Until Proven Guilty
Lord God, help me to understand better who You are and what You care about as I read Your Word today.
Read Joshua 20:1-9
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“My hope is built on nothing less / Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” (Edward Mote, 1797-1874).
In ancient times, revenge was an accepted part of communal life. If someone caused the death of another, it was a matter of family honor for one of their men, the “avenger of blood” (literally, “redeemer”), to track down and kill the offender. The practice was both a punishment and a deterrent for crime. It’s not difficult to see how this practice could lead to a never-ending cycle of violence. In this situation, the Lord instructs his people to establish “cities of refuge,” (Num. 35:6-34), places where an accused person could go for protection while awaiting trial. It’s important for us not to skip over this passage, because it provides two key insights into God’s character.
First, God cares about justice. By devoting portions of Israel’s land, a valuable resource, God made it clear that justice matters. There was to be a defined process for ensuring time and opportunity for a fair trial (3,5,6), and no one should be able to abuse or manipulate the system (4). Also, there must be limits to capital punishment, hence the protections for cases of accidental killing (3,5). Today, with DNA tests revealing that some have been wrongly incarcerated, this passage has a very contemporary and important application.
Second, God cares about life. The need for an avenger of blood was based not just on revenge, but also on a respect for life, symbolized by blood. The only way to compensate for the loss of life was by shedding the blood of the offender. The ultimate example of this was when Jesus shed his blood on the cross for us. In so doing, he not only broke the cycle of sin and death for all time, but he also radically redefined the role of a redeemer, from avenger to Savior. Thank God!
Pray about any situation where you want revenge. Thank God for sending Jesus to take your punishment on the cross.
Just Father, I pray for those who may be jailed unjustly. May they never give up on justice. Raise up advocates who will intervene on their behalf.