mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness
Dictionary.com defines meek this way:
humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others.
overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame.
Obsolete . gentle; kind.
According to these definitions, Jesus said that those who are gentle of spirit and have mild dispositions will inherit the earth. I have to confess, I need to work on this…
When I think of meekness, I think of Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was arrested. Do you remember His response, when Judas betrayed Him with a kiss on the cheek? He accepted His “friend’s” kiss, knowing all the while why he was there, and what he had done to Him. He even called him “friend.”
I would have railed against him, and shouted at that traitor! I may have even hit him, but Jesus offered His cheek to him. Jesus, could have struck that vile betrayer down, with just one word, but He didn’t…
Do you remember what happened when the Roman soldiers and Temple guards asked for Jesus, the Nazarene? “I am He,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed Him, was standing with them.)6 As Jesus said “I am He,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! (John 18:1-10 NLT)
Do you remember Jesus’ response when Peter grabbed a sword and slashed the ear off of the high priest’s slave a few minutes later? Instead of making a run for it (as I surely would have done) Jesus took the time to perform a miracle, placing the ear of this man, who was there to harm Him, back where it belonged, then submitted to those who were there to arrest Him. (Luke 22:47-53 NLT)
Do you think Jesus was weak? Do you think He couldn’t have destroyed those who were there to destroy Him? Think again. Jesus could have called down thousands of angels to rescue Himself. He could have slain these men with just a word, but instead, He chose gentleness, and in doing so, He exhibited His greatest strength. (Matthew 26:47-56 NLT)
You see, for Jesus, submitting meekly to His Father’s will was far more important than giving a mighty display of His strength. Submitting to the torture meted out by a violent mob, in accordance with His Father’s will was more important than giving them the divine retribution they were due. Dying for their sins, your sins, and my sins was far more important to Him, than giving us the justice we deserved… For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NLT)
In both His life and His death, Jesus demonstrated the way we are to live. When He told us, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” He wasn’t merely speaking empty words. He both lived and died according to everything He said and taught…
1 Who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed His powerful arm? 2 My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him. 3 He was despised and rejected— a Man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.
4 Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! 5 But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all.
7 He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet He never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth. 8 Unjustly condemned, He was led away. No one cared that He died without descendants, that His life was cut short in midstream. But He was struck down for the rebellion of My people. 9 He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But He was buried like a criminal; He was put in a rich man’s grave.
10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush Him and cause Him grief. Yet when His life is made an offering for sin, He will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in His hands. 11 When He sees all that is accomplished by His anguish, He will be satisfied. And because of His experience, My Righteous Servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for He will bear all their sins. 12 I will give Him the honors of a victorious soldier, because He exposed Himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels. (Isaiah 53 NLT)
As I study these words of Jesus, I am struck by how much I have to learn. I am struck by my own weakness. Lord, show me Your ways. Help me to be meek, even as You were meek, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was at the fortress of Susa.2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem.
3 They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
In my last post, I promised to address the United States’ Illegal Immigration problem from a biblical perspective, and one of the first things that I want to note is that Jerusalem, God’s holy city is and has been surrounded by a great wall, for many centuries. In fact, when the Jewish refugees returned to their ancient home, after being captives of first Babylon, then Persia for seventy years, they returned to find their city in tatters. Walls were torn down and burned. Why was this wall so important to Jerusalem, and can we draw any parallels between their wall and the United States’ determination to build a wall today?
4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.
As you well know, there has been a lot of outcry in the U.S. regarding the building of a wall along our borders. On the one hand, we have people crying, “Build that wall!” while on the other hand, we have people equally outraged crying out against it. As I was preparing to write this post about illegal immigration from a bibilcal perspective, the Lord placed Nehemiah on my heart. Therefore, as I share his story with you, we will compare Jerusalem’s need for their wall to be restored, and our own nation’s cry for a wall.
1 Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence.2 So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”
Then I was terrified,3 but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
4 The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”
With a prayer to the God of heaven,5 I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”
6 The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request.
After much mourning, praying and fasting about the sad state of his homeland and its broken wall, the king of Persia, whom Nehemiah served as a cup-bearer, inquired about his obvious heartache. Nehemiah then told the king about his concern for Jerusalem, and his brothers and sisters, and the king immediately asked, “Well, how can I help you?” Obviously Nehemiah had favor with both God and King Artaxerxes.
The walls of Jerusalem were originally built to protect its inhabitants, including the Judean king, and the holy Temple of God, from the attacks of their enemies. The walls were built and rebuilt to keep Jerusalem’s enemies out…
After praying to the Lord, Nehemiah asked King Artaxerxes to send him to Jerusalem, so that he could rebuild that once great city on a hill, the land of his fathers, and the king agreed to do so, giving Nehemiah a letter to Asaph, the manager of his forest, instructing him to give Nehemiah the lumber he needed to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, its gates, the Temple gates, and a house for Nehemiah. King Artaxerxes also sent letters to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to allow Nehemiah to pass safely through their land so he could rebuild the city of Jerusalem. The king also sent horsemen and army officers along to protect Nehemiah. (see Nehemiah 2:7-9).
11 So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later,12 I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem. We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding.13 After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well, and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates.14 Then I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble.15 So, though it was still dark, I went up the Kidron Valley instead, inspecting the wall before I turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate.
16 The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration.17 But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!”18 Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king.
They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.
As I read the response of Jerusalem’s city officials, priests, nobles and members of the administration, I immediately drew a parallel to the response of many of our nation’s citizens cry for Donald Trump to, “Build that wall!” Like those Jewish refugees from so long ago, our nation’s citizens are weary of the terrorism and hatred that is taking place within and without our nation’s borders.
Please bear with me as I attempt to speak for those United States’ citizens who love our great nation, and who, contrary to the accusations of many more liberal people within the nation, are neither bigoted, racist, hate-filled xenophobes, homophobes, or any of the other epithets aimed at them. The men and women of this nation, who are crying out for our immigration laws to be obeyed, are simply men and women who care about this nation’s citizens and its children. Those who want that wall built, do not want it built to keep good, law-abiding immigrants out, but to keep those out, who have no respect for the law. We have not cried out for new immigration laws, but for those laws that have already been written, to be enforced. There are some who accuse the people who believe this way of being inhumane. Some even accuse Christians of not being “good Christians” because they hold these beliefs. I disagree.
1 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you.4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong.5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.
According to scripture, a “good Christian” obeys the law of the land, providing that law does not cause us to disobey God. Enforcing our nation’s immigration laws does not cause people to disobey God. Furthermore, I would submit that many, who are promoting sanctuary cities, and encouraging people to disobey federal immigration laws, are not being humane, but anarchists. Indeed, when we look at the actions of those who accused President Trump of being a demagogue, who stirred up violence in his campaign, we soon discover that it is many of these people, who are in fact, demagogues. They have attempted to preempt free speech, by leading violent riots against anyone who does not support their views, on many college campuses across the country. It is many of these people, rather than the ones supporting adherence to the nation’s immigration laws, who are engaging in anarchy.
Legal immigrants and refugees have been, and always will be welcome to settle into our country. However, those enter into our country illegally, already demonstrate a lack of respect for the laws of our land. It is utterly wrong to reward those who illegally enter this country, demonstrating their contempt for our laws, while other immigrants, who choose to come to this country legally, must wait for years sometimes. Further, how is it logical or reasonable to expect the taxpayers of this nation to support illegal immigrants with free healthcare, no taxes, food benefits, and other aid, while many legal citizens are often unable to obtain the help they need???
Is it reasonable to welcome people that we know nothing about, people who may be terrorists and criminals, into this nation? Absolutely not! Those who claim that welcoming everyone into our land is humane are wrong. It is not humane to our own citizens, who may become prey to terrorists and criminals, simply because some people wanted to feel good about themselves by letting anyone and everyone enter our country.
Laws are put into place for the good of the citizens of that land. Immigration laws protect a nation’s citizens. Look at how quickly and horribly radical Islamic terrorism has invaded Europe, since those countries within the European Union have no borders.
A border wall between the United States and Mexico, another nation, is not the same as the Berlin wall, which separated brothers and sisters from the same country (indeed the same city!). Just as Jerusalem’s walls were necessary and approved of by God, to protect Judea’s sovereignty, so too, is it necessary to protect the sovereignty of the U.S.A., and if that means building a wall, I feel certain the Lord would approve.
I watched the news Friday night, and as I watched, I wept. Since then, I haven’t been able to get the news out of my mind or my heart. An old Beatles song came to mind as well, and I just couldn’t shake it, so take a listen to the song, before you read on or listen while you read.
Please bear with me as I share what I saw and heard on Friday night, that caused me to weep… On Friday, Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the twenty-four year old soldier who was needlessly slain Wednesday, was taken home, to be laid to rest. He was driven home along the Highway of Heroes, while hundreds of Canadians gathered to pay tribute to him, as he made his way to his home and final resting place.
On Wednesday, after ruthlessly shooting Corporal Cirillo, his assassin, thirty-two year old, Islamic convert, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, then charged through Canada’s parliament, before being fatally shot by Sargeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers. Not only did an innocent young man lose his life, but also, his assassin, their lives cut terribly short.
The following day, when parliament reconvened, Sargeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, was hailed as a hero for killing Zehaf-Bibeau before he could murder or harm anyone else. You could see tears rolling down the staunch officer’s cheeks, as he stood otherwise composed, while the members of parliament gave him a standing ovation, and I couldn’t help but cry for this brave man too, for though he had done the right thing by killing the killer before he could kill anyone else, he would have to live and come to terms with the knowledge that he had taken a human life.
This whole story is heartbreaking. An innocent twenty-four year old, with his whole life ahead of him, including a wife and a six year old son, who will now grow up fatherless, not to mention a brother and parents, was senselessly slain. As a parent of two grown children, I can’t imagine losing one of my children. In the natural scheme of things, parents are usually the first to pass on, and I can’t even begin to imagine how devastating this loss must be to Corporal Cirillo’s family. How could I not weep over this story?
Another story covered, was the ebola epidemic, and the nurses who cared for Liberian national, Thomas Eric Duncan, who was forty-two years old, when he died of the deadly ebola virus in the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. The nurses who spoke to reporters seemed to be genuinely compassionate, as they shared what it was like to care for the dying man. One nurse in particular said that he held Mr. Duncan’s hand, staying by his bedside, in the place of his family members, who were not allowed to be there, because of the danger of catching the highly infectious disease.
Other nurses shared how their community has responded to them. One said that her niece was asked not to return to school for twenty-one days, even though they don’t even live together. Still others said they were being shunned by various friends and businesses, who were fearful of the medical team contaminating them with the virus, even though the virus is transmitted by body fluids, and is not airborne.
Again, I couldn’t help but weep, for Mr. Duncan, who caught the deadly disease when he buried his pregnant daughter, who died from it. In the aftermath of his falling ill with the dreaded disease, both the Liberian government and the Dallas County prosecutor considered filing criminal charges against the dying man for bringing the disease to the United States.
How ironic this is, when it was the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital that failed to test and treat Mr. Duncan immediately, when he arrived in the Emergency Room on September 24, 2014. When Thomas Duncan told the ER staff he had just returned to the United States from Africa, they should have questioned him more closely about where in Africa he had come from. He should also have been tested for ebola, based simply on the knowledge that he had come from Africa, where the ebola epidemic rages on, yet instead of admitting him to an isolated unit and testing him for the disease, they dropped the ball, sending him home with antibiotics, which could not fight the disease; and to his family, thereby putting them at risk of catching the ebola virus.
When Thomas Duncan returned four days later, on September 28, 2014, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital dropped the ball yet again, with this very sick patient. Yes, they admitted him to an isolated room, but they failed to treat the disease until six days later, on October 4, 2014, when they treated him with an experimental drug. Sadly, it was too little, too late, and Mr. Thomas Duncan died on October 8, 2014. Had he been tested and treated immediately, there is every reason to believe that Thomas Duncan would have survived the disease, like every other patient who has been treated here in the United States. Again, how could I not weep over the injustice of this?
Also in the news was a recap of the unprovoked attack by a man armed with a hatchet on Thursday, who struck two police officers, one on his arm, and other on his head, before he was shot and killed by the two other officers who were there. Sadly, an innocent bystander, a twenty-nine year old woman, was shot in her lower back. Yet again, I couldn’t help but cry, and still, the news continued.
Friday, during the early lunch at a high school in the state of Washington, Jaylen Fryberg, a fourteen year old freshman, shot and killed a female student, and wounded four others, before shooting and killing himself. It was said that he shot both family members and friends. What could be so wrong, that he would do something so terrible? I couldn’t seem to help myself, as I sat in my recliner, weeping for the lost souls, who placed no value on human lives.
The final story was an uplifting story, yet it, too, broke my heart. Lauren Hill, nineteen years old, and a Freshman at Mount St. Joseph University, near Cincinnati, Ohio, is also a basketball player. After discovering she had a malignant brain tumor that was terminal, Lauren’s response was, “Can I at least still play basketball?”
Wearing jersey number 22, Lauren gets up early every morning to practice with her team. Though the tumor has weakened her coordination and energy, Lauren still pushes herself to come to practice. Her goal has been to play NCAA basketball for Mount St. Joseph University since she first found out about her tumor, but because it is likely that she has only a couple of weeks left to live, the NCAA did something unprecedented. Because Lauren’s situation is so urgent, the NCAA made a special exception to change the Division III school’s opener against Hiram College to Nov. 2, despite its rules that require seasons to start later in November.
Lauren’s hopefulness is inspiring. Her goal isn’t just to live to play that one game. She has stated that she hopes Sunday’s game will just be her first basketball game with her team, and that many others will follow. Again, how could I not weep as I witnessed this young woman’s courage in the face of certain death?
As I sat in my recliner weeping, I wondered what was wrong with me. After all, it’s not as though I knew any of the people in these stories personally, but then, just as quickly, another thought ran through my mind. “There’s nothing wrong with you for weeping for those who are suffering. Instead, you should ask, “What’s wrong with the people who are not as affected by these stories?”
Sadly, far too many people have become desensitized to the pain of others, Even Christians have become hardened to the pain of strangers. Many adults and young people watch horror films and murder shows, not to mention the nightly news, with all of the violence going on throughout the world, while still others play violent games, and search out violent websites. After viewing so much violence and killing, many people have become desensitized to these things.
However, for those of us who are Christians, this should not be. It’s easy not to feel personally affected by the suffering of someone we don’t know, and have never seen, yet, as followers of Christ, we are to love even those we don’t know, and when you love someone, you care about what happens to them, even if you haven’t seen him/her for a long time. In fact, look at this command for Christians…
Beloved reader, when is the last time you wept because of the plight of people you may not even know? When you hear of human trafficking; of children being sold as sex slaves; of men, women and children dying of dreadful diseases like ebola; of tragedies like hurricanes and tornadoes destroying people’s homes and even killing them, do you feel the weight of their pain? Does your heart ache for the abused and misused? The prophets wept for the people of Judea and Israel, especially Jeremiah. Jesus wept for Mary when He saw her weeping over the death of her brother, Lazarus…
33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and [h]was troubled,34 and said,“Where have you laid him?” They *said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”35 Jesus wept.~ John 11:33-35 NASB ~
Beloved reader, if you find yourself unmoved by the pain and suffering of others, then you need to pray for God to change your heart of stone…
26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.~ Ezekiel 36:26 NASB ~
Ask the Lord to fill you with His love for others. Ask Him to help you to love others the same way that He loves them. Ask Him to help you to weep with those who weep, and to rejoice with those who rejoice, in Jesus’ name. For this is God’s will for His children. In fact, Jesus commands us to love even our enemies…
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” ~ Matthew 5:43-48 NASB ~
Finally, beloved readers, ask your heavenly Father to help you to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice, in Jesus’ name. For He is faithful to His children, and if we delight ourselves in Him, and ask for anything according to His will, He will give us the desires of our heart…
14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.~ 1 John 5:14-15 NASB ~
Beloved reader, don’t become desensitized (hard of heart). Rather, weep for those who are hurting and struggling. Weep for those who are lost. Weep for the many nations, including our own, who are bent on going to hell.
Everyone is talking about Justin Ross Harris, who left his twenty-two month old son, Cooper, in his hot SUV for seven hours, while working his job at Home Depot. This horrible incident has been all over the news media, and a couple of days ago, I watched his probable cause hearing online. By the end of that day, Mr. Harris’ motion to be released on bond was denied, so he must remain in jail until his trial.
In the aftermath of this terrible occurrence, one thing is certain; everyone has an opinion about it. Did Ross Harris deliberately murder his only son, or was it really a dreadful accident, like he says? As I watched the court proceedings the other day, I was struck by a sad thought…
Suppose this really was an accident? Haven’t you ever gotten in your car, planning to go to one destination, and then, while you’re on your way, you suddenly realize that you’ve driven somewhere else, almost as though you were on auto-pilot? Haven’t you ever gone into a room with a specific task in mind, only to get there and realize that you’ve forgotten what you had gone in there for?
I realize that a child was involved in this incident that turned very deadly, but the fact is that each one of us are human beings, with finite minds, and we do sometimes forget very important people and things. Several years ago, I remember promising to pick up an elderly woman for bible study at the church we attended together. On the evening of the bible study, I arrived around fifteen minutes early, because I am a very punctual person. After arriving so early, I spent the next several minutes chatting with other friends before class started. At one point, I remember looking at one of my friends, asking, “Where’s Miss Betty? She’s usually here by now.”
My friend gave me an incredulous look, then stated, “I was going to ask you where she is. Weren’t you supposed to pick her up tonight?” I was totally embarrassed, because as soon as she said that, I remembered telling Miss Betty that I would pick her up. How embarrassing it was, as I quickly exited and went to get Miss Betty and bring her to the bible study.
That’s why I don’t think it is totally implausible that a father or mother could go to work and forget his/her child is in the back seat, especially if the child falls asleep. Before we pass judgment on this father, let’s remember that he is every bit as human as we are, and it is truly possible that he did indeed, forget his son was in the backseat of his SUV.
And if he truly did forget his child, can you imagine how traumatic it would be to come to the realization that your forgetfulness killed your only son? Imagine how horrific that must be for him. If he truly did forget his son, this young man (who looks like a boy to me), must find a way to live with the knowledge that his stupid error killed his beloved son. If it was indeed an accident, he will have to live with all of the ramifications caused by his memory lapse… Think of it, while his wife and family are grieving the loss of this adorable little boy, Ross Harris must be carrying a crushing load of guilt, knowing that his son would be alive if only…
he had taken Cooper to daycare…
he had remembered Cooper was there, in his car seat, in the SUV, beforehe got out…
he had thought about his little boy, instead of allowing his mind to wander to sexual fantasies with six different women (none of whom were his wife), and wasting precious minutes, (which could have saved his son’s life) by sending sexual messages to these women (one of whom was an underage, sixteen year old girl)…
he had remembered his son before he went to lunch with his friends…
he had looked in the backseat of the SUV, when he dropped the light bulbs off in the front seat of his car, after lunch…
The list of “if only’s” goes on and on, but sadly, they mean nothing, for Cooper Harris is gone now.
Meanwhile, Ross Harris now finds himself in a battle for his freedom, and possibly even for his life, since Georgia is one of the states, which still enforces the death penalty. While watching Mr. Harris’ defense attorney questioning Detective Phil Stoddard (who seemed to have convicted Justin Ross Harris already, before the investigation and a trial have been completed) that I began to think about how a situation like this would have been handled in biblical times…
During biblical times, the people of Israel had six cities that were designated to be Cities of Refuge…
These cities are for the protection of Israelites, foreigners living among you, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety.~ Numbers 35:15 NLT ~
Were these cities of refuge available to everyone? As you can see fromNumbers 35:15, these cities of refuge were available to foreigners and traveling merchants, as well as the Israelites, who found themselves in a situation much like the one Ross Harris is now involved in. Also, because the Lord is a merciful and just God, He made sure that the cities of refuge were available to all, no matter where they lived in Israel…
6 “If the distance to the nearest city of refuge is too far, an enraged avenger might be able to chase down and kill the person who caused the death. Then the slayer would die unfairly, since he had never shown hostility toward the person who died.7 That is why I am commanding you to set aside three cities of refuge.~ Deuteronomy 19:6-7 NLT ~
Now, this place of refuge was not a place for someone to stay to escape justice. Nor was it a prison. The cities of refuge were there so that the person who accidentally killed someone could live without fear of reprisal before being tried by the community.
These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community.~ Numbers 35:12 NLT ~
God did not command these cities of refuge be created to help the slayer escape justice. He called for these cities of refuge to be built in order to ensure that justice was served. Indeed, the Lord didn’t appoint only three cities of refuge, but six, so there would be enough to make them equally accessible for people to escape to.
13 Designate six cities of refuge for yourselves,14 three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west in the land of Canaan.15 These cities are for the protection of Israelites, foreigners living among you, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety.~ Numbers 35:13-15 NLT ~
To be clear about this, murderers would not be allowed to find haven in any of the cities of refuge. These cities were only to protect those who accidentally killed someone, and they, like anyone else accused of a crime would face a trial by their community.
Those who were found guilty of murder were sentenced to die by the hand of their victim’s nearest relative. However, if the person accidentally kills someone, the community must protect the slayer (the one who accidentally kills someone) from the victim’s avenger (the closest relative of the victim), and escort him/her to the city of refuge, where the person must remain until the death of the high priest.(Numbers 35:24-25 NLT)
As long as the slayer remains within the city of refuge, until the high priest dies, thus ending his sentence, he will live in safety, protected from the victim’s avenger. However, if the slayer is discovered by the victim’s avenger outside of the city of refuge before the high priest dies, and the avenger kills him/her, this will not be counted as a crime by the avenger…
26 “But if the slayer ever leaves the limits of the city of refuge,27 and the avenger finds him outside the city and kills him, it will not be considered murder.28 The slayer should have stayed inside the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest, the slayer may return to his own property.29 These are legal requirements for you to observe from generation to generation, wherever you may live.~ Numbers 35:26-29 NLT ~
Now, let’s go back and examine the scriptures inNumbers 35again, and see how they explain the difference in an accidental killing and murder. As we study this, let’s keep in mind what we know about the death of Justin Ross Harris’ son, Cooper Harris… The following scriptures describe exactly what a murder is…
16-21 If someone picks up an instrument—iron, stone, wood,whatever—and batters somebody else so badly that the victim dies, or if he otherwise kills with intent (fatally pushes with hatred or throws an object from some hidden place that kills its target), the perpetrator is guilty of murder. His punishment is death in return, and someone shall be assigned to kill him. The one to carry out this death penalty is called the “blood avenger.” Whenever the avenger has a chance to kill the murderer, he should do so.~ Numbers 35:16-21 VOICE ~
As you can see from the description, it is murder if someone picks up an instrument and batters someone with it so badly, that the person dies. Further, it is also murder if someone intentionally kills someone either by using a weapon, or by some other means. As we follow the case against Justin Ross Harris in the coming months, let’s keep this biblical description in mind when determining whether the man murdered his son, or whether the child’s tragic death was an accident.
22-24 Sometimes it happens, though, that a person pushes his friend or acquaintance, throws an object, or happens to drop a heavy stone on someone else without any intention of hurting (much less killing) the person, but the other person happens to die from it. The guilty person should be able to take refuge in one of the six designated cities, safe from the one who would avenge the death he caused. Then people from among the greater community shall judge whether it was indeed an accident or not.~ Numbers 35:22-24 VOICE ~
In the coming weeks and months, I imagine we’re going to hear many different things about Justin Ross Harris, as he is tried for murder in both the courtroom, and in the news. Many people have already formed an opinion regarding his guilt or innocence, without even knowing all of the facts. However, I would encourage all believers to pray especially for Justin Ross Harris, and his wife, Leanne Harris, for if this was an accident as Mr. Harris claims that it is, I can’t even begin to fathom the pain he and his wife must be experiencing. On the other hand, if it was murder, let’s pray that justice is served, and that the Lord would comfort Leanne Harris, who loved and trusted her husband with their child. Let’s also pray for their marriage, which has very likely suffered from this tragedy.
After reading the scriptures that tell how to know the difference between murder and accidental death, we understand how to determine the difference between the two. However, if we are members of God’s jury, in the case of Justin Ross Harris, how can we judge whether he is guilty of murdering his son, or if the death was accidental? Let’s turn toNumbers 35once again to help us…
“All murderers must be put to death, but only if evidence is presented by more than one witness. No one may be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.~ Numbers 35:30 NLT ~
As you can see, to convict a person of murder, there must be evidence presented by more than one witness. If only one witness testifies against the accused, then there is not enough evidence to convict him/her.
There is one more noteworthy thing about this chapter on the Cities of Refuge that I would like to mention. If the person accused of murder was found guilty, he/she would be sentenced to death by the victim’s avenger. However, if the death is found to be accidental, the person does not get off scot-free. He/She must remain within the city of refuge until the high priest dies.
You see, God values the life of mankind, most certainly, more than humans do. Therefore, if someone is killed by the hand of another, his/her death must be paid for by the one who killed him/her. Of course, if the person was murdered, his/her killer must be killed to pay for his/her death.
However, if a person was accidentally killed by the hand of another, that person’s death must also be atoned for by his/her killer. Therefore, though the killer does not deserve to die for the accidental death caused by him/her, he/she must still pay for the death with his/her own life. Hence, the killer must spend his life living within the confines of the city of refuge until the death of the high priest, whereupon he/she will then be free to return to his/her own land to live in freedom once again.
I think this consequence for causing the accidental death of someone is fair. By sentencing the accidental killer to live in one of the cities of refuge, several clear messages are sent to everyone involved…
First and foremost, the sentence acknowledges the value of the life that was lost, and though his/her death was accidental, it must still be atoned for.
This sentence makes it clear that the death was unintentional and accidental, therefore, the killer does not deserve to die for it.
Only God, (who knew when and how the victim would die), knows when the high priest will die, thus ending the killer’s sentence.
It seems that God’s plan for determining whether a death is the result of murder or accidental is the best plan. Although most of us will never sit on the jury in Justin Ross Harris’ trial, there is still a great probability that we will all form our own opinions about whether little Cooper Harris died an accidental death, or whether he was the victim of his father’s heinous murder plot. Therefore, I encourage all of us to use God’s way of determining whether Cooper’s death was an accident or murder. What a shame we don’t have cities of refuge here in the United States!
Meanwhile, please join me in praying for Cooper Harris’ family…