“And one day I ran to the City of Refuge. Though guilty I was, I found shelter in the blood He shed for me. I was condemned but God showed mercy, and on Calvary God built a City of Refuge for me.” – Song, “City of Refuge”
The Old Testament is filled with imagery of the Lord Jesus Christ. Foreshadows of His coming and His work that would be accomplished on the Cross of Calvary are found all over the thirty nine books of the Old Testament. One of the less known pictures of God’s grace and Christ forgiveness is that of the cities of refuge described in Numbers thirty five.
The Levites did not have a portion in the inheritance of the land, but belonged to the Lord as the priestly tribe. Instead, forty eight cities would be given to them including the suburbs (about ½ mile outside the city in every direction). Of these forty eight cities, six of them were to receive a special designation as a city of refuge. In these cities, those accused of murder that were innocent could flee and find protection from any recourse. If a murder was intentionally committed, that individual was to be put to death for their crimes. But, if someone accidentally killed someone else, they could flee to one of these cities of refuge and be delivered from the revenger of blood. The revenger of blood was someone (usually family) who was close to the deceased and sought retribution through the killer’s death. While the killer was in the city they were safe, but if they left the city the revenger of blood could kill them with no recourse.
The six cities of refuge are designated in Joshua twenty one. The cities were: Hebron, Shechem, Golan, Kedesh, Ramoth-Gilead, and Bezer. Some of these names might sound familiar because they were important cities for several future stories of Israel. The cities were strategically placed so anyone in Israel could reach them within one day’s journey.
I can only imagine the fear that would fall over someone who accidently killed another human being. In fear, they would flee to one of these cities and plead their case to the leadership of the town. No doubt as they communicated their story they were afraid they might not be believed or accepted. If they were convicted of premeditated and intentional murder they would be put to death. What a relief it would be to receive temporary access and safety in the city of refuge. The High Priest would come and try the case and determine innocence or guilt. If found innocent, permeant residence in the city of refuge would be granted, and the only harm that could come to them form the revenger of blood was if they left they city. Eventually, the High Priest that passed judgment on the case would die, and then the person could return to their home town. The city of refuge was the only hope.
I am thankful that Christ is our city of refuge! We stood guilty and condemned of our sinfulness, and the old accuser Satan was looking for blood. Our condemnation was death, death in a place called Hell, and we had no hope. Hope came in the form of the Gospel, Jesus presented Himself as our city of refuge. All we needed to do was run to Him and be safe. We were placed in Christ, and in Him no harm can befall us there.
If you have been saved by God’s marvelous grace, rejoice that He gave access to His City of Refuge. Take a moment and offer thanksgiving that He has sealed you unto the Day of Redemption, and you belong to Him. You don’t have to live in fear of paying for your own crimes of sin; Jesus did that for you on the Cross! You are forgiven, free, and washed in the blood. Be thankful for Jesus your City of Refuge.
Daily Scripture Reading
Numbers 35 - 36
“These are the commandments and the judgments, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.”