REFUGE FROM THE AVENGER
Joshua 20:1 The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying, 2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses: 3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood. 4 And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them. 5 And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime. 6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.
JUSTICE AND MERCY
This is a marvelous passage, as it gives a glimpse into the glory of God’s mercy! For when Moses asked to see God’s glory, he was referred to God’s mercy! Exodus 33:18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. 19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
Pure Justice has no mercy! But Mercy does not set aside Justice!
Think about it! Both justice and mercy were displayed at the cross of Christ! A believer understandably says, “God forgave my sin.” But God in his justice does not forgive sin! For that sin had to be paid for by blood – the blood of the Lamb of God! God may have forgiven the sinner, but he didn’t forgive the sin! The Father didn’t forgive the Lord Jesus of your sin!
Isaiah 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Justice required Christ to die for that sin! Even though the Son petitioned the Father that if it were possible to let that cup pass from him! And did He? No! Why? Because pure justice has no mercy! Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. It was only through death that Christ effected the destruction of Satan and the deliverance of the elect! (Heb. 2:14,15). Therefore the Son proclaimed, Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. (John 12:27). He fully knew that justice must be satisfied by his death!
2 Corin. 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Forgiveness to the sinner cannot be afforded him unless he was included in the atonement of Christ! Those who are made the righteousness of God in him, were only accounted so as he, the Father, made him, the Son, to be sin for them! For the Lord prayed, All thine are mine! That is, all thine (the Father’s) in eternal election, were only the Son’s in redemption! Then he reversed it and stated, All mine are thine! (John 17:10); thus revealing that the Godhead had complete agreement in their perfectly relating the atonement to the redemption!
In that one act, mercy was then also displayed to all who have faith in that atonement for their own personal redemption! The Psalmist reflected on this.
Psalm 130:3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. 7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. 8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
David knew of the justice of God, in that if the Lord chose to deal exclusively in justice, none would be able to survive before Him! But he knew also of the mercy of the Lord, which brought forth a thankful heart and a reverential fear for worship!
Exodus 21:12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death. 13 And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee. 14 But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.
Did you see that, so amazing phrase – but God deliver him into his hand? It was God that set the event in motion! For his characteristic (or, attribute) of mercy required a guilty object. His being merciful is mute except there be a soul facing unmerciful justice! And sin must not only enter upon the scene of human kind, but must “abound,” in order that grace may be even farther exalted! Rom. 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
And just as the man in Joshua’s days, facing unyielding justice, calling for his blood, must flee. Even so the sinner in this very day is instructed to flee to Christ and his mercy in order to escape the oncoming wrath of God, which must be satisfied! Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
For faith brings a warning! Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
And the man who is personally warned by extended mercy of the approaching wrath of God always responds! Proverbs 22:3 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
A Sin the Atonement Will Not Cover
Exodus 21:14 But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die. Presumptuous, or willful sin will never be atoned for. If the person was killed on purpose, the killer was termed a murderer, and was executed! Numbers 35:16 And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
Some would say: “O! But that’s just the Old Testament, when they were under the law! We are not under the same wrath, for we are under grace!” Careful! It’s still the same Holy God! And no, it’s not the same! It’s even worse under grace! Hebrews 10:28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
When a soul sits under true preaching, it is made available to him by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, he is, at that moment, being enlightened and made a partaker of the Holy Ghost! But if he refuses to believe in his heart that which the Spirit is saying to his mind, Satan comes in to blind that mind. 2 Corin. 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
It is from that moment that he is no longer a candidate for salvation! For it is now impossible to take him back to the condition he was before hearing and rejecting the gospel! You can’t “unring the bell!”
Mercy is for the sinner who did it ignorantly, not willfully! 1 Timothy 1:13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
Heb. 10:26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
Flee to the cross, dear sinner. Admit your guilt and receive God’s eternal mercy. He will be glorified and you shall be redeemed; saved from the certain wrath to come! Revelation 6:16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
Pastor Gene Breed