Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood.” (Joshua 20:1-3)
Along with the conquest of Canaan and the division of the land between the twelve tribes was the establishment of refuge cities. These were places you could go to make sure you got a fair hearing if you were guilty of manslaughter. Before the kings, the justice system in Israel was different than what we are used to. It sounds to me like folks were apt to take matters into their own hands. The Lord put some limits on that and required these places of refuge.
Our sinful nature urges us to not only get angry but also get even when we’ve been wronged or hurt. Payback tends to escalate until someone is “out for blood.” However, shedding more blood can’t bring someone back from the dead. Neither can a big settlement. Vengeance always seems appealing, but never delivers the satisfaction we hope and believe it will.
A little time to cool off, some conversation about what happened, and compassion might just bring about a better resolution. Those who accidentally kill don’t feel good about what happened either.
These cities of refuge are shadows of the infinite mercy of God where we flee for refuge when we have sinned. The wages of sin should be our death. But Christ has already died for our sin. Justice has been served.
Thank you, Lord, for being that refuge where I can flee for infinite mercy. Amen.