From the early beginning of the world God made provision for those who shed innocent blood.
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” Genesis 9:6
You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.” Numbers 35:33-34
The nearest relative of the murdered man was usually the one who executed judgment. But even then God made provision for overreaction. So to prevent undue haste in reaction to murder, God made provision for the accused person to flee to the Tabernacle and lay hold of the altar. No one could be taken from the altar without an examination, and if it was found that the murderer had planned to kill the man, then he was taken from the altar and slain; otherwise his life was spared. (Ex. 21:13,14)
After the children of Israel entered the promised land, six cities were set apart as cities of refuge. These were conveniently located, three on each side of the river Jordan. (Joshua 20:2,7,8) The cities were on elevated ground, and could be seen at a distance.
God set rules for these cities of refuge. Joshua 20:3-6 & Numbers 35
Refuge was for one who had killed accidentally or unintentionally. If the trial showed him to have killed purposely, he was a murderer and must be put to death (Numbers 35:15-21).
The roads leading to these cities were always to be kept in good repair, that the one fleeing before the avenger of blood might not be hindered in his flight. (Deut. 19:3)
Coming to the gate of the city, he would tell his case to the elders. Gates of those cities were places of city government. The elders would hear the fugitive’s story and give him a place of safety in the city.
The avenger of blood—the relative of the slain one who inherited his property and had the right to kill his murderer—could not touch the fugitive while in the city of refuge.
The accused would be brought to trial before the congregation—a court made up of representatives of the people.
If judged a willful murderer, he would be slain by the avenger of blood.
If judged innocent of intent to kill, he was given safe asylum in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest.
If he was found out of the city, the avenger of blood was allowed to kill him (Numbers 35:26-28).
At the death of the high priest, the man was to return to his home, the case closed.
These rules applied to all, Israelite and stranger alike.
The cities of refuge served as a protection for only those who had slain a person without malice or forethought. The cities of refuge were cities belonging to the Levites, thus those confined within were under the best influence. They were associated with the religious teachers of Israel, and had every opportunity to reform their lives and establish righteous characters.
The Cities of Refuge Reveals God’s PURPOSE
Nehemiah 9:17 “They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.”
God desires that we live according to His desire His Word, and not by man’s ideas of what is right and wrong. God delights in JUSTICE (mishpat) and the requires things set in order, made right.
Micah 7:18 “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.”
The Cities of Refuge Reveal God’s POWER
But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die. Exodus 21:13-14 King James: “but God deliver him into his hand”
Life is indeed precious to Almighty God. We can cry “why did God let this happen” when a loved one is accidentally killed, for that is exactly what happened. God delivered them into his hand.
- When someone falls asleep at the wheel, or has a heart attack at the wheel and their car or truck swerves into the oncoming lane, killing one or more persons, God delievered those people into their hand.
- When a stray bullet strikes a Mom on her way home from Starlight, God delivered her into the bullets hand.
- We will never realize how powerful and awesome God truly is while clothed in mortal flesh. But God says in His word, there are no accidental deaths. God is at work 24/7.
“My times are in Your hand” Psalms 31:15
“Unto God the Lord belong the issues from death” Ps. 68:20
“The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. 1 Samuel 2:6
The gates of the grave open unto none except at the command of the Most High, and when He gives the word none can withstand it.
The Cities of Refuge Reveal God’s Priority
By limiting the time of his banishment by the high priest’s death, honor was put upon the priesthood—as it had been in selecting those cities, for they all belonged to the Levites. “The high priest was to be looked upon as so great a blessing to his country, that when he died their sorrow upon that occasion should swallow up all other resentments” (Matthew Henry).
Judging of these matters was the responsibility of the Levites, God’s Servants, not some man made government.
The instruction in regard to the cities of refuge was but a part of the great system of Levitical laws and ceremonies which taught the simple truths of the gospel of Christ. Tyndale says that “while there is a ‘starlight of Christ’ in all the Levitical ceremonies, there is in some so truly the ‘light of the broad day,’ that he can not but believe that God had showed Moses the secrets of Christ and the very manner of His death beforehand.” Dr. Adam Clarke says the whole gospel could be preached from the particulars given of the cities of refuge.
- In Philippians 3:9, where the apostle, after announcing and then renouncing all his natural advantages as a Hebrew, counting them but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, expresses the desire that he might be “found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
- Hebrews refers to God’s Refuge in Chapter 6 verse 18: speaking of those who have “fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:18), i.e. in the Gospel: reminding us of the prayer of David, “Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies: I flee unto Thee to hide me” (Ps. 143:9)
Comparison of the Cities of Refuge with Jesus Christ:
The Very Names of the Cities of Refuge Picture Jesus Christ.
- Kadesh signifies “holy,” and Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God, is made unto the believer sanctification as well as righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30)—how deeply suggestive that this is the first mentioned, that in the Redeemer we have a sanctuary of holiness.
- Shechem means “shoulder,” which is ‘the place of strength (Isa. 9:7) and of safety (Luke 15:5)—under the government of Christ the believer finds security.
- Hebron means “fellowship,” and through Christ His people are brought into communion with the Father and with the Holy Spirit.
- Bezer means “a fortified place” and “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble” (Nah. 1:7); therefore “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust” (Ps. 91:2).
- Ramoth means “height” or “exaltation”: in Christ we are elevated above the world, made to sit in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6).
- Golan means “exultation” or “joy,” and “we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:11).
The Cities of Refuge Reveal God’s Purpose for the Church
Just as God appointed Christ to be the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8), so did God appoint the church to be Christ’s body here on earth:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, Colossians 1:24.
And through the church the gospel is preached, through the church God’s power and wisdom is revealed to rulers and authorities in heavenly places. “This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord”, Ephesians 3:8-11
The one who kills someone was to immediately seek shelter in the city of refuge.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19
God provides a shelter from the avenger in the church. Likewise, the church is to be a shelter from the world, and the corruption that is in it.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The cities were all atop a hill, visible for miles.
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32
“God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
4. Clear Purpose
The road to the city was plainly marked out.
- “Thou shalt prepare thee a way . . . that every slayer may flee thither (Deut. 19:3). Jewish writers say it was a law in Israel that one day in every year there were persons sent to repair the roads leading to them, to remove all stumbling-stones which might by time have fallen in the way, and to see also that the signposts which were set up at every corner leading to the city were carefully preserved, and the name Miklac (that is, refuge) legible upon them.
Jesus commands to His church were very simple:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Only those who did not intentionally murder were given refuge.
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:36-38
The church is not a place for those who continue in sin. The cross of Christ is the Cornerstone of the church and we must continually die daily to what we want and live for what Christ desires. There is no place for pride, flesh or continual sin against Christ in His body.
The one seeking refuge had to depend upon the city of refuge for his safety. He HAD to stay within the confines of the city walls.
The cities were all the home of the Levite Priests. They were to abide in their care. The church is the body of Christ. We must depend upon the church for guidance, for strength. It is to be a place of healing and edification.
The City of Refuge was open to all, even gentiles that recognized its authority. The church is to have a witness so that anyone hurting or seeking a new life would find refuge in the authority and power of Jesus Christ.
The Jews were to possess their promised land, representing the blessed and abundant life with God. They were to rid the land of the world, the ungodly influences that would try to steal their affections from God. The Cities of Refuge meant that people should seek refuge within their own people and not have to run to the world.
Christ reveals that the heart of any matter is a matter of our heart.
The thing which is to distinguish the church is the presence of Jesus Christ and thus the absence of the world and all worldly influence.
Now most of us think of worldly influence as being something we can see: tattoos, piercings, spiked hair, drugs, bad language, stealing, disrespect, hatred, fleshly sins. But Jesus Christ reveals that worldliness is an attitude: Let’s look at Mt 5:21-26
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:21-25
Jesus says that you don’t have to literally kill someone to be a murderer. All you have to do is dishonor them in your heart by insulting them or by belittling them! Your RIGHT heart attitude toward your brothers and sisters is so essential that God doesn’t even want your offering until you go and clear up your attitude toward your brother.
What is Worldliness?
This world is under the temporary control of Satan. Jesus secured all authority over Satan by defeating him. He has given that authority to the church. The Kingdom of Jesus is not of this world, it is not in food and drink, it is invisible, because it is in our heart, our soul.
Following Christ does not mean you follow a set of rules, but you abide in the Savior. It requires a dependant, living relationship.
Likewise, to follow Satan does not mean following a set of rules, but just the opposite, you do what you want. It too is the reflection of your heart attitude.
- You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4
Following Satan means you follow your own way, you are worldly, you are an enemy of God. God required that the Jews destroy the Canaanite inhabitants, because if left there, they would influence their hearts and cause them to leave God.
From James we see the heart condition of worldly people.
- Lack self-control
- Unfaithful Heart
- Friendly to the World
- Speak evil of others
- Judge their brothers
Worldliness is revealed THROUGH our speech.
The way we talk about others reveals whether our heart is worldly or Godly.
The solution from James is to humble yourself and return to God, to realize Satan’s influence on your life and flee him, cleanse your hands, purify your heart, wait on God to lift you up rather than trying to exalt yourself. Realize how your heart attitude has offended God, realize that you must mourn and weep because you realize the severity of your sin.
So the thing which is to distinguish the church is the presence of Jesus Christ and thus the absence of the world and all worldly influence.
HOW DO WE BECOME WORLDLY?
Romans 1 provides a glimpse into a worldly heart. I believe that we are born with an innate awareness of God. A child has no trouble understanding that there is a God who made them, who loves them, who watches them. Somewhere down the line we get too smart, and self reliant.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, Romans 1:21-22
When confronted with God and what he expects, we turn our back.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:28
How does a Christian become worldly? – You act like the world! Look at how worldly people become more worldly…
- Dishonorable-you do not practice God’s Honor principles that we went through at the beginning of the year.
- Refuse to acknowledge God as God over a situation in your life. You leave God out, either because you are bitter over what’s going on, or because you don’t want to follow the commands of Christ.
- Lean on your own understanding-debased mind, reprobate mind- A worldly persons mind is turned upside down. The things that are wrong and shameful are ok. You justify what you do as being practical, logical.
- Your life begins to exhibit unrighteousness:
Unrighteous Behavior: evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.Not only that, but Christians who are becoming worldly will condone such practices in other Christians.They condone such practices in other Christians. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
A Worldly Christian is one whose heart and mind is not in obedience to God’s Word by intent. You know what Christ says but you chose to ignore it or not do it. Furthermore, a worldly Christian is intentional in their practices.
The Choice is to have a Godly Walk or a Worldly Walk
Walk in a Manner Worthy of Who Lives in You! Your Godly walk will demonstrate the following attitudes:
- Bearing Love [Bearing – anecho Spoken of persons, to bear with, have patience with in regard to the errors or weaknesses of anyone —CWSD]
- Eager for Unity in the Spirit
Do Not Walk as the Worldly Walk! Eph 4:14-32 Worldly Walk is like this:
- Darkened in their understanding
- Hardhearted Alienation
- Given to sensuality
- Deceitful desires corrupt them.
Key is to PUT ON THE NEW MAN!
How do you know you have put on the new man? Not by the things you do, but by your speech, the things you say about others is what reveals your heart!
- Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, Ephesians 4:15
- Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Ephesians 4:25
- Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32
Now why does the way you talk about others reveal whether you are worldly or not? Look at Matthew 12:34-37
You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:34-37
The Way you speak about others reveals the condition of your heart! Colossians 3:8
- But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:8-14
- Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
The First Worldly Church
- Paul is fearful that when he gets to Corinth he will find the church there with contentions, backbitings, whisperings.
- We see the same two words mentioned back in Romans 1:30. NKJV: evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God,
- Katalalia is also used in 1 Peter 2:1-3. The King James translated “evil-speaking” while most others use “slander” “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. 1 Peter 2:1-3
Synonymous with slander or evil speaking is the greek word blasphemia, which we get blasphemy from.
blasphemous or a blasphemer. Blasphemy, verbal abuse against someone which denotes the very worst type of slander mentioned in Matt. 15:19 with false witnesses; wounding someone’s reputation by evil reports, evil speaking. See Mark 7:22; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; 1 Tim. 6:4 [cf. 2 Pet. 2:11]; Jude 1:9 (blásphēmos , a blasphemer); —Complete Word Study Dictionary, The
Why would slander and evil speaking be a form of blasphemy?
When you slander someone, when you speak evil of someone, you are committing blasphemy against a creation of God.
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. Matthew 15:18-19
Such shedding of blood not only defiles the conscience of the murderer, who is thereby proved not to have eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15), but also pollutes the land in which the crime was committed, being abominable to God and to all good men.
- Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:15
- If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:20-21
- Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:1-5
O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. Psalms 15:1-5
What prevents the the church from being a Place of Refuge?
When you Grieve the Spirit of God!
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:30-32
SO What DO I DO?
Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:5-12
James tells us how to get rid of worldly attitudes and worldly ways:
Submit to God – God’s ways must be supreme
Resist the devil – this is a constant spiritual warfare
Cleanse your hands – confess sin and do some spiritual scrubing.
Purify your hearts – Give all your affections, needs, desires to God. Love Him with ALL your heart. Confess those secrete desires and inadequacies that prompt your worldliness.
Be wretched and mourn and weep – take time to discover how your sin has hurt God. Take time to cry for your worldliness. Take time to hold on to the altar and weep for your sin.
Humble yourself before the Lord – Realize your nothingness before Him. Realize that there is no room for pride in your life. Lay everything before Him.
Wait for Him to lift you up.
In the mean time, stay on constant guard against judging and speaking evil of others.
If you want our church to be a place of Refuge for the fallen, for the hurting, for the weak, for the oppressed, then we must take the worldliness and cast it off. We must speak from hearts of love, hearts that are being obedient to Jesus Commands.
We must put on the new self in Jesus Christ. We must root out worldly hearts and attitudes from the Church and put on Jesus Christ, our Rock, our Refuge!
There are fallen who need a place of refuge. Jesus has given three commands that address our relationships with those that offend or hurt us:
Be Reconciled Matthew 5:24–25 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Judge Not Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Go To Offenders Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
If we practice these commands in the spirit of forgiveness we will live by Ephesians 4:32 “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”