Many of us have done wrongs, in fact, the Bible says all of us have wronged God, self, and others.
Romans 3:23 (KJV)
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
SAUL OF TARSUS, PAUL
Those we have wronged are rightfully upset at our wrongs. Paul helped stone Stephen. The wrong to the friends of Stephen, to his mother, dad, sister, brother, wife, children, would be hard to forgive. Some perhaps had to get to heaven, before they totally got over what Saul of Tarsus did to Stephen.
Paul was unpopular with many, even other Christians. The disciples in Jerusalem, had unforgiveness, some fear, and some reluctance to accept Paul as a Christian. Some would not listen to him preach. Some did not want him to be considered a minister of the gospel.
They finally decided to send him to his home town of Tarsus, and wait there till they called him. He waited 8 years in Tarsus, and they never did call him.
Finally, a soft hearted man named Barnabas, decided to take Paul along to Antioch, where there were thousands of Gentile saints worshiping. Paul would not be known as a former persecutor of Jewish Christians.
Paul was driven away from many cities where he went to preach. Many tried to kill him, those of one city did have him stoned to death, requiring a resurrection to bring him back to minister. Some imprisoned him, to keep him off their streets where he insisted on preaching. Some just chased him from town.
Paul was called a church splitter. Everywhere Paul preached, there came dissension, debate, arguing, and strife. In one town, the chief law enforcement officer had to imprison Paul for his own safety, for the religious strife caused by Paul's sermons had so aroused the people that they were about to pull Paul into pieces.
Paul was an ex-convict. At least seven times Paul was imprisoned, and he finally died as a convict, accused of burning down a city (Rome).
Paul disputed with many over religious doctrines. Paul was called a "heretic."
For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:
This abuse of Paul throughout his ministry, caused great hurt to him. He bore it well, he found some answers, but still, he was a hurt, afflicted, and abused minister of the gospel. The church of his time was not much help, they were a big part of the problem.
Thomas, a disciple of Jesus, had a sincere love for Jesus. Many see the traits and ideas of Thomas, and feel that he must have been greatly abused in his life. Thomas always had expected the worse. He was a melancholy man.
Grief, gloom, and a 'born sad' personality was the nature of Thomas. He was dull, blind to aspiration, unable to show much faith, hope and trust. His early life had so much woe and pain, that this man had become unhappy,
and expected to be afflicted.
Some in every age see grief, pain, abuse, and mistreatment that all they expect is more grief to come. Much of that abuse comes from the home. Many children are abused in many different ways. Thomas was prepared constantly for more burdens. He had love for Jesus, but little faith. The details of the abuse and troubles of Thomas, we do not know. Still, we do know that when he met Jesus, he had already had his personality scarred by so much mistreatment and misery as a child that he was somewhat lost amidst depression.
On the eve before the crucifixion, he asked: "Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; how know we the way?" (John 14:5). He was feeling as though he was about to be forsaken, deserted, and had no hope.
Jesus did not call Thomas because of this sad, pessimistic nature. Jesus saw in Thomas a man abused and hurt, afraid to believe. Jesus saw not so much a "doubting Thomas", but an "abused Thomas."
Doubt was not the chief characteristic of Thomas, for if doubt had been, he would have failed utterly. The chief characteristic of Thomas was his deep devotion for Jesus. He had left all for Jesus, he had dared all for Jesus, and he was ready to die with Jesus.
When Jesus was determined to go to the sick, dying Lazarus, the disciples wanted to dissuade Him. Only Thomas said: "Let us go... that we may die with Him." This love and devotion for the Lord was greater than even his hurt and gloom. Thomas anticipated the worst, yet was willing to face the cruellest death to be near to Jesus. Thomas would dare anything for Jesus.
He had passion for Jesus, but a sorrowful and sad resignation.
The abuse as a child, or perhaps, of all his life, had left Thomas scarred within, and he found in the Lord Jesus, One Who loved Him. His family, or someone had scarred Thomas unmercifully. Even if they were unaware of the damage they were doing to him, he was still horribly hurt.
THE UNMERCIFUL MISTREATMENT SOME HAVE RECEIVED MEANS
WE NEED A CITY OF REFUGE
“Among the cities (48) ye shall give unto the Levites, there shall be six (6) cities for refuge... to them shall ye add 42 cities...”
Part of God’s plan for the promised land was that there be six cities for mercy. In those cities, a person accused of a crime, whereupon the wronged parties cold seek judgment, swift and final, the guilty or falsely accused one could flee to one of these cities, and inside its walls be safe from retribution.
This was a special purpose for these cities. We need mercy often, even when it is totally undeserved. We often have to act as though we have not been wronged. We often have to behave without judgmentalism, without regard to offense done to us.
Then shall ye appoint you cities to be for refuge for you, that the slayer may flee thither who kills any person unawares.
And they shall be cities for refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer die not until he stand before the congregation in judgment. And of these cities (the 48 given to the Levites), which ye shall give 6 cities, shall ye have for refuge.
Ye shall give three cities on this side of Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan which ye shall be for cities of refuge.
These six cities shall be for refuge, both for the children of Israel and for the stranger among them, that anyone that kills anyone unawares may flee thither.”
This shows that in God’s law, a person was considered not guilty till having been given a trial. The person was considered to have committed the crime unknowingly, unwittingly, until, within the city of refuge, he is proven in a court of the congregation (his peers), to have done the crime knowingly or of choice. The fact that the person would flee to that city was his or her declaration of ‘innocent’ as their plea. The congregation within those cities would determine if that were true or not. So, locked within those walls the person was safe from the ‘avenger’ (idea then of what we might call the ‘sheriff’) If the person left the city, it would be considered as we today would think of a jailbreak.
Many of those hurt in life, whether it be from home abuse, church abuse, marriage abuse, or whatever, are in need of a place where they can find acceptance, love, respite, and fair judgment. Some need counseling, some need a loving home life, etc. Yet, not all can get those, and even if they do, those are not sufficient for the unmerciful hurt that one has encountered.
The cities of refuge, are fulfilled in type, by Jesus. We need to flee to Him.
Besides those cities of refuge, there were the ‘horns of the altar’ at the Tabernacle where one could flee. There, grasping the horns, they could be safe from retribution for their crime until the time of a trial. We face trial only by Jesus. He forgives any wrongs we have done. In Him, we are assured of acceptance, love, compassionate guidance. He can wash away the inner pains and hurts. Healing is found in our ‘city of refuge’, i.e. Jesus. He is the ‘horns of the altar’ to Whom we flee.
When one fled to a city of refuge, they were to enter and find safety in its walls, and there declare his cause and reason for fleeing there unto the elders of that city. Then he was given a place to live within its walls until the avenger arrived, presented his case for guilt, and a jury of one’s peers within the city determined the guilt or innocence. If found not guilty of willful murder, the person was to remain inside the walls of the city until the death of the high priest of the time. This was not a prison actually, but a city whose walls only willingly confined the person, but the protection therein showed God’s governmental protection put upon the guilty till trial, and on the innocent until time had calmed for anger of those who thought or still think the one pronounce innocent to be guilty. This kind of protection is often not given to many today. The church is often the accuser, the abuser, and the judge to many. The family is often the condemner, the fault-finder, the degrader, to many. We still need a refuge, to which we can flee from the harmful world of our day.
In our time, when we sin, fail, cause someone to backslide, err greatly in the faith, we have a refuge and protection to claim. Often, we find saints troubled even long after a sin or failure. The Lord, in this promised land we are within, does not want us troubled by those past, repented of, sins.
When we are the victim of another’s abuse, we have a Refuge in Jesus, where He will restore, bless, and assure us of His love. Jesus is our Refuge.
David prayed in Psalm 61:14: “Deliver me from blood-guiltiness.” He had set up the events that led to Uriah’s death. He had perhaps even set up the deaths of a few others in that planned death of Uriah. Those deaths could have weighed heavily upon David, from then to now. Yet, the costly sins of our past can be forgiven, atoned for, removed from the list of sins in our life. God foresaw the gult that could have come upon mankind, troubling mankind for decades even after a sin. God provided that we should have refuge from that guilt and promise of retribution.
“God is our Refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”