A Sacred Refuge Is Your Name
Wednesday, January 3 2018
I couldn't bear the thought of finishing off 2017 as I had lived it in this particular area of my life. And so, two weeks ago now, I donned my running shoes and valiantly began my morning walking routine once again.
It hasn't been easy since then. It's been raining alot here in Armenia, and so I'm often either walking in a falling mist or not walking at all. Like today: it's overcast and gray, it's cold, it's raining hard – and my morning walk has come to naught.
But yesterday, I did get out – and as I was listening to the music I have in my old Ipod Shuffle, I was struck with a phrase from Christy Nockels' song A Mighty Fortress, which says:
"A mighty fortress is our God
A sacred refuge is Your Name..."
"A sacred refuge is Your Name": those words sounded so beautiful and reassuring to me, and reminded me of some vague Old Testament memories I have of God-ordained cities of refuge.
And so, unable to do my walk this morning, I'll investigate and see what I come up with...
… Well, I've discovered this:
"The God-ordained cities of refuge played an important role in the life of ancient Israel. God commanded first Moses (Exodus 21:12-14; Numbers 35:9-34; Deuteronomy 19:1-13), and then Joshua (Joshua 20) to set them up in the Promised Land."
"The cities of refuge were six Levitical towns in the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah in which the perpetrators of manslaughter could claim the right of asylum... Outside of these cities, blood vengeance against such perpetrators was allowed by law. The Torah names these six cities as being cities of refuge: Golan, Ramoth, and Bosor on the east of the Jordan River, and Kedesh, Shechem and Hebron on the western side." Each one was "strategically chosen so that anyone living in Israel, including strangers..., could flee to them for refuge within a day or less."
"Upon entering one of the cities of refuge a person had to first explain, to local elders, what happened (Joshua 20:4). They were then given a place to stay until a trial could be conducted (Numbers 35:12). The city guaranteed the safety of those seeking asylum against being killed in retaliation by the "avenger of blood" (Joshua 20:3). This "avenger" was usually the nearest kin of the person who died. It was considered their duty to avenge the death of their family member (Joshua 20:9).
If in a particular city of refuge it was determined that the accused accidently caused the death of another human, they could live, protected, from the "avenger of blood" only if they stayed in that location. They could only safely return to their home after the death of the High Priest (Joshua 20:6). If they left before the priest died, they risked being killed by the "avenger" who could kill them, outside of the cities of refuge, without penalty (Numbers 35:26-28).
If the accused was convicted of murder, they were turned over to the avenger of blood. The avenger was then to carry out the death penalty (Numbers 35:19, 21, Deuteronomy 19:12). Those who killed, either accidently or with malice, were not allowed to pay a ransom in the cities of refuge in order to avoid the consequences of their behavior (Numbers 35:31-32)."
The perpetrators of man-slaughter, accidental or intentional, had the opportunity to flee to a city of refuge before the avenger of blood could retaliate. There, in one of the six designated cities of refuge, they would be protected and safe until they were heard and received a fair trial before the city elders. If found innocent of intentional murder, they could live in the city of refuge until the High Priest died, when they were then free to return to their original home. If found guilty of intentional murder, they were sent out of the city of refuge to be handed over to the avenger of blood to die.
So many interesting thoughts come to mind:
- the fact that God would stipulate a place of temporary or permanent safety so that all perpetrators of man-slaughter might be heard and receive a fair and just trial
- the strategic location of the six cities of refuge, so that everyone would be able to reach one of them
- the opportunity God provided for protection and safety and life within the city of refuge for those who unintentionally killed another human being
- the fact that, only once the High Priest had died, could the murderer return to his or her hometown
- the fact that no murder, accidental or intentional, could ever be paid for and absolved with ransom money
So what does all this mean for us today?
Here is what I think...
All of us are "murderers" of some kind or another: we may not physically kill another human being and take the breath of life from them – but we "murder" with our words or with our silence, we "kill" with our malicious thoughts and feelings and deeds.
And so, we all at some point or another, need a "city of refuge" to flee to for protection from the blood avenger of our lives, Satan - the one who is determined to have us pay for our crimes. This "city of refuge" is a place that we can all get to, every one of us – it's a place where we can be heard and receive a fair and just trial – it's a place where we can be safe and at home, not fearing constant and imminent retaliation for our crimes.
Interestingly, it was and still is, always and only, "blood" that pays for a crime, that pays for a particular sin, or sin in general – never ransom money. Either the perpetrator him or herself needed to "pay" for the murder with their own life – or the High Priest died, shed his blood, and then the criminal or sinner could go free. But always, the payment for wrong-doing was the shedding of blood.
Thank God... truly THANK GOD! that we who are all guilty of sin, all guilty of intentional and malicious "murder" of some kind or another, are never sent out of a "city of refuge" to reap the deadly and avenging consequences of our actions. Because of our eternal High Priest Jesus Christ, who shed his own blood to pay for our sins so that we would not have to, we need not die but are free to live.
But we must always run to a "city of refuge" to find that pardon and that absolution. And today, that "city of refuge" is no longer a physical place – it is no longer called either Golan, Ramoth, Bosor, Kedesh, Shechem or Hebron. Today, our "city of refuge" is the presence of the High Priest Himself – today our "city of refuge" is called Jesus Christ. We must run to Him. We must run to His presence. We must run to the protection and safety that can only be found in Him.
As Christy Nockels' song goes: "A sacred refuge is Your Name".
Yes! We must run to the Name of Jesus Christ – because only He is our sacred refuge.
"The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
the righteous man runs into it and is safe."
Give Christy Nockels' beautiful song A Mighty Fortress a listen in this link:
(information taken from:
- Where Joy and Sorrow Meet
- And His Name Shall Be Called...
- What King Is This?
- He Has Visited His People
- In The Fullness of Time
- What Man Is This?
- What Child Is This?
- What Babe Is This?
- 1 John 3:16
- The Bridges of Prague in the Czech Republic
- The Legacy of Wartburg Castle in Germany
- Martin Luther: Here He Stood (1483-1546)
- Katharina von Bora: The Runaway Nun (1499-1552)
- Johannes Bugenhagen: The Administrative Pastor (1485-1558)
- Zacharius Ursinus: The Happy Professor (1534-1583)
- Theodore Beza: The First Calvinist (1519-1605)
- Lady Jane Grey: The Teenage Martyr (c.1537-1554)
- Pierre Viret: The Smile of the Reformation (1511-1571)
- Robert Estienne: The Ink (1503-1559)
- John Calvin: The Genius of Geneva (1509-1564)