Deuteronomy 4:41 – Then Moses severed three cities on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;
Deuteronomy 4:42 – That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live:
Hello readers, got a new blog today, and something I’ve been meaning to blog on for a very long time. I would recommend reading Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19 for yourself, because they are what this blog is about. When I’ve called this blog “Run slayer run”, it’s because it wasn’t just a good idea to get to the city of refuge, it wasn’t just a recommendation, it was a command. You weren’t meant to just take your time and stroll there and make stops along the way. It wasn’t enough to just be meaning to get there, you had to actually get there. There was an urgency to getting to the city of refuge that God had provided you.
Salvation is an urgency. The Bible says in Habakkuk 2:2 “And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” We have a plainly expressed truth given to us today. Salvation isn’t just something that would be good to consider, salvation is a matter of urgency. John the Baptist preached to flee from the wrath to come. Salvation is your business and you will be held accountable for what you did with the provision of God for you. You will go to hell knowing that you could have been saved. That’s the hell of it, not just the eternal nature of it, but the regret and never being able to take back passing on the provision for your sins.
“Refuge” is mentioned once in the New Testament, in Hebrews 6:18 “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:” Our one mention of refuge immediately ties us to the cities of refuge laws that God commanded Moses. And it is no coincidence that the doctrine of refuge is inextricably tied to the truth of the word of God. Without God’s sure and unchanging promises, we would have nothing to run to, we would have nothing sure to pin our hope on. Where can we flee to in this world? It’s one thing to promise refuge, it’s another thing to be able to actually provide that refuge that someone is speaking. Only God has power to be a refuge that you can run to and be safe and secure and protected in.
Run slayer run! I love the law of the cities of refuge in the Old Testament. It just shows the wisdom of God, and his mercy and grace to provide a way for innocent blood to be spared, for justice to be done, for the truth to prevail. In case you haven’t realized yet in life, things can happen pretty quickly out there in this world, things can go so wrong when you weren’t planning on it, intending on it or reckoning on it. Imagine being that slayer, you’d accidentally killed someone and that made you worthy of death. God truly does not want you to die and go to hell. He provided six cities of refuge so that no matter where you were at, you’d have a place you could get to. You could make it. In fact if you didn’t make it, the only person to blame was you.
If you think about the word refuge, a refuge is only needed if you are in trouble. Refugees flee to other countries because they’re in danger, they want to get out. They seek refuge from a corrupt government in another country. God provided places for people who needed refuge to go. There’s plenty of things we all need refuge from. We need refuge from the wrath of God. We need refuge from the just demands of the law. We need refuge from what we’ve done. It’s what we’ve done that’s got us in so much trouble. A refuge by definition is only needed by someone in a crisis. But until you reach crisis point in your life the city of refuge has no relevance to you. The place of refuge was not for the cold blooded killer, it was for someone who wanted something more in life but had done wrong. Only someone who is repentant and sorry has a home in the city of refuge.
For the slayer, the only place he was safe in the whole land was in one of the cities of refuge. If you weren’t worthy of death, yet liable to be killed, that was the place to run and that was the place that could provide you with the safety and security you needed. When I was thinking about it, I thought no doubt actual murderers tried abusing this law. But each case was closely examined and if you were found in the city of refuge, if you were seeking asylum but found guilty and worthy of death, you would be put to death. There are many people claiming to be in the refuge, who think they’re in the refuge, but who are going to be taken out and put to death in the end. There’s going to be a lot of people who call themselves Christians, who think they’re saved, who are going to be thrown into hell at the end of it all. You may be claiming to be saved, you may profess the name of Jesus, but in the judgment, the witnesses will come forward, the truth will be established, and you will be found guilty and not entitled to the refuge you thought you had.
To be clear, the cities of refuge weren’t just a place appointed by God where you go to to get away with whatever evil you did. A lot of Christians think being Christian is like their little refuge from responsibility and accountability for their actions. Jesus Christ is their little excuse to sin, even though believing on him gives you grace not to sin. What made you entitled to the refuge is innocency. You didn’t mean to murder that person. You didn’t do wrong that warranted your death. Cities of refuge separated between the callous lying murderer and the person that wanted to do right, that didn’t plan and intend on doing his wickedness.
I kinda for a long time thought how does this law relate to me? It’s a bit of an unusual law, because is it teaching me that I am not worthy of death because I haven’t done that wrong? I believe what it’s teaching is intent and motive and desire. See, a murderer kills someone and they’re dead. But you could accidentally kill someone and they’re dead also. So it may be the same outcome, but how you got there was very different. God is interested in details. He knows your heart. He gets to the heart of your life. Where is your heart really at? The cities of refuge were for someone who didn’t wake up that morning planning to kill someone, they weren’t for someone who planned a premeditated murder. And what you see in this law is the justice and holiness and righteousness and goodness of God on full display. He’s provided a way for you to be saved every which way.
David wrote so much about “refuge” in the book of Psalms. He knew he needed a refuge. Maybe I should’ve done it at the start, but let’s define the word refuge. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines refuge as “Shelter or protection from danger or distress” and “That which shelters or protects from danger, distress or calamity; a strong hold which protects by its strength, or a sanctuary which secures safety by its sacredness; any place inaccessible to an enemy”. Do you need a refuge? Do you see the need for refuge in your life? Many people feel pretty independent and self sufficient and able to cope with consequences and judgment and wrath that is coming their way, but we are woefully under equipped to deal with and handle the consequences of our actions.
I’m sure some people thought they could handle it out there in the world. It was pretty restrictive and humiliating going to a city of refuge and throwing yourself on the mercy of God. You would know you needed to probably live in that city for a long period of time, if not the rest of your life. Maybe you’d just try handling the issue yourself. Are you too proud to run, to flee to the refuge? Maybe you won’t flee there because you’d rather the facts don’t get out what happened out there. You’ve got something to hide. When you fled there you weren’t just accepted in unconditionally, no, your matter was investigated and cross examined and the truth was determined.
The more I thought about this law the more God showed me a key truth about sin that is being taught in this law. There are a lot of people out there who love to sin, and out there in this world, a lot of bad stuff happens, and there are a lot of wicked people who love their sin. This law did not save them or excuse them. This law was for someone who didn’t want to do wrong, who wanted better in life. There are people out there earnestly seeking to do right, to honour God even. Yet even they get in trouble in this life. There are also a lot of sins committed that we didn’t plan on doing. I don’t necessarily wake up in the morning planning on, intending on and meaning to do what bad things I’ll do in the day. Yet by the end of the day, I’ve needed a refuge from what’s happened because of me. Things I’ve said or done, and they’ve gotten me in trouble. Sometimes you can’t explain it or understand it or grasp it, cities of refuge were a place to throw yourself under God’s judgment. Only God can sort out all the messes ultimately, our responsibility is just to be at the place in life where he’s commanded us to go and be and abide.
Most people don’t plan on doing the garbage they do. They make mistakes. Maybe this slayer forgot to check his axe head, and then it flew off and accidentally killed his mate he was felling trees with. Maybe it was “bad luck” or circumstances or just unfortunate. But either way someone’s dead and you’re a slayer. You’re the one who’s done wrong. Imagine how bad you would have felt. Imagine that panic and fear and remorse and second guessing and what do I do, how do I explain this, how do I resolve this, how do I make this right? We cannot make it right. Just run to Jesus Christ. Let him plead your case. This was a law to protect innocent blood, these were cities designed to be a place of safety and refuge when everything else in your life, all the unforeseen stuff that happens and that you can’t control goes so horribly wrong. Have you ever had stuff just go completely pear shaped? What a law this was for someone who’s done something they didn’t mean to or want to, it was a means to redemption. Is your life just a mess and you really have no idea how it could end up so badly? Run to Jesus Christ today.
Maybe you had better intentions. Maybe you’ve embarked on life meaning well. Maybe you’ve really done the best you could. Yet the end result is death has been the outcome. What a truth that God is showing in this law is that death happens, and we produce death in our lives even if we didn’t intend on it. You didn’t plan it, mean to, intend it… but horrific things have happened. The cities of refuge were your only safe place in the whole land. Let’s reiterate, they weren’t places where you went to to escape truth and judgment, they were places where truth and judgment was established. Most people just treat Jesus as their place where they can do wrong and it’s all fine. That’s not what this law is about. This law isn’t saying, hey you can go out there and sin and do wickedly and come here and it’ll be all ok, you’re immune! Some Christians would like that aye. But you didn’t flee there if you were guilty, because you would be found out not some of the time, all the time. That’s why people avoid Christians and churches where the truth of God’s word is, they’re going to avoid the places where their wickedness will be exposed.
So the city of refuge was the place God had provided and they were commanded to run to for refuge. Run slayer run! Abner had killed Joab’s brother, Asahel. And he got killed at the gates of Hebron, which was one of the cities of refuge. He could’ve been safe, he could’ve pled his case. He hadn’t planned on killing Asahel, he had warned Asahel, he didn’t want to kill Asahel, he certainly had a case for protection under the law. But at the gate of the very city where he would have been safe he was murdered in cold blood by Joab.
Often we want to pretend things are ok when they aren’t. Things weren’t ok between Abner and Joab. So often we want to deal with things by not dealing with them. When something happened, it was your responsibility and duty to run. Failing to flee, failing to get in the city and staying there… that’s what will cost you your life. You know, you didn’t get much of a choice in being born a sinner did you. Last time I checked, I didn’t get a say in it, I was born how I was born. I have the capacity to sin, I have the capacity to create a big mess, and I need help, I need refuge, I need deliverance, I need salvation. The sin that will get you in hell isn’t so much the fact you are a sinner, the sin is not fleeing to a place God has told you to flee to.
People are going to go to hell because they rejected Christ. When they could be saved, when their life could have been preserved, though there was a contract out of them, though there was the just demands of the law and the wrath of God hot on their heels, they were given a way out. There is a place to flee to in a time of trouble. It is your responsibility to flee. The city was prepared, the way was prepared, all your duty to was to run there. Run slayer run! Flee to the refuge that God has not just provided for you, but commanded you to run to. Are you seeing a picture of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in this yet?
See the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is laced into this law. And truly, the man we have all killed unknowingly is Jesus Christ. There’s blood on my hands and I didn’t even realize it. This world doesn’t even realize the blood that is on them, and an avenger of that blood hot on their trail, justice and law and holiness and righteousness tracking them down. Accountability is surely coming and blood is surely required of each one of us. We all caused the death of Jesus Christ. Sin put him on that tree. You and I and each one of us nailed him on the cross and didn’t even know it. We truly are all slayers.
Someone had to die for my sins. And you may not think you are a slayer, and that’s why you’re not in the city of refuge, but we are all slayers much more than we think. Jesus said if you even hate someone, you’re guilty of murder. I’m sure hatred is common to all of us. What about slaying people with our tongues, with our gossip, with what we say behind other people’s backs or even to their face. Run slayer run! That innocent person that has died by your hand, his blood must be atoned for, and you and I and everyone on this planet will be guilty of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. So what should we do? Run to him instead. Flee to him. Get right with him. Be reconciled to God.
One of the amazing things about this law was that this law was extended to every single soul in Israel. Not just Jews, but anyone could flee to those cities for refuge. You know, salvation is for all. And if you were cleared, you had to stay in that city until the death of the high priest… after which you were free to go back to where you came from. Many people run to God in a time of trouble, but they’re not interested in staying there. They just want to be there until the heat is off them. These are temporary and fake and “for a season” Christians. Once the heat seems to have died down, they’ll leave that place of refuge, that’s not a place they want to dwell in. But until that high priest died you weren’t allowed to leave. Your trouble hadn’t gone away. You were still only safe in the city. There was no provision for your safety beyond the boundaries of the city. Your only safety in life is inside the walls of salvation in Jesus Christ.
In the cities of refuge we see God’s provision, God’s provision that can save you and deliver you from all that garbage has gone on out there which you didn’t want to do, or plan on doing, yet did. If you want better in life, if you want to do better, run to the Lord Jesus Christ. It was only because of the death of our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, that the blood would be paid for. Someone is going to pay for that wrong, and Jesus Christ paid it all. Run slayer run! Flee from the wrath to come. Flee from sin. Flee to the city. It’s on you, God has provide a place of refuge for you. Will you run to him?
There’s a lot of garbage that’s gone on in each of our lives, some of it our fault, some of it someone else’s, some of it unintended, some of it we are sorry for, some of it we just can’t seem to clear up, some of it loss in misunderstanding, some of it in the heat of the moment and so much of it truly beyond our ability to resolve and make right and atone for. But the fact is, God has provided a way of making all things right, and it’s on you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s provided a place of refuge for each one of us, we all need that refuge, we all need a place of safety in life. The cities of refuge weren’t for the unrepentant murderer, they were for that person who is remorseful, who is sorry, who didn’t mean to do it, who didn’t want to do it, who’s life has been hopelessly corner, but who’s only hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ. Will you run to him today?
Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Psalm 59:16 – But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble.
Hi, my name is Joseph Zadow. I am a 30 y/o Bible Blogger. I was new to blogging once! God’s word is the best thing that we can be given, and once we have it and know it for ourselves it is both a privilege and responsibility to bring it to others! We are blessed to be a blessing! I am a sinner (for sure!) saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and I am a Lord Jesus Christ follower. He is faithful even though I rarely am to him. I believe the Bible is the word of God, and stake my life on it. My destination is heaven. As they say, I’m just a passin’ through this world… although most of the time it’s more like hangin’ by a thread in Jericho! I love playing sports – particularly cricket… I currently work on an orchard and a side hobby business of mine is growing vegetables etc – they are good for you! I love writing. Always happy to talk, so feel free to leave a comment. You can read more about me and my blog here – kjvbibletruth.com/about :)