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In Joshua 20 we see six cities being set apart as the cities of refuge. Simply, if one person killed another without premeditation or intent, they could flee to one of these strategically located, designated safe cities for protection from the avenger of blood (the family member of the deceased vociferously chasing justice). Protection was guaranteed for the innocent until the high priest at that time died, at which time the manslayer could return to his own town and to his own home, to the town from which he fled. This protection for the innocent was guaranteed for both citizens and guest workers (v.9). Simply, God’s justice and mercy applied to all.
Where do we see this principle play out in our own lives?
Perhaps it is in the special relationship shared with a spouse: someone who will always take your side in a conflict and provide, metaphorically if not physically, the refuge needed when accusations come.
Perhaps it is in the confines of a community: a group of people to whom we run for protection and acceptance, understanding and support.
Whilst they are wonderful refuges to have to hand, no doubt, there is more available.
Scripture tells us that Jesus is our refuge and strength, a person to whom we run for refuge (Psalm 46.1, Hebrews 6.18).
Just as those six cities of refuge were strategically located so that everybody was within easy reach of one, Jesus is just as easily within reach for you (Psalm 139.7).
Just as the cities were open to all who needed their protection, Jesus is able to save all who come to Him (Joel 2.32).
Just as protection was guaranteed as long as the seeker stayed within the city (vv.5-6), Jesus guarantees the same for you (John 6.39, 15.4).
There is much similarity between the cities of refuge and Jesus. There is, however, one point on which they differ, and it’s the point that means that everyone, you and I included, can and should run to Him for refuge today. The cities of refuge only helped the innocent (v.3) whereas Jesus, fulfilling and surpassing what we see here in Joshua 20, welcomes the innocent and the guilty. Jesus provides refuge, forgiveness, acceptance, protection from death, and life to those that know they are guilty, that know they need help, and those that run to Him for refuge.