Our Refuge

There were no policemen in the Israel of the Old Testament. The law given by the Lord was used to judge wrongs and was used to set wrongs right. The theft of an item was to be repaid double. In the event that a family member died at the hand of another man, someone from the family could kill the murderer without fear of punishment.

Notice that I said murderer. In the event of an accidental death, there was a special provision. Here we find the unique idea of cities of refuge. (Numbers 35:6-28) The law called for the death of a murderer by the “avenger of blood,” a family member. Retaliation and revenge for the death of a family member is still part of the Middle East culture.

But the law given by the Lord provided protection for someone who caused an accidental death. The “congregation” would deliver the guilty person to a city of refuge. There were six cities of refuge. There he would be safe until the anointed High Priest died. If he left the city of refuge, he was is danger of being killed by the avenger of blood. But when the High Priest died, he could go home in safety, and the avenger of blood had no right to touch him.

This system was a compromise between the culture of family revenge and civil law where designated authorities enforce the law. But what about the death of the High Priest? What has that got to do with an accidental death?

Frequently, I call the Bible “The Picture Book” because it is filled with pictures. The story of the cities of refuge and the death of the High Priest give us another picture.

None of us are without sin. (Romans 3:23) We are all guilty. However, the Lord has provided a place of refuge for us. We are safe in this refuge. In fact, we are saved in this refuge. But what really makes us free is the death of the High Priest. Jesus is our High Priest, and His death gives us our freedom. The provision of the cities of refuge is a picture or foreshadow of the refuge provided by Jesus.

Freedom and salvation. That is what is provided by the death of Jesus. Praise His name for His blood that covers all of our sins! (First John 1:7)

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