Summary: Cities of Refuge - a picture of Christ

Study 15

Cities of Refuge


I wonder did any of you ever get into a fight in your childhood days? Most kids have a skirmish or two when they are growing up and I have to say, growing up in Belfast, I was no exception. I remember one occasion when I was coming home from school after staying behind for games, it was near tea-time and most other kids of course had been home for a while and had changed out of their uniform and were hanging about the streets, and a couple of blocks away from where I lived I ran into a group of fellas from a rival neighbourhood gang/clique who went to a different school from me. As I walked along the footpath on the other side of the road from them they started to shout abuse at me and instead of ignoring them and walking on big mouth Robb of course had to give them some lip back, because I didn’t want them to think that I was afraid of them; although if the truth be told I was trembling inside because there was four or five of them and a couple of them were bigger than me. Well the two-way abuse continued as I walked along one side of the street and they walked along the other. Then the next thing I knew was I was hit with a stone which one of them had obviously thrown at me. Now the smart thing to do in such circumstances of course is to get offside as quick as possible, get the old guddies going and run for your life. The problem was that I wasn’t too smart in those days and wasn’t in the habit of stopping and giving rational consideration to such situations and on the basis of a reasoned and considered decision taking the best and most sensible course of action. Instead, in a fit of temper I picked up several stones of the ground, the biggest ones I could find, of which there were plenty around our neighbourhood in the early seventies and I started to fire these back at these guys at which stage they of course decided to wage an all out war and charged towards me. Now its one thing being brave when you are at the other side of the street maybe about 50 yards away from your rivals, but when four of them come charging at you and you are on your own common sense and I have to admit stomach churning fear start to send urgent messages to your brain ‘RUN LIKE MAD’ and being one who takes such messages quite seriously and realising that I was in big trouble if I didn’t do what my brain was telling me to do I was in big trouble, I started running for my life. Thankfully I was quite a fast runner in those days and although they gave hot pursuit and didn’t give up chasing me until I was home I managed to stay ahead of them. I can tell you it was some relief to turn the corner into my own street and even more of a relief to see my front door open so that I could run into the house screaming for help, at which stage of course my pursuers gave up the chase. They did of course shout abuse and threaten to get me when I came out, but of course I wasn’t for going out. I was safe in my house and there was no way I was leaving it. I can tell you I was glad to see 41 Imperial Street that day. It was my place of safety, my refuge from my pursuers.

Nice little anecdote from my childhood days but what has it got to do with our study of God’s Word this evening? Well our next study in the book of Joshua brings us to chapter 20 and chapter 20 is all about places of refuge, places to which people who were being pursued and whose lives were in danger, could flee for safety.

The Children of Israel have taken control of the land of Canaan and each tribe has been given its particular portion of land, its particular territory by Joshua. The Levites, that is those whose full time job it was to serve in the tabernacle and to minister to the spiritual needs of the people, they were not to have any inheritance land as such, instead they were to be appointed certain cities in which they were to live and it was up to the people of God as a whole to provide for the material needs of these servants of God. And you see from chapter 21/41 that there were 48 towns in all given to the Levites and these cities were located in every region in Canaan. Now out of these 48 cities six were to be designated as Cities of refuge. The purpose of these cities, who was entitled to the safety they provided, where the cities were located and so on are described for us in a somewhat condensed form in Joshua 20. More information on these cities can be found in Num 35 v9-34; Deut 4v41-43; and 19v1-13. And in our study of the cities of refuge this evening we will be drawing on the material that we find in all of these passages. Another passage of scripture that has a bearing on the cities of refuge is found in the N.T. in Hebrews 6v18 where the believer is spoken of as someone who “has fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before him”. And it is evident from the context that the apostle is speaking of the sinner fleeing to Christ for safety. So many expositors see in the language used by the apostle here in Hebrews 6 , especially in the light of the Jewish context of that epistle, a clear parallel being drawn between the cities of refuge and the safety they offered and Christ and the safety he offers. And whilst I do not think that the cities of refuge are a full blown O.T. Type of Christ, there is no doubt that in many points they are illustrative of the spiritual refuge the sinner finds in Christ.

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