The Cities of Refuge
There is nothing in the Bible that I believe is there by chance. And here is another example of that.
After the conquest of Joshua was completed, the land of Canaan was divided, by lot, among the Twelve Tribes (there are actually 13 tribes). The Tribe of Levi, however, did not inherit land as “the Lord was their inheritance.” They where, however, awarded 48 cities, 6 of which were designated “cities of refuge.”
If someone was killed by an assailant, his slayer would be pursued by the next of kin, the goel, the avenger of blood. In the case were there was no premeditation – what we would term “manslaughter,” – the slayer could seek refuge in the nearest city of refuge. Assuming that he could convince the elders at the gate of the city that there was no premeditation, etc., he was secure from the avenger of blood, as long as he remained within the city. If the slayer left the confinces of the city of refuge, he was fair game to the avenger of blood.
In Israel they had no police force, or prisons. Still, it does seem like a strange procedure. The fate of the slayer was dependent upon his ability to access the nearest city of refuge.
And what has the death of the High Priest, in distant Jerusalem, have to do with any of this? Why should this impact the status of the fugitive refugee? And what has this got to do with us? If we look at it with Jesus at the centre of it we will begin to see more clearly.
Was Jesus’ death “first degree” (premeditated) murder or “second degree” (manslaughter)? From God’s point of view, it was “first degree.” It was ordained “being delievered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,” (Acts 2:23) and, so, from the Father’s point of view, it was indeed premeditated. In fact, it was a deal struck with the Son before the foundation of the world!
But what about our position? After all, it was our sins which put Him on the cross! Would this be considered “first” or “second” degree murder?
Remember the words of Jesus Himself, (who after all is our own defense counsel): “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). So from this point of view it should be considered manslaughter, and this in turn would qualify us to flee to our city of refuge.
And just where is our city of refuge? In Jesus Christ Himself, of course.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
“For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of the sin and death.” (Romans 8:2).
And all this was to obtain until the death of the High Priest. Who is our High Priest? Jesus Christ. (we see this in the book of Hebrews). And it was His death that has freed us from the pursuit of the Avenger of Blood. (Rom. 8:1). However, every check, to be cashed, requires an endorsment of the receipt. Ever pardon needs an acceptance. Have you laid claim to what He has purchased for you?
We are all victims of the seepool of deceit of this world and our genetic defect of sin. Yet He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And He is waiting to hear from you. Flee to the City of Refuge, The City of Refuge, Jesus Christ Himself and he will defend and protect you friom the avenger of Blood.