Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.
Joshua 20:1-3 (NIV)
Then the Lord said to Joshua: “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood.
Joshua 20:1-3 (MSG)
Then God spoke to Joshua: “Tell the People of Israel: Designate the asylum-cities, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally—that is, unintentionally—may flee there as a safe place of asylum from the avenger of blood.
“The Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, “Speak to the Israelites, saying, ‘Designate the cities of refuge (asylum), of which I spoke to you through Moses, so that the person (manslayer) who kills any person unintentionally, [a]without premeditation, may flee there, and they shall be your refuge from the [b]blood avenger.” -AMPLIFIED
Joshua 20 is exclusively dedicated to the subject and business of the cities of refuge. It addresses the significance and the purpose of these places; as well where they were and what was to be done in them.
Explicit instructions were given to Joshua by God:
“Tell the Israelites, “You must set apart cities of refuge, as I directed you through Moses, so that anyone who accidentally or unintentionally kills a person may flee there. These cities shall be set up as a refuge from anyone seeking blood revenge. If the slayer flees to one of these cities, he can stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and explain the case to the elders of that city; then the fugitive will be taken into the city and given a place, and he will live among them. If the person seeking to avenge in blood comes after him, the people of the city may not give up the slayer since the neighbor was killed by mistake and there was no premeditation or prior hatred. The slayer may remain in that city until there is a trial before the congregation. And when the high priest who currently holds the office dies, then the slayer may return home to the town from which he fled.” -Joshua 20:2-6 (VOICE)
These cities of refuge or asylum were to be a place of sanctuary and safety. They were to be available as a haven or refuge only to those who had accidentally or unintentionally killed someone. Hence, the offender had to stand before the city leaders in front of the city gates before being allowed admittance. Not just anyone would be allowed sanctum with the walls of the city of refuge. It was reserved for a specific group.
There were actually six cities of refuge. “So they set apart and consecrated Kedesh in Galilee (in the hill country of Naphtali), Shechem (in the hill country of Ephraim), and Kiriath-arba (Hebron, in the hill country of Judah). 8 Beyond the Jordan, east of Jericho, they appointed Bezer (in the desert plateau from the tribe of Reuben), Ramoth in Gilead (from the tribe of Gad), and Golan in Bashan (from the tribe of Manasseh).” -Joshua 20:7-8 (VOICE)
The disbursement of the cities was based on the ability of the people to access them. To be of any use, a city of refuge had to be reachable by those in need. For this reason there were three on either side of the Jordan. There were also good roads leading to each city so that people could easily reach them.
These cities were a God send for anyone who accidentally killed someone in that day, but you may wonder what the significance would be for us today. I would put forward to you that as a follower of the Most High God that we find refuge, sanctuary, and asylum in the Lord our God. Over and over again throughout Scripture we can find verses that support the fact that God Himself is our refuge, our shelter, and our hiding place:
* “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” -Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
* “You are my hiding place and my shield of protection; I hope in Your word.” -Psalm 119:114 (VOICE)
* “So God has given us two unchanging things: His promise and His oath. These prove that it is impossible for God to lie. As a result, we who come to God for refuge might be encouraged to seize that hope that is set before us.” -Hebrews 6:18 (VOICE)
* “God is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, no matter how desperate the trouble.” -Nahum 1:7-8a (MSG)
Jesus Christ is also considered our city of refuge and asylum. In Him we can find protection, forgiveness, sanctuary and a hiding place. We are all guilty of sin; yet in Him and through Him we can find propitiation and reconciliation with the Father. It is only through acceptance of Jesus’s sacrifice that we can be acquitted and pardoned. It is important for us to realize something though; we can never leave the shelter of His refuge. Just as it meant certain death for an inhabitant of the city of refuge to leave; so too it would mean certain spiritual death to us if we left the fold of our Savior. Our protection and safety is only through Him.
Let us each give thanks to God that He is our Refuge, Sanctuary, Asylum and our Hiding Place.
Lord, you are my hiding place. You are the One whom I have run to for shelter, refuge, and asylum. I know that I can trust you to protect me and keep me safe. You are my ever present help in trouble; my hiding place in those tough times. I thank you, God, that I can trust that you will always be available for me. Remind me that it is only by staying close to you that I have the safety you provide. Help me to remain in the parameters that you have placed for my own good, Lord; so that I will find the security and freedom that you desire for me. You are my All-In-All.