Cities of Refuge
19 “When the Lord your God cuts off the nations, whose land the Lord your God gives you, and you dispossess them and settle in their cities and in their houses,2 you shall set aside three cities for yourself in the midst of your land, which the Lord your God gives you to [a]possess. 3 You shall prepare the [b]roads for yourself, and divide into three parts the territory of your land which the Lord your God will give you as a possession, [c]so that any manslayer may flee there.
4 “Now this is the case of the manslayer who may flee there and live: when he [d]kills his friend [e]unintentionally, [f]not hating him previously— 5 as when a man goes into the forest with his friend to cut wood, and his hand [g]swings the axe to cut down the tree, and the iron head slips off the [h]handle and [i]strikes his friend so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live; 6 otherwise the avenger of blood might pursue the manslayer [j]in the heat of his anger, and overtake him, because the way is long, and [k]take his life, though he was not deserving of death, since he had not hated him previously. 7 Therefore, I command you, saying, ‘You shall set aside three cities for yourself.’
8 “If the Lord your God enlarges your territory, just as He has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land which He [l]promised to give your fathers— 9 if you [m]carefully observe all this commandment which I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in His ways always—then you shall add three more cities for yourself, besides these three. 10 So innocent blood will not be shed in the midst of your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, and bloodguiltiness be on you.
11 “But if there is a man who hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and rises up against him and strikes [n]him so that he dies, and he flees to one of these cities,12 then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die. 13 [o]You shall not pity him, but you shall purge the blood of the innocent from Israel, that it may go well with you.
There is something here to learn for all of us. We see that in the case of killing another person, when it is accidental, without malice, and what we would call “involuntary manslaughter”, God told the people to judge the heart, and not the action, just as He himself would do.
Later on, when Samuel is looking for a new king, God tells him that the heart is what matters, though man may look at the outward appearance. The take away for me, is that God knows our motives, in whatever we do. Even when we do something good, if our motives our selfish, then it isn’t really a good deed. God can still use it for good, and likely He will. But when done to promote oneself, rather than a pure motive, doing it for God and your fellow man (and woman), it is only a pretense, and God sees right through it.
So in everything you do, check your heart, check your motives. Be selfless, and leave the rest up to God.