God's Gracious Provision: Deuteronomy 18:9-19:13

Deuteronomy 18:9‑19:13  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Deuteronomy 18:9-19:139When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. 10There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, 11Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 12For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee. 13Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God. 14For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do. 15The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; 16According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. 17And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. 18I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. 19And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. 20But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. 21And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? 22When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. 1When 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; 2Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it. 3Thou 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. 4And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbor ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past; 5As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbor 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 neighbor, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live: 6Lest 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. 7Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee. 8And 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; 9If 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: 10That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee. 11But if any man hate his neighbor, 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: 12Then 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. 13Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee. (Deuteronomy 18:9‑19:13)
How easily we, like the children of Israel, are influenced by those around us, instead of quietly living for the glory of God our Father who has made us a peculiar people to Himself (1 Peter 2:9). Among the heathen there were many very attractive delusions of Satan, which God told His people, the children of Israel, He would not allow among them. May we be warned against the evils of our day too! We need to be watchful against the little things that would rob us of the love of Christ in our souls, for they creep in so easily and unnoticed.
The True Prophet
It is beautiful to find the promise of the true Prophet whom God would send — even the Lord Jesus Christ. God knew the people could never keep His holy law, and He always had before Him the One in whom He could, and would, find all His delight. That Prophet was coming, and they must not treat Him with indifference. God said He would require it of those who rejected Him. It was a serious thing to break God’s holy law, but it was, and is, far more solemn to reject the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Saviour, for God has no other Saviour but Him. To reject Him means eternal judgment.
If a prophet rose up and spoke in the name of the Lord, they could test and see if what he spoke came true. So God has given us “many infallible proofs” as to the Person and work of His beloved Son. To reject Him is to reject the truth, and those who reject Him are without excuse. Is this statement clear? Surely we do need to be afraid of evil teachings because they are a snare. “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:1717Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (John 17:17)).
Instructions for the Cities of Refuge
We now come to the instructions about the cities of refuge. They were to be conveniently located so that the slayer could flee to them. How gracious of God to provide cities of refuge for His erring people, but how much more wonderful that He has provided a shelter from coming judgment for all who flee for refuge to Christ (Hebrews 6:1818That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: (Hebrews 6:18)). He is the true “City of Refuge” for all who put their trust in Him.
There is another point of interest of which we would like to take notice. These cities of refuge in Israel were only for a person who killed someone else unintentionally. There was no pardon under law for presumptuous sins, that is, for people who knew they were sinning and continued in it. Now the Lord Jesus was the One who was killed by His people Israel, and yet in order to provide refuge for them from the judgment they so justly deserved, He said, while hanging on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:3434Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23:34)). He called it a sin of ignorance, so that future blessing could be assured to them, instead of judgment. How wonderful His grace! These cities were within easy access of anyone who fled to them, but if someone claimed refuge in one of them, whose heart was full of hatred toward the one he killed, he would not be kept in it. He was to be put to death, for the city provided no refuge for such. And so those who continue to be willful rejecters of Christ will be cut off in judgment, and their portion will be eternal hell. An empty profession is no use, just as a man who pretended innocence could not hide in Israel’s cities of refuge.
Further Meditations
1. For what purpose were the cities of refuge?
2. How is the Lord Jesus a good picture of a city of refuge for a believer?
3. A search for “city of refuge” on bibletruthlibrary.org will provide you with many excellent articles on the subject.