Then the Lord also spoke to Joshua, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Appoint for yourselves cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the slayer who kills any person accidentally or unintentionally may flee there; and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.’” Joshua 20:1-3
Now that all the tribes had received their territories, the Lord spoke to Joshua just as he spoke to Moses, instructing him to have six cities of refuge placed strategically in the land, three on each side of the Jordan River. The six cities of refuge were needed because they didn’t have police in those days to investigate crimes, so if you killed someone accidentally you could flee to one of these cities to be safe from the family of the victim taking revenge. In the ancient world, blood revenge was the norm. The moment a person was killed his nearest relative took responsibility for vengeance. This ancient rite of vendetta was handed down from generation to generation.
According to Jewish tradition, the roads leading to the refuge cities were in excellent condition, and the cross roads were well marked with signposts proclaiming, “Refuge! Refuge!” Runners were also stationed along the way to guide the fugitives. These cities of refuge pointed to the future saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ for all those “who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18b). We were once lost sinners in danger of judgment for “the wages of sin is death.” The avenger of blood was after us, but when Jesus came He delivered us safely into His loving arms.
As I was typing these words this morning, I was moved to tears of joy by the memory of all those runners stationed along the road when I wanted refuge. All those who took the time to share the gospel with me to help guide me to refuge. Why don’t you take a moment today and remember and pray for those who helped guide you to refuge. Then pray that the Lord would use you to be a runner to guide another fugitive to the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Join us this Wednesday night at 6:30pm at the Portillo’s home as we dig deeper into understanding these “Cities of Refuge” found in Joshua 20-21.
God bless you all and hope to see you there!