Joshua 20 Good intentions alone do not always lead to favourable consequences

Joshua 20

Then the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, 2 “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘ Designate the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, 3 that the manslayer who kills any person unintentionally, without premeditation, may flee there, and they shall become your refuge from the avenger of blood. 4 He shall flee to one of these cities, and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and state his case in the hearing of the elders of that city; and they shall take him into the city to them and give him a place, so that he may dwell among them. 5 Now if the avenger of blood pursues him, then they shall not deliver the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor without premeditation and did not hate him beforehand. 6 He shall dwell in that city until he stands before the congregation for judgment, until the death of the one who is high priest in those days. Then the manslayer shall return to his own city and to his own house, to the city from which he fled. ’”
7 So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath- arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. 8 Beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, they designated Bezer in the wilderness on the plain from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan from the tribe of Manasseh. 9 These were the appointed cities for all the sons of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them, that whoever kills any person unintentionally may flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stands before the congregation.


After announcing the Ten Commandments, Moses was to make provisions for the future establishment of cities of refuge (see Exodus 21:12-13). These cities were safe havens for unintentional manslayers until they stood before the court of assembly. In the ancient world, the rite of vendetta was handed down to later generations until vengeance was achieved. In today’s devotion, we understand that even if no ill will is intended, our thoughtless actions can yield dire consequences. Even our good intentions may not lead to favourable results. Therefore, we must be careful and conscientious when going about making seemingly mundane decisions. The city of refuge is the icon of God’s wisdom and mercy in shielding believers from the brunt of youthful brashness.


The Law made provisions for refuge for accidental manslaughter as opposed to premeditated murder. In the case of premeditated murder, the guilty party would be put to death according to the Law. However, if a person killed another accidentally, he could seek refuge in one of the six cities until his case was heard before the assembly of judgment. Involuntary manslaughter could mean an intention to injure but not to kill. It could also infer the act of thoughtlessly putting another person’s life in danger.  If he was acquitted of murder, he was to reside at the city of refuge until the high priest died. Thereafter, the manslayer was free to return to his home which could be many years later. The six cities of refuge were located on both sides of Jordan River.


Good intentions alone do not always lead to favourable consequences. 

We must always think long and hard and let our emotions settle before making a move. A word spoken cannot be taken back. There are no actions that are without consequences… even for transgressions committed unintentionally. In the case when a man killed another unintentionally and acquitted, the acquitted manslayer must continue to reside in the city of refuge away from his home until the death of the high priest. Even after returning to his home, he must still keep vigilant against the avenger of blood for the rest of his life. Notwithstanding the hurts that he has caused to another, the consequences against the acquitted manslayer were staggering. However, the power of God’s grace is greater than the consequences of our sins. And God is more than able to restore those whose lives we have hurt. The apostle Paul taught concerning the restorative properties of grace, “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” Romans 5:20. Therefore, we must be careful and conscientious when going about making seemingly mundane decisions. For every action induces a just reaction at some point in time.

Some people are accustomed to making snappy decisions, being led by their complacency and thoughtlessness thinking that God is always at hand to mop up their mistakes. Hence, believers should always commit their ways to God and be conscientious in seeking His counsel. I have seen people lost their life savings because they were led by their heart rather than by their mind. There are many young people who always have their parents at hand are never accustomed to thinking long and hard before making decisions. Good intentions alone do not always lead to favourable consequences.

The city of refuge is not a punishment but a school of wisdom for abundant living.

God is merciful and will not allow us to take the full brunt of our mistakes. The period of residency at the city of refuge was meant to provide occasion for reflection and repentance for transgressions committed albeit unintentionally. God makes provisions for corrective discipline so that believers may feel the pain and become wiser in the process. The focal event that changes everything and every person residing in the cities of refuge is the death of the high priest. It is by the death of the high priest that all “prisoners” held by their unintentional transgressions are freed to return home. The city of refuge is God’s brainchild of preserving justice and implementing corrective discipline in the Israelite society. It is an icon of God’s wisdom and forgiveness through Christ.

There are people who could not forgive themselves for committing mistakes even though not entirely due to their fault. Such must learn to accept their imperfections and see mistakes and discipline as a necessity towards abundant living. The city of refuge is not a sentence but a school of wisdom for abundant living. It is purposed to teach us and to shield us from the brunt of our youthful brashness. Overtime, we will be exonerated and our lot fully restored to us. Given that believers are still works in progress, we must give ourselves time to process the events being assured of a full restoration in God’s time.


Are you accustomed to making decisions apart from the counsel of God? There are decisions that possess far-reaching and wide-ranging consequences. Therefore, one must wait until the rush of enthusiasm and passion dissipates before he can see things more objectively. Decisions involving career change, marriage and immigration must be yielded to the full counsel of God over a of period of time. In doing so, we shield ourselves from unnecessary hardship and loss of time and resources.

Dear Lord, forgive me for my conceited attitude towards my family and my work community. I humble myself to listen to your counsel and to the advice of people around me. I thank you for teaching me and restoring me from my past follies. Cause me to be wise and patient in all my decisions. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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