Monday, July 23, 2007

A City of Refuge

Beniah was walking home from visiting his father - a two day journey from his own home. A week had passed since he had seen his wife and young sons and his step was light with eager anticipation to soon be home again.
He still had several hours of walking before him. To distract his mind and quicken the journey, he amused himself by picking up stones and throwing them at targets as they presented themselves - perhaps a branch on a tree or a mark on a boulder beside the road a few yards ahead.

Then the unimaginable happened.

Just as his muscular arm propelled a stone aimed at the branch of a tree hanging over the path, someone - out of no where- dashed into the road crossing the direct path of Beniah's stone.
Beniah opened his mouth to shout a warning but it was too late. The rock hit the runner in his forehead and he dropped to the ground. Beniah ran to help him but saw instantly that he had killed him. Fear gripped his heart – he knew his own life was in danger if anyone had seen him. And yes, there were two people running toward him and the body of the young man who lay sprawled across the well trodden path.

Beniah groaned with regret and remorse for his carelessness. But his racing mind screamed at him that his own life was now in danger, a mental picture of his family flashed before his eyes.
He had but one chance. Flee to a city of refuge. He must think quickly… which way to the nearest one. Yes, yes, he remembered , that way.
Quickly, adrenalin lending him extra speed, he ran without stopping until he collapsed panting inside the city walls.
Someone quickly came to his aid, bringing him a cup of water.
He was safe in the city of refuge!

The above fictional scenario is based on Numbers 35:23.

Numbers 35 lays out the God-given criminal law for governing the nation of Israel. It left no room for legal loopholes. It was eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, life for a life – punishment to fit the crime.
The murderer paid with his own life, the law was that he be killed by his victim’s family.
Though the law was harsh, God did not allow for anarchy. A murderer had to be given a fair trial and he could only be found guilty on the testimony of two witnesses.

When a man had killed another man, by intent or accident, before the congregation could be called to judge his guilt or innocence there was a good chance his victim’s family would search him out, ambush him and kill him.
To prevent unjustified bloodshed, God commanded Moses to designate cities of refuge. These cities were placed strategically on either side of the Jordon so that any one living in the land of Canaan could have easy access to one of these cities if he needed protection.

A man fearing for his life, would flee to the nearest city of refuge and there could not be harmed by anyone. He was safe until he could be brought to justice before the congregation.
If he was found guilty of killing someone with intent, he would be condemned to die.
If he was found to have killed by accident , he would be returned to the city of refuge where he could safely live without fear.
He had to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the ruling high priest. If he ventured out of the city limits before that time, he took his life in his own hands – he could be killed if found by his victim’s family. But if he remained in the city until after the death of the high priest , he was free to go back to his homeland - no one could harm him.

It is interesting , is it not ? The stipulation of remaining until the death of the high priest?
It is a picture , a shadow of the good thing to come!
The law was a temporary covering for the sin of the people… they had to stay under that covering until the death of the High Priest - Jesus…. Then the people were set free under the new covenant - the law could no longer keep them in bondage!!

The world is a wicked place, there is no way we can avoid the pain and suffering that comes to us all.
No where in scripture are we given a promise that God will keep us from the tribulations and hardships of this life, but He does promise us a refuge – a place to hide.
Is that not all we need?

There are many verses in the bible that use this ‘picture’ of God being a refuge. Here are a few …..

"In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence and His children will have a place of refuge." Prov. 14:26

"For You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress -- a refuge from the storm !" Is. 25:4

"And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge and for a shelter from storm and rain." Is. 4: 6

"I cried out to You, O Lord, I said, You are my refuge." Ps.142:5

"I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."
Ps. 91:2

The next time fear clutches at your heart because the enemy or the terrors of this world threaten to harm you, remember the cities of refuge, flee to the arms of God and hide there until the terror is past!


truth said...

You have a wonderful gift with words and a delightful way of sharing God's word. Thanks for blessing the rest of us.

Carolanne said...

I agree with what Truth said.

I was just thinking that every time I come and visit your blog site, I am encouraged by the words that you write and the thoughts you share.

Thank you!

Lovella said...

Truly amazing, how God left no stone unturned . . .it is almost as though he would know everything that we would face. :) Amazing . .

What a treasure it is to have these moments in the morning to help us face our days. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such insight and very real love of the Lord and His word.

I long for a mother who has such a relationship with God. My own Mother knows God, but does not KNOW God in a personal relationship.

It is my goal to live each day, so that I may be such a person for my own children and their children.

Thanks for being you, and sharing yourself with us.