Christ is Better Than Any Cities of Refuge

Christ is better because He is nearer than any city of refuge.  A runner could fall and not be able to get to a fugitive in time to shelter him within the walls of safety, but a man who looks to Christ can never fail.  The Bible makes a specific promise: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).  In fact, Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock” (Rev. 3:20).  He Himself seeks us.[7]

Christ is better because He offers only Permanent Refuge. Hebrews also speaks of Christ as “the forerunner [who] is for us entered” (Heb. 6:20).  That means that He has entered into God’s presence and that we can enter, too. When do we enter this refuge?  I would suggest we enter at three different times. 

  • First, we enter in once for all at the moment we cast ourselves upon Christ and accept Him as our Savior.  We are declared justified by God the judge on the basis of Christ’s finished work.  In Romans 5:11 Paul uses the aorist tense, indicating our justification is a past thing, completed forever.  If we are saved, we are saved. Romans 5:11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Justification means that God has no record that we even sinned. Our sins are paid for, put on Christ's account and gone forever!
  • Second, we enter into this refuge as Christians in every daily moment when we claim the blood of Christ to cover a specific sin.  1 John 1:7-9 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • Third, at that great moment when we die or when the Lord returns, we will enter in perfectly and completely. Hebrews 7:24-25 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Christ is better because He died only for the guilty. The biggest difference is that the cities protected only the innocent.  They were only for the man who killed by mistake.  Christ died for the guilty, for the deliberate sinner.  Who is that deliberate sinner?  Every one of us can say, “It is I!” How is it possible that the holy God would accept those that are guilty?  It is not by giving up His holiness.  He does not devalue that, or we would have no moral absolute in the universe.  Rather, the reason Christ is able to be our Redeemer is that He is a high priest and the sacrifice He gave was His own death. 

A man stayed in a city of refuge until the death of the high priest, and then left.  Christ is our high priest.  He has died once for all, and He lives forever.  So though we are legally guilty before the God who is there, when we cast ourselves upon Him we are free forever.  This does not suggest that we may “leave Christ” and lose our salvation, for we do not build doctrines on types; rather we interpret types on the basis of doctrines. The true Christian can never perish, but by failing to “abide in Christ” he or she opens the door to spiritual and physical dangers. Our High Priest will never die, and because He lives, we live also.

  • Hebrews 7:23-27 says this strongly: And they, truly, were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death; but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.  Wherefore, he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.  For such an high priest became us who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s; for this he did once, when he offered up himself (Heb. 7:23-27)

We are not like a man who runs to a city of refuge and is acquitted after a trial because he is innocent.  We are guilty.  If you are still a non-Christian, run to Christ, for God’s own promises say, “Refuge!  Refuge!”

If you are a Christian, take Christ as your sufficient refuge; bring your specific sins under the work of Christ and in all the vicissitudes of life,  moment by moment, through the whole of your life.

There is one point of contrast between the cities and Christ: when the slayer came to the city, he was admitted but he was also tried. With us, there is no trial, for we are already condemned! The elders of the city only protected someone who was innocent of murder, but Christ receives guilty sinners. What grace! John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

“What a picture this is for us today! This reveals that Christ is our refuge. Listen to what this means— I have already been carried into court, and at the trial I was found guilty.  I was a sinner. The penalty which was leveled against me was death—and it has already been executed. Christ bore the penalty for me, you see. Because He died in my place, I am free. I have been delivered from the penalty of sin; never do I have to answer for it again.  I am free now to go out and serve Him. I now have a High Priest, a resurrected Savior, to whom I can go.

What a wonderful picture of my Savior this gives! The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor. 10:11). “Ensamples” are types. Millions of things could have been recorded, but God chose to record only these things because they enable us to grow in our understanding of Him and our relationship to Him[8].”

Now, can I show you something of the depths and heights of Christ's richness toward us? Look again with me at that ancient list of city names in Joshua 20.

Do you remember from the Old Testament that often Hebrew names are also words that have a distinct meaning? And do you remember that God often points out that a name also means something in addition to being a name—to make a point?

Take for instance David’s encounter with Abigail’s husband Nabal. His name means in Hebrew 'fool’, and God shows that is just what he was. God points out Jacob’s name means deceiver as he was, and so on many times through the Old Testament this dual usage of a word is seen.

Now read Joshua 20 again and I will give you the meaning of each city that God names. Here we go: "And they [assigned] Kedesh in Galilee in Mount Naphtali, and Shechem in Mount Ephraim, and Kirjath-arba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah. And on the other side [of the] Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh. These were the cities assigned for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger who sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person without intent might flee the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation." (Joshua 20:7-9)

  • KEDESH is not only a city name it also means a "holy place" or “righteousness”.
  • SHECHEM is not only a city name it also means “shoulder”.
  • HEBRON is not only a city name it also means “fellowship”.
  • BEZER is not only a city name it also means a "stronghold" or “fortress”
  • RAMOTH is not only a city name it also means "exalted" or “heights”
  • GOLAN is not only a city name it also means "separated."

Tomorrow we will see how each of those city names portray Christ's refuge offered for us to lay hold of every day, every hour, and every moment of our lives.

 

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