Summary: How many of us tonight are living outside the walls?

Christ is Our Refuge

Joshua 20:1-6

INTRODUCTION: During the time of the exodus, God introduced “cities of refuge” for people who mistakenly murdered someone.

Anyone who killed someone by accident would run to one of these cities and plead his case before the elders of the city. They would then allow him to come in and give protection from the family of the person killed.

God was not sanctioning vigilante violence. But at this time there was no police force to catch criminals, so the families of slain people were forced to catch criminals and bring them to be judged.

Often the accused would never receive proper judgment because the mob would return death for death without a trial. The city of refuge was God’s way of providing mercy and justice for the guilty offender.

***Apart from the practical aspect of protection that these cities offered, they also serve as an important picture of the Person and Work of our Lord.

Hebrews 6:18 “…we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us”

To anyone familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures--especially a Hebrew--this designation of Christ as a “refuge” strikes a familiar chord.

It is a clear allusion paralleling these cities with the salvation that is offered in Christ. Though there are differences at points, the similarities between them are numerous.

What are some of the outstanding characteristics of these cities that make them similar to the work of Christ?


a. The cities were God’s provision for the protection of the guilty offender

i. Because of his actions, the manslayer needed protection from the “avenger of blood” and this he received when he fled to a city of refuge

b. Likewise, the guilty sinner is protected from the judgment that his sins deserve by fleeing to Christ

i. As a sovereign God, He has the right to see that justice is served upon the guilty sinner for actions committed against Him

ii. But just as the manslayer had a place of refuge, so too the world has a shelter in the Lord Jesus Christ

c. Illustration: “Passover, City of Refuge, Christ=Protection” The blood that sheltered the children of Israel while the death angel passed through the land in Egypt pictures the same type of protection that every manslayer needed and that every believer in Christ enjoys

i. The blood on the doorposts protected the Israelites from the death angel

ii. The city of refuge protected from the “avenger of blood”

iii. Christ protects from the penalty of sin, which is Hell

1. God will judge all who do not accept Christ and repent of their sins, because they are guilty

2. There are no free passes to heaven going to be given out at judgment.

3. Christ was clear – without Him we lack the protection from the punishment to come


a. The concept of the cities of refuge did not originate with Moses or Joshua, but was provided by God.

i. It was not something they conceived, but rather in the heart and mind of God, who instructed them to establish these cities

ii. Often we read something in the Bible and think it was a good idea of a clever person – but the Bible was written under the inspiration of the Spirit

iii. It is God’s perception, not ours

b. Similarly, salvation by grace alone through Christ is not man’s idea, but God’s

i. Most man-made religions focus on good works, not grace

ii. Illustration: “Grace: Where will it lead?” When John Calvin was in Paris, he urged a friend to preach a sermon on Christ as our only mediator. This was a highly controversial and provocative move, as the sermon was preached on All Saints Day, a day specifically earmarked to celebrate the role of saints. In his sermon Calvin’s friend said, "Let us plead to Christ who has great mercy and who is the only Mediator with God, that His Spirit may enlighten our hearts that all our being and striving might praise him, feel him, and bow before him in awe, so that the Divine Redeemer may fill our hearts and immerse them in his grace . . ." Never had the university heard anything like it from this place. Two Franciscans were seen leaving the church. They had been disturbing the audience with remarks of disapproval for the last half hour. "Grace, pardon of God, Holy Spirit," they said; "that’s all this speech is filled with. Nothing about indulgences, good works - where will it lead to?"

iii. REMEMBER: Men need something to hold onto– when God has no hold on them

iv. Too often they hold onto something like good works

c. Salvation by grace through faith is God’s unique plan conceived in love from His heart and mind from “the foundations of the world”, providing salvation for the helpless sinner

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