Nepaug Bible Church - - Pastor's Prayer Meeting Lesson Notes -

Part XIV: Overcoming A Judgmental Spirit To Protect Innocent People
(Joshua 20:1-9)
  1. Introduction
    1. When God gives us an assignment of service, we will be involved in making disciples of others in some form or fashion, and that means addressing the issues of sin and righteousness in others, cf. Mtt. 28:19-20 .
    2. In the process of addressing sin and righteousness in others, we run the risk of being too judgmental, and in so doing we can hurt innocent people and actually put discipling on hold.
    3. The people of Israel faced this challenge in taking the land of Canaan, so God provided a stop-gap measure in Joshua 20:1-9. It gives us a real challenge in discipling efforts today.
  2. Overcoming A Judgmental Spirit To Protect Innocent People, Joshua 20:1-9.
    1. When God sent Israel into Canaan to conquer the land, part of the task involved executing godless peoples as an extension of divine judgment upon the godless Gentiles there, cf. Gen. 15:13-16.
      1. When God appeared to Abram in Genesis 15 to give him the promise of his seed coming to inhabit Canaan, He predicted that four generations needed to elapse between Abram and his seed for this promise to take effect, Gen. 15:13-16a.
      2. The reason God would take so many years to give the land to Abram's seed was that the wickedness of the land's Gentile inhabitants had not yet warranted divine displacement of them, Gen. 15:16a with 16b!
      3. Thus, the taking of Canaan by the people of God was an act of divine discipline on the land's inhabitants for their rebellion against Israel's God, cf. Deut. 20:10-18.
    2. However, it was possible that in the function of so much killing of Gentiles, it would become easier for the people of Israel to become increasingly trigger-happy in judging one another, and that innocent people would be thereby execut ed. Accordingly, upon taking the land, God ordered Joshua to set up cities of refuge to stem a judgmental spirit in Israel, Josh. 20:1-9:
      1. Joshua was to appoint cities of refuge in Israel to which unwitting manslayers could flee from the Ancient Near Eastern avenger of blood, 20:1-3.
        1. In the Ancient Near East, it was acceptable practice to kill anyone who had harmed your body or the body of a relative of yours even if the act was unintentional.
        2. However, God sought to limit this practice so that people who made human unintentional mistakes resulting in the unintentional death of others could get mercy.
      2. Those accidentally killing another could appeal to a city of refuge and get justice.
        1. He could flee to the nearest city of refuge and state his view on the incident in the ears of the elders of the city. At that point, he would be presumed innocent until a full court case was convened, and be given temporary asylum , Jos. 20:1-3a-4.
        2. He waited there until the avenger of blood arrived and a court case was convened, Nu. 35:24.
        3. If the man was found to be a murderer after all, he was turned over to the avenger of blood who was free to execute the defendant, Num. 35:30.
        4. However, if he was found to be innocent, he was allowed to live as long as he remained in the city until the death of the current high priest, Nu. 35:32. Meanwhile, if he ever stepped out of the city, the avenger could kill him, 35:27-28. The probable reasons for this law were twofold to show the value of human life: (a) the long stay for the defendant and his release only upon an event of national mourning, the death of the high priest, showed that accidental manslaughter, though accidental, nevertheless cost very costly human life; thus, it was to be avoided if at all possible; (b) the sparing of the defendant showed the value of his life, too, Bib. Know. Com., O.T., p. 363!
        5. Once the high priest died, the innocent manslayer was free to return unharmed to his home, Jo. 20:6.
      3. Joshua thus appointed three cities each on each side of the Jordan for ready access to all, Jos. 20:7-9.
Lesson: Before passing negative judgment on any party in the process of doing God's work, we must always STOP, LOOK and LISTEN as though we were children crossing the railroad tracks! Judgment is always destructive, and in view of the valu e of human beings, before doing what will cost others in terms of pain, fame, reputation, etc., we had better make sure of the FACTS!