Text: Numbers 35, also Joshua 20
Introduction: During the days of Moses and
Joshua, the method of carrying out vengeance was different than today. Today we
depend entirely on our Judiciary system to satisfy our need for justice when
someone does us wrong.
By the way; the word "vengeance" is
not an ugly word, as some would portray it to be. I mention that because today
that word so often carries with in an evil connotation, which should not
always be the case. In fact, in Romans 12:19, God says, "...vengeance is
mine: I will repay, saith the Lord," so we know it is not evil. God said,
"...vengeance is mine..." and we know that God is a holy God.
A simple definition of vengeance is: "The
punishment in retaliation for an injury or offense."
Now, we do have to be careful about becoming
vindictive. There are some people who have no chance of ever having any
happiness in this life because they are so vindictive. Often they are like
snakes; curled up, ready to strike back if anyone steps on them. While we
understand it is wrong to be vindictive, we also know during the days when
Moses and Joshua were alive they did not depend entirely on a judiciary system
to right all wrongs. For those who accidentally wronged, or hurt someone,
there was no "court."
Illus: Suppose we could travel back in
time to that day. Suppose I was out in the woods with one of your
"kinsmen." Also suppose it was a known fact that he and I were not
the best of friends. Then suppose, as we are cutting wood, the ax head
slipped off the handle of my ax and struck your kinsman and killed him. You
could not know if I had killed him on purpose, or if it had been an
If I had killed him on purpose then it would
be your responsibility to find me and kill me for what I had done.
Look at Numbers 35:19. We read, "The revenger
of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall SLAY
Because some of these deaths were not of
malice, nor planned in any way, God appointed certain cities to be
"cities of refuge." Any person who accidentally killed anyone could
flee to one of these cities and as long as he met certain conditions he would
be safe from any avenger.
Look at Numbers 35:11. We read, "Then ye
shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may
flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares." God appointed three
of these cities on the other side of Jordan and three in the land of Canaan.
They were to be clearly marked and easy to find for those who had to flee to
At intersections, large signs were erected
which simply said, "Refuge" that pointed toward the city.
Bridges were built over ravines so one could
get there, and the cities were always stocked with food and water.
The person who fled to a city of refuge would
be looking for a place to rest, to work things out, to be safe, and to be
accepted and loved.
People who fled to these cities also were
seeking a place where people would listen and not think their stories were
stupid, because they had been through the same things.
A man could flee to one of these six cities and
remain safe until he stood before the congregation of judgment. Look at
Numbers 35:15. We read, "And of these cities which ye shall give six
cities shall ye have for refuge. Ye shall give three cities on this side
Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be
cities of refuge. These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of
Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one
that killeth any person unawares may flee thither." The six cities of
refuge were types of the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, the person who killed
someone by accident could flee to one of these six cities and be safe from
anyone who would avenge the death of the one he killed. You may not know this,
but I think perhaps you do; that Mr. Death is hot on the trail of you today
who do not know Christ. The only hope you have of surviving is to come to
Christ before Death gets you. He stalks the trail of every lost person. He is
trying, even now, to get his hands on everyone before he can come to Christ
The Lord Jesus is our ultimate
"refuge" and he offers us shelter and protection. The Lordís
church is a place where people, who had once been in sin, gather. All had
faced a common dilemma.
These six cities that Moses and Joshua had
appointed as cities of refuge reveal something about our place of refuge in
Christ. For example, look at-
Look at Josh 20:3, "That the slayer that
killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall
be your refuge from the avenger of blood." What is Godís Word saying?
Again, It is saying that if a man kills another man accidentally, he can flee
to one of the six cities and the avenger, who seeks to destroy him, cannot if
he enters that city.
Notice, if that man is going to be saved, he
must move. There must be an ADVANCEMENT on his part. The person who has killed
another accidentally MUST ADVANCE. He must move from where he is to the city
Notice, verse 3 says that the SLAYER must FLEE
THITHER. This tells me that God was saying that the slayer couldnít waste
any time. He MUST FLEE because when the dead manís brother comes and see
this man has killed his brother, it is his responsibility to shed the killerís
blood. God said the killer must FLEE as fast as he can to the nearest city of
refuge. This is a picture of the case of every sinner. Lost person, it is your
responsibility to flee to the Lord Jesus before Mr. Death gets you! Godís
Word says, "...knock, and it shall be opened unto you." It is your
responsibility to FLEE to the Savior and "knock" on heavenís gate,
and ask Him to save you, that is, seek the Savior as your place of refuge.
Jesus said, "Come unto me and I will give you rest." The Bible
teaches that it is the responsibility of every lost man and woman to FLEE unto
the Lord Jesus.
Illus: Jesus did not tell you to stand
around and say, "I am sorry for what I have done. Let me go down to the
florist and order some flowers."
Illus: He did not tell you to say,
"I am sorry for what I have done, but I have company coming. As soon as
they leave I will leave to go to the city of refuge."
Illus: He did not tell you to say,
"I am so sorry for what I have done, but I am so tired. I think I will
lay down and take a nap and when I wake up I will flee to Hebron."
No, He did not tell you that because He knew that
while you would be doing those things the avenger might catch you and might
take a "knife" and "plunge it into your heart."
God told the man of Old Testament days that if
he accidentally offended anyone he was to FLEE because his avenger would be
hot on his trail and the only hope he had was to get to that city of refuge
before the avenger got to him!
Mr. Lost Man, let me tell you -- you can waste
time if you want to, but there is coming a time when Mr. Death is going to
sneak up on you and you will have no idea he is around the corner and is going
to get you before you have a chance to get to Christ!
Many have left church saying, "I plan to
get saved soon," but they put it off and kept putting it off. Finally
they went to sleep one night and woke up in hell.
Many have said, "I am going to accept the
Lord one day soon," but they sit back in their easy chair and before they
could take a deep breath they had a heart attack and landed in hell.
Mr. Lost man, the Bible teaches it is your
responsibility, and the responsibility of all others like you, to flee as fast
as you can to the Savior. You can never know...
- The next breath you take may be your last.
- The next heartbeat may be the last.
Mr. Death is hot on your trail. If he gets you
before you come to Christ, Satan has you for eternity!
Long ago it was the responsibility of the man
who accidentally killed anyone to FLEE before the AVENGER could get to him.
You must make an ADVANCEMENT TOWARD THAT CITY
OF REFUGE! Jesus said to those who rejected Him that they would not come to
Him that they might have life. But notice something else the killer had to do.
We have seen THE ADVANCEMENT. Also look at ...
Look at Joshua 20:4, "And when he that
doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of
the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city,
they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may
dwell among them." When the guilty man got to the gate he had to ADMIT
that he had killed a man. He had to say, "I ADMIT I have killed a man. I
did not mean to do it, but I did it! The avenger of blood is on my trail; you
have to let me in. I need help!"
Notice, the guilty man not only had to FLEE TO
THE CITY, but once he got there, he had to ADMIT what he had done.
The Bible says that when he arrived he had to,
"...declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city..."
That is, HE HAD TO CONFESS THAT HE HAD KILLED A MAN! God considers confession
and cleansing to be imperative.
Illus: Did you know - In 1842 the
first bathtub was denounced as a "luxurious and democratic
vanity." Boston declared it unlawful to bathe, except on doctorís
prescription. In 1843 Philadelphia made bathing illegal between November 1,
and March 15.
There was a day when people, because of ignorance,
thought that taking a bath would cause death. But listen, getting cleaned up
PHYSICALLY and SPIRITUALLY has never hurt anyone!
How tragic it is that many Christians have
adopted a similar schedule of spiritual cleansing. We would rather put up with
the stench of our unconfessed sins than come clean before God! Confession, or
admitting sin, is something Godís Word teaches, but some of the confessing
we have today is not what God had in mind. For example:
Illus: It is a well known fact that
Catholics have "confession." That is, they tell a
"Father" of their sins. All too often, they go out and commit the
same sins over and over again.
Illus: Speaking of confession, there
was a cartoon in the Saturday Review of Literature several years ago in
which little George Washington was standing with an ax in his hand. Before
him, lying on the ground was the famous cherry tree. He had already made his
smug admission that he had done it -- after all, he "...cannot tell a
lie." But, his father was standing there, exasperated, saying,
"All right, so you admit it! You always admit it! The question is, when
are you going to stop doing it."
There is an old saying about people having
"skeletons in their closets," but we wonder, if all the skeletons of
sin people in churches are hiding were suddenly revealed, it would be
shocking. HOW WELL WE HIDE OUR SINS!
It is hard to admit a sin -- isnít it
husbands? Isn't it wives? Isnít it children?
Illus: Once, when Frederick II, an
eighteenth century King of Prussia, went on an inspection tour of a Berlin
prison, he was greeted with the cries of prisoners who fell on their knees
and protested their unjust imprisonment. While listening to these pleas of
innocence, Frederickís eyes caught a solitary figure in the corner, a
prisoner seemingly unconcerned with all the commotion.
"Why are you here?" Frederick asked
"Armed robbery, Your Majesty," came
"Were you guilty?" the king asked.
"Oh yes indeed, Your Majesty. I entirely
deserve my punishment." At that Frederick summoned the jailer.
"Release this guilty man at once," he said. "I will not have
him kept in this prison where he will corrupt all the fine innocent people
who occupy it."
The Bible said it was the responsibility of the
guilty man to ADVANCE TO THE CITY OF REFUGE and once there, he was to ADMIT
his guilt. There was the ADVANCEMENT, ADMISSION, but also ...
The Bible says, once the guilty man reached the
city of refuge, verse 4, "...they shall take him into the city unto them,
and give him a place, that he may dwell among them." This is what happens
when a sinner comes to Jesus. As a guilty sinner the Lord makes a place that
he may abide in Him. You will not find one account in this Bible of anyone
fleeing to one of the six cities of refuge and being denied entrance. And you
will find no record of Jesus turning a repentant sinner away. Jesus said, John
6:37, "...and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
Look at the word "dwell" in our text.
When we come to Christ the Bible tells us we ABIDE IN HIM. That is, we find a
place to live, to dwell. We do not "dwell" in Christ on Sunday and
then slip over the walls and live in sin during the week. In Christ we find a
place to DWELL!
We have many today who have the mistaken idea
that you can dwell in Christ on Sunday and then "dwell" in sin
during the week. They are mistaken. Those who do this are NOT ABIDING IN
JESUS. They do not know a thing about ABIDING IN CHRIST!
Illus: The Christian life is an
every-day dwelling in Christ. If you are not willing to "dwell" in
Him seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, you do not
need to come to Him because He is not going to let you in!
The cities of refuge of old were not temporary
refuges. They were permanent. When you come to Christ, you should understand
you are coming to a permanent dwelling place. We have seen the ADVANCEMENT,
the ADMISSION, the ABIDING, but also look at...
Look at verse 6. We read, "And he shall
dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and
until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the
slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the
city from whence he fled." How long was the guilty man to stay in the
city of refuge? The Bible says, Joshua 20:6, "And he shall dwell in that
city ... until the death of the high priest..." In other words, he would
probably be there a long time--" ...until the death of the high
How long are we to be "in Christ"? In
the book of Hebrews we are told that Christ is our "high priest."
There were two kinds of priesthood during that
time. One was the priesthood of...
(1) Aaron. Those priests were replaced often,
as there were frequent deaths.
Melchisedec. This is the order from which
Christ, our high priest, has come. Did you know that we have no record of
Melchisedec, from where he came, when he came, nor when he left? He is the
perfect picture of our high priest, the Lord Jesus. He had no beginning and
has no ending!
Notice, the man was to stay in the city until the
death of the high priest! In Numbers 35:27 we read, "And the revenger of
blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, the revenger of
blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood." Now let us
Look at verse 5. We read, "And if the
avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up
into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not
Illus: The Bible says once the guilty
person got inside the gate, when the avenger came saying, "Let me have
him. I am going to choke him to death. Let me have him. I am going to turn
him every way but loose," he was turned away. The Bible says they were
to tell the avenger, "No, you can not have him. If you had gotten him
before he came into the gate he would have been yours, but since he is in
the gate you may not lay a hand on him!"
Jesus said in John 10:28, "And I give unto
them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck
them out of my hand."
The avenger is barred from the city. He cannot
lay a hand on us. Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to
them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the
What does it mean to be "IN CHRIST"?
It means the same as it meant to be on the ark when the flood covered the
earth. Only those in the ark were saved. It means the same as it meant to be
in Rahabís house -- if you were anywhere else you would perish. You had
better get in before the avenger gets you!
Illus: David said that there was but a
step between himself and death.
Illus: Imagine a man who had
accidentally killed a man and he was fleeing as fast as he could! Right
behind him was the avenger, gaining ground all the time. The guilty man
reached that city of refuge by only one step, but did you know that the
avenger still could not lay a hand on him!
This was the way the thief who died on a cross
when Jesus was dying got into heaven. He barely made it, but thank the Lord he
was able to make it!
Listen lost person; you had better not put this
thing off. Satan, the avenger, is hot on your trail. He is right behind you.
If he gets his hands on you before you get to Christ, you will perish for
Conclusion: We are to STAY IN
CHRIST, our high priest.
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