The City of Refuge

The Lord set apart six cities in the Promised Land to be “cities of refuge.” (Numbers 35:9-28) A city of refuge was to be a safe haven for someone who had accidentally killed another man; today we call such an act manslaughter.

The person causing the death would need a safe haven because the near kinsman of the one who was killed had an obligation. In addition to his duty of continuing the family line, he was also to be the Avenger of Blood. He was to go after the one who had shed his kinsman’s blood. There were no police. The Lord provided a manner of law enforcement.

When the accused arrived at a city of refuge, he would plead his case to the elders of that city, and if the facts proved his story, he was safe in that city, and could not be touched by the Avenger of Blood, if he did not leave the city. This was valid until a certain event happened. The event was the death of the High Priest. When this happened, the accused was free to go and the Avenger of Blood could not legally touch him.

This may sound to you like an odd and antiquated tribal custom, but remember it was put in place by the Lord. When you find something in the Bible that seems unusual, such as this provision of law, put Jesus in the story and see what happens.

As Christians, we know that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. We are responsible for the death of an innocent man, that man is Jesus. That makes us murderers. But, what did Jesus say on the Cross about what had been done to Him?

“Father forgive them for they know not what they do….”
Because of the statement of Jesus that we did not know what we were doing, our crime was reduced to manslaughter, the accidental taking of a human life. Because of Jesus, we can choose to go to the “city of refuge.” And Jesus is our refuge. Because Jesus paid the price for our sins, we are safe from the one who hates us and would love to kill us, Satan.

Even better, we are safe until the death of the High Priest. Who is our High Priest? Jesus is our High Priest, and He lives forever. He will never die. We are safe in our refuge, Jesus, forever. Because of Jesus, we will never die.

Is it not amazing that the love of God for us is found in this unusual, and possibly obscure, Scripture? May the Lord’s name and the name of Jesus be praised forever!

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