Sweet Sunday Sermon – The Cities of REFUGE – a picture of Jesus Part 1
Submitted by Dr. GP
NOTICE OF THE CITIES
NEARNESS OF THE CITIES
NEED OF THE CITIES
NAMES OF THE CITIES
NATURE OF THE CITIES
God commanded Moses on three different occasions to have Israel set up cities of refuge when they came into the promised land in……
Deuteronomy 4:41-43, Deuteronomy 19:1-13,
And in Joshua 20, we read of Joshua establishing the six cities of refuge.
In my view, the fact that the cities of refuge, which remind us of Christ Jesus our hiding place, are described in no fewer than four Old Testament books, denotes their significance, and demonstrates that the concept of Christ our Refuge is important to the mind of God.
The Cities of Refuge were six of the forty eight Levitical towns that were appointed by God to which accidental manslayers could flee to claim the right of asylum.
This new legal concept was unique to Israel’s judicial system and reveals the fairness and justice of God.
It is noteworthy that there were cities in Israel that were larger and more prominent, than these cities of refuge, but none of them could shelter the sinner, because they were not designated for this purpose.
Similarly there are many “religions” today, but there is only one designated way of salvation as announced in God’s Word—faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
In our study today, we hope to show some of the many ways in which allotment of these six cities of refuge illustrate the salvation we enjoy in the Lord Jesus Christ.
These cities of refuge would not have been so often mentioned in the law of Moses, if they were not designed to be a symbol of the refuge and relief provided for penitent sinners in our Lord Jesus Christ, and a manifest type of Christ as He is presented in the gospel.
The account of the cities of refuge would not have been so often repeated, if they were not designed to teach us about the protection from the curse of the law and from the wrath of God that believers have in our Lord Jesus, to whom believers flee for refuge (Heb. 6:18 ), and in whom they are found (Phil. 3:9 ) as in a sanctuary, where they are privileged from arrest by the “avenger of blood”, and where there is now no condemnation to them (Romans 8:1), or any separation (Romans 8:35-39) from Him.
Now we know that the Holy Spirit has purposefully shadowed forth the Lord Jesus in the Old Testament, in type and figure, and it is indeed striking to observe the fascinating similarities that can be drawn between the cities of refuge and Christ, our refuge, and how the believer’s redemption that he procured was prefigured in this many sided type.
Even though no analogy or type is absolutely perfect, it is clear that the cities of refuge are In many ways beautiful types of Christ, to whom we “have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb 6:18), and they demonstrate to us pictorially how Jesus (and the salvation He provides us) is our refuge from sin, death, hell, and the grave.
When we closely compare the various things said of the cities of refuge to what is said about the Savior in the NT, we must conclude that these four Scripture passages were Divinely designed to enlighten us about our CITY OF REFUGE.
The Bible applies the picture of the cities of refuge to the believer finding refuge in God on more than one occasion: e.g. Psalm 46:1, says God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. More than 15 other times, the Psalms speak of God as being our refuge.
Hebrews 6:18 points out “That by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” clearly speaks of Christ, in whom sinners find a refuge from the destroyer of our souls.
Some points of similarity between the cities of refuge and our refuge in Jesus.
Both Jesus and the cities of refuge are within easy reach of the needy person; they were of no use unless someone could get to the place of refuge.
Both Jesus and the cities of refuge are open to all, not just the Israelite; no one needs to fear that they would be turned away from their place of refuge in their time of need.
Both Jesus and the cities of refuge became a place where the one in need would live; you didn’t come to a city of refuge in time of need just to look around.
Both Jesus and the cities of refuge are the only alternative for the one in need; without this specific protection, they will be lost.
Both Jesus and the cities of refuge provide protection only within their boundaries; to go outside means death.
With both Jesus and the cities of refuge, full freedom comes with the death of the High Priest.
BUT THE CITIES OF REFUGE WERE SET UP FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE INNOCENT- but JESUS OUR CITY OF REFUGE IS FOR THE GUILTY
The safe shelter and security provided for us in Christ is because we are all GUILTY!
As we proceed, let us remember that we must not seek to build doctrines on types; rather we interpret types on the basis of doctrine.
Let us also remember also, that no type or analogy in the scripture is absolutely perfect or has every detail concerning it that fits in exactly with its function as a type, and so we will find that there are some dissimilarities between the cities of refuge and the refuge that we as God’s people find in Jesus Christ.
There are two particular points of contrast between the cities of refuge and Jesus Christ our refuge that we must grasp.
The first particular points of contrast between the cities of refuge and Jesus Christ our refuge that we must grasp is that whereas persons who fled to the cities of refuge had to prove their innocence to get the protection of the cities, ( Joshua 20:6, Num. 35:12), we who have fled to Jesus for refuge do not have to go to trial to defend our innocence.
There is no trial or investigation of our sins for us, when we come to Christ our Refuge as the elders of the city of refuge had to investigate the alleged crime committed by the one who fled there, because we are all guilty before God for breaking His law, and thus are deserving of death, and thus there is no need for an investigation.
As sinners we were rightly condemned and sentenced deservedly to death. BUT our sentence has already been executed because Christ bore the penalty for us on the Christ. Because He died in our place, we are free, and have been delivered from the penalty of sin. Never do we have to answer for it again. We are free now to go out and serve Him, because we now have a High Priest, a resurrected Savior, to whom we can go.
John 3:18 says “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Romans 8:1-4 reminds us that There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.Forwhat the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:Thatthe righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
The second amazing difference that we must grasp, is that whereas a merciful God appointed and set up these temporal cities of refuge to provide shelter and security for the benefit of the innocent only – so that the innocent might not suffer with the guilty, the eternal safe shelter and security provided for us in Christ our Refuge is essentially because we are all GUILTY!
The cities of refuge were only for the innocent – the elders of the cities of refuge only protected and helped someone who was innocent of murder because these cities were only for the man who killed by mistake.
Our innocence is, however, not in question, when we come to Jesus, because we are all guilty before God and deserving of His just wrath.
Jesus our city of refuge is for the guilty. It is the guilty who come to Jesus and find refuge. . It is the guilty who are invited to come to Jesus and confess their sins (I John 1:9).
The city of refuge provided protection from the avenger of blood only for the innocent manslayer. There was no reprieve for deliberate or presumptuous murder.
The deliberate or guilty murderer was excludedto teach us that there is no salvation in Christ for presumptuous sinners who still go on deliberately in their trespasses. Those who persist in willful sin, and continue to defy and trample upon God’s law, bar themselves from His mercy, and should be aware of the warning of Hebrews10:28-29 which emphatically states our need to accept Christ as our Refuge thus : “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”
There is no shelter in a holy Christ for those who are in love with sin, but unto those that flee to Him from their sins there is “plenteous redemption.” (Psalm 130:7)
In Christ the guilty, penitent and believing sinner is secure from the curse of the broken law and the wrath of God, for the Lord Jesus endured them in his stead.
In Christ he is safe also from the fury of a raging Devil and is delivered from the accusations of a guilty conscience.
It is very important to realize that whereas the cities of refuge only helped the innocent; the guilty can come to Jesus and find refuge.
Remember, Jesus said he that is not sick does not need a physician (Matt 9:12, Mk 2:17, Lk 5:31) but that he came to seek and save the lost.
Because Christ died for and receives guilty sinners, the guilty can come to Jesus and find refuge- even the deliberate sinner.
How is it possible that the holy God would accept those that are guilty?
It is not by giving up His holiness, because He can not and does not devalue that.
Rather, the reason Christ is able to be our Redeemer is that He is a high priest and the sacrifice He gave was His own death.
Another important thing we should point out in this introduction is that these cities anticipated an urgent situation, and were provided ahead of time!
The Lord did not wait until an Israelite or a stranger had accidentally slain one of his fellows, to then arrange for his deliverance from the sword of justice, for the Lord is ever beforehand in supplying what we lack.
Just as these cities were available before they were made use of, in like manner, God’s appointing of Christ to be the Savior of sinners was no afterthought to meet an unexpected emergency for in the Divine purpose and plan, Christ was the Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
The surprising thing when we look through the scriptures is that we can find no actual example recorded of someone actually using the cities of refuge, just as we will find no example of a father bringing a rebellious son to the city gate for the prescribed punishment according to the rules cited in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 & Leviticus 20:9 .
But God in His wisdom provided both for our learning of the way of salvation.
Although no father is reported to bringing a rebellious son to the city gate for the prescribed punishment we know as we are told in Romans 8:32, that God, the Father “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all”, even though the Lord Jesus was innocent of all sin.
Though we have no example of anyone actually using the cities of refuge, we must all appreciate God’s provision, and in the symbolic application of the Cities of Refuge be wise and dwell in the provisions of our City of Refuge, as outlined in the OT scriptures, and as enunciated in the provision of John 3:16, and other related NT scriptures.
For it is only in Christ, our City of Refuge that we live in safety both now and in the future.
Although we can not find any recorded examples in the Bible of persons who availed themselves of the provision of any of the cities of refuge, there is one clear example of a man who was killed because he did not enter such a city.
In 2 Samuel 2:18-24, we read about Abner, Saul’s Commander-in-chief, being pursued by a man named Asahel. Abner tried to reason with Asahel, but Asahel continued to pursue Abner, and Abner eventually killed Asahel.
Later, Joab, the older brother of Asahel and David’s Commander-in-chief. caught Abner at the gate of the city of Hebron, which was one of the 6 cities of refuge, and killed him, to avenge the death of Asahel, 2 Sam. 3:27.
What is most striking are the comments made by king David as he mourned the death of Abner, 2 Sam. 3:32-34.
It is as if David were saying, “Abner, you died like a fool! You were right there at the gates of the city of refuge. All you had to do was walk right in. Nobody had you tied up! You could have been saved, but you died like a fool!”
Friend, don’t let that same thing happen to you! Nobody has you tied down this morning. All you have to do is walk into the refuge that God has provided and be saved. Our Refuge, Jesus, is waiting for you! Don’t die like a fool!
Just as God’s Word promised that there would be cities of refuge in Joshua 20:7–8, and they were duly established; so did the promise of salvation first given in Genesis 3:15-19, became a reality through the death of Christ on the cross.
God’s promise of salvation through Jesus is given to all who will come, (Rev. 22:17.) He has not promised what he can not deliver, and he has promised not to turn any away, (John 6:37)!
Let us now further consider some of the several truths concerning the cities of refuge and observe the grand picture they present of the “so great salvation” that can be found in Jesus Christ alone, and how they uniquely reflect the mercy of God toward us sinners.
NOTICE OF THE CITIES
INSTRUCTIONS FOR ESTABLISHING AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE CITIES
The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,
2Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:
3That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.
4And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.
5And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.
6And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.
7And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.
8And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.
9These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.
In Joshua 20 we are essentially given a shortened version of what was ordered of Moses by God, when he was still alive, and told to Joshua in the plains of Moab as the wilderness journey was nearing its end as recorded in Numbers 35.
Joshua 20 indicates that now that the tribes of Israel had come into the land of Canaan and had possessed, subdued, inhabited anddivided up the land, and had all received their inheritance and things were starting to wind down as far as the conquest of the land was concerned, the time had come for Joshua to carrying out the commands and instructions that had been given previously in in Exodus 21:12-14, Numbers 35:1-34 & Deuteronomy 19:1-13, about appointing out of the 48 Levitical cities the six special cities of asylum or refuge for those who accidentally kill another.
The first thing we will note from the Biblical accounts of The Cities of Refuge is that they were appointed by God Himself.
These cities and the Christ they picture were both gifts from the loving heart of God, who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16)
They were not of man’s devising. Just as the gospel is no human invention, man did not come up with the idea for these cities.
Christianity and salvation through the shed blood of Jesus did not originate in the heart of man either. This was a notion that was birthed in the heart and mind of God from start to finish.
Moses did not choose the cities, to remind us that the Law cannot save anyone.
It was not an earthly priest who appointed them, to remind us that religion in any form can’t save anyone.
When man creates a religion, he fixes it in such a way that he is in control of it. He sets it up as a system of works and makes himself responsible for getting himself to whatever Heaven he is striving for.
God, on the other hand, set up salvation in such a way that all man must do is trust Jesus as his Savior by faith. And, even that faith is given to him by the Lord, (Eph. 2:8-9).
Salvation is all God or it isn’t real at all! (Psalm 3:8,Psalm 62:1, Jonah 2:9)
Next we note that the Cities of Refuge were provided by grace.
God could have allowed the manslayer to die for his carelessness like any other person who had taken a life.
However, in His grace He made a way that those folks who had accidentally taken the life of another might find refuge and help.
By the same token, God could have allowed sinners to all go to hell, since we are guilty in His sight and we deserve nothing but damnation in the fires of hell!
But God sent His Son to take our sins upon Himself on the cross, (Isa. 53:6, I John 3:16, I John 4:9, I Corinthians 15:3 etc) .
Jesus paid the price that sinners might live through Him!
The Word of God tells us that salvation is only through grace from start to finish!
1. He initiated the process – John 6:44; Eph. 2:1.
2. He provided the means – Rom. 3:25; Acts 4:12
3. He saves those who believe – Acts 16:31
4. He keeps those He saves – 1 Pet. 1:5
They cities of refuge were an expression of the Divine mercy, and an act of grace, for all men are sinners and deserve to die.
These cities by their very natures spoke of the grace of God and of His love for the needy. They were there because God cares!
And how rich the grace is thus evidenced, for it provided not merely one, but six of these cities!
This reminds us of Romans 5:20. Where sin did abound….grace did much more abound!
The same is true about Jesus! He is there for our salvation simply because God cares about us! He did not want us to die and go to Hell, 2 Pet. 3:9. Because He wants so much that we be saved , He proved His love for us when He allowed the Lord Jesus, to suffer on the cross in our place.
Rom. 5:6 teaches that “when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” and Rom. 5:8 asserts that “ God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus is our refuge and we can enter into the refuge he provides and find a dwelling place, because he has promised a place for all who would believe by grace through faith! Just as these cities were placed where a man could flee in a time of desperate need, so Jesus is a place of safety this morning.
In order to be fair, in order to be just, God had Israel establish six cities of refuge that he had allocated (three on either side of the Jordan River) for those who had committed manslaughter accidentally against persons to whom they had no hatred or malice to flee and be safe from the avenger of blood
In studying these instructions, I could not help thinking of Romans chapter 3, where we read about God’s plan for our need…….
SO THAT WE MIGHT BE TREATED JUSTLY! And SO THAT GOD WOULD BE MORE THAN FAIR TO US!
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Here God is saying “I have been FAIR and JUST and I have allocated and provided an effective City of refuge for everyone!”
The intricacies of the prescribed laws in relation to the cities of refuge are described under the NEED OF THE CITIES
A person who was accused of committing murder had to “flee” immediately to one of the cities of refuge, where He would be safe from the avenger—the family member charged with avenging the victim’s death (Numbers 35:19)—until the case could go to trial.
Such a person could not afford to delay! If he procrastinated and waited too long to flee, he could be caught by the avenger and killed.
Fleeing for refuge implied earnestness, and unwearied diligence The manslayer dared not dawdle or saunter or loiter as he ran for his life until shelter and safety were reached.
In the same way the scriptures tell us to be wise and take full advantage of what is being offered to us and be saved today while we still have the opportunity to be saved, for we will not always have opportunity. 2 Cor. 6:2 teaches that “today is the day of salvation.”
If the manslayer did not flee to a city of refuge when sought by the avenger of blood who was determined to execute judgment upon him, there was no hope, as there was no other alternative to these cities but death.
Similarly lost sinners today can not afford to delay in fleeing to the only refuge, Jesus Christ, as there is no help or hope for us, if we do not flee to the refuge which God has given to us at such a great price.
Just as a city of refuge was the only place of safety for the manslayer in need; without the specific protection of the Lord, our Refuge, all sinners would be lost. Both Jesus and the cities of refuge were provided as a place where the one in need could live in safety.
This reminds of Acts 4:12 which states “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved”
Hebrews10:28-29 emphatically states our need to accept Christ as our Refuge thus : “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”
We have heard the gospel; if in the Old Testament ignoring God’s law brought death, what about us if we should despise the work of Christ and the grace which He showers upon us? How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;(Hebrews 2:3)
Just as the persons sought refuge in the cities set up for that purpose, we flee to Christ, the one appointed by God for refuge from sin (Hebrews 6:18).
We run to Christ to escape the danger we are in from the curse and condemnation of the law, and from the wrath of God, and from an eternity in hell.
Only Christ provides refuge from these things, and it is to Him alone that we must run.
Just as the cities were open to all who fled to them for safety, Christ who provides safety to all who come to Him for refuge from sin and its punishment.
The cities of refuge were completely adequate for the needs of all the endangered ones who fled to them, and they were sufficient for their need.
The cities of refuge did not only provide legal protection, but were also stocked with a supply of food, so that they were a completely sufficient refuge, as they met all of a man’s needs once he was inside..
Even the suburbs or borders of the city were a sufficient security to the offender, v. 26, 27, just as there is virtue even in the hem of Christ’s garment for the healing and saving of poor sinners.
In like manner, Jesus Christ is a completely sufficient refuge for the need of any and every soul! Christ not only makes a Christian legally safe through His propitiatory death, but He supplies the believer with great riches. Christ’s death is completely adequate to meet our need for refuge from the true moral guilt which we have.
Christ’s is work on the cross is completely adequate to meet our need for refuge from any moral guilt which we have. It is a final and complete work because of who He is.
Once the manslayer had been received safely into the city of refuge, the avenger of blood was kept at bay and could not set-upon the killer again, and act as his executioner . He could now act only as prosecutor (Numbers 35:19).
However, there are consequences to every act! Even though the man was protected, there still was a price to be paid for his actions. Once he had claimed asylum, a perpetrator had to be put on trial, and his case was determined by the rules God had specified concerning the cities of refuge.
When the slayer came to one of the cities of refuge, upon arriving at the gate- the place where the elders sat and administered justice – before he was admitted, he received a preliminary hearing from the local city elders, at which he had to explain, to them what happened (Joshua 20:4) to see if he was worthy of being protected.
This initial trial by the elders of the city prevented a person from taking advantage of this provision for the innocent. The accused was then given a place to live within the city until a fuller and more formal trial or investigation of his case in a court of justice could be conducted (Numbers 35:12: Joshua 20:6).
Eventually, the accused had to “stand before the congregation in judgment” ( Joshua 20:6, Num. 35:12), where he was given a fair trial, at which full and formal investigation was made, so that the accused had every opportunity to prove his innocence.
The elders of the city would call witnesses and the congregation determined from the evidence if the death was deliberate (first-degree murder) or if the attacker acted unintentionally (manslaughter) (Numbers 35:24 et secq).
As pointed out earlier in slide 11, persons who fled to the cities of refuge had to prove their innocence to get the protection of the cities, but we who have fled to Jesus for refuge do not have to go to trial to defend our innocence.
Note that we are not here disavowing our appearance at the “Bema” which is not really a trial per se, but more a tribunal to determine which of the five heavenly crowns that believers can receive in Heaven, will be awarded to us?”
Those who killed, either accidently or with malice, were not allowed to pay a ransom in the cities of refuge in order to avoid the consequences of their behavior (Numbers 35:31 – 32). Jesus is the only ransom.
Because deliberate killing is first-degree murder, but inadvertent killing is manslaughter, God distinguished the two. God indicated that death caused by a pre-meditated act is murder.
For deliberate,premeditated murder there was no escape or refuge. Apre-meditated act was punishable by death. Death had to be pronounced and executed.
If a person truly had committed a pre-meditated murder against someone else, then the person was to be killed and if necessary he was even to be dragged from the very altar of God where he was seeking refuge in order to be put to death for the murder.
If the accused was convicted of murder, i.ekilling someone in anger, malice, by premeditation, the elders of the city of refuge were to turn the guilty one over to the avenger of blood. The avenger was then to carry out the death penalty (Numbers 35:19, 21, Deuteronomy 19:12).
It should be realized that the cities of refuge were not for the guilty, because there was no sacrifice for high-handed, defiant, premeditated, or known sin (e.g., Ps. 51:17).
Deaths caused by accidental acts, which we would today call ‘manslaugter’, were not a cause for the death penalty.
If in a particular city of refuge it was determined that the offense was accidental, or second-degree murder, and that death had ensued where no malicious attempt upon life had been made, but, instead, the injury had been inflicted unintentionally or “unawares,” then the accused was found not guilty of first-degree murder, and the death penalty was not visited upon him
In fleeing to the city of refuge, it was only the person who had acted unintentionally in committing the act that resulted in the death of a person who would be given refuge.
In the same way it is the repentant person who has inadvertently sinned as a result of the weakness of the flesh, not one hardened in sin and unrepentant, that is given salvation in coming to refuge in Christ by saving faith in Him
For unintentional deaths, or accidental manslaying where there was no malice before thought, God set aside the six cities of refuge to which the murderer could flee for refuge.
When one unintentionally killed a neighbor, there must usually have been in such cases a culpable degree of carelessness, and though his life was spared, his freedom was curtailed.
The legal and civil consequences for his acts, and for his safety, the manslayer was wasseparated from his own tribal allocation and required to leave his home, his wife, his children, and family, and everything and flee to and take up residence in the city of refuge, and there remain where he could live in safety protected, from the “avenger of blood,” but only if he stayed in that location until the death of the High Priest (cf. Num. 35:25).
That is just what a man does when he resolves to be saved by grace: he must leave everything he calls his own, renounces all the rights and privileges which he thought he possessed by nature; and confesses to having lost his own natural right to live, and he flees for life to the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
The manslayer had no right to live until he was in the city of refuge, no right to anything except that he was God’s guest within those enclosing walls.
And so we too relinquish, heartily and thoroughly, once and forever, all ideas arising out of our supposed merits; we hasten away from self that Christ may be all in all to us. Fleeing for refuge implies that a man flees from his sin, confesses and repents of it.
There has to be a complete break from the old self-pleasing life. Sin must be made bitter before Christ will be sweet.
This symbolizes that in the salvation that Jesus procured for mankind on the cross, a person has to also be willing leave the influence of his family and friends, and even his own life, and come to Jesus and abide in and follow Him.
We see this taught by Jesus in a few places in the gospels, including: John 15:1-6, Matt. 16:24-25, Luke 9:57-62 etc.
Just as it was his duty to flee into it, the manslayer who had fled to a city of refuge, was obliged to remain within the city of refuge and could live there in safety until the death of the current high priest at which time he would be free to leave the city and could return to his own home in safety, without fear of retribution.
These verses point to the responsibility of the believer to abide in Christ not only at the time of his conversion, but all through his life.
A person was only safe from harm as long as he remained within the walls of the city.
As long as the slayer remained in the city, he was safe, and he would be freed and be exonerated of his crime when the high priest died, and be allowed to return to his own city and the manslayer would not be able to harm him.
The manslayer could only safely return to their home after the death of the High Priest (Joshua 20:6).
If he was foolish enough at any time to forsake the boundaries of that cityof refuge, and try to return home before the high priest died, he forfeited legal protection, and risked being killed by the avenger of blood, if the avenger should then find him without its borders.
Under such circumstances the avenger had the right to kill him outside of the city of refuge, without penalty (Numbers 35:26 – 28).
Similarly, as long as we abide in Christ, we are safe.
Jesus said, in John 15:4,6, “If any man abides not in Me, he is cut off, the branches withered. Men gather them and cast them into the fire.”
So the importance of abiding in Jesus Christ, our refuge is paramount.
Though the true Christian can never perish, by failing to “abide in Christ” he or she opens the door to spiritual and physical dangers.
Both Jesus and the cities of refuge provide protection only within their boundaries
All the days that the high priest lived and the manslayer abode within the city, no condemnation could come upon him.
In like manner, since our High Priest Christ is “alive for evermore,” we are eternally secure; because He lives, we live also.
So though we are legally guilty before God, when we cast ourselves upon Him we are free forever.
It was only upon the death of the high priest who was in office at the time of the trial, that the manslayer was exonerated of the crime and free to leave the city without fear, and return to his own city and home and reside there unmolested (verse 28) for the death of the high priest formed an atonement.
The manslayer was allowed to leave the city of refuge and return to his own town and home, upon the death of the high priest because the high priest’s death symbolically terminates the guilt incurred.
When the high priest died, all of those who were taking refuge in all of the cities of refuge were exonerated from committing any acts of manslaughter and thus free to go home safely, being free from fear of attack or reprisal from the manslayer.
The avenger of blood could no longer hunt down or harm the manslayer once the high priest had died, because the high priest’s death serves as payment, a form of substitute, for the offended party.
For the Christian, this picture is a depiction of Christ, whose death andsacrifice took away the guilt of our sin. Because of the death of Jesus, our high priest, we Christians no longer need to fear the death which comes about because of sin, for He died in our place.
Only the death of the high priest secured full and final deliverance for the manslayer ( Joshua 20:6).Similarly, it is only through the death of our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ that our victory over sin and death is secured!
We owe our emancipation to the death of Christ.
Just as full freedom came with the death of the High Priest so too did our freedom come with the death of Jesus.
This speaks beautifully of our salvation—for not only do we have refuge in Christ, but we’re also free because our High Priest died for us on the Cross of Calvary.
It is noteworthy therefore that not only were the cities of refuge symbolic of Christ, but that the high priest himself was also symbolic of Christ.
The double figure of the city (safety) and the high priest’s death (propitiation) was necessary to set forth both aspects, as were the two goats of Leviticus 16:7,8.
There may also be a designed dispensational hint here: saints were saved of old, but not until the death of Christ was the full liberty of son-ship enjoyed ( Galatians 4:1-7).
NEARNESS OF THE CITIES
V. 7-9 THE POSITION OF THESE CITIES
If you look at a map of the Holy Land, you find that the six cities of refuge were well spaced throughout the country, and all strategically and conveniently situated in the land, so that no matter where you were in Israel, you were not very far from a city of refuge.
This was because of express instructions given by God as to the precise situations of those cities. The land was to be divided into three parts, one city of refuge in each so that the cities were to be “in the midst of the land” (Deuteronomy 19:2,3), and not in remote corners which were difficult to approach.
Those cities were so situated that when anyone living in Israel, including strangers (Joshua 20:9), had need of such, one of them was near at hand,and could be reached within a single day’s journey, from any corner of the country no matter where the manslayer resided.
No tribe was too far from the place of safety, as they were distributed in central places on both sides of the Jordan roughly equidistantly so that each one could be reasonably accessed to the manslayer from any part of Israel; they were of no use unless someone could get to the place of refuge QUICKLY.
The cities of refuge were chosen so that they were never more than a half day’s run from one of these cities, always easy to reach from any place in the country, and easily accessible at short notice in any particular section of the country, to those who might have need of them.
Three cities on each side of the Jordan River- were provided for a man-slayer guilty of second-degree murder.
Three of the cities of refuge were located on the west side of the Jordan River and three were east of it.
One in the middle of the country, one in the northern part, one in the southern part.
This was intended so that a person could pick out the city that was closest to them, and get there in a hurry.
To be of any use, a city of refuge had to be accessible, and so, they were close to everyone no matter where they were or who they were!
Whether the manslayer was a son or a stranger, there was a city of refuge near to him.
The application is obvious.
These facts teach us that just like the cities of refuge, Jesus is always very near, and accessible to all and within easy reach of the needy person whether Jew or Gentile
Christ is Better Than Any of the Cities of Refuge because He is nearer than any city of refuge, and we may cast ourselves upon Christ at any time, in any place ( I Peter 5:8) because the Saviourhas placed Himself within the reach of all.
A runner could fall and not be able to get to a refuge in time to shelter him within the walls of safety, but a man who looks to Christ can never fall. This concept is clearly taught in scriptures such as Phil 1: 6; Jude 24; I Peter 5: 10 etc
“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart” ( Psalm 34:18).
Unto such He says, “My righteousness is near” ( Isaiah 51:5).
The way to Christ is straight, and short: it is but a simple renunciation of self and a laying hold of Him to be our all in all.
Certainly in the Gospel, God has fully and plainly made known the way of salvation, so that “wayfaring men , though fools, shall not err therein”(Isaiah 35:8). See also Romans 10:6-8.
The Bible makes a specific promise: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
In fact, Jesus Himself seeks us.He says in Rev 3:20 , “I stand at the door and knock.”.
So Christ is easy to reach, His arms are open to all, His entrance is never locked, He is a completely sufficient refuge, and He is the only hope.
Just as the cities were near to all—so is JESUS, our REFUGE NEAR TO ALL, AT ALL TIMES