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Today's Readings: Joshua 20,21 | Isaiah 26,27 | Hebrew 10

Reading 1 - Josh 20:2,3

"Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood" (Josh 20:2,3).

These six cities of refuge could guarantee one's life for a time, but not for eternity. This only the seventh city of refuge (that is, Zion: Exo 21:13,14) can do. "We have a strong city, salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks" (Isa 26:1).

With three cities west of Jordan, and three east, spaced out from north to south, and the seventh city of refuge being Jerusalem, in the approximate center of the land, the whole seven cities of refuge may be compared, roughly, to the seven-branched lampstand, or menorah.

In the land of Canaan, cities of refuge were so arranged, that any man might reach one of them within half a day at the most. The main roads leading to each of the cities were strictly preserved, every river was bridged, and every obstruction removed, so that the man who fled might find an unimpeded path to the refuge. Once a year the city elders went along the roads and inspected them -- nothing must cause the fugitive, through delay, to be overtaken and slain. How wonderfully do the promises of the gospel remove stumbling blocks from the way! Wherever there were side-roads and forks, there were erected signposts, with the inscription upon them -- "This way to the city of refuge!"

Likewise, every ecclesia -- and every member of every ecclesia -- ought to stand ready to direct every "fugitive" to the ultimate place of safety. Signs should be erected, and nothing should be allowed to stand in the way: "This is the way to the cross of Christ, and to the gospel of saving truth. 'Come unto Christ, and you will find rest!' "

Reading 2 - Isa 26:20

"Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by" (Isa 26:20).

This verse alludes to both the ark of Noah (Gen 7:16) and the passover of Moses (Exo 12:22,23) -- the doors shut, the protecting presence of the angel of Yahweh, while all outside was hopelessness and death. But the most direct historical context is the action of Hezekiah who, when he received the threatening message from Sennacherib, promptly went to the house of God, secluding himself there to pray (Isa 37:1,14,15). Thus was Jerusalem made a strong city, the walls thereof appointed to salvation (Isa 26:1); and the people who fled to the city were protected from the Assyrian host by the Divine Hand. But the "chambers" of protection can be anywhere that a believer turns to God for help. So Jesus can exhort his followers: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Mat 6:6).

Jewish men wore a garment called a "talith", "talis", or "prayer shawl", all the time, not just at prayer. "Talith" consists of two Hebrew words; "tal" (tent) and "ith" (little). Thus, each man had his own little tent. (The apostle Paul was a Jewish Pharisee, but also a tentmaker. Some believe that he made prayer shawls, not tents to live in.) Since all Jews could not worship in the Tent of Meeting at one time, God gave to each Jew his own private sanctuary where he could meet with God. In prayer, the man would pull it up over his head, forming a tent, where he could retreat to call upon Yahweh. It was intimate, private, and set apart from anyone else -- enabling him to totally focus upon God. It was his prayer closet.

Reading 3 - Heb 10:25

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb 10:25).

Only two "rites" are absolutely commanded to the believer: baptism, and the Breaking of Bread. By the first we join God's family, and by the second we regularly reaffirm our membership in this family.

It is surprising that there are any with full opportunity to attend regularly who are content to be at the Breaking of Bread just now and then. For this most important service is essentially a thanksgiving. A casual attitude toward it, with irregular attendance, in effect declares, "I am thankful to God for the Lord Jesus Christ and what he has done for me, but not much! And there are other things which I regard as being more important."

Put down in black and white, this looks horrible. But is there really anything unfair about such a diagnosis?

Would there be such a careless attitude to the Table of the Lord if it were properly appreciated what this meeting can mean? Consider the familiar words, "My blood of the new covenant... shed... for the remission of sins" (Mat 26:28).

Here is the identical phrase which is used about our baptism into Christ. These two holy rites are designed to supplement one another. Baptism washes away every sin committed up to that moment. But -- such is human frailty and human thinking -- spotless robes of righteousness invariably begin to become drab and soiled. However, the disciple who lives by faith in Christ knows that with the Memorial Service comes remission (forgiveness) of sins. There the robe of righteousness resumes its original brightness.

Yet faced with such startling but delightful truths as these, there are some who are indifferent to this most important thing in life, and do not mind openly asserting, by their lack of enthusiasm, that this is how they feel!

From time to time, believers find themselves away from their homes, and their home ecclesias, on a Sunday. Such times are fine opportunities to get to know other Christadelphians, by attending memorial meetings of other ecclesias. A little foresight and planning before weekend trips or vacations can be spiritually rewarding, in experiencing at first hand the true worldwide family fellowship of our brotherhood. A week or two spent on business in a strange city far from home, rather than being a desolate and lonely time, can be a wonderful time of sharing with people who are truly "family" -- family in a more meaningful sense, quite often, than one's own natural family. As Jesus said,

"Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Pointing to his disciples, he said, Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (Mat 12:48-50).

There will be times, of course, when it will be clearly impossible -- or extremely difficult -- to attend a Sunday meeting of Christadelphians. What should be done then? The partaking of the bread and wine, accompanied by suitable Bible readings and prayers, can be a tremendously fresh and rewarding experience -- even for an individual or a couple temporarily isolated from all other spiritual companionship.


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