Cities of Refuge - RR187AF60

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Cities of Refuge (Waco)
Course: Course - Deuteronomy
Subject: Subject:Pentateuch
Lesson#: 60
Length: 0:34:04
TapeCode: RR187AF60
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission

Let us worship God. Blessed is the man who Thou choosest and causes to approach unto Thee that he may dwell in Thy courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, even of Thy holy temple. Let us pray.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, we come into Thy presence again mindful as always of Thy mercy, Thy grace and Thy protecting care. We thank Thee that in the clouded world the light of Thy grace ever shines upon us. That in a world of evil Thy mercy and Thy goodness prevails. Teach us therefore to walk always mindful of Thy word, of Thy spirit and of Thy providential care. Make us strong in Thy service, faithful to Thy word and joyful in Thy spirit. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Our scripture is Deuteronomy 19:1-10. Our subject: Cities of Refuge. Deuteronomy 19:1-10.

“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;

2 Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it.

3 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.

4 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;

5 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:

6 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.

7 Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee.

8 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;

9 If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love theLord thy God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three:

10 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.”


On other occasions we have in other passages considered

On other occasions we have in other passages considered the cities of refuge. This text is especially notable because over and over again Moses says when you enter the land the land the Lord thy God giveth thee that innocent blood be not shed in thy land that the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance and so blood be upon thee. This repeated statement is to stress first that the earth is the Lords, not mans, that therefore God lays down the law, the conditions upon which man can possess the earth. There were cities of refuge to which a man could flee if accidentally he killed a man and there would be a hearing. Now this is case law, we’ll come to its meaning in the broader context subsequently. But what the texts tells us first is that they are to love God by keeping His commandments as verse nine says ‘to walk ever in His ways’. The stress is on the love of God and obedience to Him and it tells us because of this repeated stress that this is a very important law, critically important, and as we’ve seen in other books of the Pentateuch the mention of it is frequent. We cannot therefore set it aside as inappropriate to our time. Now it is true that blood feuds no longer exist except in rare areas in the Christian world. But this does not exhaust the meaning of this law. The law remains but its application may vary from age to age. Then second, God’s purpose in this law is justice. As verse ten says that innocent blood be not shed in thy land, justice is a perpetual concern and we cannot treat any law pertaining to justice as obsolete. [00:07:47]

This law has a clear purpose, the protection of the

This law has a clear purpose, the protection of the innocent. Under normal circumstances the function of the courts of law might take care of most cases but in every society there are instances where the legal system fails. Then some recourse is necessary to avoid injustice. Where injustice prevails and prevails in and through the justice system the results are deadly. The instruments of justice are compromised they become agencies of evil. This poisons the social order. We see it in our time in such statements ‘as you can’t fight city hall’. The justice system is assumed in such sayings to be corrupt and beyond redemption. If there is no appeal except within the system cynicism and injustice prevail. We see today a very prevalent distrust and even contempt for our justice system. The courts are on all levels radically politicized and distrusted. They move in terms of technicalities not in terms of justice. Even lawyers are commonly cynical about the system. Then third, God requires this law, as verse ten says, that innocent blood be not shed in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance and so blood or guilt be upon thee. He reminds u that the earth is an inheritance from Him and all peoples and nations have their places in the bounds of their habitation as a gift from God. They exist by His grace as Acts 17:26-27 tell us. God can at any time dispossess any nation, any people or any race. Because of His over lordship God does not tolerate the shedding of innocent blood. Sooner or later his judgment follows. Men and nations may believe that some people’s blood can be shed without consequences because they see them as insignificant and trifling but not so the Lord. [00:11:25]

He is mindful of all injustices great and small

He is mindful of all injustices great and small. Failure to protect innocent blood means guilt. If innocent blood is shed there will be blood guiltiness upon a people. God requires that justice prevail and where it does not in God’s time that people is judged and set aside. Obviously this means that this law is as relevant as ever and God requires us to obey it and to put it into practice. Failure to keep this law is arrogance in that it is an assertion that our legal system provides the full measure of justice. This law militates against a self-contained legal system that assumes that it dispenses full and complete justice and this is a prevalent sin of state. From the standpoint of humanism dissatisfaction with the existing system has led to such agencies as the [unknown]. There have been minor benefits from it but a major defect. They do not have a definition of justice apart from a humanistic code. What good they accomplish is simply a relic of Christian law and morality. The Marque De Sade was right, without God justice is a myth. For Karl Marx the law and justice merely represented a class interest. Marx was right, Marx was right in seeing that if God be denied law and its justice will inevitably reflect nothing more than some special interest. There would be then a struggle for power with the victor imposing his will on the losers. Because of the survival of biblical law in western nations there are remnants of belief in an absolute justice, in God’s law, this makes the problem of establishing a naked power more difficult in Christian countries or once Christian countries and in Cambodia, China or Vietnam. But we have a problem, at the same time these formerly Christian nations are marked by a vehement hostility to God’s law. They do rightly recognize that it is irreconcilable to humanism and its legal system. [00:14:50]

The cities of refuge were religious centers in that

The cities of refuge were religious centers in that they were to be governed by God’s law in dealing with refugees. We are told that the congregation was to decide in each case. The cities of refuge were all Levitical cities, this mean that God’s clerisy in assembly determined in each instance whether or not the refugee deserved the protection of the city. In the context of our time we have a growing tyranny because of our growing power states. These states have no regard for God’s law. They are increasingly evil. In a Christian state there should be regional assemblies of appeal to which men may go or to which they may appeal for a restraining order against the state. At present we see many, many illegal seizures of money and property. We have seen innocent people murdered by agents of the state. The fact that some of these people have been heretical or unbelieving makes no difference. Under God they are to be given justice. This is the meaning of the law concerning the cities of refuge. A Christian society must not only govern by God’s law but it must provide sanctuary and refuge for its own human limitations. The cities of refuge mean that justice has priority over the affairs of state. The justice system needs an escape valve, a check on its failings. God is not content with partial justice; he demands that men and nations work for full justice that innocent blood be not shed. The implications of this law are routinely bypassed because they challenge the humanistic premises of our fallen world. Human justice is fallible but even more the justice system can be evil. If a society has only man’s justice system to rely on it is sooner or later into tyranny and evil. Men needs a city of refuge as against man and his systems. For centuries all churches were cities of refuge. The refugee was tried in terms of God’s law and agents of state could present their case before the court as could the refugee and his witnesses. [00:18:18]

The court’s decision was binding upon the crown and

The court’s decision was binding upon the crown and upon the state. There is now no escape from the state’s legal system. The cost of which of course is increasingly prohibitive. Those who refused to accept God’s law in time shut the doors on justice. The anti-theonomists pay a heavy price for rejecting the law of God. Let us pray.

Our Father, we thank Thee that Thy word speaks to every problem, every evil, every condition. Grant oh Lord that Thy law again rule over Thy people. And be made the law of men and nations. Grant us this in Christ’s name, Amen.

Are there any questions now about our lesson? Yes?

[Question] Well without a system of justice anarchy takes over.

[Rushdoony] Yes, without a system of justice anarchy takes over and of course this is what we are seeing the world over. The rise of anarchy because justice has become a joke.

[Unintelligible question] [00:21:00]

[Rushdoony] Yes first of all God in His time brings

[Rushdoony] Yes first of all God in His time brings that judgment. He can as with Canaan wait even centuries until He had prepared a people to take over, to replace the Canaanites. The judgment appears in many, many forms, plagues and diseases, natural disasters, drought, flood and so on. We have a catalogue in Deuteronomy 28 beginning I believe with the 15th verse of all the judgments and the degrees until its final dispossession that God meets out. So God keeps a record, total record, of all the blood guiltiness and in His time brings judgment. Yes?

[Question unintelligible]

[Rushdoony] First of all, there was no guilt at Waco among the [unknown]. No one had ever been tried. No one had ever been convicted. No one was a refuge from justice, the sheriff had been there and found no illegal weapons, none of the charges had any substance. So that all of them were innocent, but let us assume that one of them had been a murderer. No attempt was made in terms of the law to arrest him and to hold him for trial. Every one last of them would walk into town all the time or drive into town and shop, they were well known in town. At any time they could have been arrested. Everything connected with that brought blood guiltiness upon the federal government. So we can incur blood guiltiness even if the person is guilty or possibly guilty if we deny them justice in the process. Yes? [00:24:50]

[Question] In legal terms like you said, there was

[Question] In legal terms like you said, there was no probable cause to invade their privacy and it’s just another case illustration that certain segments of our government are nothing but thieves and murderers themselves.

[Rushdoony] It was a case of a very flagrant contempt for not only God’s law but for American law. And therefore it is a fearful offense and we should tremble and ask God’s mercy and His judgment upon those who are responsible for this thing. We can only disassociate ourselves by praying for God’s judgment upon the guilty. Yes?

[Unintelligible question]

[Rushdoony] Yes the laws of premeditation come straight out of the, some of the laws relative to the cities of refuge. Manslaughter, accidental killing, what was the other aspect, [man speaks], change of venue yes. The cities of refuge were in a sense a change of venue because a trial was held there. And during the middle ages and for some time thereafter a man who sought refuge in a church or as I’ve pointed out the last time we were dealing with cities of refuge in another book of the bible, if he did no more than reach one of the cross roads points and the crosses would be stayed- situated- every few miles and lay ahold of that cross and no man could touch him. And people would be sent out from the church to give them a safe conduct to the church regularly. They would check these way side crosses periodically. So then the trial that was held in the church was a change of venue because in the Middle Ages and in England after the middle ages the king might want that person dead and for some reason or other was engineering a case against him. Arresting him for high crimes and treason and this way if the church court ruled that he was innocent the king had to give him safe conduct out of the land. So that was the case, it was a change of venue. [00:28:12]

[Unintelligible question]...

[Unintelligible question]

[Rushdoony] Yes it was a challenge of jurisdiction and it was an assertion in the context of a Christian culture that the king or the state did not have total jurisdiction, that he was under God and God’s law, and therefore there could be a move against the king’s jurisdiction in the city of refuge or in the church. And to violate the sanctuary of the church was a fearful offense. We know that when Thomas of Becket was murdered in the cathedral the king had to do penance, make restitution in various ways and that was because however brutal a man he was at times he still knew that there was a God and he feared Him.

[Unintelligible question]

[Rushdoony] That’s right. I’m glad you brought that up because we need to clarify that point. In recent years people have sought refuge in modernist churches and it has been not a legitimate use of the church. First, these people are not seeking escape from an injustice. Rather they have defied the law at some point. Second, there is no trial held in those churches and there has to be a trial in which the agents of the state can come in and present their case. Now nothing like that has happened in these very evil cases of the church being used as a refuge in recent years. [00:30:53]

[Question unintelligible]...

[Question unintelligible]

[Rushdoony] Well illegal aliens being taken into the church. War protesters guilty of something or other being given refuge in the church. Yes?

[Question unintelligible]

[Rushdoony] The church if they found the person that sought refuge handed him over to the state.

[Same person]

[Rushdoony] You can only recover it if the church recovers its faith! The loss of all this began in the church. So when the church abandoned God’s law, when it became a modernist as well as in many cases antinomian church how could it be a place of justice? Because the only just ice it believes in is the humanistic justice in the courts of the state and that’s an evil.

[Question] Could this extend into other areas of life such as the…[becomes unintelligible]

[Rushdoony] Yes. Help was often rendered and in Old Testament times the roads to the cities of refuge had to be maintained, no other road was necessary [laughs] that is as an act of state. They were private works. But the roads to the cities of refuge had to be maintained because justice is so very important. Well our time is about up so let us conclude in prayer. [00:33:10]

Our Father, make us again a nation wherein righteousness

Our Father, make us again a nation wherein righteousness or justice dwells. Provide Thy church and make it again truly a sanctuary and a place where Thy grace and Thy law reign. We look unto Thee oh God for these things. And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, Amen.

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