Summary: God provided cities of refuge for the man in trouble. It was not an afterthought but planned for, even before Israel enters the Promised Land. God is merciful. He is our refuge and strength.
God made a very special provision in Numbers 35 – the cities of refuge.
[Read Num 35:6-15, Deut 19:1-10]
When the Israelites finally settle in the land of Canaan, every tribe was allotted a piece of land, generally according to the size of their tribe.
• Except the Levites. They are not given land because they are called to be priests and overseers of the Tabernacle and the sacrifices.
• God specifically allocated 48 cities for them to dwell in, spread throughout the land.
This was not an afterthought. God planned for it and gave clear instructions to Moses, so that the needs of the Levites are met.
• You don’t have to worry that God missed you out. Jesus says don’t worry because our heavenly Father knows what we need.
• We’ve learnt over the past few months from these books that God has a plan.
• Nothing that happens was an afterthought. God plans right down to the details. And His plan is perfect, practical, and purposeful.
Among the 48 cities dedicated for the Levites, God says SIX are to be designated as CITIES OF REFUGE.
• They are assigned only for one need – to save the one who killed someone accidentally; someone who make a mistake not deserving of a death penalty.
• It’s about manslaughter, not murder. God addresses murder in 35:16-21. The one who kill with malice and intent will face judgement.
For the one who kill someone accidentally and unintentionally, God provides them a place of refuge.
• If they can run to these cities, they will be protected from the avenger (35:12). They can at least have a proper trial.
• The assembly (elders and Levites) would judge to find out if indeed it was an accident and the man acted unintentionally.
God grants them mercy and provides them a way out.
WHY THE LEVITE CITIES
These sanctuaries are located among the cities of the Levites because the Levites, as priests, are authoritative figures and recognised as impartial judges.
• The Levites act as the mediators between the attacker and the victim’s family or any avenger.
• They can ensure no further bloodshed would happen.
WHERE ARE THEY LOCATED
God asked for 3 of the cities on East side of river Jordan and the other 3 in the land of Canaan, because two and a half tribes were assigned land on the East of Jordan.
• In Joshua 20:7-8 you can read the selection of these 6 cities. They are all spread out throughout the land, well spaced-out across all the tribes.
• They were chosen so that wherever you are in Israel, you are not very far from one of them. They are all within reach.
WHO CAN BE PROTECTED
Who can be protected? Anyone. Num 35:15 says Israelites, aliens or any other people living among them.
• God’s justice applied to all, it’s impartial. If it’s only provided for the Israelites, then it’s favouritism.
• No matter WHO you are or WHERE you stay, you can run to one and be protected.
And Deut 19:2 tells us that PROPER ROADS are to be built and maintained to these cities of refuge.
• God wants nothing to hinder or delay the person from reaching these cities. People who needs help gets it.
• Everything was done so the man in trouble can find safety! That’s God’s plan!
I was reminded of this song by Hillsongs: SO YOU WOULD COME. “Before the world began You were on His mind; And every tear you cry, is precious in His eyes; Because of His great love, He gave His only Son; Everything was done, so you would come!”
God shows him mercy and provides a way out for the man in trouble.
• The cities of refuge wasn’t man’s idea; it was birthed in God’s heart. God is merciful.
• It wasn’t an afterthought. It was planned out and prepared for, even BEFORE Israel took possession of the land.
God cares for you. Everything is provided for so that you can stand a chance to live on.
• And the amazing thing is this, the fugitive need not have to hide forever. When the current high priest dies, he is forgiven.
• Josh 20:6 “He is to stay in that city until he has stood trial before the assembly and until the death of the high priest who is serving at that time. Then he may go back to his own home in the town from which he fled."
• He is released from the sanctuary and allowed to go home, and no one is allowed to harm him. At the end, he finds forgiveness and freedom.
Does this picture looks familiar? When the high priest dies and he goes free?
• That’s what happens to us, right? When a great High Priest JESUS dies and we go free.