Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - Num 35:6-34
Six of the 48 Levitical cities -- three east and three west of
the Jordan -- were set apart as "cities of refuge," for the unintentional
manslayer. These cities were for the protection of the accidental manslayer, but
it must not be imagined that the simple plea of unintentional homicide afforded
safety. The law specified that the roads to these cities were always to be kept
in good repair. But, according to v 25 (cp Jos 20:4), a seeker for sanctuary
would, on arriving at the gates of a city of refuge, first have to plead his
cause before the elders of that city. If they accepted his case, they would give
him provisional protection. If, however, afterwards, the "avenger of blood"
claimed his extradition, the accused person would be sent back under proper
protection to his own city, where the whole case would be thoroughly
investigated. If the homicide was then proved to have been unintentional, the
accused would be restored to the "city of refuge," and enjoy its protection,
till the death of the high priest set him free to return to his own city.
As for the duty of "avenging blood," its principle is deeply
rooted in the Old Testament, and traced up to the relation in which God stands
to our world. For, the blood of man, who is made in God's image, when shed upon
earth, which is God's property, "cries out" to God (Gen 4:10) -- it claims
payment like an unredeemed debt. Hence the expression "avenger of blood," which
should be literally rendered "redeemer of blood."
Symbolically, the cities of refuge are the place of God's
merciful protection. There, the manslayer was to find a refuge, sheltered, as it
were, under the wings of the grace of God, till the complete remission of the
punishment at the death of the high priest. This death foreshadows the death of
Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, who has made a perfect covering for all
Reading 2 - Pro 26:17
"Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who
meddles in a quarrel not his own" (Pro 26:17).
"Adults often reveal less capacity for learning than children.
They have the advantage of books containing all the accumulated wisdom of
mankind, and beyond all this and permeating a great deal of it, there is the
instruction that has come direct from God, yet the knowledge is very little
used. Life is full of avoidable evils through men ignoring principles or rules
of conduct which are perfectly well known, and which have had their wisdom
demonstrated in every generation.
"Sometimes the individual failure is so obvious that almost
all observers smile at it. I recall... instances of this kind in which the facts
were related by the victim when sufficient time had passed for him to join in
the amusement... a young man, when returning home one night, chanced to pass a
low part of the city where there was a quarrel between man and wife. The young
fellow, perceiving that the woman was being ill-treated, gallantly went to her
assistance. He was, as he expressed it, 'getting on very nicely' in his contest
with the man when the ungrateful woman came up behind and hit her champion on
the head with a saucepan. According to his own account, the young man spent a
carefree hour in the gutter before he came back to consciousness of this painful
life. Then, as he limped slowly homeward, he began dimly to recall to memory
certain maxims regarding the unwisdom of meddling with strife that does not
belong to us" (Islip Collyer, "Principles and Proverbs").
Reading 3 - John 8:29
"The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for
I always do what pleases him" (John 8:29).
"Have only one motive in life: to please God. Get all your
pleasure and satisfaction from that. It will, at one stroke, eliminate 90% of
your 'problems,' and ALL your inner 'unhappiness.' Don't seek praise. Don't seek
status with others. Don't seek advancement. Don't seek THINGS. All these
pursuits are happiness-robbers. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor pride
with praise, nor lust with possession. All these are ashes in the mouth at last.
Even of themselves they are stupid, but as set against and displacing spiritual
motives and pursuits, they are pure suicide. Check every thought and word, and
ask: 'Will this please God? Could I at this moment be pleasing Him better?' This
wonderfully pacifies and harmonizes and unifies life, and gives it purpose. Set
the goal of your life to bring every thought into harmony with this, and to
eliminate everything out of harmony with it. This is success" (GVG).