Cities Of Refuge

Joshua 20:1-9

Ben and Stephanie are getting ready to leave on a mission trip to Brazil. We will be watching the twins while they are gone. Before leaving they made some preparation for what their wishes are concerning the children if something were to happen to them on this trip. We don't like to think about that sort of thing, but we live in an increasingly dangerous world and there are no guarantees of safety or security. As believers we know that God is our Protector, He is our hiding place and our refuge in the midst of a frightening, dangerous world.

In this chapter we find that God is instructing Joshua to set up cities of refuge. After the flood, God laid down a basic rule to Noah that anyone who murderously shed the blood of others should pay for their crime with their own blood

But God made between premeditated murder, and what today we call manslaughter or a crime of passion, the unpremeditated killing of another person.

If the death wasn't premeditated, or if a person killed someone by accident, the slayer could seek refuge in the sanctuary of the tabernacle, physically holding onto the altar as a place of safety and protection.

So God ordained six cities of refuge, places of compassion, where anyone who had killed another person unintentionally could flee. In Israelite society there was no police force to investigate crimes. It was the moral responsibility of the family member who was closest to the victim to investigate and avenge the murder. In our text, he is called the avenger of blood.

But this person's own emotional subjectivity, passion, and anger at the loss of their family member would cloud their judgment, and they might not want to go to the trouble to figure out whether it was an accidental killing or whether in fact it was premeditated murder. They might end up avenging the death by indiscriminately killing someone who wasn't guilty of a capital crime. That's why these cities of refuge were needed.

Verse 7 lists the three cities west of the Jordan from north to south, and verse 8 lists the three cities east of the Jordan from south to north.

I. Thoughts concerning the Cities of Refuge.

II. The Application for Us

The cities were only a shadow of the true refuge that is available in Christ. Once we trust in Christ we are eternally secure in Him! What a wonderful picture God gives us in this 20th chapter of Joshua.

There is only one place to find the needed refuge. People all around us are looking for a place of safety and security. We must point them to Christ.