Joshua 20 presents a condensed record of the six Cities of Refuge God had previously commanded Moses to designate, recorded in Numbers 35.
“Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘Designate the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses,’” (20:2).
“The cities which you shall give to the Levites shall be the six cities of refuge, which you shall give for the manslayer to flee to; …15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the sons of Israel, and for the alien and for the sojourner among them; that anyone who kills a person unintentionally may flee there… These things shall be for a statutory ordinance to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings… for blood pollutes the land…” (Numbers 35:6,15,29,33).
Life is sacred and God’s Law requires the shedding of blood be met with justice; yet in His Holy Justice, His Mercy arises.
Today we will consider His Cities of Refuge by revisiting Numbers 35. For we know, when God repeats Himself… pay attention!
Consider His Cities of Refuge
- His Cities of Refuge Reveal His Mercy
- “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘Designate the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, 3 that the manslayer who kills any person unintentionally, without premeditation, may flee there, and they shall become your refuge from the avenger of blood…’” 9 These were the appointed cities for all the sons of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them, that whoever kills any person unintentionally may flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stands before the congregation, (20:2-3,9)
- “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11 then you shall select for yourselves cities to be your cities of refuge, that the manslayer who has killed any person unintentionally may flee there. 12 The cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the manslayer will not die until he stands before the congregation for trial,’” (Numbers 35:10-12).
- His Cities of Refuge Reveal His Justice
- “‘So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it,’” (Numbers 35:33).
- His Cities of Refuge Reveal His Holiness
- “‘You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord am dwelling in the midst of the sons of Israel,’” (Numbers 35:34).
How do we respond to His Cities of Refuge?
People love to think of God as the God of Mercy, but shun away from the idea of a Loving God being a God of Justice; a result of an improper grasp of His Holiness.
Numbers 35 presents a pyramid of sorts: His Mercy, revealed at the top, upheld in His Justice, by the foundation of all He is and does, the bedrock of His Holiness.
His Holiness demands His Justice; His Holiness extends His Mercy.
May we have our thinking realigned to consider His Holiness above all else; putting His Justice and His Mercy in proper perspective as we meditate on His Holy Word.
- His Holiness perfectly revealed in His Son, Christ Jesus
- since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; (1 Peter 2:21-24).
- His Justice completely satisfied through Christ Jesus
- But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus, (Romans 3:21-26).
- His Mercy richly granted through faith in Christ Jesus
- But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:4-7).
We all have blood on our hands, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). We are each the manslayer; for our sin sent Jesus to His bloody death on the cross. God’s Mercy, Justice and Holiness are perfectly revealed in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus.
Have you placed your faith in what Christ Jesus alone accomplished by His death?
Only as we come to Him in faith, to see Him in His Holiness, understanding what we deserve in His Justice, and receive His provision for our sin satisfied by His death on the cross, are we set free to come and partake of His Mercy.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, (Ephesians 1:7).
By the death of our great and glorious High Priest, Jesus Christ, we are free to return to the Father and take possession of His promises and provisions.
“‘But after the death of the high priest the manslayer shall return to the land of his possession,’” (Numbers 35: 28).
“‘He shall dwell in that city until he stands before the congregation for judgment, until the death of the one who is high priest in those days. Then the manslayer shall return to his own city and to his own house, to the city from which he fled,’” (20:6).
Our High Priest gave His life to give us life. Let us draw near to Him to grow in our love, faith and desire for holiness.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption, (Hebrews 9:11-12).
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; (Hebrews 10:19-23).