We have noted in our study of the book of Joshua how God brought the Israelites to the Promised Land with various powerful miracles and helped the 12 Tribes of Israel get settled in their territories (show map). Joshua himself, God’s leader, was given special land. Let’s continue to learn about our God as we read Joshua 20 today……
v1-3: God told Joshua to set up cities of refuge for those accused of murder. We read that the instruction was initially given to Moses. Turn to Exodus 21…. (v12-13) Numbers 35 (v6, 9-15)…
The cities of refuge were for those who accidentally killed someone.
v4: Elders/Judges by the city gate will preliminarily evaluate those seeking refuge.
v5-6: The accused was to be protected till given a trial OR the High Priest dies!
Any thoughts on why the accused be set free if the high Priest dies??
v7-8: 6 cities of refuge were set in the lands of the Tribes of Naphtali, Ephraim, Judah, Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (show map).
v9: Cities of Refuge were not exclusive to Israelites!
Any thoughts on why God did this??
What in general can we say about God in setting up the cities of refuge??
1. God is a merciful God! God could have just allowed people to deal with problems in their society. Sadly, some people say they believe in God who created them but they also believe that God just leaves them alone to deal with life. God does care and the provision of cities of refuge is an example of His mercy. How do we know God still cares for people today in spite of all our sins??
In spite of people’s wickedness today, God is merciful by giving Jesus Christ, His own self, to suffer and die for all the sins of the world! If heaven is such a beautiful perfect place, why would one leave it and come to this world with all the hate, wickedness, diseases, and pain? John 3:16….
Now, before we discuss how we can experience God’s love and mercy, why did God add the provision of forgiveness with the death of a high priest??
Yes, the high Priest represented God and a prequel to the death of Jesus Christ to forgive people of their sins; but it was an undeserved favor or gift to the one forgiven! And think about it, the accused in Joshua 20 had faith in God, went to the city of refuge for protection but lived in a foreign land (not their home),
but then their High Priest died and just like that they were able to go home free!! That is grace!
God gives grace = undeserved favor or blessing = a free gift! John 1:17 states “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is grace, undeserved gift, for us today!
Now, if we go back again to the story of the accused in Joshua 20, did God require anything to receive His love and mercy to live in refuge? What did the accused in Joshua 20 had to do to experience a life in refuge provided by God??
The accused in Joshua 20 had to:
1. flee to the city of refuge gate!
2. stand at the gate and wait for the Elders!
3. state their case to the elders
4. live in a foreign land until trial or death of high priest!
What can we learn from what the accused did to receive refuge?
2. If people desire refuge from God, they must listen and follow God’s instructions!
There are 2 Scriptures we should note for today:
For non-Christians – Acts16:31… "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."
For us Christians – simply Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." We are such busy people today that we neglect God’s mercy, love, and grace by not taking time to stand still and wait for God.
May I encourage you with this (and for me to do as well), when you get an itch to check your cell phone for any reason (texts, news, sports, games, etc…), pause and take a moment to pray to God, give Him thanks for His love for you.
And finally as we noted in Joshua 20:9; although God chooses people, He makes room for all! Of course there is a difference between man and woman and there are differences with people from all around the world, but God loves all and provides for all!
3. We must see people as God sees people, no matter the gender, ethnicity, or other difference!
We might think this is a no brainer, but we all have our prejudices and we must allow God more and more in our lives! What do we really think about when we see the opposite sex? What do we really think if we meet a person who speaks with an accent or has a different color skin? Let us work on putting this question in our minds when we meet someone – “I wonder where this person will spend their eternity?”