Read:  Joshua 20:1-9

Then the Lord said to Joshua: “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood.  Joshua 20:1-3

The term “City of Refuge” has made it into the headlines in recent months in regards to the very controversial issue of immigration. I knew it had roots in the Bible but I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. From the text it’s pretty straightforward.

You unintentionally do something that results in the death of another person. In Israel, there was no police force so it was the responsibility of the closest kin of the deceased to investigate and avenge the death. This was just how they did things, agree with it or not. Even if the death was accidental, in all likelihood, the “avenger” was going to kill the person who caused the accident. So God set up 6 cities of refuge that people could run to when they had unintentionally killed someone and were being pursued by the death avenger.

These cities were all easily accessible. In fact, other resources tell us that the Israelites were to maintain the highways leading to these cities at all times, including bridges so that people would not be hindered on their way seeking refuge. The gates to a city of refuge were to be kept unlocked 24/7. Any time of the day or night you would receive help.

Easy to get to. Always open. A place of refuge. Is this sounding familiar?

Could this be a foreshadowing of the Refuge to come – the time when all who are running from certain death would have the invitation to enter in to a place of refuge. All have sinned and fallen short. All are pursued by our sins and the judgement of a Holy God. And all are welcome to enter in to His care, His protection, His arms of refuge.

You can imagine the fear and desperation grip the person as they were literally running as fast as they could toward the City gates, feeling the judgement and condemnation and the very real threat of death close at their heels. But making its way beyond the terror is a glimmer of hope. The City of Refuge wasn’t far and they would be welcome there. The road was clear and the gates were never locked. Almost there.

You and I were once on that same journey, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”
(1 Corinthians 15:55)

Christ, our Refuge, welcomed us with open arms. The threat of death was left lying in the road behind us and we were safe at last. Thanks be to God!

Take a moment and pray for someone you know who is desperately running for refuge and needs to know the safety of God’s arms.

And let’s continue to pray for the thousands of refugees in the Middle East who are risking their lives trying to get themselves and their families to a place of safety.

Father, thank you for welcoming me in to your refuge. Thank you for providing a place that anyone can come and find safety. I pray for my friend, that you would lead him down the road towards your arms of refuge and that he would be able to find victory in the Lord, Jesus Christ. I pray for my brothers and sisters in the Middle East that you would provide refuge for them and fill them with your Holy Spirit. You alone are able. It’s in the powerful name of Jesus that I pray, amen.

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