Is God a Father or a Judge? (Deuteronomy 19)

What do you do when you have a problem?

It could be a work problem, a relationship problem, a mental health problem. Who do you go to?

Do you call up a friend? Your mom? Do you lay it all out before your significant other or your therapist? Do you suck it up and solve it yourself?

I like to solve things by myself. If that doesn’t work, I have to twist my own arm to get myself to ask someone else for help.

Strangely, asking God for help is often a last resort. It’s an afterthought. Oh yeah, I’ll pray about it. Can anyone else relate? Why are we like this?

It’s a paradox that’s even more vexing when we consider that the Bible is literally a book God wrote to help us solve our problems. In Deuteronomy 19, He gives the Israelites instructions on how to solve a very specific problem.

The problem? Accidentally killing someone. Happens to all of us. If an Israelite happened to find his or herself in this extremely unfortunate situation, the solution God gave was simple: run to a City of Refuge.

Cities of Refuge were exactly what they sounded like: entire towns dedicated to hiding and protecting people. Here, a falsely accused murderer could find safety and justice. Here, an Israelite with a very bad problem could find help.

Where’s my city of refuge?

Welcome to the courthouse

What if everywhere is your city of refuge?

The Israelites had priests and judges and designated cities, but we have the Holy Spirit. Anywhere we are, whatever our problem is, we can bring it before Jesus.

Somehow, no matter how many times we’ve heard those exact words, it still feels unnatural to actually carry them out!

Prayer feels like the cop-out answer. It’s not enough to solve real-world problems. We might pray and feel comforted, but will we pray and see anything get done?

Enter Deuteronomy 19. As it describes the cities of refuge and the standards and safeguards put in place to ensure fair trials, it shows us a God who is fair and thoughtful. A God who carefully put together a system to protect His children from the danger of really bad problems. A God who sees the whole picture and makes the best judgment possible.

A God who is a Judge, and a trustworthy one.

Welcome to true love

Anyone who has been wronged would want a really good Judge. Anyone who has been falsely accused would seek out a trustworthy, fair Judge. Innocent people have no fear before a Judge.

But you and I are not innocent. And we know it.

We know that half of our problems are caused by our own mistakes. We know what we did last night and what we’re planning on doing tomorrow, and that makes us feel like God won’t be interested in solving our problem. We know how broken we are, and we would rather pretend to be able handle our mess than show it to God.

Again, Deuteronomy 19 begs to differ. It’s in the middle of the Old Testament, sandwiched between chapters that bluntly describe the punishment God visits on sinners, but lest we conjure up an image of an angry God, growling at us and our mistakes, this chapter reveals another aspect of God’s character.

Verses 8-9: “If the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as He promised on oath to your ancestors, and gives you the whole land He promised them, because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today – to love the Lord your God and to walk always in obedience to Him – then you are to set aside three more cities.”

This is a God who makes and keeps promises. This is a God who dreams not of destroying His children, but giving them what they need, and then some. This is a God who is eager to show you mercy, eager to save you, eager to point you down the right path. This is a God who wants to give you joy, knowing that the only way to joy is through Him.

This is a God who is a Father, and a devoted one.

“You can come to Me.”

And who better to go to? This chapter makes it clear that there is no one else. Friends and family love us, but they don’t give wise and perfect advice. Therapists give smart advice, but they don’t love us unconditionally and unreservedly.

Our Father and our Judge is the single best Person to go to with our problems. What’s stopping us? Why do we forget how amazing He is?

Maybe it’s the knowledge that coming to God isn’t a one-off. It’s not a one-hour therapy session or a quick chat with a friend. It’s a lifelong commitment. It’s a surrender of the way we like to do things, the sins we hold dear. It’s a transformation of our hearts and lives.

Maybe we don’t want to do that yet. Our Judge sees what we don’t see. He knows we can’t keep avoiding Him. He knows that the longer we try to solve our own problems, the more likely it is that our problems and our sins will lead us down a slippery slope, ending in turning our backs on Him forever.

Meanwhile, our Father loves us. He calls us to Him. He promises to take our problems entirely on His shoulders, leaving us with nothing but freedom, and peace, and joy. He tells us about the ultimate solution to all the world’s problems, eternal life with Him forever.

And He keeps His arms open, outstretched, waiting for us to come to Him.

What do you think? What keeps you from bringing all of your problems to God? Comment below and then share this post!

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