Awesome Hands – Part 170: “The Cities of Refuge”

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Awesome Hands – Part 170

“The cities of refuge”

August 19, 2020

The Lord always provides His city of refuge. For Christians, He is our refuge.

Psa 46:1  To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psa 14:6  Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge.
Psa 71:7  I am as a wonder unto many; but thou art my strong refuge.
Psa 71:8  Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day.

While this concept is easy to grasp, the Lord is our refuge, it is much harder to hold onto. It seems as though when times of tribulation happen upon us, we often forget that we do have a place to which we can retreat so that judgment can take its course.


Judgment is the reason why the city of refuge is implemented. Proper judgment is very hard to come by, but when the Lord is involved, we know that His judgment is just and wise.

In our study today, we find ourselves ported into the world of Joshua 20.

Joshua 11 was the last chapter that we see the Hebrew word “yad” mentioned, and now we jump forward to the next mention of this word, which is found three times in Joshua 20.

In Joshua 11, we saw that the Lord indeed hardens hearts. In the case of a hardened heart, the Lord certainly will not feel like He is a place of refuge. However, in Joshua 20, we find some biblical definitions of what the cities of refuge are all about.

Jos 20:1  The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,
Jos 20:2  Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:
Jos 20:3  That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.

The law of Moses was made up of a lot of laws which were added to the ten commandments. However, one of topics that Moses did not have to delineate on was the topic of the cities of refuge. That is because the Lord Himself instituted this practice.

Killing a person “unawares” was akin to an accidental death. It was not a premeditated murder. However, it was acceptable in the traditions of the people that blood to be repaid with blood.

Exo 21:12  He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.
Exo 21:13  And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.
Exo 21:14  But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.
Exo 21:15  And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

Joshua simply reminded the people of the law that was already passed down through Moses via the Lord.

Num 35:9  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Num 35:10  Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
Num 35:11  Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.
Num 35:12  And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.
Num 35:13  And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge.
Num 35:14  Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.
Num 35:15  These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.

You’ll notice that these rules on the cities of refuge were so important that they were mentioned in three of the five books Moses was credited for writing contained in the first five books of the Old Testament.

Deu 19:1  When the LORD thy God hath cut off the nations, whose land the LORD thy God giveth thee, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their cities, and in their houses;
Deu 19:2  Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.
Deu 19:3  Thou shalt prepare thee a way, and divide the coasts of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to inherit, into three parts, that every slayer may flee thither.
Deu 19:4  And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past;
Deu 19:5  As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live:
Deu 19:6  Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past.
Deu 19:7  Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee.

The “avenger” of blood was a person who was given the ability to “avenge” the murder of someone that was murdered. This was a legal act that was instituted because the sanctity of life is very important with God.

However, what is it to be an “avenger” of blood?

So, an avenger is a redeemer?!? Could it be the Lord is an avenger of blood? A few of the examples taken from above are:

Psa 74:2  Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.

Psa 77:15  Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.

Psa 106:10  And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

Psa 107:2  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

Being a “redeemer” is even more interesting, because being a redeemer is learning about who the Lord is to us and who we are to the Lord as the body of Christ.

1Ki 16:11  And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends.

Being of the “kin” or of the “kinsfolks” was being related by blood. Are we related to Christ through His blood? I believe we are, according to Christ. We are washed in it, but equally important is that we have taken it INTO us.

Rev 1:5  And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

Rev 7:14  And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Mat 26:27  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
Mat 26:28  For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Mat 26:29  But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

What, then, can we learn and deduce from this information? Well, the story of Ruth and Naomi can be quite revealing.

Rth 2:19  And her mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she shewed her mother in law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man’s name with whom I wrought to day is Boaz.
Rth 2:20  And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.

Please bear with me as I present the next verses because while they are long to read, they reveal a wonderful connection of who we are in Christ. More than that, they reveal the relationship we have with Him if only we could take it to heart.

Rth 3:7  And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down.
Rth 3:8  And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.
Rth 3:9  And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.
Rth 3:10  And he said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich.
Rth 3:11  And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.
Rth 3:12  And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I.
Rth 3:13  Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman’s part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the LORD liveth: lie down until the morning.
Rth 3:14  And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor.
Rth 3:15  Also he said, Bring the vail that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her: and she went into the city.
Rth 3:16  And when she came to her mother in law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her.
Rth 3:17  And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law.
Rth 3:18  Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.

Do you ever see a number and wonder why it wasn’t another number? Why not 7 measures of barley? Why not 3? 10?

Here, Boaz gives Ruth six measures of barley. We know the number six has positive and negative aspects, but it also can be seen in the story of Joshua with which we have started today (and other places that talk about the same topic of cities of refuge).

Jos 20:4  And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.
Jos 20:5  And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.
Jos 20:6  And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.
Jos 20:7  And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.
Jos 20:8  And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.
Jos 20:9  These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.

Six cities were given to Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, so that they could have refuge.

More revealing are the meanings behind the names.

Kedesh = A sanctum/clean

Shechem = Shoulder/the place of burden

Kirjatharba = City of the four giants

Bezer = Fortification

The root means a gold clipping, a gold “clipping of defense”.

Ramoth = Height or exaltation

The meaning “from something high in value”.

Golan = Captive / to make bare

This is from the root H1473 meaning, exiles.

These words/cities alone should tell you what you mean to the Lord. Though it may not seem like a good thing to our flesh, look at where we rest when we find refuge from the old man in us via the new man in us.

We are captives to the city of four giants, but in this we are given an exalted fortification placed on us as a burden to be shared by Jesus Christ, thus making us clean. We are man, but we are man in the spiritual form and type and shadow of the six-winged beasts sitting around the thrown of God.

Rev 4:8  And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

Can it get any clearer than that for where we sit in the Lord?

Yes, we may have burdens, but they are shared with the Lord of all of creation because we are the bride of the Lamb. We now can be cities of refuge for those the Lord sends us to or sends to us.

Though the cities of refuge were appointed to the physical nation of Israel to see that justice was done for those who had circumstances that were not considered murder, spiritual Israel is given spiritual refuge, when we have placed upon us these six wings of the beasts, beasts which continuously “rest not” proclaiming holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty.

Judgment must begin at the house of God, and I am happy to be here with you in this holy house.

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