When the LORD thy God hath cut off the nations, whose land the LORD thy God giveth thee, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their cities, and in their houses;
I. There are many besides the murderer of Uriah who have need to cry with him, "Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God." (1) This charge may have a fearful applicability to Christian ministers. If ministers neglect to warn the wicked, if they keep back from the people any part of the counsel of God, blood lieth at their door; the angel of vengeance is abroad in pursuit of them. (2) Consider that subtle, undefinable thing called influence. Can you conscientiously say that you have always exerted your influence for good, never for evil? If in one instance you have used it for evil, blood lieth at your door. You have shed the blood of souls, and the life of your own soul is justly forfeit.
II. The spiritual refuge of the sinner is Jesus Christ, and the road by which we flee to Christ is the road of faith. (1) The sinner must fly to Christ as if for his life, as a man flies from a falling house or a beleaguered town. (2) As impediments were removed out of the man-slayer's way, and the road was made as easy and obvious to him as possible, so it is a very plain, simple thing to believe in Christ, and thus to flee to our spiritual cities of refuge. (3) When the merciful Elder, Jesus Christ, comes to the gate of the city of refuge, we can only plead our sinfulness, our infinite desert of condemnation, and God's appointment of Jesus Christ to be a refuge to us. (4) The man-slayer was to abide in the city of his refuge, and so must we abide in ours if we would be safe.
III. There are two points of contrast between the Jewish city of refuge and its New Testament antitype. (1) The city of refuge was permanently available only to such man-slayers as had acted without any evil intent. Not so our city of refuge. Christ is able to save to the uttermost. (2) The man-slayer was to remain in the city until the high-priest died. But our High-priest never dies. "He ever liveth to make intercession for us."
E. M. Goulburn, Sermons Preached in the Parish Church of Holywell, p. 101.
References: Deuteronomy 19:12.—J. B. Mozley, Ruling Ideas in Early Ages, p. 201. Deuteronomy 19:21.—Ibid., p. 180. Deut 19—Parker, vol. iv.. p. 281. Deuteronomy 20:2-4. J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, p. 167. Deuteronomy 20:8.—W. Ray, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 233; Parker, vol. iv., p. 290; J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, p. 177. Deuteronomy 20:10.—Ibid., p. 298. Deuteronomy 20:16.—M. Dods, Israel's Iron Age, p. 1; J. B. Mozley, Ruling Ideas in Early Ages, p. 83. Deuteronomy 20:19.—Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 18. Deuteronomy 22:1-4.—Parker, vol. iv., p. 305. Deuteronomy 22:6, Deuteronomy 22:7.—Ibid., vol. ii., p. 312; S. Cox, The Bird's Nest, p. 1. Deuteronomy 22:8.—Parker, vol. iv., p. 318; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 354.
Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.
Thou shalt prepare thee a way, and divide the coasts of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to inherit, into three parts, that every slayer may flee thither.
And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past;
As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live:
Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past.
Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee.
And if the LORD thy God enlarge thy coast, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, and give thee all the land which he promised to give unto thy fathers;
If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the LORD thy God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three:
That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee.
But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities:
Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.
Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee.
Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.
One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.
If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong;
Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days;
And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother;
Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.
And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.
And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.