In biblical times, the Israelites were instructed by God to set up cities of refuge for a specific purpose. They offered protection to anyone who accidentally committed a crime, which normally carried the sentence of death. Intentionally committed crimes were settled using “an eye for an eye” principle. The sentence was carried out by the avenger of blood(nearest living relative).
Accidental killings were to be handled differently. The person responsible for the killing was to immediately flee to a city of refuge where he could present his case to the elders of the city. If his explanation was judged satisfactory, he would be admitted to the city and given provisions and a place to stay. He (or she) would be protected in the city from the avenger of blood. If he left the safety of the city for any reason, he was fair game to the avenger of blood. Under the instructions provided in the Torah (Numbers 35), the person had to remain in the city until the high priest died. The guilty person could then return home relieved of his guilt and be safe from any reprisals.
If we fast forward to the time of Jesus Christ, we can see how this ancient practice was instituted by God as a way of modeling the concept of salvation, which He would offer to the whole human race. Salvation from what? Romans 3:23 and 6::23 offer a sobering statements: everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of perfection and the wages for this sin is death. Romans 6:23 goes on to say, God offers a gift (a place of refuge) in the person of his son Jesus Christ. Anyone who accepts this gift will experience forgiveness and have eternal life.
Jesus Christ is a sinner’s city of refuge.
Jesus was divinely appointed as were the cities of refuge
Jesus, from the cross proclaimed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” ( Luke 23:34). This statement validates humanity’s guilt as accidental or involuntary manslaughter granting us access to a place of refuge.
In Christ the guilty can find safe haven
The way to Christ must be clearly revealed just as the roads were leading to the cities of refuge back in the time of Joshua.
Jesus is our high priest (Hebrews 7, 8, 9). His death and resurrection have set us free from the penalty of our sin
Since Jesus is God’s Son, then God will be the avenger of blood to all who have not found refuge in Jesus
There are two more points to be made found in Joshua chapter 21. After the cities of refuge were established by the Levites (Israel’s priests), God gave the Israelites rest on every side (v44). The second point: None of the Lord’s promises to Israel failed, every one was fulfilled (v45).
We can find refuge in the person of Jesus. When we enter his refuge we can experience rest on every side and begin to enjoy the promises of God; not one of them will ever fail.
Finding peace in the middle of a storm is not an easy proposition. When a trial rages beyond your control, you may be tempted to assume the worst and withdraw. Colossians 3:15-17 paraphrased tells those who believe in God to “let the peace of Christ rule in you hearts…be thankful…sing to God with gratitude in your hearts…give thanks to God.”
Maintaining an attitude of thanksgiving while one battles an unseen enemy seems counter-intuitive. However, being thankful to God means we haven’t given up hope. We can be vigilant while at the same time being kind and encouraging to others. This approach means we believe there’s a future beyond the present situation, even though the road ahead remains obscured. Fight fear with thanksgiving! What do you have to be thankful for?
We are indeed social creatures. It’s no surprise social distancing goes against our nature. We need not be alone however in this endeavor. While we are apart from social circles choose to spend time watching, listening or reading things that inspire–things that give the human spirit a chance to soar and not sour.
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
The List, by Buck Storm and Bill Perkins is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The novel falls into the Christian fiction genre and captures the essence of what life must have been like in Israel under Roman occupation at the time of Christ.
The storyline follows the lives of Joseph of Arimathea (a Saducee) and Nicodemus (a Pharisee), both of whom were part of the Jewish religious council called the Sanhedrin. The unlikely pair become friends and secretly set out to prove/disprove that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah. They accomplish this by creating a list of prophecies Messiah must fulfill.
My favorite part of the book was how the authors managed to capture the tension between the people’s love for Jesus and the religious leader’s loathing of him. A must read for people of faith. I was excited to learn there will be a sequel.