Key verse: Numbers 35:33
Big idea: We cannot move forward when sin is ignored.
If you kill someone accidentally or in self-defense, should you face any consequences? In Texas, the law is somewhat complex, with “stand-your-ground” provisions and other complications. In Israel, the situation was much more straightforward. If you killed an enemy, threw something with malicious intent, or lay in wait for someone, it was murder, and the penalty was death. But what about something less clean-cut? Shoving someone to their death in the heat of a moment, striking someone with a stone in a fight, or failing to build a safety wall around the roof of your house, so someone fell and died (Deuteronomy 22:8)?
Here, negligent homicide might result in a fine: in Israel, no financial compensation could even be considered for the loss of human life. The only thing which could make atonement for blood was blood. But someone who was not a murderer should not be killed either. So there was sin which had to be dealt with (or the nation was polluted) and there was no adequate means for making it right. What should be done? God introduced six cities of refuge to address the problem: Levite towns where a manslayer could flee to avoid execution. Once there, he would face a trial, and if found not guilty of premeditation, would be protected. If he left the city, he could be killed. There was no way to pay a fee to be freed early, his life was spared because the bloodguilt was “quarantined.”
But he was freed eventually: when the High Priest died. The death of the priest, who stood over the sacrificial system and administered the Law, made atonement for the manslayer. What a picture of Jesus! Sacrifice and priest – setting us free from the bondage of sins of commission, omission, and ignorance. Our sin cannot be ignored or treated as a light thing, but praise God, it can be forgiven.
Discussion idea: Why would our society reject cities of refuge today?
Prayer focus: Search me, God, show me my sin, and carry it away by the death of the Great High Priest.
Key Verse: Luke 10:36
Big Idea: We are not like the Son of Man until we love our neighbor.
An expert in the law came to Jesus and asked what it took to be sure of eternal life. Jesus offered him the only thing that anyone can do: Love God completely and love your neighbor as yourself. If someone did these two things perfectly, they would be perfect in every way, and, being sinless, could enter into Heaven. Like everyone trying to make themselves look good, the man searched for a loophole: if I am supposed to love my neighbor as myself, who is my neighbor? How far does this obligation stretch?
In first-century Israel, many people thought that love should be restricted along racial, class, or behavioral lines. In fact, many of the rabbis interpreted “love your neighbor” as implying that there was someone who was not your neighbor whom you should not love. What do we learn from this man’s question? He had already missed the first law of love. Love does not ask “How far must I go?” Love asks “How far can I go?” By asking the question about who we must love, we show that we do not understand love. This is especially clear when the Teacher is already on the way to the cross to die for the wicked.
To answer the question, Jesus tells one of the most well-known parables in the Bible. A man was traveling down an extremely dangerous road, where he was attacked, stripped naked, and left for dead. A priest and a Levite (both “insiders” by race, class, and behavior because of their tribe of birth) ignored him. Perhaps they knew that attackers often used the injured as bait. Perhaps the man was not Jewish and so they felt no obligation to him. Whatever the reason, they walked past on the far side of the road. like someone refusing to make eye contact with a beggar. ”Not my problem; not my neighbor.”
A Samaritan, a group of people hated by the Jews for their religious corruption and intermarriage with the Canaanites, stopped and showed compassion. At great risk and cost, he took the injured man to an inn to recover. The Samaritan and the innkeeper, both considered shady outsiders, showed love, while the insiders did not. Jesus then simply asked the law expert: “who was a neighbor to this man?”
Obviously, the neighbor was not defined by any social boundaries, but by the one who acted as a neighbor. The call to love your neighbor as yourself is the call to realize we are all neighbors, by virtue of our humanity and our need for love. Jesus told the man to go and do that - show compassion without boundaries.
It is that problem that shows clearly why we can never earn our own salvation. Our love is never total or complete, so our actions never fulfill the law. So rather than seeing ourselves as the Samaritan, we are instead the helpless one on the side of the road, who is nursed to health again by the One who was despised and rejected by men, the One who chose to become our neighbor. The Son of Man has shown that great love for us, and our relationship with God depends on faith in that alone. But if we recognize that love, we must know that being like Him means passing it along.
Discussion Idea: Is it possible to love someone without action? Why or why not? Who is hard for you to love? Why?
Prayer Focus: Praise God for loving us when we were unlovable. Ask God to help us love the ones that He loves, but we do not, not based on their worth, but on His faithfulness.