Today's devotion from Numbers 35.
Many people look at the "the God of the Old Testament" as being different that the revealed character of God in the New Testament. However, many of these differences are not really differences in God's character, but the necessity of varying cultures. People interpret phrases like "an eye for an eye" (Exodus 21:24) as indicated that God desires bloody vengeance, but that's not the case at all.
This particular phrase comes from a section in which God is taking a fledgling people and molding them into a nation. They needed more than sacred guidance. They needed social order to govern them. The simple fact is that wherever you find people, you find the darkness of sin. God did not desire lawlessness, so the civil laws had to be clear.
However, necessity reared its head again. In the case of an accidental killing, there should be no vengeance, but the family of the victim might not be up for hearing the whole story. So God ordered there to be cities of refuge, because He is not interested in "an eye for an eye", but is diligent in pursuing justice. Refuge is an incredibly important issue for us as believers.
Christ is our refuge. We have sinned against God, but He does not desire our destruction, but our forgiveness. Therefore, justice has been given though the work of Christ, and we can run to Him for refuge. But just as the accidental manslayer had to intentionally flee from wrath to the city of refuge, so too must we. The city is there, appointed for our protection through grace, but we must willfully and willingly run to its shelter.
Why? Because it is not God's desire that any should perish, but all should be forgiven. He knows that sin has corrupted our thoughts and actions. He knows that we are not the real enemy, but His Enemy has blinded us, twisted, and warped us.
What a beautiful illustration of the gospel. This has been and ever will be God's desire: refuge.