Cities Of Refuge

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our refuge[1]


1.      Read text: Joshua 20:1-9.

2.     Regarding text:

(1)         Upon arriving in Canaan, the Israelites were to choose six cities of refuge.

A.       Cities of refuge were to be conveniently located.

B.       Three on the West side of the Jordan and three on the East side (Num. 35:14).

(2)         Purpose:

A.       If a person killed another person.  The nearest relative becomes the “avenger of blood,” with the task of “slaying the slayer.”

B.       However, if you killed another unintentionally the cities of refuge would provide asylum.

C.       In the city you would receive a trial.  If found innocent you could remain in the city until the death of the High Priest.  Then you could return home.

3.     The limitations of the city of refuge.

(1)         Could not protect the guilty.  I.e. murderer   (Num. 35:16-18).

(2)         Could not protect beyond its borders  (Num. 35:16-18).

4.     A list of the cities of refuge:

(1)         Kedesh = HOLY.

(2)         Shechem = SHOULDER.

(3)         Kirjath Arba (Hebron) = FELLOWSHIP.

(4)         Bezer = FORTRESS.

(5)         Ramoth in Gilead = HIGH PLACE.

(6)         Golan = CAPTIVITY and REJOICING.

5.     The psalmist in the Old Testament sang: “In God is my salvation and my glory.  The rock of my strength and my refuge is God.” (Psa. 62:7).

6.     The New Testament portrays Jesus Christ as our refuge. “…that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” (Heb. 6:18).

7.     Just as surely and literally as the children of Israel had cities to which they could flee for refuge / safety / protection / justice… We have a refuge!  Our refuge can be found in Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 15:4 – comfort  and hope).


I.            LIKE KADESH – HE IS HOLY!

1.      Peter proclaimed it!!!   Read Acts 2:27-31.  Peter quotes Psalm 16:9-10.

(1)           Holy = set apart unto God.

(2)           The “Holy One of God.”   (Cf.    “Behold My beloved Son…”).

2.      Paul proclaimed it!!  Read Heb. 7:24-27.

3.      The demons especially recognized it!  “…Did you not come to destroy us?  I know who You are – The Holy One of God!” (Mk. 1:24).

4.      Holy, Holy, Holy!  There is none so holy as our refuge… Jesus Christ is holy.

II.          like shechem – he is our shoulder!

1.      Upon His shoulders at Calvary, rested the burden of my sin and yours!

2.      “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isa. 53:5-7).

3.      “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden…” (Mt. 11:28).

4.      The weight of your sins is in one of two places (your shoulders or Jesus’).

III.        like kirjath-arba – He is where our fellowship should be!

1.      The matter of Christian fellowship is so confused by many, and yet simple.

(1)           Fellowship = cooperation/agreement.  (truth or false; godly or ungodly…)

(2)           You are either doing the will of God or what you want!

(3)           You are either cooperating with God or you are working against Him!

A.         The standard by which this is measured is not feelings, traditions, or numbers.

B.         The standard = word of God!  (Amos 3:3).

2.      “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9).  Cf. 2 Thess. 2:14.

3.      Read 1 Jn. 3-7.

4.      Whether it is a denomination or our very own brethren.  Our obligation is first to desire fellowship / cooperation / partnership with Jesus Christ!

(1)           He is my Savior and no one else!

(2)           He is the source of saving truth and not the traditions/doctrines of men.

IV.       like bezer, he is our fortress.

1.      Bezer appears five times in the OT.  Three times as, “Bezer in the wilderness.”

2.      There is a wilderness about us.

(1)           Sin and suffering.

(2)           Violence and vile activity.

(3)           Uncertainty and ungodliness.

3.      Jesus is our fortress / defense in the wilderness of sin.

(1)           “But you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25).

(2)           Illustrate:  Imagine your on a cruise ship 100 miles from shore.  Overboard!  You can only tread water so long.  You need something to overwhelm the power of the ocean or you will sink in the dark briny deep.

(3)           Notice Rom. 5:20.

A.         God’s grace is greater than our sin!

B.         God’s grace is more effective in forgiving sin than sin is in condemning!

V.        like ramoth gilead – Jesus is our high place.

1.      In the OT high place  meant “place of worship.”

(1)           A place to offer the commanded acts of God.

(2)           A place to offer sacrifice to God..

2.      In the NT our worship is to be “in Christ” / “in truth.”

(1)           “Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” (Heb. 12:28).

(2)           Rev. 5:12-14.  “Worthy is the lamb who was slain… 24 elders fell down…”

(3)           You will not offer acceptable worship to God by accident (cf. Jn. 4:24).

VI.       like golan, in jesus there is captivity and rejoicing.

1.      Can you imagine the feeling of reaching the city of refuge?

2.      We rejoice upon achieving milestones and landmarks in life.

3.      Surely, you recognize the captivity and rejoicing we have in Christ!

(1)           Do you? Or is there a cold separation?  Go through motions but no emotion?

(2)           Do you have it?  Or does something or somebody else have you?

4.      If you are a Christian, you have reached a place of REJOICING!!!!!

(1)           Are you?  If not, why not????  (Cf. extremes).

A.         We don’t need to go beyond the boundaries of what is authorized, but it is legal / permitted / authorized to rejoice in Christ!  WE ARE SAVED!!!!!

B.         Rejoice by feeling emotion as you worship in truth!  Rejoice by feeling so pleased by the truth of God that you tell another soul!  Rejoice by enjoying Christian life in such a way that your children enjoy it as well!  Rejoice by recognizing the positive!

(2)           “I will rejoice in Your salvation” (Psa. 9:14).  Cf. Acts 8:39.

(3)           Philippians 4;4.


1.     The Old Testament cities of refuge were to protect the innocent!  Jesus Christ provides refuge to the guilty !  You are guilty!!!! (Rom. 3:23).

2.     Like the cities of refuge of the OT, there is no protection outside the bounds which God designs.  No protection outside the cities of refuge… No protection outside the body of Christ.

        (1)     Acts 4:12.

        (2)     Jesus is the Savior of the body, the church  (Eph. 5:23).


1.     You are guilty, and the Avenger of blood (devil / death) is your reward.

2.     Your only hope is to flee to the refuge / salvation provided by God!


[1] Materials from Todd Clippard’s outline.  Adaptations and additions by Toby Soechting.

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