THEME: Christ Our Refuge
This week’s lessons review our study in Joshua, and demonstrate how the grace of God is seen even through His judgment against sin.
Now, we stand at the very end of the third portion, after all the land has been divided up among the tribes. In addition, in chapters 20 and 21 we find a portion that deals with the establishing of certain special cities. There were 48 cities throughout Israel that were given to the priests, who came from the tribe of Levi. One category of these cities, the cities of refuge, we looked at last week. There were six of these cities, strategically spread out around the country, to which a person who had unintentionally killed another person could flee for refuge lest the avenger of blood should overtake him in accordance with the customs of that period.
We saw it had a great deal to teach us about the validity of the law founded on the character of God. Related to this, we also saw that these cities of refuge were for the aliens as well as for the Jews. If the idea of law is merely what we or a majority of us decide is best for us, there’s no reason at all why that same law should apply to anyone else. We may choose to grant them a certain amount of protection. But there’s no need to do it if the basis of our law is sociological. But if it’s grounded in the character of God, as the law of Israel was, then it must be universal because all men and women are creatures of God and are made in His image. Their life is as valuable as our life. Their property is as valuable as our property. Their well-being is as valuable as our well-being. And we saw that in the establishment of these cities of refuge in the way in which they operated, this universal pattern of law is made clear.
We also saw that this is a great illustration of how a man or woman can come for refuge to the Lord Jesus Christ. The way to these cities was to be clearly marked, and to be kept plain, and well-prepared. That’s a task that’s committed to the church. We’re to make clear the way to Jesus Christ. We’re to repair the roads, build the bridges, and erect the signs, telling others that Jesus is the way and that salvation is to be found in Him.
The gates of the city were always to be kept open. It was unlike what was normally done with ancient cities, the gates of which were usually closed. In times of warfare, they would always be closed, but not so with the cities of refuge. These doors and gates were always open, just as the way is always open to come to Christ at any hour of the day, any day of the week, or any week of the month or year.
One thing that is a grim reminder to us is that in Israel, this was the only way by which a man who was guilty of manslaughter might possibly be saved. If he wouldn’t flee to one of these cities, the avenger of blood could overtake him and kill him. In the same way, if you will not flee to Jesus Christ, the avenger of blood, which is death, is on your heels to overtake you. Jesus said that the one who comes to Him will find salvation because He is the resurrection and the life. And the one who comes to Him will never die.
What was the purpose of the cities of refuge? How did they operate?
What do these cities teach us about the nature of law and justice?
If you will not flee to Jesus Christ, the avenger of blood, which is death, is on your heels to overtake you. Jesus said that the one who comes to Him will find salvation because He is the resurrection and the life. And the one who comes to Him will never die.