“…Appoint out for you cities of refuge…and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood… And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand… And he shall dwell in that city…until the death of the high priest…” (Joshua 20:2-3, 5-6)
The Law of Moses made provision for the accidental killing of another human being. The cities of refuge were established as a sort of “safe haven” where the manslayer could find sanctuary from the judgment of the Law. The fact that these were Levitical cities (Numbers 35:6) indicates a religious significance to the provision.
While the slayer was in the city, he was perfectly safe from the wrath of judgment. However, if he should leave the city for any reason, he brought his own blood upon himself. The same Law that protected him inside the city would demand his death if he were to leave. In a real way, he was removed from his old life and given a new life in this priestly city.
However, the slayer did not have to remain in the city forever. There was the special provision that allowed him to return to his old city and his old life upon the death of the high priest (Joshua 20:6). It is important to note that, until the high priest died, the fleeing slayer actually surrendered his old life, and that his new life was bound up in the life of the high priest. Herein we discern the great similarity to the believer’s position in Christ.
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Escaping the wrath of God (Romans 5:9), the child of grace is eternally secure in his position because Jesus Christ, our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), lives forever to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Our life is bound up in His life (Galatians 2:20). We cannot leave the City or return to our old life. To do so would mean sure and certain physical death, as we would reap the harvest of corruption in the flesh (Galatians 6:8). Albeit, the spirit is positional secured in Christ (1 Corinthians 5:5).
What is this City of Refuge? Abraham fled thereto and dwelt therein by faith (Hebrews 11:8-10). It is the City of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, the General Assembly, and Church of the Firstborn (Hebrews 12:22-23). It is the Spiritual Habitation of God (Ephesians 2:22); the saints’ prepared place (John 14:2-3). It is the Bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2); married to Him in Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17); one with Him in God (John 17:21).
It is the Kingdom of Christ. The born-again see and enter therein (John 3:3, 5). In this city is abundance of life as we partake of the Tree of Life (Revelation 22:2), which Tree is Christ Himself, the only King Eternal. To walk in this City is to experience the righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17).
“For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Revelation 22:15)
Let us therefore flee to this City in times of distress (conviction of sin), that we may find sanctuary from the wrath of God, Who has put away our sins through Christ. Let us flee thereto “…for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18). Let us walk in the light of that City of Refuge (Revelation 21:24) as we realize the power and glory of a reigning Saviour.