Joshua Chapter 20

Cities Of Refuge


We live in an increasingly dangerous world & because of Terrorist & people like That Mitchell guy - Saddam Hussein there are fewer & fewer places of guaranteed security.

A)It can be somewhat frightening living today in a world that is marked by so much uncertainty –


B)But As Christians we have the conviction that God is our protector, our hiding place, our refuge,

1)  a strong tower in the midst of a frightening, dangerous world.

C) Hebrews 6:18 talks about our fleeing to the Lord Jesus for refuge: ".we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us."

D)In Joshua 20 we see the Lord instructing Israelites to appoint cities of Refuge thru out the land the Promise land


Now what was the Purpose of these cities ? Well the Lord declared in the law Ex 21 / Num 35 / Duet 19  that if a person was guilty of premeditated murder he was subject to capital punishment.


A)But if the death wasn't premeditated, or if a person killed someone by accident

1)   the slayer could seek refuge in the sanctuary of the tabernacle, by physically holding onto the altar as a place of safety & protection.


B) Listen to what God said through Moses in Exodus 21:12-14: "He who strikes a man so that he died shall surely be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, , then I will appoint you a place to which he may flee. If, however, a man acts presumptuously toward his neighbor, so as to kill him craftily, you are to take him even from My altar, that he may die."


C)If he was guilty of premeditated, violent murder, hanging onto the altar wouldn't be of any help whatsoever.

D)Now this system worked well during the 40 years that Israel wandered in the wilderness, & during the 7 yrs of  conquest in Canaan,

1) because the tabernacle was physically at the center of that nation – It was close & accessible to everyone


E)But once the tribes were settled throughout the land of Canaan in their places of tribal inheritances,

1)   they needed places of refuge that were scattered out among them.


In our passage in Joshua 20, we see that God ordained 6 cities of refuge, A)These were places of compassion, where anyone who had killed another person unintentionally could flee. Look at verses 1-9


B)Now In Israelite society there was no police force to investigate crimes.

1)   So It was the moral responsibility of the family member who was closest to the victim to investigate and avenge the murder.


C) In our text, V. 5 he is called the avenger of blood.


Now it was easy for this person's Judgment to become clouded by their emotional state because of their loss – Angry / Bitter / Vengeful

A)It would be easy for the person to have a take vengeance now ask questions later attitude


B) But In doing so They might end up avenging the death by killing someone who wasn't guilty of a Premeditated murder

1)That's why these cities of refuge were needed.


C) These cities of refuge Provided a place where the innocent could flee for Protection - allowing for both justice and mercy to prevail.


D) That person was presumed to be innocent until everything was investigated by the elders

1)Then & only then was justice  handed down in a full hearing before the entire congregation,

Now I want to talk about five important features of these six cities.

A)Some of these things we know from the Scriptures, and some we know from extra-Biblical sources.


B) These features will have application to us personally in our spiritual life, as we'll see a bit farther on.


C)The first feature is that the cities of refuge were to be strategically located so that there would be easy access to them for anybody seeking refuge.


D) See In Deuteronomy 19:3 God commanded that the nation build highways-not just foot paths-to the cities of refuge.

1)Extra biblical info give us details about how important it was to keep up these highways so that nobody was ever hindered in getting to these cities.


E)The highways were supposed to be rebuilt every spring after the heavy winter rains / Surfaces smoothed out / Rocks clear / easy to run on


F) Bridges were to be built across every ravine that the highways came to, so that the person running for refuge wouldn't have to waste time climbing to the bottom of the ravine and then up the other side.


G)And At every  intersection on these highways, there were to be big, bold signs pointing the way w/ the word REFUGE in large letters.

1) So if someone was running they wouldn't have to lose any time slowing down to read the sign.


The second feature is that the gates of the cities of refuge were never to be locked.

A)That was because if someone had run for thirty or forty miles to get to the city, and then they couldn't get in (e.g., in the middle of the night) they could still be cut down by the avenger of blood.


B) SO the Gates were always open -

The third feature is that the city was to be well stocked to provide for any fugitives who came to stay, possibly for a period of years.

A)It was not only a place of guaranteed legal protection, but also a place of material provision of foodstuffs and places to live.


C) The fourth feature comes out of the Scriptures. Exodus 21, Numbers 35, and Deut 19 all make it clear

1)   that if the killer didn't flee first, to the city of refuge , there was no other place of guaranteed safety. {


D) No other city would do or even the right intention wouldn’t do –well I was on my way to the city of refuge – it didn’t matter

1)And If they went outside the city once they got there, the city could do nothing to protect them from the avenger of blood.{ Had to stay in the city


In Verse 9 we find the fifth important feature of these cities:

A)These were the cities designated for all the people of Israel, and for the stranger sojourning among them [the Gentiles],


B) So The same justice, the same protection and provision, the same atoning grace were free to all- Not just the Jews

     1)  SO the Lord instructed them to Appoint these cities of REFUGE


But What is the relevance of the City of Refuge to us today?

A)There is a powerful picture of a person- Jesus Christ is our city of refuge-  It is to HIM that we run


B) It is IN HIM that we find safety !!!!

1) See God made this PRACTICAL PROVISION for the OT believers so that we might have a PRESENT UNDERSTANDING of Jesus


C)The similarities between the REFUGE found in these cities and the refuge of our personal salvation in Jesus Christ is striking.


Let's talk  about some of the similarities between the features of the cities of refuge and the work of Christ in our lives.

A)Then we'll conclude by talking about some important differences.


B)The first similarity is this: Remember, there had to be easy access to the cities of refuge, 

1) The same is true w/ Christ – He is accessible -We can always come to him at anytime.


C)His arms are open for us, he is receptive and waiting. David wrote in Psalm 34:18,"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed [contrite] in spirit."


D) He is totally accessible when we acknowledge our desperate need, when our spirit is broken over our sin.

1) He is the Place of refuge for the weary & for those who are Broken hearted – those who are broken by life / by sin


In Matt 11:28 Jesus gave this invitation - "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will given you rest [from running and hiding]

A)Jesus doesn’t say DO– He says Come to me – He draws people to Himself

Not a list of duties to perform / Rituals to follow – Just Come


B)This is one of the major messages that we as the body of Christ need to communicate to our friends and neighbors.

1) There is a place of safety in a terrifying world, there is one who is completely accessible to all of us. Our cry ought to be "Refuge! Refuge!"


C)In fact This is one of the  last exhortations found  in the word of God – In Rev 22:17 "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' And let him who hears say, 'Come.' And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price."


D) The Spirit of God is sovereignty at work inviting people to this open access that's found in Jesus Christ.{ Spirit drawing hearts 

E) But it also says that the Bride is saying, "Come." We are the Bride of Christ, his body, the church. { Easter - Billy G – Outreach}

1) Listen there will be those who’s reaction to this war – will be another false alarm – we need to seize the moment – what if – are you ready


F) So the first Similarity is easy ACESS & God still wants it to be easy for fugitives to find their way to salvation and safety in Jesus Christ.


The second similarity: Just like there were signs pointing to the cities of refuge There is a signs that point us to OUR CITY OF REFUGE

A)Fulfilled Prophecy – In his Birth death & Rez Jesus fulfilled 300 Prophecies found in the OT –


B)Now What are the Chances of one person doing that ? -Well for most of you who have been around awhile - you are familiar w/ this analogy

1)   See yrs back a man by the name of Peter Stoner’s did some scientific calculations of the possibility of one man fulfilling just 8 Prophecies


C) In his book was titled :Science Speaks  Stoner estimates the odds of one person fulfilling just eight of these Messianic prophecies as being one in ten to the 17th  power.


D)That is a 1 w/ 17 zero’s after it -  incredible odds./  How incredible?


Stoner illustrates this by "supposing that we take one in  ten to the seventeenth power silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas.

A)If we did that - it would be so many silver dollars that it would cover the whole state 2 ft. deep in silver dollars ! Houston / Dallas / Corpus Christi


B)Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state.

1)Then Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say this is the right one.


C) What chance would he have of getting the right one?  1 in ten to the 17th power !

1) Now that is how hard it would be for one person to fulfill just 8 of those prophecies !      but  Jesus fulfilled over 300



But not just Fulfilled Prophecy – but also – The Empty Tomb

Matt 12:38-40 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." 39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.



The SIGN that points to Jesus as our REFUGE is His resurrection

A)NO Guru or Philosopher or Religious leader has ever conquered    death


John 2:19 Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."


B) JESUS ALONE HAS risen from the dead- That is something that no one else has done or can EVER CAN do!!!!

1) That is the sign that points to Jesus as our REFUGE / His REZ /


C) THAT is why we are told Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.         


D) There is ONLY ONE way- The signs POINT only to ONE REFUGE


The 3rd Similarity we find in the fact that The gates of the cities of refuge were never to be locked.

A)It's the same picture for us when we come to Jesus Christ.


B)We don't have to worry about finding some weird combination of religious locks & keys,

1)   or some mysterious ritual to relationship w/ JC - No, the doors are always wide open.


C) Come at any time the gates are never locked the Lord never sleeps /never too busy !!!!


The 4th  similarity: The cities of refuge provided the physical resources of food & a place to live in case the fugitive had to spend mths or yrs there.

A)In the same way, Jesus Christ is our totally sufficient refuge.


B) Thru His death He not only paid the price for our Redemption / In His death – He took care of our salvation: Our eternity is Secure

1)   But Because He lives – He also takes care of our Living –


C) He also provides us continuing spiritual resources.

1)Jesus  said that he is the bread of life that we can constantly feed on. He wants to sustain us.


D) Peter declared - Given All things that pertain to LIFE & GODLINESS – thru the knowledge of Him

1) So In him we have resources to live life, to triumph, to live victoriously as fugitives who have found a place of refuge.


The  5th similarity: Just as The ONLY PLACE  to find protection from the avenger of blood was in the city of refuge.

A)You could be AS SINCERE as you wanted to be, but if you were anyplace else besides the city of refuge, it wouldn't matter.


B) And so too if we don't flee to the refuge that God has provided us in Christ Jesus, there is no spiritual asylum for us, no salvation apart from him.

1)   Sincere in fleeing to Buddha / Islam / some other believe – but there is only one Place of refuge for the Sinner { Foot of the CROSS 


The 6TH  similarity: Just as the cities of refuge were open to everybody, Jew and Gentile, every tribe and tongue and nation;

A)Jesus' offer of personal salvation is universal in its scope. Rom 10:12-13  "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, 'every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.'"


B)Remember the beautiful invitation that Jesus offered, "Whosoever will may come."

1) It doesn't matter who you are, what your ethnic background is, what kind of life you've live, or whether you belong to any particular religious group.


C) So those are the similarities – Between the Cities of Refuge & the refuge that we have in Christ 


Let me close by emphasizing some important DIFFERENCES between the cities of refuge and the refuge we have in Jesus Christ.

A)Probably the biggest difference is that the cities protected only those people who were innocent of Premeditated Murder.


B) But we know from the gospel that Jesus Christ died for those whose crimes were premeditated, for high-handed rebellious sinners.

1) Place of Refuge for all Sinners – no matter how Guilty { He took our Punishment


Another major difference between the cities of refuge & Christ work on our behalf

A)Is that no matter how close someone lived to a city of refuge in Israel, when they were on the run, there was no guarantee that they would make it.


B)The avenger of blood might be quicker than they were, and they might be cut down before they ever got to the city,

1)even though their intention was what it ought to be.


C) But the good news is that the Bible guarantees that the person who looks to Jesus will find refuge. Jesus himself said, "...The one who comes to me I will not cast out" (John 6:37).


Another Huge Difference is this: Jesus doesn't just wait for us to come to him-

A)In Christ the picture shifts from doors of a city of refuge that we have to approach, to the door of our own heart that he approaches.


B)He says to each of us, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me"


C) The Picture is one of Jesus  out looking for us as guilty, lost fugitives, knocking on the door and saying, "I know who you are, I know the sin you've committed, I know how messed up you are inside. I want to come inside you and clean up the mess."


Listen When a man stands before God in Judgment  he ultimately will answer only for ONE sin

A)The sin of REJECTING the City of Refuge{ Of Rejecting Christ invitation for Relationship / forgiveness & Eternal life


B) Have you responded to his desire to enter your life and forgive your sin?

1) If you haven’t you need to today !!!!


C) As Believers our refuge is found in Jesus – let the world Know !!!!