Why did God establish "refuge cities" in ancient Israel?
[Darris McNeely] Every one of us has the times when we just want to kind of get away from it all. When we need a refuge from a time of stress, trial, problems, something on the job, something with the family, something in our personal life, we just need to get away from it all.
There used to be a commercial years ago for soap that said, "Calgon, take me away." And it was for basically a bubble bath where we would just take a few minutes and relax and let the stress of life deal with this.
You know, there's something from scripture that shows us that God understood this insight into a larger part of the human condition where there would need to be what He called cities of refuge.
This map here shows that there were six cities of refuge in the ancient land of Israel that were apportioned to the lands and among the tribes. At a time when Joshua, the children of Israel were going into the land from the years of wandering after the Exodus and God was giving them all of this land. But He set aside six cities, three on either side of the Jordan River to allow people to go and run to when there had been something like manslaughter, an accidental death or serious crime, people could actually flee to these cities and be protected in these cities of refuge. The cities were never more than a half-day away from just about anyone within and among the tribes of the land. The roads were fairly good. They were maintained and they were well-marked to these cities of refuge we are told from some of the ancient histories of the time. But there a person could go and tell inquiry and justice and trial if you will, would take place. And if they were in the right, their lives would be spared, the record would be corrected.
A city of refuge, God built this into His community, His people in this land, we see it Numbers 35.
You know, today, we still need that refuge. And though we may not have a city to flee to and it doesn't work that way, when we do have a relationship with God, we can flee to Christ. We can go there when we are burdened down with our lives, with the stress of life, when difficulties and situations that sometimes come on because of our mistakes or sometimes where we truly are innocent and other circumstances beyond our control bring upon us times of trial.
And in the book of Matthew 11:28, Jesus Christ said this, "Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." And we have to repent. We have to change our lives. We have to sort out what it might be that's creating the problems. But a relationship with Christ gives us rest, and He at times can take some of those burdens off of us where we can to give us the ability to sort it all out and to get back on the right track of life.
To ancient Israel, God gave cities of refuge. To us today, God gives a refuge in His rest through his son, Jesus Christ.
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