Lent Devotion for March 6
Reader: “I am the Lord,”
Response: “who lives among the people of Israel.”
9 Then the Lord said to Moses: 10 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 11 select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee. 12 They will be places of refuge from the avenger, so that anyone accused of murder may not die before they stand trial before the assembly. 13 These six towns you give will be your cities of refuge. 14 Give three on this side of the Jordan and three in Canaan as cities of refuge. 15 These six towns will be a place of refuge for Israelites and for foreigners residing among them, so that anyone who has killed another accidentally can flee there.
26 “‘But if the accused ever goes outside the limits of the city of refuge to which they fled 27 and the avenger of blood finds them outside the city, the avenger of blood may kill the accused without being guilty of murder. 28 The accused must stay in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest; only after the death of the high priest may they return to their own property.
29 “‘This is to have the force of law for you throughout the generations to come, wherever you live.’”
Reader: "The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
This book of Numbers is most interesting because in it we see how God is organizing and setting up a nation with structure and laws and how the relationship to Him is to be integrated into all of it. We get to see into the mind of God. In this particular section, we are introduced to “the cities of refuge.” In a nutshell, there were six places a person could flee to in the case of a death of another person. There was the very natural desire to kill the person that caused the death of another, but justice must prevail. The cities of refuge helped to provide protection from vigilante reaction. This setup was unique to the Jews and reflected their concern and value for justice. Interestingly, the protection was for the Jews, foreigners, and traveling merchants. The clear statement was that every human life was significant regardless of race, nation, or gender. Every life was to be treated fairly and with justice. When you read beyond the passage above, you’ll see that intent and how intent is established is very clear. The high priest plays a key role in the whole process. In these times, priests acted as judges in civil situations. Their role was not limited strictly to spiritual matters. If someone had killed another person, a trial was held to determine if it was accidental or murder, if murder, the murderer was put to death. In effect, the murderer’s death was a kind of expiation for the one murdered. It did not, however, ultimately atone for the sin of the murder. That would come only with Christ’s atoning death on the cross. There was no earthly ransom payment for any death either accidental or premeditated. If the death was determined to be accidental, then the one who caused the death needed to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest, after which, he could freely return to his home without fear of revenge. It would appear that the priest’s death covered the death of the one accidentally killed. Since the priest didn’t need to die because of some previous act, his death could be counted in place of the one who accidentally killed another. The chapter concludes with the words “You must not defile the land where you live, [why?] for I live there myself. I am the Lord, who lives among the people of Israel.” The Lord’s presence dwelt in the Tabernacle over the Ark of the Covenant. Failure to follow these guidelines polluted the land. In this section of Scripture, we see how God underscores the significance and value of human life. These laws shows God’s perspective. You can see clearly how at odds our society is in viewing human life and social justice as God defines it.
"He Shall Give His Angels Charge Over Thee” from Elijah, by Felix Mendelssohn (Watch on YouTube)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
- attributed to St. Francis of Assisi