Good Justice

OPENING PRAYER

God of Justice, thank You that You are good and righteous and that are Your ways are full of wisdom and compassion.

 

Read: DEUTERONOMY 19:1-14

[1] When the LORD your God has destroyed the nations whose land he is giving you, and when you have driven them out and settled in their towns and houses, [2] then set aside for yourselves three cities in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess. [3] Determine the distances involved and divide into three parts the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, so that a person who kills someone may flee for refuge to one of these cities. [4] This is the rule concerning anyone who kills a person and flees there for safety-anyone who kills a neighbor unintentionally, without malice aforethought. [5] For instance, a man may go into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and as he swings his ax to fell a tree, the head may fly off and hit his neighbor and kill him. That man may flee to one of these cities and save his life. [6] Otherwise, the avenger of blood might pursue him in a rage, overtake him if the distance is too great, and kill him even though he is not deserving of death, since he did it to his neighbor without malice aforethought. [7] This is why I command you to set aside for yourselves three cities. [8] If the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he promised on oath to your ancestors, and gives you the whole land he promised them, [9] because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today-to love the LORD your God and to walk always in obedience to him-then you are to set aside three more cities. [10] Do this so that innocent blood will not be shed in your land, which the LORD your God is giving you as your inheritance, and so that you will not be guilty of bloodshed. [11] But if out of hate someone lies in wait, assaults and kills a neighbor, and then flees to one of these cities, [12] the killer shall be sent for by the town elders, be brought back from the city, and be handed over to the avenger of blood to die. [13] Show no pity. You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you. [14] Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess.

 

Reflect: HOW DOES THE PASSAGE ADDRESS JUSTICE AND COMPASSION?

The example of accidental death caused by a man cutting wood with his neighbor shows the importance of having a robust, objective justice system–especially when relatives of the dead man might feel obligated to avenge his blood in the heat of the moment (6). The cities of refuge described here (and in Numbers 35:1-34) provide a way for proper investigation of the facts to take place, and for a just conclusion to be reached. Perhaps this was a pure accident. Perhaps there was negligence involved. Either way, the matter needs cool heads to assess it.The second, stark example of deliberate murder and its consequences is different, although the same assessment of the facts is in place (11,12). Some Christians believe that this Mosaic law still applies unchanged today, while others insist that God’s compassion has been demonstrated in Christ whose example and sacrifice supersedes the law (John 1:17). The world is sinful, and evil deeds happen. Blood is spilled. God’s people need to be equipped for these sad eventualities.

 

APPLY

Take a walk with the Lord. Talk to him about an area in your life where you need to see his hand.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Thank You, God, that the just penalty for every sin has been paid, and at the greatest cost to You.

 

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