Encounter With God 11th July 2020 Devotional – Presumed Innocent
TODAY’S TOPIC: PRESUMED INNOCENT
Opening Prayer: Lord, give me a deeper respect for the sanctity of life.
Read DEUTERONOMY 19:1–14 – Cities of Refuge
19 When the Lord your God has destroyed the nations whose land he is giving you, and when you have driven them out and settled in their towns and houses, 2 then set aside for yourselves three cities in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess. 3 Determine the distances involved and divide into three parts the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, so that a person who kills someone may flee for refuge to one of these cities.
4 This is the rule concerning anyone who kills a person and flees there for safety—anyone who kills a neighbor unintentionally, without malice aforethought. 5 For instance, a man may go into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and as he swings his ax to fell a tree, the head may fly off and hit his neighbor and kill him. That man may flee to one of these cities and save his life.
Encounter With God 11th July 2020 Devotional
6 Otherwise, the avenger of blood might pursue him in a rage, overtake him if the distance is too great, and kill him even though he is not deserving of death, since he did it to his neighbor without malice aforethought. 7 This is why I command you to set aside for yourselves three cities.
8 If the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he promised on oath to your ancestors, and gives you the whole land he promised them, 9 because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today—to love the Lord your God and to walk always in obedience to him—then you are to set aside three more cities. 10 Do this so that innocent blood will not be shed in your land, which the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance, and so that you will not be guilty of bloodshed.
11 But if out of hate someone lies in wait, assaults and kills a neighbor, and then flees to one of these cities, 12 the killer shall be sent for by the town elders, be brought back from the city, and be handed over to the avenger of blood to die. 13 Show no pity. You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you.
14 Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess.
New International Version (NIV)
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Meditate: Encounter With God 11th July 2020 Devotional
“In each heart’s imagination, / In the church’s adoration, / In the conscience of the nation, / Hallowed be thy name” (Timothy Rees, 1874–1929).
Think Further: God has imposed upon us a boundary to protect life: “You shall not murder” (Deut. 5:17). What is to be done when this boundary is breached? Some foundational principles of modern legal and judicial systems are evident in today’s passage.
Because God places a high value on human life, he has decreed that anyone who intentionally takes a life must pay with his life (Gen. 9:6). Because life is so highly valued, he also makes elaborate provisions to protect the innocent (3,9; Num. 35:9–12). Ancient Israel had no police force, so an “avenger of blood” (6,12)—the closest male relative—was responsible for safeguarding the family property, name and honor. In ancient societies, blood revenge was the norm.
The God-ordained respect for life is strikingly different from a reflexive desire for revenge. The avenger’s actions must be tempered with caution and directed by justice. He may not act hastily or hatefully (6); nor might he proceed on his own authority, but only as empowered by a duly constituted jury of elders (12). He may not initiate revenge, but serves as an instrument of justice, responsible for executing the sentence of an impartial court, but only after a fair trial (Num. 35:12).
This passage makes the vital distinction between an unintentional killing (involuntary or constructive manslaughter)—where the emphasis is on protecting the innocent (4–10)—and a premeditated or intentional killing (murder), where the focus is on ensuring that justice is done (11–13). In both instances, the killer is entitled to flee to a city of refuge and is presumed innocent until proven guilty—a principle that prevails today, both as a legal right and as an internationally recognized norm of basic jurisprudence. Justice demands both that due process is carried out (Deut. 19:12–19; Num. 35:9–34) and that the guilty are punished (13).
Apply: Prayerfully reflect on Genesis 9:5 and 6, Numbers 35, Deuteronomy 19, Joshua 20:1–9 and Romans 13:1–4. How do these passages shape your views on the issue of capital punishment?
Closing Prayer: Lord, Your people appreciate the idea of fundamental justice circumscribed by rules and safeguards, and we also appreciate that its source is You.
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ONE YEAR BIBLE READING PLAN: Nehemiah 7,8; Luke 7