Deuteronomy 19:11 But if someone at enmity with another lies in wait and attacks and takes the life of that person, and flees into one of these (sanctuary) cities, 12 then the elders of the killer’s city shall send to have the culprit taken from there and handed over to the avenger of blood to be put to death. 13 Show no pity; you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may go well with you.
In this section of Deuteronomy, the Lord is giving to the Israelites the rules they were to live by as they prepared to enter their new homeland – the Promised Land (Canaan). V.11 mentions sanctuary cities which were cities available to those who accidentally took another’s life – what we might refer to today as “manslaughter”. You chop down a tree for wood, but the tree falls on another worker and kills them. Or the axe head flies of in mid-swing and strikes someone nearby, killing them. That sort of thing. It’s killing without intent or malice. Sanctuary cities were places where persons who committed such acts could be protected from retribution until a trial could take place to determine guilt or innocence.
V.12-13 indicate what to do if someone abused the privilege of sanctuary cities – fleeing there when they’d committed intentional murder. They were to be put to death. No jail time. No chance of rehabilitation. Execution. Period. The murderer was considered inherently evil and in need of destruction so as to “purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel”.
One of the most appealing aspects of the gospel of Jesus is the promise of a new start, both with God and with people. Human beings make lots of mistakes, so the notion of being forgiven of our wrongs and placed on the path to a better future is like a dream come true. Our past mistakes don’t have to define us.
I can tell you that the Lord gave me direction and purpose when I was floundering as a young adult. My education path reflects this. I started as a biology/pre-med student, then changed to marketing, then applied to law school but changed my mind before actually matriculating, then went to business school to study for an M.B.A. before finally landing in seminary. Ridiculous!
I could easily have spent a lifetime bouncing around from one thing to the next, never really finding a vocation that fit. But the Lord changed all that. Through Jesus I was given a fresh start, a purpose for my life that was greater than myself. As I write this I am so grateful to the Lord. God is indeed good.
Maybe you have something of a rugged past. You’ve made mistakes along the way. You have regrets. Join the club. I’m not sure I know of anyone who does not fit this description at some level. Fear not – there is hope for you. If you’ll give your life to the Lord Jesus he will show you the way. And I’m not just talking about those of you who may not be Christians, or at least not active Christians. There are many who are committed to being a part of the church, but still refuse to allow Jesus to take the wheel, to give up control, to follow the Lord’s leading. Today could be your day sister/brother – to start living the life designed for you from the start.
Heavenly Father we begin by thanking you for your grace and mercy. Everyone who reads this blog post has made mistakes. We have regrets. Today we ask for the grace to finally surrender our lives to you through Jesus Christ. Make us a sheep of your own flock, among those who follow where the Good Shepherd leads. Give us grace to trust you to lead us in everlasting life. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.