Saturday, January 2, 2016

Stilling the Avenger

To put Jude to sleep, I frequently will rock him if I have a chance, singing Just As I Am and quoting Psalm 100, 23, 8, & 1.  By then, he's almost always asleep. It provides an excellent time to meditate on the meaning of Psalms I've known for years. This is when it "hit" me. I had memorized Psalm 8 as a child at a VBS type conference. This verse puzzled me: 

"Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightiest still the enemy and the avenger." vs 2

As a child, I understood that God uses children and weak things to confound the wise, and that our praise gives glory and strength to God. I even understood about God's enemies, both satan and those who work with him. What I didn't get was the part about the avenger. 

I remember my mom explaining what an avenger is:
           In ancient Israel, they had a way to judge between accidental death and murder. There were twelve cities, called cities of refuge, where someone could run to for a hearing if they killed someone by accident and did not hate them before. Why run? The Torah was pretty clear: life must be taken (or atoned for) by another life. So, the family of the killed person would choose a person to run after the killer, and if he caught him before reaching the city of refuge, he would kill him. 
          At the gates of these cities of refuge was the usual council of wise men, reviewing the various issues people brought before them and rendering justice. An accidental killer would run to these men and present his case. If he was indeed guilty of murder, the elders would turn him over to the Avenger. Life must be taken for life. If he truly were innocent, he would be sentenced to live in that city until the death of the high priest, for life must still be atoned for by another life. If he left that city before the death of the high priest, he was in danger of the Avenger once again. 

You can read all about it yourself in Numbers 35:11-28, and Deuteronomy 19:4-13

The question remained in my mind. Why would praising God still the avenger? After all, we don't use the Torah's system today. We live under a democratic government that handles issues like murder and accidents with it's own courts. We're not in danger of an avenger. 

Or are we?

As I rocked Jude and meditated on this passage, YEARS after memorizing it, God showed it to me.

By the Law of God, I'm the guilty party. For, "all have sinned" and, "the wages of sin is death." Romans 3:23, 6:23. I am worthy of death, same as this killer in Leviticus. What's more, I too, am a murderer, for Jesus said that whoever hates someone is the same as a murderer. Matthew 5:21-22. I needed to run to a place of refuge, because the Avenger sought my life. He was chasing after me, wanting to steal, kill, and destroy my life. John 10:10. After all, I rightfully deserved to die. Revelation 12:10b.

But I can praise the Lord, because He has permanently stilled the Avenger! I ran to the Refuge. 2 Samuel 22:3. He deemed me worth saving, told me to abide in Him, and the Avenger could not harm me. Why? The Great High Priest has already died. Mark 10:45. He died in my place, atoning for my sin so that I could henceforth live for Him. Hebrews 4:14-16.

WOW! So worth the wait to see this passage as God intends for me, as a New Testament believer, to read it.