For the past two programs we’ve been learning about the priestly tribe of Levi. Moses and Aaron were Levites, and after the debacle of the Golden Calf in the wilderness, the Levites were chosen by God to be a sacred and priestly representation to Him and before the rest of the Israelites. They weren’t given an allotment of land like the other tribes, God was to be their inheritance. Their job was to care for all aspects of the Tabernacle, and to make sure the priests had all they needed for their particular functions and tasks.
While they weren’t provided a large tribal land grant, they were provided 48 cities throughout the land so they could be living among the rest of the nation to minister to them…not as priests, but to care for the people. Six of those 48 cities were deemed Cities of Refuge. What were they and why did God deem them necessary?
Numbers 35:9-12, ‘The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 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. The cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the manslayer won’t die until he stands before the congregation for trial.’”’
Basically, if a tragic accident happened and it resulted in someone actually killing another person, without guile or intent to kill, that perpetrator could flee to a city of refuge and appeal for protection from the grieving family member who was baying for blood and vengeance. A trial would then take place and if proven that there was no intention to kill, that person could remain in the city of refuge and be protected. If they left the protection of the city, it was at their own risk, but staying was a guarantee of protection and safety. He would have to stay there until the death of the ruling High Priest but then, after that he could return to his own home with full protection. (Num 35:25)
Okay, now that’s really interesting of course, but when we know that Jesus, Yeshua our Mashiach, is at the very centre of every single verse of the Bible, it’s worth taking a closer look.
Was Jesus death premeditated or inadvertent? It was absolutely premeditated. In fact, it was predetermined before the foundations of the world! Not only that, but the religious leaders of Jesus day were hell-bent on murdering Him. They plotted and schemed and lied and broke all their own religious rules in order to make sure it happened. So they’re all condemned under the law. But what about this verse…
Matthew 5:21-22, ‘You’ve heard that the ancients were told, “You shall not commit murder” and “Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court”. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good for nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘you fool’, shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.’
From this verse, we can see that God’s standards are incredibly high.
What about 1 John 3:15,
‘Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.’
That’s breathtaking and leaves us all in a very bad place. But what about the cities of refuge? What do they mean for us? If everything in Scripture points to Jesus, where is He in this?
First of all, as human beings we’ve inherited a sin nature, that doesn’t mean we’re not responsible, it just means when we sin, we don’t necessarily intend to be wicked. When we’re angry with someone, our intention isn’t to murder, of course we’re not. So when we commit sins, we flee to our City of Refuge. His name is Jesus and He gives us refuge and safety.
Our enemy the devil would love to pursue us, he’s the accuser of the brethren and would love to see us condemned, but we remain with our City of Refuge to find forgiveness and peace. We remain with the city of refuge until the High Priest dies and with His death, comes our eternal forgiveness, peace, restoration and eternal security. Never again to be touched or harmed by our enemy.
When did our High Priest die? At Calvary, He died in our place for our sin. He died, He was buried and raised to new life three days later and now sits at the right hand of the Father. Our protection, our security and our forgiveness is assured eternally.
Christ fulfils all things in Scripture, the Priesthood, the High Priest, the Sacrifice itself and our City of Refuge.