Any refuge that we have other than God, is a bondage and a prison. God is our only refuge and strength,…(Psalm 46:1-3) In Numbers 35, God gives the Israelites laws to live by when they enter the Promised Land. This chapter talks about “Cities of refuge” that God sets up.
Numbers 35:9 – Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, (Verse 10) “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, (Verse 11) ‘then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally may flee there. (Verse 12) ‘They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment. (Verse 13) ‘And of the cities which you give, you shall have six cities of refuge.
(Verse 14) ‘You shall appoint three cities on this side of Jordan, and three cities you shall appoint in the land of Canaan, which will be cities of refuge. (Verse 15) ‘These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that everyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there.
(Verse 16) ‘But if he strikes him with an iron implement, so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. (Verse 25) ‘So the congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall return him to the city of refuge where he had fled, and he shall remain there until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. (Verse 26) ‘But if the manslayer at any time goes outside the limits of the city of refuge where he fled, (Verse 27) ‘and the avenger of blood (the nearest relative of the one that was killed) kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood,…’ “
There are six cities of refuge and there were three on each side of the Jordan. Two in the north, two in the middle, and two in the south. God designed these cities so that if anyone killed someone accidentally and they could go to one of these cities in a half-days walk.
This shows that every person had equal access to a place of refuge. Every person has equal access to God. He doesn’t play favorites because all His children are His favorites. He doesn’t hear one person’s prayer over another. These cities were detailed because God wants us to know, He cares about every detail of our lives. God gave detailed laws so that sinful people could live in harmony.
Rules of Refuge
If you noticed when you read Numbers, the refuge was for those who had accidentally killed someone. The one that had intentionally killed someone was put to death. The refuge is for the righteous. God said if you want to get your prayers answered; if you want to live in peace; if you want to live in safety; if you want to live in protection, then refuge is for the righteous. Refuge is not for the person who wants to continue in their sin. So, who are the righteous?
The definition of the “righteous” from the Bible: Right standing with God. Not right acting, right standing. God by His grace causes us to be in right standing with Him if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior. When we become a believer, we are in right standing with God. However, as a believer, we still sin and can run away from God. But when a person consistently persists in sin, they are leaving the city of refuge! They are going out on there own and have lost the protection of refuge.
For instance: God says that when we tithe, He will rebuke the devourer for us. So when a person doesn’t tithe, they willingly take themselves out of the city of refuge. But then when something bad happens, they want to blame God. They’ll blame God for not protecting their finances. But they are the ones that intentionally walked out of His refuge.
Satan is the devourer, not God, so don’t blame bad things that happen on God when a person intentionally walks out from under that umbrella of refuge – protection. If a person is walking in sin, they are not walking in righteousness. We have no fear when we walk with integrity and righteousness, only the one walking in sin has fear because they know they are not walking in right standing with God.
Refuge is also not for the rebellious.
Isaiah 48:22 – “There is no peace,” says the LORD,” for the wicked.” A person that walks in rebellion, even for the believer, will have no refuge, no peace for themselves!
Here’s what God said would happen if the person leaves the city of refuge. The avenger is going to catch them. Who’s the avenger? First of all, the avenger is executing righteousness and judgment. The avenger is right in the judgment he executes. So who is he? God! God says “Vengence is Mine (Deuteronomy 32:35).” This is also in Romans 12:17-19.
So when a person runs from God, outside the place of refuge, they are being chased by two people, God, and the devourer! Not a very good position to be in. God chases us as a loving Father trying to get us back in the place of refuge. Satan is after our destruction. God “acquits,” Satan “accuses (Revelation 12:10)!” Satan is the accuser of the brethren. God convicts, but Satan condemns.
Please understand: If you are running from God, He wants to catch you and bring you back under His protection before the accuser catches you! Remember this also; God is omnipresent and you can’t run from Him.
Isaiah 30:15 – For thus says the LORD God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength. ” But you would not, (Verse 16) and you said, “No, for we will flee on horses” – therefore you shall flee! and, “We will ride on swift horses” – therefore those who pursue you shall be swift!
That’s rebellion! God is our refuge and strength. We have a choice when we are in trouble, either run to God or run in the opposite direction and get caught by the devourer. When we make a mistake, get to the city of refuge. Get to the throne of Grace!” People need to understand that they are open prey when they leave the city of refuge. When people run from God, they become physically, mentally, emotionally, exhausted. No rest and no peace.
Our refuge is a “high safe place.” Psalm 24:3 – Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His Holy place? (Verse4) He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. (Verse 5) He shall receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from God of his salvation.
Clean hands refer to our relationship with other people; pure heart refers to my relationship with me. An idol and not swearing deceitfully refers to how we treat God. Clean hands refer to “there’s no blood on my hands,” not hating anyone. Not treating family or others wrong. We cannot treat people badly and still have a good relationship with God!
Pure heart refers to how I’m treating myself. Am I being honest about sin or how I treat people? Honesty with one’s self is huge! Honesty would include sin or how we treat people. Honesty will also make God our only refuge and strength.
Remember, the Avenger is God and in Hebrew, about 90% of the time the word “avenger” refers to “Redeemer,” and the Redeemer refers to the “near kinsmen.” In the book of Ruth, he’s called the “Near Kinsman Redeemer.”
God is and always will be our refuge and strength!