Posted in encouragement, theology

“To the city of refuge!”

By Elizabeth Prata

Left, Illustrator of Charles Foster, The Story of the Bible, 1884, “City of Refuge”.

Asylum. Sanctuary Cities. Manslaughter. Innocent. These are judicial terms that are not new, the men of Bible times knew them and we know these terms today.

Our God is a God of justice. He knows what is in a man, and it’s sin. He knows we hate and murder. He knows that when blood is shed, blood must pay. Therefore, God made it possible for wrongful shedding of human blood to be avenged. The nearest relative of the wrongfully killed person (“murderer”) may hunt the perp down and kill him with no repercussions to himself. (Numbers 35:19, 21, Deuteronomy 19:12).

However, there are times when blood is shed accidentally, or unknowingly. This person is called a “Manslayer” as opposed to the aforementioned ‘murderer’. If a man accidentally killed another man, God made a way for that person to be able to flee to a City of Refuge, so called in the Bible, and hurl himself upon the judicial investigation of the priests or elders of that city. Here’s how Charles Spurgeon explains it:

You will remember that when the children of Israel were settled in Canaan, God ordained that they should set apart certain cities to be called the Cities of Refuge, that to these the man-slayer might flee for security. If he killed another unawares, and had no malice aforethought, he might flee at once to the City of Refuge; and if he could enter its gates before the avenger of blood should overtake him, he would be secure.

Cities of Refuge were carefully selected at strategic locations so that no person living in the Land would have to run far to access it. They were equally spread out. A person anywhere in the Land could reach them in a day or less. The Cities of Refuge were open to strangers, too.

Cities of Refuge (source Smith’s Bible Dictionary) were six Levitical cities specially chosen for refuge to the involuntary homicide until released from banishment by the death of the high priest. (Numbers 35:6,13,15; Joshua 20:2,7,9) There were three on each side of Jordan.

Source

Kedesh, in Naphtali. (1 Chronicles 6:76)

Shechem, in Mount Ephraim. (Joshua 21:21; 1 Chronicles 6:67; 2 Chronicles 10:1)

Hebron, in Judah. (Joshua 21:13; 2 Samuel 5:5; 1 Chronicles 6:55; 29:27; 2 Chronicles 11:10)

On the east side of Jordan –

Bezer in the Wilderness, in the tribe of Reuben, in the plains of Moab. (4:43; Joshua 20:8; 21:36).

Ramoth-Gilead, in the tribe of Gad. (4:43; Joshua 21:38; 1 Kings 22:3)

Goolan in Bashan, in the half-tribe of Manasseh. (4:43; Joshua 21:27; 1 Chronicles 6:71)

What you had to do, if, say you were chopping wood and your axe head flew off and killed the man next to you, is run to the city. Upon arrival, you would have to tell the elders what happened. You’d have to make it there before the ‘avenger of blood’, usually the nearest next of kin to the dead man, gets you and kills you.

The elders would provide you a place to stay and food, until they met to discuss your case.

If the case is adjudicated as accidental, you would be allowed to remain in the city of refuge freely until the High Priest died. After that you could go home. If you left the city of refuge prior to the death of the High Priest, the avenger of blood could perform the death penalty without penalty to himself.

I find all this amazing, that God provided opportunities for justice in these cases. What I find even more fascinating is just how seriously the Israelites took the cities of refuge.

These cities of refuge were a fact, real cities with real roads leading up to them. The roads leading up to it would need to be maintained. They erected signs at intervals so that the fleeing man-slayer would know where to go. They maintained the signs regularly also. Spurgeon again from the same link as above:

We are told by the rabbis that once in the year, or oftener, the magistrates of the district were accustomed to survey the high roads which led to these cities. They carefully gathered up all the stones, and took the greatest possible precautions that there should be no stumbling-blocks in the way which might cause the poor fugitive to fall, or might by any means impede him in his hasty course. We hear, moreover, and we believe the tradition to be grounded in fact, that all along the road there were hand-posts with the word “Refuge” written very legibly upon them, so that when the fugitive came to a crossroad, he might not need to question for a single moment which was the way of escape; but seeing the well-known word “Refuge,” he kept on his breathless and headlong course until he had entered the suburb of the City of Refuge, and he was then at once completely safe. Spurgeon

It’s true about the roads and the signs, not just tradition. This is from the Jewish Encyclopedia, written after Spurgeon preached that message:

Corresponding to the care for the proper location of these cities were the other ordinances referring to them. The roads leading to them were marked by sign-posts at the crossroads, with the inscription “Miḳlaṭ” (Refuge); the roads were very broad—32 ells, twice the regulation width—smooth and level, in order that the fugitive might not be hindered in any way (Sifre l.c.; Tosef. l.c. 5; Mak. 10b; B. B. 100b). The cities chosen must be neither too small nor too large: in the former case a scarcity of food might arise, and the refugee might consequently be forced to leave his Asylum and imperil himself; in the latter case the crowds of strangers would make it easy for the avenger of blood to enter undetected. There were other measures of precaution in favor of the refugee. Dealing in weapons or implements of the chase was forbidden in the cities of refuge. Furthermore they had to be situated in a populous district, so that a violent attack by the avenger of blood might be repelled, if necessary. Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906

God is incredible the way He set up society in those days. I look forward to the real, actual Millennial Kingdom, the 1000 year kingdom when God fulfills His promises to Israel and we live with Him on earth- Jesus as King and David ruling as under-King.

Meanwhile, the spiritual lesson is this: though there are sanctuary cities on earth today, there is one city to which every person on earth should flee. Or sins are high crimes against a Most Holy God. We all deserve the death penalty. However, if we flee to Jesus the High Priest, we may throw ourselves at His feet and plead His blood to cover our sins. If we repent and trust Him as Savior, He will forgive the crime and we will escape the penalty- which is death.

And since Jesus as High Priest never dies, we will live without fear of death forever.

Hallelujah!

 

Posted in encouragement, theology

The First Forced Isolation & Cabin Fever: A Sailing Story

By Elizabeth Prata

cabin verse

I’ve been writing a bit about my sailing adventures here on the blog. People seem to really like these anecdotes. The Lord in His sovereignty allowed me to be a liveaboard sailor with my husband for two years, sailing from Maine to the Bahamas and back. It was before I was saved. I was in my thirties.

I see now with 20/20 spiritual hindsight, there are many lessons I am applying that stem from that time. Those essays are linked below. Continue reading “The First Forced Isolation & Cabin Fever: A Sailing Story”

Posted in encouragement, theology

Encouragement: We have peace, not as the world has, but that Jesus gives

Social distancing update:

Jesus is still Creator of all things, Sustainer of all things, Ordainer of all things. He has not changed. He has not moved. He is our Rock, and worthy to be praised in any and all circumstances. Let’s work our minds and hearts and mouths toward praise and joy in these times. Continue reading “Encouragement: We have peace, not as the world has, but that Jesus gives”

Posted in encouragement, theology

Modesty: Not just about showing skin

By Elizabeth Prata

birdhouse2

In our area of the world the Spring Equinox begins this Thursday, March 19. It’s already warm outside. The trees and flowers are blooming. The sun is strong. With the warm weather, especially in the south, comes lighter clothing…and with that, the usual essays from Christian women about female modesty.

The Merriam Webster simple definition of modesty is-

1: freedom from conceit or vanity
2: propriety in dress, speech, or conduct

1 Timothy 2:9 says women are to adorn themselves with “respectable apparel” and with “good deeds.” Of course, the former is literal and the latter is figurative. Here’s the full verse-

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,

1 Peter 3:3 also speaks to modesty-

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—

The Greek word adorns in the 1 Timothy verse is kosméō, from which we get cosmetics, or, to adorn the face. It’s defined: means make compellingly attractive, very appealing (inviting, awesomely gorgeous).

In the context, Paul is speaking specifically about women’s comportment in public assemblies of worship, but the principles can and should be applied. Matthew Henry wrote:

They must be very modest in their apparel, not affecting gaudiness, gaiety, or costliness (you may read the vanity of a person’s mind in the gaiety and gaudiness of his habit), because they have better ornaments with which they should adorn themselves, with good works.

That’s an important thought, that one can read the vanity in a person’s mind in reading the ‘gaity’ of their dress. Let’s explain it a bit further. God intends modesty to be an attitude of humility. The two are linked.

When Jesus said ‘what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person’ (Matthew 15:18), it is the same with 1 Timothy 2:9. What manner of apparel we choose to put on the body reflects an attitude of mind and heart.

When we dress ourselves, what is it we want to put on display?

Normally when we think of ‘modesty’ we think of showing skin, like in two-piece skimpy bathing suits, too-short dresses or shorts, midriff shirts, and the like. Older Christian women like me urge the younger to cover the skin. Too much skin on display isn’t modest. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19). We are not our own, but belong first to Christ and then if we’re married, to our husbands. (as they belong to us, in a one-flesh union).

We’re not to put our bodies on display, but as in the second part of the 1 Timothy 2 exhortation in verse 10, adorn ourselves with good works.

Modesty isn’t only about whether we’re showing too much skin though. There are other aspects of being modest. I want to speak briefly about too-tight clothing, and of age-appropriate clothing.

I remember when I was about 50 years old. At my job another lady who was also about 50 gave away some of her clothes and asked me if I wanted any. Always looking for an excuse NOT to go shopping, I said “sure, thanks!”

When I got home and opened the bag I was briefly disappointed. It was filled with velour track suits and the like. “These are old lady fashions” I thought to myself.

But wait, I was now an ‘old lady’! It was time for me to re-orient my thinking about how my style should match my age. Just so, if you see a 60 year old woman wearing a baby doll dress, it looks strange, and that’s because it isn’t age-appropriate.

beth moore's outfit at IF 2020 2

beth moore's outfit at IF 2020

Above are two photos of Beth Moore preaching a Bible lesson to the audience at this year’s IF:Gathering. Though technically her skin is covered, the outfit is still immodest. We see the attitude of Moore’s heart isn’t modest, and it isn’t age-appropriate. Her inner attitude is reflected in her choice of clothing. The attitude here is one of shameless body display and total lack of respect for the purpose of her invitation, which was to talk about Jesus. Instead, we see high heel ankle boots, black jeans so tight one can see every hill or valley, and a see-thru sheer blouse. It is immodest. It isn’t age-appropriate.

Moore is a 62 year old grandmother, wearing goth-like apparel more akin to what an unsaved 13 year old would choose.

Her apparel is a choice to display her body to one and all and is of course competing with attention from the One whom she is supposed to value higher than one’s self.

Ladies, in Genesis 3:21 God provided clothing for Adam and Eve. Apparently the fig leaves weren’t enough to cover the body, over which they now felt shame since they had become aware of their nakedness. Clothing is important.

The outward adornment of clothing was used by the biblical writers to signal the inner spiritual nature of God’s people. Once elegantly adorned (Ezek. 16:10–14), Israel sinned and became dressed in filthy rags (Isa. 64:6; Zech. 3:3–4; cp. Rev. 3:4). Those who become righteous are clothed in fine white robes (Zech. 3:4–5; Rev. 3:4–5; 7:9, 13). Source: Wright, P. H. (2003). Fashion, IN Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 560). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

When you put on clothes during this warm-weather time, or any time, what statement are you making?

Ladies, don’t wear fig leaves. Minimal covering isn’t enough. Men’s brains work overtime to process and enhance what they see visually. Don’t help them along. Be demure, be modest, and keep your body for Christ and for your husband (to be).

Posted in encouragement, theology

Believers cannot die

By Elizabeth Prata

In the Shane & Shane song Before the Throne, we sing the lyric,

One in himself, I cannot die…

Now we read in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 1:22,

and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

We have His seal, the deposit of the guarantee of the Spirit in us for…what? Some versions say for what is to come. So…what exactly?

It’s a big subject but today I want to leave you with one short thought.

A guarantee of eternal life. We cannot die because He that is in us cannot die. We have the Spirit in us, the third Person of the Trinity, IN US, and since He is eternal, we are eternal in life.

The Greek word pledge in the 2Corinthians verse means, earnest-money, a large part of the payment, given in advance as a security that the whole will be paid afterwards.

Sure, all souls who ever lived, even for a few weeks in a womb, all the way to the end of a long life in the triple digits, die physically. We will awaken at the end of all things. Some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt, says Daniel 12:2.

Those of us who are in Christ cannot die spiritually, when we are awakened by His trumpet call it will be to LIFE eternal, the Spirit guarantees it! We cannot die. The eternal Spirit in us cannot die, so we will not die.

There is no guarantee, no deposit, more sure than the Third Person of the Trinity, making a pledge of His own self, for the promise of life eternal in glory.

glory

Posted in encouragement, theology

Our temptations

By Elizabeth Prata

I found these three items today and they matched so well I thought I’d pass them along to you for your consideration.

The verse below says that every man is tempted. Of course we know that the word man here is generic. It isn’t saying that every man is tempted and no woman is tempted. The word in Greek means no one, or literally, ‘not even one’. It means that every person on earth who ever loved or will live, is tempted to sin. (Except Jesus). Continue reading “Our temptations”

Posted in encouragement, theology

Dock Queens: A Sailing Story

By Elizabeth Prata

I was a liveaboard sailor for a few years. We usually anchored out somewhere for free. If we had to get to shore for supplies, we’d take the dinghy and putt-putt in to land. We went to a dock rarely but sometimes you had to. You’d need to fill the water tank, or the fuel tank, or we were expecting a delivery of something from the marine store that the dinghy was too small to transport over the waves and marine traffic.

We enjoyed strolling the dock and seeing other boats. We liked observing the different tie-ups people employed, or learned different knots for our ropes. We liked the sway of the boats at dock or hearing the masts creak in the wind. Nautical sounds. Continue reading “Dock Queens: A Sailing Story”

Posted in encouragement, theology

Some encouragement in dark days: Those who love Christ Alone

By Elizabeth Prata

I’m upset over the feminism in my denomination. I was raised by a feminist mother and my sister’s a feminist professor at a state University. Liberal to the core and so, so blind. I have skin in the game. However, I want to take a moment to extol the glory that is the unblemished church.

Last Saturday, Saturday Feb 15, dawned cold and rainy. It was hovering at freezing, and dark. No more miserable a Saturday morning could have been scheduled for the mini-conference at church. Yet 40+ people came. Was it a breakfast potluck, warm & full of good food? Was it a birthday party, with promise of music, laughter, and cake? No. It was a viewing of the intense 2-hour religious documentary American Gospel: Christ Alone. College students, young marrieds, couples with children, older saints, came in ready to learn, exalt, and fellowship over doctrinal truths. Continue reading “Some encouragement in dark days: Those who love Christ Alone”

Posted in encouragement, theology

Drifting Away: A Sailing Story

By Elizabeth Prata

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. (Hebrews 2:1).

The question was raised at my Bible Group, how does a Christian prevent developing a hardened heart? One wise older man said by staying in the Word.

The Word is the only antidote for developing poor habits, shrinking our biblical worldview, and drifting away. I agree.

The word drift away used in the Hebrews verse in Greek means-

properly, to float (flow) alongside, drifting past a destination because pushed along by current. /pararrhyéō (“drift away from”) only occurs in Heb 2:1 where it refers to going spiritually adrift – “sinning by slipping away” (from God’s anchor). 3901 /pararrhyéō (“gradually drift away”) means to “lapse” into spiritual defeat, describing how we slowly move away from our moorings in Christ.

Paul often used nautical allusions and marine metaphors. They click with me because for two years I lived aboard a sailboat and traveled up and down the eastern United States’ seaboard and over to the Bahamas and back. We usually sailed during the day, unless we were on an overnight passage out in the ocean. But if we traveled down the Intracoastal Waterway, we’d find a snug spot to anchor in at night and went to bed after the sun sank.

The anchor becomes all-important. The anchor holds you in place, prevents you from drifting and damaging other boats anchored or moored nearby, and keeps you afloat rather than crashing into the rocks or going aground.

We spent a lot of time tending the anchor. When we initially set it, we’d take time to ensure it was set correctly. Is the rode taut and not tangled? Are the flukes digging into the ground? Is there enough depth under us for when we swing with the tide or current?

Then we’d watch it a while. We took reference points ashore to compare with our position. One reference point isn’t really enough. Drift is deceptive and incremental. You could be drifting away and still seem like you’re lined up with the same reference point. So we’d take two references. Three references are better so you can triangulate.

During the night, we’d sleep lightly, listening carefully for any change in the pattern of the waves slapping the bow, or any other untoward noises that meant there was likely a problem.

We spent a lot of time tending the anchor.

Do I spend an equal amount of time tending the anchor of my spiritual life, the Word? Do I treat it carefully, thoughtfully? Do I employ reference points to ensure I’m not drifting? Reference points in our spiritual lives that help us against drifting away from the truth are: visiting our prayer closet, studying His word, corporate worship, small groups, discipling and being discipled, and so on. Are we in position, standing firm in the center line of that narrow way, not going to the right or the left? Are we vigilant, listening for any variation in pattern of our sanctification in life?

We spent much time tending the anchor because our lives depended on it. We should take an even greater amount of time tending the anchor of our spiritual life because our spiritual life depends on it. When Paul says we must pay closer attention, the word in Greek means exceedingly, abundantly, vehemently.

When man sails upon the waters, he is not in his element. It is a foreign environment. It’s an environment that’s hostile, with many things in it either actively or benignly trying to kill him. Just so, Christian man on earth is not in his element. There are many things in this environment actively or benignly trying to kill him. We should pay the closest attention so we do not drift away.

Stay anchored to the Word, in position, with lots of reference points and a growing biblical worldview.

anchor
The Bahamian water was so clear we could see the anchor down 20 ft, at night

blog china doll

Posted in encouragement, theology

Night Passages: A Sailing Story

By Elizabeth Prata

We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. (Isaiah 59:10).

I lived on a sailboat for two years. We made a journey from Maine to the Bahamas and back, twice. We mainly followed the Intracoastal Waterway, a series of connected rivers, bays, channels, and canals that allow marine traffic up and down the coast without having to sail the open sea. Though, we did make passages “outside” too.

Sometimes we made overnight passages on the outside. If we wanted to get to a place more quickly. or as quickly as one can in a sailboat that goes 5 mph lol, we’d hop outside and make a 24 or 48 hour continuous passage. This was a carefully considered decision, because we did not have self-steering nor did we have GPS. Night watches meant you stood in the cockpit, which was open to the elements, and with hands on the wheel for hours at a time, you steered, maintained course, and watched, peering into the gloomy dark. It was full hands-on.

Night passages are strange. You’re on the open ocean, but it’s busier than you’d think. You’re in a shipping lane, so often you’d see distant red or green navigation lights on another boat or a ship passing a mile or two away. There are whales below, who usually know not to breach up under the boat but you still hope they don’t. There could be a lost container that fell off a ship lurking just under the surface ready to sink you. This has actually happened to other mariners. A floating log or telephone pole ready to impale the boat and it goes down.

The ocean looks like a wide-open space but when you’re going along under sail at a full gallop over the bounding main into the dark, it’s disconcerting.

If you happen to be in a room you’re not familiar with and the lights go out, you grope your way around. You carefully place your feet, you wait for your eyes to adjust, you feel your way along the wall. You stagger and totter, unbalanced and unsure.

Do you stride confidently around in the dark? No, of course not.

But that is what the boat did, with us on it. And we never knew we were lost, blindly stumbling around this earth at the sufferance of our God who was angry with us every day. Our spiritual blindness was unknown to us and we strode around the earth as if we owned it, not even knowing we would fall into a pit.

The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. (Proverbs 4:19).

But if anyone walks at night, he will stumble, because he has no light. (John 11:10).

Yet,

If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. (John 11:9).

How refreshing it was to spot the lighthouse! When we saw that bright beam slicing through the dark, we were relieved. We knew we were about to be safe, the light had come.

How much MORE am I now safe, now relieved, that I have the eternal Light. His Light is in me as the Holy Spirit, and around me as  fellow believers, and before me as His statutes and ways. The Light is above me as my future destination in glory, and I will dwell in the Light forever.

The lost know (deep down) they are lost. The unsaved know (deep down) they are in the dark. The mysteries of the visible universe are present before them, as it was to me, yet we suppress that truth in unrighteousness. It’s heartbreaking to see the lost stride confidently around in their dark, the blind leading the blind, heading for a pit and ignoring our cries and pleas to do the one thing that will open their eyes:

Repent.

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:15).

Then you once were blind, but now you see. I see the Light now, by His grace, and when my hand reaches out to grope my way, it is His hand that takes me, sustains me, guides me. I have HIS confidence, HIS light. In the darkness no more, my eternal life with Jesus rolls out before me as ocean billows, sparkling, luminous, radiant.

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