“That man may flee to one of these cities and save his life.” Deuteronomy 19:5 (NIV)
The mission statement for the United States Department of Justice is as follows, “…seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior and ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all …” Enforcement of justice stems from the universal moral law, an inherent law that God has embedded in the hearts of all men and women. We read in the Book of Romans 2: 14-15 concerning all non-Jews, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law…in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.” Apart from this moral law, God had also given specific commandments to obey for the Israelites. Hence, their practice of law and order was advanced compared to other nations.
During the period of judges and kings in Israel, it was normal to follow the brutal ‘eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, life for life’ rule. So much so, that if any man strikes another to kill, then the murderer shall be put to death. But what if the cause of death was unintentional and there was no malice? God foreknew such incidents would happen so He commanded six cities of refuge to be built across Israel. These cities of refuge were allocated as places of asylum for those who had been accused of manslaughter. Upon reaching the city, the slayer will find relief as he is granted protection from the avenger seeking his blood. The slayer was safe as the avenger was not allowed in. Then, the elders will weigh the evidence concerning the fugitive and decide a verdict through a fair trial.
The cities of refuge sheltered those who may be innocent of first-degree murder but God is a refuge to those who are guilty of sin in every degree.
For the run-away Israelite yearning to breathe free, the Sovereign God provided these refuge cities. But we all have gone astray, turned to our own wicked ways, therefore, a price had to be paid for our sins. The grim reaper that’s chasing all mankind is the wrath of God claiming justice. But our compassionate God didn’t want to leave us in a state of despair and shame. As the cities of refuge provided a haven for the troubled Israelite, the Lord Himself is a shelter for us. Praise be to God, for Jesus Christ has saved us from the wrath of God; we are justified by His precious blood poured out for us and Christ has made peace between God and man. The Lord has laid on Christ the iniquity of us all for our lawlessness. Christ gave Himself as a ransom for the whole world.
We all need a city of refuge to run to and we have that in Christ, our mediator and our fortress. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). The cities of refuge sheltered those who may be innocent of first-degree murder but God is a refuge to those who are guilty of sin in every degree. God is an ever-present shelter even if you have willfully turned away. “The Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10). As the Lord is near to those who call on Him, salvation is instant when you turn to Jesus Christ and accept Him as your refuge. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalms 91:1-2).
by George John
George John resides in Hawthorne, New Jersey with his wife Eirene and children Norah, Amelia, Daniel, and Gideon. He is in active fellowship with the believers in Elmwood Park Bible Chapel, New Jersey and serves as the Sunday School Principal. George is also a pharmacist by trade.
You can read other articles by George here.
(Image Cities of Refuge)