CITIES OF REFUGE
Candice and I frequently recount how the Lord has led us in our experience together. How He brought us together while attending college. How He opened the doors for entering into lifelong ministry together. How he gave us two children. How He has led from church to church and school to school in service to various communities.
There were forty distinct stages between Egypt and Jericho on Israel’s forty-year-long journey, recounted in Numbers 33. They were reminded of how the Lord led in their past history.
I was told on one occasion in a gathering of Adventists that we don’t need to be reminded of our past history. Our future is what is important. George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Those who work with young people in our schools state that it is not easy to get our youth to look at our history as a people. Maybe the antipathy of the old generation toward our history is a clue as to why the youth take a similar attitude.
An Inspired writer has stated: “In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”
There is such a rewriting of our SDA history known as revisionism. The reality of the past is reinterpreted so as to cast the players in a positive light; and thus, the present generation has inherited their mind-set. Since the human mind is susceptible to such revisionism, it is imperative that we allow Inspiration to accurately paint the portrait of our history in order that we might learn the lessons which it teachings and take action to correct the course. “We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel. . . But if all now would only see and confess and repent of their own course of action in departing from the truth of God, and following human devisings, then the Lord would pardon.”
It is a standard objection: “We don’t need to repent because Sister White never specifically called for repentance over the matter.”
For the same reason that Moses, during the Israelites’ forty years of wandering in the wilderness, never called for a renewed attempt to conquer Canaan through re-doing the Ai campaign. He recognized that Israel must wander the full forty years. The people’s sin was very deep and could not be truly eradicated until they all were buried. A new generation must take Canaan. So Ellen White recognized that we were forced to wait “in this world because of insubordination many more years as did the children of Israel.”
Repeatedly, from 1888 to the 1901 General Conference Session, she did most earnestly call for denominational repentance from the leadership on down. She hoped that the 1901 Conference would undo the 1888 unbelief (cf. p. 205). Later she was forced to write that “the result of the last General Conference  has been the greatest the most terrible sorrow of my life. No change was made.” (Letter Jan 15, 1903). By December 1901, she had come to realize this.
Did she ever make a call for denominational participation in the Latter Rain or the Loud Cry after that Dec. 7, 1901 letter? The famous appeal “Pray for the Latter Rain” found in TM 506-512 is dated March 2, 1897. At that time she was still hoping for a denominational repentance over the 1888 unbelief—only 9 years after 1888. She naturally hoped that the 1901 Conference would be the fulfillment of that 1897 appeal. But it wasn’t.
The actual “wilderness wandering” of this people appears to have begun with the 1901 Conference, or shortly after, where she says, “the leaders of our work . . . closed and bolted the door against the Spirit’s entrance. There was a stopping short of entire surrender to God. And hearts that might have been purified from all error were strengthened in wrong doing. The doors were barred against the heavenly current that would have swept away all evil. Men left their sins unconfessed. They built themselves up in wrong doing, and said to the Spirit of God, ‘Go Thy way for this time; when I have a more convenient season, I will call for Thee.’” Terrible words, indeed!
During the 1901 Session, Ellen White called for exactly the experience of denominational repentance that is proper now. She said: “Had thorough work been done during the last General Conference  at Battle Creek; had there been as God designed there should be, a breaking up of the fallow ground of the heart, by the men who had been bearing responsibilities [it must start with General Conference leadership]; had they, in humility of soul, led out in the work of confession and consecration; had they given evidence that they received the counsels and warnings sent by the Lord to correct their mistakes, there would have been one of the greatest revivals that there has been since the day of Pentecost. What a wonderful work could have been done for the vast company gathered in Battle Creek at the General Conference of 1901, if the leaders of our work had taken themselves in hand. But the work that all heaven was waiting to do as soon as men prepared the way, was not done.”
The crux of the repentance and reformation called for in 1901 was specifically a correction of 1888 wrongs: “I am ready to say to you today [April 11, 1901] that I am in harmony with the resolution. Many who have been more or less out of line since the Minneapolis meeting will be brought into line.”
But “the work that all heaven was waiting to do . . . was not done.” Hence, those “many who have been more or less out of line since the Minneapolis meeting” are still out of line, and the work has never been done.
Now, if she said that as a consequence of the 1901 failure, we must “remain in this world because of insubordination many more years as did the children of Israel,” does it not follow that as soon as those “many more years” are behind us and that generation have all gone to their rest, that the time has come to do what they failed to do? “Many” of us today are “more or less out of line” “ever since the Minneapolis meeting.” We don’t understand what happened there and we are still on the wrong side. There is just no way we can receive the Latter Rain again until we get back into “line.”
What does our Lord Jesus Christ call for in Rev 3:14-21? His call to “repent” is addressed to the leadership, and it is denominational. We cannot understand the true import of the Laodicean message when we suppress the facts of our own denominational history.
1888 and Calvary are both inspired-designations of a display of enmity against God. At Pentecost Peter charged the sin of Calvary on the Jews, and called upon them to repent (Acts 3:14, 15, 19). The same Holy Spirit charges upon us the sin of misunderstanding and rejecting the beginning of the Latter Rain and calls on us to repent.
In history, calls to repent have always been resented by leadership; but as time has dragged by relentlessly, these calls to repent have always been vindicated. Today is no exception.
The earth belongs to the Creator and he dispossesses the Canaanites, for their cup of iniquity is filled up; and apportions allotments to each tribe of Israel by Eleazar and Joshua (Numbers 34). This is in fulfillment of His long-standing promise to give them an inheritance (Gen. 17:8).
Of all the tribes, the Levites’ portion is the tithe, so they receive no land grant. However, since they need a place to live, they are given cities to dwell in scattered throughout the tribes, six of which are to be places of asylum for inadvertent killers (Num. 36:8, 9). Three cities of refuge are located east of the Jordan River and three west (vs. 13).
If someone takes the life of another, they are to drop everything and immediately make haste to one of these cities, lest the nearest kinsman of the deceased avenge the victim. At the asylum city the case is to be adjudicated according to criteria of intent necessitating witnesses. If the killing was intentional the avenger is justified in taking the killer’s life. If the death is judged unintentional manslaughter, the perpetrator is not guilty, but he must dwell in the asylum city otherwise the avenger may take his life.
Justice was equally distributed to all classes of people, rich or poor. Bribery of the court was strictly forbidden.
The land is defiled by bloodshed. “You must not defile your land by bloodshed. Blood defiles the land; no expiation can be made on behalf of the land for blood shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it” (Num. 35:33). Thus capital punishment is upheld in the Mosaic legislation.
The role of the goel, near kinsman/redeemer, on behalf of a weaker brother is illustrative of God’s role as our Redeemer. The avenger has the right and responsibility to avenge the death on behalf of the victim of his clan. He is not required to judge the homicide, but simply avenge the victim.
“. . . The Lord is the great Kinsman, who bears responsibility for his weaker human ‘relatives.’” In our case, not only has Satan usurped dominion of our land, the earth, but he has stolen our life through sin (Romans 6:23). We deserve nothing but the grave.
God as our Kinsman/Redeemer has paid the ransom for our lives. The cost was giving up the Son of God. He has given us our present life with the possibility of immortality (2 Timothy 1:10). The gift is far more effective than just an offer of eternal life. The very fact that we live because of Jesus our light and life, manifests the present blessings which all saint or sinner experience by virtue of the cross. What love beyond measure to sinners!
By seeing and appreciating this gift God’s love melts the hearts of sinners and they are turned toward Him in repentance. If the gift is not hindered, faith will grow and deepen in appreciate of the cross. It is a life-long process known as sanctification.
Of course, it is possible to frustrate the grace of God and throw away one’s birthright as did Esau. He did not value what had been given to him. Likewise, millions throughout history have despised Christ.
As our near kinsman Jesus has taken our humanity upon His divinity. He has adopted the human family. What He accomplished on the cross He did for the whole race of sinners. He likewise took back the dominion which Adam lost. “The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11).
 Ellen G. White, Christian Experience and Teaching, p. 204. “There is a work of sacred importance for ministers and people to do. They are to study the history of the cause and people of God. They are not to forget the past dealing of God with His people. They are to revive and recount the truths that have come to seem of little value to those who do not know by personal experience of the power and brightness that accompanied them when they were first seen and understood. In all their original freshness and power these truths are to be given to the world.” The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 574.
 Ellen G. White,Letter, Dec 7, 1901. N-184, 1901.
Letter M-184, Dec 7, 1901.
 Letter August 5, 1902. The Kress Collection, p. 95.
 Ellen G. White, Letter August 5, 1902. The Kress Collection, p. 95..
 Ellen G. White, General Conference Bulletin, April 12, 1901.
 Ellen G. White, Letter August 5, 1902. The Kress Collection, p. 95.
 Roy Gane, Leviticus, Numbers, p. 798.