Sunday, 17 December 2006 00:00

He Is Our Refuge

Joshua 20:2-3 (KJV)

Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses: That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.

Jesus taught his disciples with parables, allegories, and simple stories. He is the Master of penetrating truth to the heart via vivid illustration. Charles Spurgeon himself said, "Illustrations are windows to the soul." So much in life can be learned if you just pay attention to the stories you hear. So it is in the Old Testament. Some of the most wonderful, eternal truths are found within the stories of Israel. Take for instance our text. In the story of Israel's conquest of Canaan, we have this addendum, "Appoint for you cities of refuge." Detailed instructions had been given to Moses by God in Numbers 35.

  1. The cities were to be quickly obtainable. Three each were on both sides of the Jordan.
  2. The cities were to be easily identifiable. All stood on the open plain. The roads leading to them were straight, smooth and signed (Heb. miklat means "refuge"). Near each city was a hill that served as the sign that refuge was close (ex. Sychem/Mt. Gerizzim).
  3. The cities were to be personally accessible. There was always an open gate. The cities were established for "manslayers." No manslayer who fled to "refuge" was rejected.

"These events typify what takes place in the kingdom of God on earth. The manslayer points to the murderous nature of sin in bringing death to the soul of man. The avenger of blood personifies the stern but righteous demands for vengeance, made by God's holy law, pursuing the unforgiven sinner, in order to execute the sentence." (Andrew Bonar)

And the city of refuge is the salvation provided for the sinner in Christ Jesus. We are familiar with the concept of fleeing to the City of Refuge, but there is one facet to the story that I would like to point out this morning. Turn in your Bibles to Numbers 35:25. "And he (the manslayer) shall abide in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest."

Once the high priest died, the manslayer could go home. The death of the high priest did something so significant that it revolutionized how the sinner lived. Of course, Jesus Christ is called in Hebrew 8:1 "our High Priest set on the right hand of the throne." What is it about the death of Christ that should revolutionize our lives and the way we live?

  1. We have freedom from condemnation, not necessarily accusation.
    When the high priest died, the manslayer could leave the walls of the city. There was no power any longer in the law that demanded his death. Accusations were rampant, but the death of the priest became the very thing that satisfied the law's demands.
  2. We have freedom due to His performance, not always our own performance.
    It is because of the performance of the High Priest that we are free. It is a finished work. It has been accomplished. It is the good news of Christ's death that sets us free to serve. We no longer give or live to obtain anything. It has been obtained.
  3. We have freedom to live our lives with simple gratitude, not motivated by guilt.
    When the high priest died, the manslayer left the city and ventured out. He went back to his job, his family, his home, a changed man. The high priest had died. He was now free to live and give, serve and work, in grateful appreciation to Him.

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