Summary: 22nd in series on Joshua. This is about the cities of refuge: 1) Jesus is our refuge 2) The church is part of God’s plan to provide refuge 3) Not everybody wants refuge.
Joshua 20:1-9 – Soul Asylum
A young lady who occasionally walked through the park after work, stopped to have her picture taken by a photographer on this particular day. She was very excited about her picture being taken. As she walked out of the park, she looked at the Polaroid picture in total amazement. She turned and headed back to the cameraman.
When she got there, she yelled at him. She protested, "This is not right! This is not right! You have done me no justice!"
The photographer looked at the picture and looked at her and stated, "Miss, you don’t need justice. What you need is mercy."
Today, as we continue through our series on the book of Joshua, we will look at God’s mercy, His compassion and kindness, in the form of cities of refuge. Let’s read Joshua 20:1-9.
Now, this was a system conceived of by God. These cities of refuge were meant to be places of safety. In those days, the justice system was sadly lacking. What these cities of refuge did was provide a real step in that system. If a person accidentally killed another person – the head of their axe went flying off and struck someone, or whatever – that person could run away from the victim’s family, while waiting for the priest to declare him or her not guilty. After all, a person wants to avenge their loved one’s death. And if you haven’t already got some sort of legal system in place, revenge was the most natural way to go.
So, these cities of refuge were God’s plan to show mercy to those who needed it. It’s not that justice would not be served. It’s that the cities were intended to show God’s mercy. What the cities show, in fact, is that God’s mercy extends a lot further than other people’s mercy.
I want to share with you 3 things that can be seen about God’s mercy from the cities of refuge of Joshua 20. The 1st truth about God’s mercy is this: 1) Jesus is our refuge. This seems like a no-brainer to people to know the Bible, but it’s true nonetheless. Jesus is our refuge. Jesus is our place of safety. Jesus is where we find mercy.
The New Testament uses the phrase “in Christ” many times. It pictures our relationship with Jesus as being safe in Him, or as Phil.3:8 says, as being found in Him. We are secure in Him. Romans 8:1 says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Him. While we remain in Him, and He in us for that matter, God will not condemn us for our failures. He will not count our sins against us. Not to say that everything Christians do is wonderful and should be applauded, but it means that we are free to ask forgiveness, and God won’t hold it against us. We are declared “not guilty” when we are in Him.
It’s what Hebrews 6:18-19 speak about: “We who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” This hope that the verses speak about is that Jesus has made a way for us to be right with God, and that God keeps His promises. We can flee to take hold of the hope that Jesus gives us mercy. This hope will keep us stable and firm.
Hebrews 4:14 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Because Jesus walked where we walk, and was tempted in every way that we are, He knows what we go through. He is kind and patient and merciful to us.
The Bible paints such a picture of how merciful Jesus is, how He provides such a refuge for us. 1 John 2:1 says He is our advocate, our defender and supporter, one who speaks up for us when we need it. Luke 10 pictures Him as a good Samaritan, one who would offer mercy when we didn’t do anything to deserve it. 1 Timothy 2:6 calls Him a ransom, the price paid to get someone out of bondage.
And Isaiah 21:4 uses plenty of descriptions: “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” A refuge, a shelter and a shade. All of these show the mercy of our God, how we can turn to Him when the world seeks to destroy us or mock us or intimidate us or pressure us. Even if all the world is against you, God is for you, and He wants to strengthen you in your weakness and pain. Jesus is your refuge.