BIBLE STUDY SERIES #428, 429 and 430

6 February, 2000

CITIES OF REFUGE

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began a number of years ago with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged into Sinai through the miracles of The Exodus, heading eventually towards their Promised Land under the guidance of Moses and the direction of The Almighty God.

We had most recently been studying the passages found in Numbers 34 and 35, which tell us of the plans for the forthcoming occupancy of that Promised Land, and the expulsion therefrom of the Canaanite peoples whose idolatry was totally incompatible with service to Yahweh, Jehovah, the God Who had, in effect, made a covenant of marriage with the Nation of Israel at Mount Sinai.

We had arrived at Numbers 35:9-15 in the last study, which begins a passage which outlines a significant provision of certain "cities of refuge" and it would be appropriate therefore to review the same verses from verse 9 perhaps even to the end of the chapter, for the remainder of this chapter forms essentially a single unitary thought, although we might dwell on certain segments within it for amplification of particular aspects of the themes raised in today's study.

9. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
10. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
11. Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.
12. And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.
13. And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge.
14. Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.
15. These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.

We had read to that verse for last week's introductory study of these matters, and today, we again pick up the account and move forward to see some of the examples which are to form the criteria against which individual cases are to be compared so that the true spirit of the law might not be mistaken, and thus a Godly verdict might be rendered by the congregation.

Sometimes when we make some statement concerning rules, regulations, or the law in general, be it in regard to conduct by members in one's own household or of citizens in the nation at large, the matters covered are worded in such general terms that fine definition and distinctions are not quite so clearly laid out, and we might imagine that the major, serious questions of life and death would very soon raise deep concerns and stir contentious angry debates, resulting in stress-filled expressions of justice denied. The matters of evidence and character assessments laid before the congregation, we might well imagine, would, in the absence of specific examples to guide the thoughts of those concerned, open up the debate by the opposing factions to occasions when factors which were not central might be drawn in, to muddy the waters, so to speak. It could be at such times that considerations such as money, or even the fear of incurring the anger of a powerful financial family would become a silent but strong under-current in weighing a righteous verdict within the disputes.

Examples are often desirable, even needed, in order to clarify the intent of the law, so that there may be no doubtful disputing regarding the verdicts which are to be rendered. God here lays before His people precise examples which can then, settle the course of the proceedings. This would, indeed, initiate that litigation process which in later times, in lands occupied by Anglo-Celto-Saxondom and related kinsfolk, form what we might call "Common Law." It is such Case-law which assumes the wisdom and justice of verdicts marked down in the records, and which thus becomes a repository or resource of weighty deliberations for future reference where similar cases arise in the future. Let us read the examples which The LORD provides herein for the guidance of His people. First, God lays before His people examples which would incur the death penalty for murder, and then afterwards those which were deemed to be of the category we would see as manslaughter.

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.
17. And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
18. Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
19. The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.
20. But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die;
21. Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.

These all demonstrate pre-meditated intent. Now we read of those cases which would be treated as manslaughter, but not murder. In such cases, execution is not allowed to the revenger of blood, for these are accidental in nature, and not pre-meditated.

22. But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait,
23. Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm:
24. Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments:

There follows here one of the most significant examples in the Old Testament Laws of the work of The Lord Jesus Christ for His people. Note here that it is with the death of the high priest of the day, but not before that death, that the one guilty of man-slaughter would be free to return home without danger of being killed by the family of the one who was accidentally killed. This embodies a very important lesson of the greatest significance. In Hebrews 4:14 we read "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession." in that New Testament reference we find the reason for this provision in God's Old Testament Law concerning the cities of refuge. God has embodied within His Old Testament Law a most important teaching for us all. We, being guilty, can yet return to our first estate and condition after the death of Our Great High Priest has taken place for us. We must hold Him to be in truth Our High Priest, for this to be effective.

25. And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.

We might ask, if there is no jail and there are no guards in the city of refuge, what is to prevent the person guilty of manslaughter from leaving the city? There now follows the answer. The factor which would govern the limitation of freedom of movement to the city of refuge is the threat now mentioned.

26. But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled;
27. And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood:
28. Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.
29. So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
30. Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
31. Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.
32. And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.

Those aspects of the law which we just mentioned, the part to be played by witnesses, and the certainty of the penalty, without evasion, hold great importance and they are things which I intend to investigate as a special topic on our next study.

33. So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.
34. Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel.

We have much to consider for a meditation in the passage which we have been examining on this study. I will leave that topic for your thoughts this week.

13 February, 2000

SATANIC STRATEGY - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began a number of years ago with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged into Sinai through the miracles of The Exodus, heading eventually towards their Promised Land under the guidance of Moses and the direction of The Almighty God.

We had most recently been studying the passages found in Numbers 34 and 35, which tell us of the plans for the forthcoming occupancy of that Promised Land, and the expulsion therefrom of the Canaanite peoples whose idolatry was totally incompatible with service to Yahweh, Jehovah, the God Who had, in effect, made a covenant of marriage with the Nation of Israel at Mount Sinai.

We had arrived at the conclusion of Numbers 35 on the last study, a chapter which outlines a significant provision of six "cities of refuge" reserved to a particular purpose after the Promised Land of Canaan was taken by Israel. These cities were to provide a means of salvation for those guilty of manslaughter, but not of murder. One so marked could live in a city of refuge free of the threat of vengeance of the family of the person who had been killed, but could only leave it upon the death of the High Priest in Israel.

One guilty of murder could not be executed by testimony of only one witness, but could, and indeed must by law, be thus executed if two or three witnesses testified to knowledge of the crime and its perpetrator. This brings up a most surprising matter when one searches out the meaning of the name of Satan, because he is thus named from his activity as "the adversary" or "the accuser." Young's Concordance assigns those terms when defining the name.

According to a widely understood theological position, Satan, otherwise called the Devil, is stated to be the one described in brief as a shining angelic being (II Corinthians 11:14) of the highest order of creation who, through pride in his own beauty and wisdom sought to upset the heavenly order by leading a revolution which would see himself seated as the equal of God the Almighty. Ezekiel 28 contains the words of God against the king of Tyrus, but the words of the lamentation upon that king (verses 11-18) cannot apply to a reigning human monarch. The passage reads thus:

11. Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
12. Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.
13. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
14. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
15. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.
16. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
17. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.
18. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.

For thus leading a rebellion against God's Law, Satan was "cast down from heaven" (Luke 10:18) and his entourage likewise, to his remaining assigned earthly domain, which Adam and Eve had forfeited to him by adopting the suggested policy of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or in other words, taking the Satanically suggested path to the making of rebel choices, in deciding the designation of what would be considered "good" and what would be considered "evil." Here, Satan was to be permitted for a limited period to exercise his remaining power, doubtless to allow all of Creation to know the failure embedded in the very essence of the rebel's plan.

The quite remarkable two-page Appendix 19, in The Companion Bible supplies thought-provoking incisive commentary on the whole subject of this angelic being, which points up the general fallacy in supposing the symbols of snake and apple in Eden to be nothing more than physical objects. It is well worth reading if one has even a passing interest in the topic.

Now Satan is not described as having such wisdom among the angelic beings for nothing. Under the name of "diabolos" or "Devil", (which Young's Concordance interprets as "Accuser, calumniator"), in John 8:44, Christ called him "a liar, and the father of it." This celestial being has a problem on his hands, to which he has applied all his wisdom and legal skills. How is he to attempt to put before God's Throne of Justice an impregnable legal defence? It has been said that some of the greatest legal minds are found among those condemned to prison and those who anticipate the prospect of being destined to incarceration for their sins. It seems that a preoccupation with staying clear of the punishment and retaining one's freedom disposes a person to examine the laws most carefully to formulate a legal path towards the object of escape to freedom. Satan is probably the most accomplished Lawyer in the business. How is he to mount such a defence on the day when judgment falls? Well here is one clue. I will mention that expression, with which most will be familiar, "The Best defence is a good attack!" Satan must actually seek legal means to attack his Judge, and attempt to force a disqualification which removes God from legally sitting in judgment upon Satan!

It may be of advantage at this point to contemplate what happened in John 8:1-11 This is the case of the woman taken in adultery, and brought before Christ in the temple by men demanding that He render His Judgment in the matter.

1. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
2. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4. They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6. This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11. She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

This episode cannot be properly understood unless we are willing to read the legal underpinnings of the case played out here, and for this we shall have to look back at the Law Code in the Old Testament, and specifically, at Numbers 5:

17. And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water:
18. And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse:
19. And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse:
20. But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband:
21. Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell;
22. And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen.
23. And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:
24. And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter.
25. Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the offering before the LORD, and offer it upon the altar:

It was Christ they wanted to accuse of law-breaking, not the woman. That is the clue, and we shall have to leave for our second study in this topic the rational which Satan is using in building his legal defence. I shall leave that thought with you until our next Bible Study.

20 February, 2000

SATANIC STRATEGY - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began a number of years ago with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged into Sinai through the miracles of The Exodus, heading eventually towards their Promised Land under the guidance of Moses and the direction of The Almighty God.

Our consideration of the cities of refuge which were to be appointed in The Promised Land brought up a most surprising matter. In discussing the Levitical cities of refuge, we had amplified the discussion about the relative guilt of those fleeing to these cities into a discussion of the case of Satan, the "accuser", himself. When one searches out the meaning of the name of Satan, we find that he is thus named from his activity as "the adversary" or "the accuser." Young's Concordance assigns those terms when defining the name.

In order to set the stage for an examination of Satan's legal strategy which he is following to evade his own deserved punishment we had drawn to the attention of our listeners the case of the woman taken in adultery, and dragged before Christ in the Temple (John 8:3-4) for His rendering of a judgment. Those scribes and Pharisees bringing the case against the woman could have judged and executed her themselves without appealing to Christ for judgment on the case, if they had dared to ignore Roman jurisdiction in matters of the death penalty. However their purpose was, in fact, not to execute the woman, but rather to have some charge whereby they might accuse Jesus of being illegally lenient, and thus a sinner against the Old Testament Law Himself. Had Jesus rendered a lenient judgment, He would have broken the Law and become a sinner, needing his own Saviour, and the world would have been left in Satan's grip and eventual death without hope.

One guilty of murder or adultery, under the Old Testament Law in ancient Israel, could not be executed by testimony of only one witness, but could, and indeed must, by God's Law, be thus executed if two or three witnesses testified to knowledge of the crime and its perpetrator. (Leviticus 20:10 states "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.", while Deuteronomy 17:6-7 contains the statement concerning the required witnesses.) That provides the key.

When a judgment was demanded of Christ, He wrote in the dust of the Temple floor. What did he write? He was obviously complying with the equivalent process to that described in Numbers 5:17-25, by presenting to the accused woman's heart and soul the challenge of the Temple dust which tested guilt or innocence of the charged woman brought before the Priest in that Old Testament passage. He then called for the required witnesses who would become her executioners, but these witnesses must be guiltless themselves of participation in the case being tried. Such witness, they were reluctant to give. Why? They must give true testimony, or be subject to the same penalty they sought for the woman if the testimony was falsely given. Deuteronomy 19:18-19a reads "And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother... ." We read that Christ again wrote in the dust. This time He was as the presiding judge, doubtless demanding the witness of two or three guiltless accusers. Though guilty, the woman was left alone before Christ, her persecutors having departed one by one, obviously convicted in their own consciences as they saw the writing which Christ had written before their eyes. Christ then stated to her that she would not be condemned, as the witnesses had failed to carry through with the required testimony concerning her guilt, but He spoke this caution to her: "go, and sin no more."

Now, a most important question: What would have been the result if qualified witnesses had stood to accuse her? By the Law of God, she would have been stoned to death. Even if Jesus had been of a mind to save her from that end, He could not have done it and yet preserve His essential quality of sinlessness before the Law. To have broken the Law in order to save her, would have been to destroy His perfect unblemished record before the Law, and consequently, as a sinner in this respect, He would never have been able to shed His blood on the Cross on behalf of others as the unblemished Lamb of God! Remember that, although He had by this time gone through Baptism, symbolic of His commitment to that death on the Cross, the Crucifixion itself had not yet taken place. But here we are getting a few steps ahead of our present point of inquiry, which is centered on Satan's overall strategy. We shall come back to the importance of The Crucifixion in this whole contest later.

If we place the matter in its simplest terms, Satan is condemned by Christ in John 8:44 as a liar, and the father of lies, and he desires, as would any sensible lawyer apprehensive of impending judgment before a "hanging judge", to set up circumstances whereby the judge must disqualify himself from sitting on the case. He hopes to do this by forcing the judge Himself to commit a similar crime and thereby to lose his moral authority to sit in judgment! Should that happen, no other righteous Judge would remain to replace God as Judge over Satan.

Indeed, we can read of the same Diabolical strategy previously used by Satan in his approach to Christ at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, and after His forty-day fast in the wilderness. In Luke 4:1-13 we learn that Satan used Scripture to tempt Christ. Each temptation unquestionably formed a genuine offer, valid for a time at least, but each temptation would have caused Jesus to sin, and Christ quoted those scriptures which proved it:

1. And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.
3. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.
4. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
5. And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
6. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
7. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
8. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
9. And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence:
10. For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee:
11. And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
12. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
13. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

We should, of course, see the transport of Christ in the above verses to have been in some measure a pictorial representation of the truth which was that Satan drew Christ's attention to each possibility in turn, hoping to turn the offer into a contractual reality. Satan, in effect, was telling Jesus that He could gain His immediate personal objectives and avoid the arduous and desperate hours of The Crucifixion as well. In each temptation, he was saying, in effect, "I have it in my power to make you an offer you cannot refuse", but Christ was aware of the diabolical catch. Christ might, at least temporarily, achieve His object of personal power and feed His vanity, but naturally, at the cost of becoming a Law breaker. The additional cost would be the lives of all the rest of Adamic humanity who would subsequently find no alternative hope of salvation from Satan's dominion. Satan would have "won his case" by making a sinner of his future Judge.

Satan is desperate to make those legal preparations for his defence which will assure him escape from punishment, and he is attempting in part at least, to use God's Own Laws to accomplish this. We shall see how this strategy is being played out in subsequent studies, and find the counter strategy which defeats his most artful and deceptive legal attempts.

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