The Avenger of Blood

"Appoint out for you cities of refuge, . . . and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood" (Joshua 20:2-3).

Our modern criminal code makes an important distinction between premeditated murder and accidental homicide. But millennia before the American penal code, or even English Common Law, the Mosaic Law made special provision for the manslayer. "Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither" (Numbers 35:11).

The Mosaic law had provided for swift justice to follow criminal activity: "And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" (Exodus 21:23-24). In fact a particular person would be designated to meet out retribution on the one who had killed another: the avenger of blood. "The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him" (Numbers 35:19). But someone who had accidentally killed his neighbor could flee to one of the appointed Cities of Refuge strategically placed around the nation and thus escape from the avenger of blood.

We are told that the roads to the Cities of Refuge were strictly preserved, every river was bridged and every obstruction was removed. This is a beautiful picture of the road to Christ Jesus. It is a road so hard, that no self-righteous man can ever tread it, but so easy, that every sinner, who knows himself to be a sinner may by it find his way to heaven. Like the ancient manslayer, we are under condemnation for our sins. The avenger of blood is swift of foot and upon our heels. If any today is outside the refuge of Christ, let him run with all speed to Him for salvation that "we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Hebrews 6:18). DW

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