“The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, designate cities to serve as cities of refuge for you, so that a person who kills someone unintentionally may flee there. You will have the cities as a refuge from the avenger, so that the one who kills someone will not die until he stands trial before the assembly.” Number 35:9-16 (HCSB)
Six cities were to be established sanctuaries for those who had accidently killed someone. The deceased next of kin was called the Avenger of Blood and had the right to kill the manslayer, but not before a trial. The accused was safe as long as he stayed within the gates of the city until the death of the High Priest. The death of the High Priest made atonement for the accused and the manslayer was free to leave. However if the manslayer was found through trial and witnesses that he had premeditated or had hatred in his heart towards the deceased, he was to be handed over to the Avenger. God in his foresight also insured against the corruption of justice in the taking of ransoms for the manslayer. God made this provision so there would not be innocent bloodshed in the land He was to dwell with the Israelites. (Number 35:6-34)
What a beautiful picture of the justice and mercy of God. God showed His justice in not allowing the guilty to go unpunished or allowing innocent blood to be shed by the Avenger of Blood. It is a divine provision with future implications. The idea of a place of refuge permeates through scripture, but this specific topic spans over the next three books. These were some of the instructions of the cities of refuge.
• The cities were to be easily accessible to all the tribes. (Num.35: 14)
• The roads were to clear and easily traveled to the cities. (Duet. 17:6-7)
• The cities were available for anyone who was accused not just the Israelites. (Num. 35:15)
I needed the reminder this week that Christ is our refuge. Because of His atonement for our sin we have access to the Father. He desires to be for us what those cities were for the people in Israel: a safe place. The road is clear, the gate is open and He is easily accessible. Run to Him!
“Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me, for I take refuge in You. I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings until danger passes.” Psalm 57:1 (HCSB)
By Karen Aker