We have been talking about Job and how God’s answer to his “Why?’ was creation. The “festive impertinence of nature” to the “whys” of humanity is a part of Jobs story and ours as well. The other thing that happens in the contemplation of Job and the nature of suffering is humanity’s need to not allow God to be God. There comes a point for Job, and for all of us that we will demand that God justify Himself. Job gets to that point and realizes that he needs a “Go’el” in chapter 19. The picture is of the Redeemer or even a referee that will keep God’s just punishment away and keep Job from seeking to justify himself.
There is someone called the Go’el ha-dam, or the blood avenger or blood redeemer. The idea was that God had fixed the penalty for murder and that a man who shed a man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed. This was a powerful issue as you can imagine. It can also be tremendously retrograde as humans get together for political and financial reasons and seek to do commerce or act in any kind of meaningfully creative way. The blood avenger was duty bound to kill a killer and in some instances kill the killers family too. The Hatfields and the McCoys come to mind as does the Godfather. One of the more sad and depressing examples is T.E. Lawrence’s execution of Hamed at the Wadi Kitan. Lawrence shoots a murderer and a thief with the calculating thought that he would not be qualified for feud and that “no revenge could lie against my followers for I was a stranger and kinless”. (Seven Pillars of Wisdom – T.E Lawrence).
Against this backdrop is the concept of so called sanctuary cities. There were six of them in the Bible and you can read about them in Joshua 20. They were Kadesh, Shechem, Kiriath Arba, Bezer, Ramoth and Golan. These were cities where someone who accidently killed someone else could go and a wait a trial, to see if it really was an accident. If they were proven to have committed the crime on purpose they would be executed. The point of the sanctuary city was due process without fear of the blood avenger getting to them before the process could move forward. If someone could show me how sanctuary cities today serve due process I would be willing to listen.
The last time I wrote about sanctuary cities someone wrote and commented that Wittenberg might have been an early sanctuary city. It may have been but it had basically one sanctuary seeker and he didn’t even seek it. When Luther left Worms he was determined to meet his fate what ever it might have been but Frederick had him kidnapped and taken to the Wartburg. He did give Luther sanctuary and political cover, he refused to extradite Luther to Rome and for this we commemorate him on May 5, his death day. Amazingly, Frederick never met Luther..
Here is the prayer for his commemoration day.
Collect for the Day: Heavenly Father, You provided wisdom and skill to Frederick, as elector of Saxony during the early years of the Reformation, using His rule and authority to protect Martin Luther and preserve the preaching of the Gospel.
Graciously regard all Your servants who make, administer, and judge the laws of this nation, and look with favor upon all the rulers of the earth. Grant them wisdom and understanding that they might provide sanctuary for Your Church to continue to proclaim the true faith; for You live and reign with the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect found in Celebrating The Saints by William Weedon, CPH, page 77)