Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hiding Out

Roger Hane's cover for the 1970 Collier-Macmil...
Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there. - Numbers 35:11-12

From time to time we all need a place to hide from the troubles and trials of life, and, yes, even from our own sins and failures.  We can't really blame the Accuser for accusing; it's his job.  Lewis illustrates this pointedly in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when Edward's betrayal is recognized as legitimate grounds for the Witch to condemn him and demand his blood.  Revenge is the law.  The avenger of blood is a karmic agent.  Justice can be overridden only by a higher law, that of mercy, which is simply justice satisfied in a deeper, more powerful way.  Airplanes don't fly by negating gravity but by utilizing gravity in conjunction with the laws of aerodynamics.  They are always "falling with style". 

The one thing that someone accused could not do was stand around and debate the avenger of blood.  The avenger is not open to reason, argument or excuses.  It does not matter if was an accident or unintentional.  The only way shed blood can be atoned for is by shed blood.  Guilt, as we think of it, or innocence does not enter into the karmic equation.  Similarly, when I sin, there is no point in attempting to justify, excuse, or rationalize what I said or did.  The only remedy is to escape, and the only refuge is Christ — the very person I have offended and against whom I have sinned.  When we fail, instead of hiding it from the Lord, our only hope is to run to Him.  Waiting around for the avenger to extract his due because I really do deserve it is as wrong as the failure itself.

The cities of refuge were both safe haven and prison.  A person guilty of involuntary manslaughter had an indeterminate sentence.  The congregation heard the case and judged according to the witnesses and the evidence.  And the congregation shall rescue the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he had fled, and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil (Numbers 35:25).  The slayer could not go home and back to his old life until the current high priest had died. 

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

The Lord, of course, died then rose and lives forever more.  So must we stay in our prison/refuge forever?  Or are we free to go home?  The answer is, Yes. 

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).
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