terrible, but it wasn’t your fault; the driver of the other car ran a red light. Sometimes horrible things happen to people; unintentional mistakes are made.

Life in the promised land provided a way of justice in dealing with accidents that resulted in death. During Israel’s constant warfare against enemies, or on the farm at home, things could easily go wrong. Even if an accidental death wasn’t your fault, a grieving family member might bear a grudge and try to get even with you. Not everyone is understanding or forgiving.

An unjustly accused murderer—an Israelite or a foreigner who lived among them—could find safety in any of six cities in the promised land. The rulers and other residents of those cities had the responsibility of giving shelter and securing justice. They would provide a fair trial and give the unjustly accused person a place to live, until the death of the high priest. Only then could the falsely accused person go home. That could take a long time!

Today we can be thankful that our sins—intentional or not—are covered. God’s just anger at our sin was turned away through Jesus Christ.

Let us live peaceably with all our neighbors while we wait to enter the heavenly city, where sin and anger are no more.

Because you have forgiven all my sins, Lord, help me to understand and forgive the sins of others. In Christ, Amen.

About the author — Arie C. Leder

Dr. Arie C. Leder is the Martin J. Wyngaarden Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He previously served as pastor at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Trenton, Ontario, and with Christian Reformed World Missions in Latin America. He teaches courses on the Pentateuch and on historical books of the Old Testament.

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