10–16 April 2016.
Numbers 35–36 (click to read).
Today, when terrible crimes are committed in Taiwan, we see how quickly the newspapers and media are to start shouting for revenge. Instead of trying to find out the truth of what happened and to report that, the media instead do their best to build up hate and outrage in the community, and to find someone to blame. We have seen in the past how in this mad rush of anger and revenge sometimes the wrong person gets the blame. Sometimes the wrong person is even executed. When the people and the media are screaming for revenge, they often don’t care who pays the price. It’s little wonder then that in the rest of the world Taiwan’s local media have such a terrible and even embarrassing reputation.
But this nasty love of revenge is something we see in people all around the world, even in the Old Testament. It’s because of this desire for immediate revenge that Numbers 35 talks about the need to set up cities of refuge. If a person killed someone, they knew that a member of the victim’s family would quickly come for revenge. This so-called “avenger” didn’t care why or how the death happened, they just came to kill. So the towns of refuge offered protection for the accused person, giving them a safe place to live until their court case could be heard, and a proper legal decision made.
Originally all of God’s altars throughout all of Israel all counted as places of refuge. But in today’s text we see the number cut right down to just 6 towns. After all, places of refuge may be necessary to protect justice, but they are never popular with the people. The people much preferred their revenge killings.
Sadly we haven’t seen much change in people’s attitudes today. Even though Jesus commands us to reject the way of revenge, our society and sadly even our churches still have lots of people who demand revenge and demand more killings. But that’s not the way of Jesus. Let’s keep praying that things may finally change in Taiwan, and we can seek justice without the hatred and revenge.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis