Who wants to talk about Cities of Refuge . . . AGAIN?
Ooh! Ooh! Me! Me!
And like anything in the Bible, if you see it over and over and over again, it must be important. For those of you who need a refresher, a city of refuge is a place where a person who has accidentally killed someone can flee and safely await trial. Anyone who is trying to avenge the deceased will not be allowed to do so if the person is inside the city.
So what is different about this time?
A Little Less Talk . . .
Have you noticed that much of Joshua is about God’s promises being fulfilled? The land that was promised is now being filled by Abraham’s descendants whom God brought out of Egypt.
“Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses . . .”
God is saying, “Ok, the time has come. Make those cities a reality. Turn the words I said to you into reality! You have the land and you have the cities. Make them cities of refuge! GO!”
First Things First.
The land has been divvied up. Quite literally, the first thing that is to be done next is the appointing of these cities. Why is that?
Apparently God wants to make sure that justice and fairness is the first thing his people put in place now that they are settling down.
This will not be a land of revenge. This will not be a place where hot heads will rule. This is a land of laws and justice and due process.
But even in the midst of that, it is a place that errs on the side of mercy. These cities are merciful for the ones who committed the accidental murder. They do not need to fear for their life.
And these cities are for the ones who have lost a loved one. They do not have to live everyday seeing the person who caused the death walking around. And they do not have to let the desire for revenge control their lives. They can mourn and grieve and await the fair trial. Then they can move on.
The death was accidental.
But the life that was lost still matters. It still must be dealt with. There must be a formal reckoning.
The “murderer” lives in his city of refuge awaiting a trial. He doesn’t just get to forget about it. Something still must be done. we aren’t told what these trials will be like, but the fact that there is one is still important.
The people need closure. They need to know what will happen now that this person who meant so much to them is gone.
Because even though there was no ill will, harm was still done.
Even though it was an accident, the family has to live with the consequences for the rest of their lives. Generations will be affected.
Because that person’s life mattered.