December 12, 2023
Picture: City of Refuge
Joshua 20:1-4; Hebrews 6:18-19
The last 47 years had pushed the people of Israel to the brink. After spending 40 years wandering in the desert, they had finally entered the promised land. They had been met with the task of claiming their inheritance by driving out the people who had settled on their land. Each man fought for their kin and the Lord fought on their behalf, rewarding their intermittent faith with incredible miracles that would live in their collective consciousness. Now their leader, Joshua, was dividing the land between the tribes of Israel. In the midst of what can be a tedious list of unfamiliar landmarks and names, a peculiar designation is given to 6 cities spread throughout the main geographic areas.
The Lord also spoke to Joshua, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Appoint for yourselves cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the slayer who kills a person accidentally or unintentionally may flee there; and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood. And when he flees to one of those cities, and stands at the entrance of the gate of the city, and declares his case in the hearing of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city as one of them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.
Joshua 20:1-4 (NKJV)
In the premodern world, the justice system was limited. There were no large-scale prisons that housed perpetrators of violence. Instead, the Mosaic law allowed the nearest male family member to become the avenger of blood when their family member was murdered. Imagine the fear that would plague you if you were involved in an accident that resulted in someone’s death. Not only would you bear the guilt and remorse that accompanies a traumatic event like this, but you would deal with the fear of that families hunt for vengeance. In the midst of this brutality, God creates spaces for people to flee to in order to find relief and a second chance. These cities paint a picture of hope for all of mankind. We have criminally offended the God of the universe by sinning against His holiness. The result is death, separation, and punishment. Without hope, we bear the guilt, and fear of being found out. But Jesus is our city of refuge.
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.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil…
Hebrews 6:18-19 (NKJV)
Jesus is our second chance. The one who shelters us from the consequences of our sin through his payment for it. Regardless of what we have done, in our darkest hour, amid trouble and distress, we have a city to flee to for shelter. As we place our faith in Jesus and forsake our sin, He becomes a city of hope, defying our past and giving us a future filled with purpose and grace. At the first Christmas, shepherds and wise men were driven by hope to gather at the feet of a child. Forever after, mankind will flee to Jesus as a place of refuge and an anchor of hope.