Have you ever watched the Winter Olympic Games, and seen two people gliding across the ice in perfect synchronization in an ice skating competition? The best of them are like two swans, floating across a ripple-less pond, beautiful in their graceful fluidity and elegant in their harmonized presentation. When you gaze at a performance executed at such a high level, you cannot help but be mesmerized! Imagine the staggering number of hours of practice of each move, and the muscle control developed in each athlete that competes. This is not a development of brute force of simple powerful muscle release – or power lifters would make great ice skaters! This is power developed under very specific controls; skill honed to precise movements and measures. Ice skating duos may well represent some of the top form in controlled strength and trained muscle use.
My problem is that I don’t know how to ice skate well, and though their movements appear elegant to me, I don’t have the training to really comprehend if they are moving correctly. In fact, their form may not be nearly as skilled as I give them credit for, because I am not up to the task of judging them appropriately. I am uninformed in the principles of the task, and ignorant of the rules of each maneuver. What I DO know is what I think about the beauty of each turn, each toss, and each spin. If feelings evoked were the standard, I would score them differently than the judges in many cases.
How are the skaters judged? On what basis can one get a “9.4” and another an “8.9” when both appeared to make the crowd very happy? The judges determine the value of the performance with an eye toward the assigned difficulty of each maneuver, as well as technical considerations on the execution of each part of the routine. They have a set of rules, another set of learned principles, and they apply them to the performance. It is rule bound, yet somewhat subjective — but never arbitrary. There can be disagreement in some part of the grading, but if it is graded properly – it is not simply “made up”.
I mention this, because as we open the story tucked near the end of the time of Moses’ leaderships of the people of Israel, we see a case where God set the same pattern for the walk of His people through the world. It will not all be nearly as graceful as ice skaters – that much is for sure – but it does follow a pattern. God’s people throughout the centuries often faced issues that required them to move beyond the simple application of a “black and white” written verse of Scripture – requiring a knowledge of the Word – but also a sense of God’s principles. Deciding specifics about an obedient life walking with the Lord is not always done by looking for a verse that mentions the subject. A great many modern problems are not specifically mentioned in the text of the Word, but the underlying principles revealing God’s desire are CLEARLY in the text.
Let’s say it this way: There are definite fixed RULES in the Word of God, but that won’t solve an issue not specified without more study of underlying principle. I must learn, as a follower of Jesus, what HE is like, in order to understand WHAT PLEASES HIM. I must not heed the voices of those who try to use grace as an abstraction to fixed truth, in order to license what God does not. Yet, I have to admit that not everything is as simple as “following the rules”. Many standards for following God are not as simple as standing by the yard stick at the carnival ride to show that I am tall enough to get entry – the Scriptures reveal obedience to be found in greater complexity – not always a simple “yes” or “no”. Why? Because a walk with God is a relationship, and relationships are more complex than qualifying for a carnival ride. Texts like Numbers 34 and 35 help illustrate a more accurate way for a believer to live in both obedience to God’s standard, and sensitivity to His direction in their daily walk.
Key Principle: Though the boundaries of God’s Word are absolute, the application of the principles must be made with discernment by God’s people to His revealed principles.
That explains why so much of the Bible is written in moralistic stories that are so messy. One day Jacob is walking the life of a trickster, the next he is facing God in a vision of a stairway to Heaven. Even later, he is stopping off at a prostitute’s tent beside a dirt path. His life, like the lives of all of the Biblical characters is froth with right and wrong turns – and the path helps us learn by example what we would otherwise only know by painful experience. To illustrate this truth, let’s start by observing the contents of the passage in Numbers 34 and 35:
• Numbers 34 is a record of two things: 1) the boundaries of the land as specified by God (34:1-15) and 2) the appointed people who God held responsible for making judgments and apportioning property (34:16-29).
• Numbers 35 is also a record of two things: 1) the division of special apportioned cities for the sons of Levi (35:1-8) and 2) specific commands regarding trials over accidental death.
These sound like four random stories, but they were organized together because they inform us of a very important truth of how God works in His people. They make clear that God sets boundaries, but knows those boundaries won’t answer every question of practical living – so He endorses a system of leadership and principle application to close the gap on what He specifically outlines.
Numbers 34 and the Boundary Lesson
As our text opens, we get a carefully recorded instruction on the borders of the land they were to conquer – the so-called “WHAT” portion. It begins with God’s simple instruction in 34:1:
Numbers 34:1 “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance, even the land of Canaan according to its borders.
The Call to Attention
When you read these words, it is clear what God has commanded. I have a land already marked out for you – and here it is. YOU don’t choose to take, let’s say, the Hittite lands of Turkey, or the Aramean lands of Syria – they aren’t for you. THIS is what I have selected for you. That seems simple – but it really isn’t. For a great many followers of Jesus, their problem starts with WILLFUL IGNORANCE. They simply don’t ASK God, by listening to His already prescribed words, what He wants.
Susie finds a man in the office very appealing. He is handsome, kind and makes her feel like she is special. Her heart speeds up when he comes near. The sound of his voice touches her like nothing she ever experienced before. She knows that he is the ONE for her. The only problem is that he has already married another. Yet, she rationalizes, he seems so unhappy. She calls in and yells at him. She doesn’t seem to see in him what Suzie does. She ignores God’s land boundary, and reaches to pull him in, all the while popping into church on a Sunday morning, vacillating between feeling guilty and hoping she can talk God into her plan. She wants the blessing of God’s land, but she wants it in another territory.
Let’s make it crystal clear to all the Suzies that may be working a rationalization out there – God knows what He wants. He lays the boundaries and will not be talked into redrawing the lines because of pressure. Remember: God has no peers, so He feels no peer pressure. He places boundaries because they are the way He intends things to work best for all involved. Suzie may not see it, but the child of the object of her affection will have his young life forever altered if she acts selfishly, and violates the God-placed fences.
Numbers 34 then marks out the general lines of the fences. Since all my students know that I love Bible geography, they will recognize the deep temptation I had to explain each of the regions mentioned in 35:3-5 that follow the southern deserts of the land of Promise.
- Suffice it to say the land stretched across from the southern end of the Dead Sea in the Aravah to the Rafiah border, with a border that swept southward in the center to reach to the edges of the Paran desert south of Wadi Zin.
- The western edge was the Mediterranean Sea up to Lebanon (34:6).
- The northern border stretched from the Mediterranean to the Hermon range, across what is southern Lebanon today (34:7-9).
- The eastern border included all of the Sea of Galilee (Chinnereth) and largely followed the Jordan River, as the border does today (34:10-12).
The Lesson of Borders
As you keep reading, God reiterates that He has given a standard for the border. He knows where He wants the fences to be placed. Exodus 34:13-15 record:
So Moses commanded the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the land that you are to apportion by lot among you as a possession, which the Lord has commanded to give to the nine and a half tribes. For the tribe of the sons of Reuben have received theirs according to their fathers’ households, and the tribe of the sons of Gad according to their fathers’ households, and the half- tribe of Manasseh have received their possession. The two and a half tribes have received their possession across the Jordan opposite Jericho, eastward toward the sun rising.”
Beyond IGNORANCE, there is another very important lesson to every believer. Don’t get caught up in the geography and miss the real lesson. The emphasis of the text was not simply on the lines of the border, but on the WAY the border was determined. God set the parameters of the inheritance. He snipped at the edges of the maps to tell them what they had to work with to build a homeland that would please Him.
What was true of the timing of their birth and death, their gender at birth and their parentage was also true of their land inheritance – the parameters were set by God. At the same time, they WERE to use judgment concerning specifics within those set guidelines.
Yet, it is worth noting that God didn’t fix the borders so tightly that everything was specified. The land was filled with mountains and valleys, so the borders between the few places that were named required the people to settle the edges of each border and discern the best defensible path for the border. This is one of the KEY PROBLEMS for those who choose to focus on religious life, rather than a walk with God – a relational experience with the Lord of the every day. God WANTS every believer to face making JUDGMENTS in daily life based on the principles that He outlines. He doesn’t want us to follow a list of rules and then come to Him demanding Heaven because we kept the rules and scored enough points to get in. He wants a RELATIONSHIP, not some religious rule-keeping game that we can so easily fall into.
Let me ask you a pointed question: Is your focus on your faith about pleasing Jesus in daily life, or about keeping the rules well? Is the point of your Christian life about how WRONG people are in their choices, or about how SAD it is they are missing the JOY of walking with Jesus today, and experiencing HIM?
Keeping it Simple
In many cases, people COULD make sound judgment about how to mark out specific cases of property. The easiest places were those who lived along the shore line, since the rules were clearest there – the border is where the water meets the land. They didn’t need a committee to apply the rules, the surf made the judgment for them!
Here is a great lesson of its own: Younger believers should be kept from the edges of judgment that requires great discernment – help them to stay within the obvious places. Many people abstain from practices like drinking, dancing or watching certain movies or TV shows during the growing stages of their faith. That is as it should be. What is NOT correct, is to assume that is the standard mark of maturity – it is NOT. For instance, if I had the skill, I could dance with my wife – and nothing bad would result – regardless of those who believe I would somehow be violating a fence. Check the Scripture carefully, there is no violation in dancing with your life’s partner. The point of violation can be found when certain kinds of touch are applied to non-spouses – and that is where the normal dangers come into play. At the same time, with the skill level I DO have, however, nothing GOOD would result. Mature believers recognize danger areas and need to develop a sense of God’s direction in the principles of the Word. Abstaining is a great starting place, but not the goal. Discernment is the goal. If God indicates that your participation in something violates what He is pleased with – you must be able to set it aside – no matter what everyone else feels licensed to do. He has a plan for YOU, and you may be under the Nazarite vow of abstention because something special is planned for your life. Don’t run around judging everyone else – obey God wholly and wait for His called expectantly. If you are a young believer – stay away from the fences that require great discernment – God has provided voices that will help direct you.
The Lesson of Leaders
Not all of Numbers 34 is a geographical survey – in fact the bulk of it is about PEOPLE, and not LAND. It isn’t enough to have general parameters of a border, and then allow the people to fight out how they think the lines should work along any valley or mountain. There is a need for responsible leadership if the general parameters are going to be properly applied in specific cases. With that in mind, we next read the WHO section. Not everyone would be able to make such determinations, so the second part of the chapter deals with WHO would ultimately be responsible for the choices (34:16-29).
34:16 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “These are the names of the men who shall apportion the land to you for inheritance: Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun.
The ultimate responsibility for the whole land apportioning project fell to a partnership between the civil authority invested in Joshua and the priestly responsibility invested in Eleazar, son of Aaron. These two worked in tandem to determine the military necessities, and the spiritual realities. I recognize the blend of “church and state” was one for a particular time and place, but it is easy in our modern culture to mistake the division for something it never was intended to become. The cry for “secularism” in modern culture is actually a cry for moral relativism in our day. We live in a time of vast social experimentation, applying rights where there are none, and making right, what is Biblically and morally outside of any reasonable defense beyond the simple standard, “I want to!” God made it clear – secular authority that ignores spiritual principles will become something abusive and ugly – so He placed the two together to be responsible.
Leaders are simply people, and they need checks and balances, as well as breaks. With that in mind, in addition to the two men, Eleazar and Joshua, the text spread out in “post-Jethro” thinking, the tasks of administration over key men from each tribe (34:18-29), and that record is given to us with each of their names:
Numbers 35:18 “You shall take one leader of every tribe to apportion the land for inheritance. These are the names of the men:of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh. Of the tribe of the sons of Simeon, Samuel the son of Ammihud. Of the tribe of Benjamin, Elidad the son of Chislon. Of the tribe of the sons of Dan a leader, Bukki the son of Jogli. Of the sons of Joseph:of the tribe of the sons of Manasseh a leader, Hanniel the son of Ephod. Of the tribe of the sons of Ephraim a leader, Kemuel the son of Shiphtan. Of the tribe of the sons of Zebulun a leader, Elizaphan the son of Parnach. Of the tribe of the sons of Issachar a leader, Paltiel the son of Azzan. Of the tribe of the sons of Asher a leader, Ahihud the son of Shelomi. Of the tribe of the sons of Naphtali a leader, Pedahel the son of Ammihud.” These are those whom the Lord commanded to apportion the inheritance to the sons of Israel in the land of Canaan.”
Here we see EXACTLY what Jethro called for with Moses years before at Mt. Horeb. Smart administration is shared administration. Teams offer some of the best management solutions. There is, in every major endeavor, the need for leadership, which is generally in the hands of an individual or two, and there is management which is best when distributed to the hands of many qualified people. Leadership is about vision and direction, while management is about accomplishing the specific tasks in a “nuts and bolts” practical fashion. Not everyone can point the direction, but many can solve the daily issues required to accomplish it.
Applying the Discernment
By now, some students of the Bible might begin to wonder about why God preserved this portion of the narrative for people beyond the day it was verbally delivered. It was a legal document of that generation, but why should we care about the division of the land of an inheritance that is not ours, and never will be. The answer is simple – the passage is a set up for what follows. Numbers 34 reminds us that God set up the general lines, and then left the people to operate within those lines based on the principles outlined in His Word – in their case the laws from Mt. Sinai, and the Deuteronomic laws of Mt. Nebo. As Numbers 35 opens, we can see this system at work in two essential cases:
• The distribution of the Levites in the land (35:1-5).
• The operation of the “cities of refuge” for those who argue a manslaughter defense in accidental death (35:6-29).
The text takes the easier one first, as it records God’s command to provide for the Levitical distribution in the land (35:1-5):
Numbers 35:1 “Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, 2 “Command the sons of Israel that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their possession cities to live in; and you shall give to the Levites pasture lands around the cities. 3 The cities shall be theirs to live in; and their pasture lands shall be for their cattle and for their herds and for all their beasts. 4 “The pasture lands of the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall extend from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits around. 5 You shall also measure outside the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits, with the city in the center. 5 This shall become theirs as pasture lands for the cities… 7 All the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall be forty- eight cities, together with their pasture lands. 8 As for the cities which you shall give from the possession of the sons of Israel, you shall take more from the larger and you shall take less from the smaller; each shall give some of his cities to the Levites in proportion to his possession which he inherits.”
Look closely at the commands of the Lord. God offered the COMMAND to the tribes to make the cities available (35:1-2), explained their purpose (35:3), then specified in exacting detail the land marked outside each city that was to belong to the Levitical land (35:4-5,7-8).
Move in closer: First, it was not given to the Levites to go and TAKE the land from the tribes; the tribal leaders were to cede the land to the Levites so they could develop forty-two cities, spread over the tribal territories (35:1-2). Levi’s children were to live amidst the other tribes with no distinct land allotment beyond these cities. They were to travel to and from the national sanctuary from a city within the boundary of each tribe, serving God uniquely among their fellow countrymen. The people of the other tribes needed to value and respect God’s plan for their spiritual leaders in order for those leaders to be effective. No spiritual leader could TAKE from the families what the families were unwilling to give to them.
In a very real way, the same is true today. As a Pastor, I can only lead those who let me do so. I cannot compel people to follow me, I can only continue to speak into the lives of those who choose to hear the instruction from the Word that we offer in this place. People must ultimately assume responsibility for their own spiritual growth, their own obedience and their own depth of understanding. The Pastoral role is one of equipping the believers to accomplish the work of the ministry. It involves casting vision for a specific way to accomplish the task, and careful instruction of God’s Word to set the boundaries. When that is done consistently and carefully, the Spirit uses that instruction to pull the hearts of believers to the tasks He has gifted them to accomplish. Yet, the process is a voluntary one. Only those who choose to learn, who choose to identify their giftedness, and who choose to submit to God’s call in their life will be best used of Him. All our lives count, but many will never have the joy of experiencing God’s powerful hand using them to accomplish great things, based on their own identification of His call, and yielded-ness to His empowering as their call unfolds in daily life.
In addition to that truth, we must also recall that they were to work and live as others did, caring for their households, albeit without a tribal allotment (35:3-4). They were to be shepherds, a worthy craft for those who would lead and care for the people of Israel. They were to care for the sanctuary of Israel, but they also needed to develop patience to care for her people as well. Shepherding offered them long hours of watchful caring practice that set them up perfectly for God’s intended spiritual work.
Think for a moment about what made a successful shepherd. They needed to be on guard against those hungry animals that would snatch away the weak of the flock. They needed to aware of the pains and distractions of the flock. They needed to develop an ear for the bleeting of the sheep – knowing which sound was that of something real and which was just fussing. All of that would be helpful in ministry to the people of Israel.
For those of you who lead people, and those who minister to others in leadership roles at every level of ministry, it is important to remember. If the sheep are hungry, they are unsettled. You must feed them. As they grow, their needs will change, and you will need to keep a watchful eye on the various stages of those in the flock. You need to offer greater food to those who consume it and use it well, and food that is easier to swallow for those who are young in their understanding. Part of the joy of ministry is to get to know those you lead, and enjoy the many ways God is using situations and other people to shape them into well-balanced and productive people for His glory.
If you read the verses that I skipped in our reading, you are aware there is the explanation of the provision and function of “the cities of refuge” (35:6, 9-29)” Numbers 35:6 recalls the command to provide the six cities as follows: 6 “The cities which you shall give to the Levites shall be the six cities of refuge, which you shall give for the manslayer to flee to; and in addition to them you shall give forty- two cities.” Six of the forty-eight cities were clearly set aside for those who were involved in a slaying that could be deemed an accidental death. The Civil Code of Law in Exodus 21 specified the conditions of declaring a death accidental, and made clear the conditions of that judgment. In the case of an accidental death, the slayer was to move from his home to a city of refuge, and await trial by the congregation of Israel. If the death truly was deemed accidental, and not premeditated murder, they were told to remain there until the death of the high priest who held the office at the time of his sentence. If they chose not to do so, they risked retribution from the family of the one that had died at their hand. While remaining in the city of refuge, they could not be harmed. After “release” they also were untouchable to the injured family. The cities became self-exile points, with their own lands for raising crops and pasturing sheep and goats.
The Example: Discerning from both Word (Law) and Principle
The rest of Exodus 35 unfolded the proper use of the Levitical places of refuge, and the proper time to convict a murderer. It would be easy to get caught up in every detail of the text, and miss the bigger lesson it offers. Let me caution every student of the Word. God is unfolding something important to spiritual understanding that is not just a web of intricate details.
God offered this instruction beginning in Numbers 35:9-34, First, He opened with When the law should be enacted. God said the cities should be a part of the initial planning of the tribes when they get to the land of promise (9-12). Why? Because they are essential!
35:9 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11 then you shall select for yourselves cities to be your cities of refuge, that the manslayer who has killed any person unintentionally may flee there. 12 The cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the manslayer will not die until he stands before the congregation for trial.
The Need for a Plan: The time to learn the principles of a walk with God are BEFORE the situation arises. Planning is a God thing. Saving for a rainy day isn’t pessimism, because rainy days WILL COME. Outlining general ways to face some possible trouble shows wisdom and maturity. Living paycheck to paycheck is a disaster in the making. Here is the point: People WILL get hurt, and even killed. There has to be a mechanism to care for what comes next.
13 The cities which you are to give shall be your six cities of refuge. 14 You shall give three cities across the Jordan and three cities in the land of Canaan; they are to be cities of refuge… 19 The blood avenger himself shall put the murderer to death; he shall put him to death when he meets him…21 or if he struck him down with his hand in enmity, and [as a result] he died, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death, he is a murderer; the blood avenger shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.
The Need for a Process: The verses describe places where the tribes were to select six cities (13) that were superintended by the Levites as a place of REFUGE (miqlat) so that a BLOOD AVENGER cannot bring about penalty without proper trial. The blood redeemer is the GAAL, a word for redeemer that is upholding the “blood for blood” standard of 35:19 and 21. Here is one of the greatest misunderstanding Christians bring to their reading of the LAW. God didn’t say that wanting to see an injustice righted was the definition of VENGEANCE – it was NOT.
Vengeance was the desire to take the place of GOD in harming another because of the pain they inflicted upon you. When God prescribed in the Torah a legal mechanism of the death penalty, and then prescribed the one who represented the wounded family to personally take part – He provided a resolution with JUSTICE. Vengeance was the desire to operate as a vigilante in the place of God, not to be satisfied when the Biblically proper methods were used to right wrong. “Vengeance is MINE” said the Lord. For that reason, He instituted methods for governments to care for injustice, and warned those kings who would not act to do so. At the same time, He instituted DUE PROCESS, and delay of action and declaration of a need for a TRIAL by the congregation of Israel. Vengeance is to justice what punishment is to discipline – one is God-ordained, the other is flesh driven.
The Parameters for Judgment
As you finish out the passage, there are strict parameters set between those who could appeal to the process, and those who could not:
15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the sons of Israel, and for the alien and for the sojourner among them; that anyone who kills a person unintentionally may flee there.
The Requirement of Equity: It didn’t matter if you were a citizen, only that you were in the land when the event happened (35:15).
16 But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. 17 If he struck him down with a stone in the hand, by which he will die, and [as a result] he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. 18 Or if he struck him with a wooden object in the hand, by which he might die, and [as a result] he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. 20 If he pushed him of hatred, or threw something at him lying in wait and [as a result] he died, 21 or if he struck him down with his hand in enmity, and [as a result] he died, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death, he is a murderer; 22 But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or threw something at him without lying in wait, 23 or with any deadly object of stone, and without seeing it dropped on him so that he died, while he was not his enemy nor seeking his injury,
The Exclusion of Tools: I didn’t matter the intent if it was done with a tool – the person was guilty or MURDER. Therefore, if a tool struck another of metal (barzel in 35:16 is used of an axe or chain), or of stone (even) or wood (etz), the case was considered murder. This would have the net effect of making people VERY CAREFUL in the use of tools! In cases of murder, execution was to be carried out, if at all possible, with the nearest responsible relative of the injured party’s involvement (35:19,21). The issue was NOT malicious premeditation versus “crime of passion” – BOTH were considered murder. The issue in 35:20-23 was totally unintentional contact that resulted in death. Those who unintentionally killed another by unintended contact (shegagah of 35:11 is the word for “in error”; from shagag, to go astray or sin).
24 then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the blood avenger according to these ordinances. 25 The congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the blood avenger, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he fled; and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. 26 But if the manslayer at any time goes beyond the border of his city of refuge to which he may flee, 27 and the blood avenger finds him outside the border of his city of refuge, and the blood avenger kills the manslayer, he will not be guilty of blood 28because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest the manslayer shall return to the land of his possession. 29 These things shall be for a statutory ordinance to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 30 If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death at the evidence of witnesses, but no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 31 Moreover, you shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death. 32 You shall not take ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to live in the land before the death of the priest. 33 So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. 34 You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the LORD am dwelling in the midst of the sons of Israel.‘”
The Rules for Trials: In cases of pleaded unintended contact, there were rules for the trial that included: 1) Multiple witnesses (35:30); 2) No bond or delay for murderer (35:31); 3) No bond for those who fled refuge place (35:32).
The passage ends with three statements that are the essential issues:
1. The land is profaned (chaneph) or polluted by unjust blood guilt (35:33).
2. There is no appropriate satisfaction (expiation is the word kaphar) apart from the blood for blood formula (35:33).
3. The real issue is that the crime was not simply man on man, it was an attack on God’s creation. The sin was an act of further rebellion, not just an inhumane act (35:34).
By the end, we arrive back at our principle – that God establishes parameters and leadership structures, and then expects us to operate within them as best we are able. The Word of God offers the fixed principle, but not the specifics of judgment in each case. General boundaries must be filled in by people who seek to follow God’s commands. Cases will arise that are not immediately clear, but God gave not only His Word, but our minds to discern the application of His principles, and our leadership structures to help make sense of the conflicting views.
Let me ask you to think of life in a different way than those who do not know Christ as Savior. Imagine that your life is not only about other PEOPLE you may offend, but about God Who knows every thought of your heart. He is the One Who gave you life. He gave you the air you breathe. He gave you the beautiful sunsets and the cool morning dew. He swept His hands across the land and gave us the canyons, prairies and cool river streams. He stretched out the stars of the Heavens as a canopy above us. He did all this – and He loves you. Not only does He love you, but He loves the rest of the people on the planet. He cares for sparrows that fall and hurting people who lay in hospital beds. He grows the infant to be the active toddler. He strokes the hairs of the lonely widow in the still of the night. He is a deeply caring, outlandishly loving God. He loves His creation.
When one harms another, He is deeply wounded. He is not unable to care for the situation – and one day He will right every wrong. He KNOWS justice. He KNOWS truth. He knows LIES and He knows HIDING. Does that make you want to pull closer to Him, or are you looking for a place to HIDE from HIM? The answer to that question will likely indicate to you whether you are trying to apply His Word and draw near to Him, or whether you are making up your own rules and hoping He won’t notice.