Sunday 14 March Message: Elmer Arentsen Summary: Edith van Kooten
Title: Cities of Refuge
Who has seen the movie of Shrek? If you haven’t here is a short description: Shrek was an
ugly creature, an ogre. Not many people wanted to befriend him because of his outward
appearance. At one time he explained something about himself to a donkey, saying: “I am
like an onion. When you peel off the outer layers, you will find jewels inside”.
Today we will also peel of some layers of an onion, in fact 3 layers:
1. A short historical lesson;
2. How this relates to our Lord Jesus;
3. How this relates to us.
1. A short historical lesson
For this we read Joshua chapter 20, which is the basis for this message.
Here is a timeline that shows how much time passed from Abraham to Joshua:
For those who are not native speakers of the English language, here is a definition of the
- Protection or shelter, as from danger or hardship
- A place providing protection or shelter
- A source of help, relief or comfort in times of trouble
The principle of the cities of refuge in the chapter we just read shows us that:
- If you killed someone accidentally, the avenger of blood (usually a family member or
a relative) could come after you and avenge the blood of the one whose life you took;
- The city of refuge was where you could seek protection from this avenger of blood;
- As long as you stayed in this city until the death of the high priest, you were safe;
- Once the high priest (who was alive when you entered the city) was dead, you were
free to return to your home town;
- The city of refuge was for both Jews and aliens.
(and no, an alien is not an extra terrestrial being, for those who have seen too many SF
movies – the word actually means: “stranger”).
Where were the cities located? Answer: on hilltops, and evenly spread across the whole
country of Israel; 3 in the promised land, 3 outside of it. See the red dots on this map:
History shows us that many countries this principle had more or less been applied over the
years. Today, refugees seeking asylum can be compared to those fleeing to those cities of
refuge. In The Netherlands, refugees who seek asylum for the following reasons can never be
turned down: those seeking protection from political, religious and/or social persecution.
2. How this relates to Jesus
Read Hebrews 6: 18-20, concentrate on verses 18b and 20
(verse 20 – Melchizedek; the name is derived from 2 Hebrew words, ‘Melech’ (which
means ‘king’) and ‘tzaddik’ (which means ‘righteous man’ or ‘righteousness’).
Read now 1 John 1:7 – protection in case of accidental killing – substitute ‘accidental
killing’ with the word ‘sin’
1 Peter 5:8b – the avenger of blood is the devil (the adversary), and Jesus protects us from
the roaring lion.
John 3:16 (the love of God for us)
Principles of the city of refuge:
- We are safe in the city of refuge (kingdom of heaven) until the death of the high priest
(but Jesus is our High Priest and never dies) – Hebrews 7:23-24;
- Once the High Priest dies, we are free to return to our home town - Isaiah 53:5;
- This city of refuge is for Jews and aliens – Galatians 3:28.
3. How this relates to us
Read Romans 15:4
Where do we stand?
We should ask ourselves the following questions:
- Do we run to Jesus for protection?
- Are we within the walls of the city (or are we continually seeking the boundaries and
trying to push them?)
The 3 cities in the promised land were: Kadesh, Shechem and Hebron
The 3 cities east of the Jordan were: Bezer, Ramoth and Golan
What do these names mean?
- Kadesh (holy) – read 1 Peter 2:9;
- Shechem (dedication) – read Matthew 6:33;
- Hebron (fellowship) – read John 14:23
- Bezer (fortress, defense) – read Ephesians 6:11
- Ramoth (heights) – read Matthew 5:14-16
- Golan (captivity, exile) living in a place you don’t want to be – read 1 Peter 2:11.
Questions to ask: Are we
- Living a holy life?
- Dedicated to God?
- In fellowship with the Father?
- Protected by God’s armour?
- Visible to others?
- Longing for home, away from evil?
In sum: we learned 3 lessons: historical, prophetic (how Jesus relates to the cities of refuge)
and spiritual (Romans 15:4)
Do we recognize the following in the cities of refuge: a) Jesus, b) God’s promises, c) our
lives and d) our church?
Let’s pray that the Lord keeps us focussed on Him (Psalm 139: 1-7; 23-24).