“You shall appoint three cities on this side of the Jordan, and three cities you shall appoint in the land of Canaan, which will be cities of refuge. These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there” (Numbers 35:14-15).
Have you ever found yourself stuck outside in the middle of a terrible storm? It can make you feel very miserable to be in such a situation. During the winter months I gain a special appreciation for my home and the warmth it provides. It provides me with a place of warmth from the bitter cold and the winter elements of snow and freezing rain. I thank God for that my home is a place of refuge.
Shortly before the Israelites are going to conquer the Promised Land, God gives commands to the children of Israel regarding how the inheritance to be divided once they have conquered this territory. As He does so, God commands 6 cities be set up as “cities of refuge” where someone who had accidently killed someone else (i.e. a manslayer) could flee until justice could be determined (Numbers 35:9-12). Because God was concerned that the land could become defiled through the shedding of innocent blood, God had them set up these cities of refuge (Numbers 35:34).
While God did command that those who were guilty of murder would have to make atonement by the shedding of their own blood as they were to be put to death (Numbers 35:30-33), God did not want innocent blood to be shed in the Promised Land. He did not want the relative of the person who had accidently been killed (i.e. the avenger of blood) to act hastily and kill the manslayer before proper judgment could be determined (Numbers 35:22-24). If it was determined that the person killed another by accident then that person would have to remain in the city of refuge till the death of the high priest at which time he could return to his own land (Numbers 35:25, 28). If that person went outside the city of refuge before this, the avenger of blood could put him to death without being guilty (Number 35:26-28).
It is interesting that these cities are described as “cities of REFUGE”. Webster’s defines “refuge” as a “shelter or protection from danger or distress”. The manslayer was to flee to one of these 6 refuge cities for shelter and protection. He could find refuge here from the avenger of blood until justice could be determined in his case as to whether he had intentionally or accidently killed another.
For the follower of Christ, God is described throughout the Scriptures as our “Refuge”. Why do we need a place of refuge? Life can beat us up at times. Sometimes we get scared at the circumstances we face. Notice how King David felt in his distress, “For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in darkness, Like those who have long been dead. Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is distressed” (Psalm 143:3-4). However, in this same Psalm David took time to remember that God was his Refuge, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land” (Psalm 143:5-6).
It is comforting to know that God is there to provide us with shelter and protection. When we feel scared, anxious, and concerned about the challenges and trials that lay before us, it is important for us to remember His Presence. Today, I will celebrate that God is my Refuge!
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).