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January 26, 2021 – Numbers 35-36

Just two chapters left in Numbers, but such important provisions: the cities for the Levites and the cities of refuge. The land of Canaan would be divided among the tribal families named in chapter 34, but the Levites, as descendants of Aaron and as priests, did not receive tribal territories (chapter 26). Rather, they were granted special cities and surrounding, close-by, lands for their livestock and produce; thus, they were able to provide for themselves. In addition to these cities, God established cities of refuge, a total of 48, of which Moses explained, “where you shall permit the manslayer to flee” (35:6).

I am always struck by the reality of God’s fairness in these sorts of matters. The murderer shall be put to death, but the one “who kills any person without intent” (35:11) may find protection in the city of refuge that he “may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment” (35:12). Chapter 36 continues to highlight this fairness as God gives to Moses additional laws concerning female heirs that prohibit family lands from being transferred to other tribes.

The last verse in the book of Numbers – “These are the commandments and the rules that the Lord commanded through Moses to the people of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho” (36:13) – refers not merely to these last instructions but to all the Lord gave to Israel. The commandments and laws of the Lord were good. His instructions to us are good. And we can say with David, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors” (Psalm 119:24) and “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).

And with P. P. Bliss (1874):

Sing them over again to me,

Wonderful words of life;

Let me more of their beauty see,

Wonderful words of life;

Words of life and beauty

Teach me faith and duty.


Refrain:

Beautiful words, wonderful words,

Wonderful words of life;

Beautiful words, wonderful words,

Wonderful words of life.

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