JOSHUA 19:1-20:9 | LUKE 19:28-48 | PSALM 88:1-18 | PROVERBS 13:12-14
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The land distribution project has finally been completed. Each of the twelve tribes gets a substantial portion of the “promised land” in Canaan which includes in many instances several already established towns and villages.
After completing this task of allotment, the people of Israel insist that Joshua also be assigned something for himself, and so the text tells us this: They gave him the town he asked for—Timnath Serahin the hill country of Ephraim. And he built up the town and settled there.
There is also an account of six “cities of refuge” that are designated for the purpose of providing refuge for any person who is condemned to otherwise die a death by stoning. Condemned because they had intentionally or unintentionally taken the life of another, but the law demanded an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, remember?
That meant that if you had killed even in self-defense or perhaps unintentionally, you still paid the price for it by giving up your own life. A life for a life was the basic rule. Until this small caveat in the law was established. This piece of instruction was actually given to Moses in anticipation of the new life that the children of Israel were to soon enter into in the land of Canaan. But it is Joshua who is now establishing it for the people.
Six cities are identified for this purpose, and as the text tells us, 9 Any of the Israelites or any foreigner residing among them who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood prior to standing trial before the assembly.
Was this an introduction to the concept of forgiveness? To let a man go free despite what the Law demanded? I see Grace creeping in. And Mercy is obviously unabashedly making an appearance.
Turning next to our reading in the book of Luke, we find the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem just days before he is arrested on false charges, tried by a spineless Roman prefect, convicted of sedition and heresy, and condemned to a horrific execution by crucifixion. Jesus enters on a donkey, a most humble animal. He comes in peace to offer peace. But alas, the people know it not.
As he enters, he weeps for Jerusalem, we are told, and he says this about her: “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
The rich and the powerful did not recognize the time of God’s coming indeed, but the poor masses did. They cried out in joy to see Jesus. The Sadducees and the Pharisees are quick to tell them to stop this celebration, but Jesus rightly says to them, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Our Psalm for the day is one in which David is crying out to God in what appears to be a rough time in his life. The poet-king employs a touch of sarcasm in his pleas to God. He says:
I call to you, LORD, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
As vehement as he is with these pleas, we know that he is just as vehement in offering up his praises to the Lord God Almighty.
Our verses from the book of Proverbs for today are packed with wisdom. They are, all three reproduced here:
12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
13 Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it,
but whoever respects a command is rewarded.
14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
turning a person from the snares of death.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.