The City of Refuge

A Study Outline
city of refuge
If the first readers of the epistle to the Hebrew Christians did not know their scriptures they would have missed a valuable insight into God’s Word from Hebrews 6.  Join with me to consider a glorious theme in God’s Word that should be readily known and understood by today’s student of God’s Word.
A. The promise to Abraham and the hope that is set before us provided we hold fast that which is promised.
Hebrews 6:13-19 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying,

“Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

B. In Hebrews 6:18 the writer (and teacher) makes a definite allusion to the Cities of Refuge.
What is an allusion?

First of all an “allusion” spelled with an “a” is very different from an “illusion” spelled with an “i.”

allusion – a noun : an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference.
illusion – a noun : a thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses: illusional

The cities of refuge presented a picture or shadow, of a type of Christ who is the Shelter, for needy and guilty sinners.

Strongs 4267: hope, place of refuge, shelter, trust Or machceh {makh-seh’}; from chacah; a shelter (literally or figuratively) — hope, (place of); refuge, shelter, trust. see HEBREW chacah

If the reader did not know his or her Old Testament scriptures this allusion would have gone right over their head and they would have missed out on savoring a blessed thought.
The Cities of Refuge were towns within the united kingdom of Israel in which the perpetrators of manslaughter could claim the right of asylum; outside of these cities, blood vengeance against such perpetrators was allowed by law. The Torah names six cities as being cities of refuge: Golan, Ramoth, and Bosor, on the east of the Jordan River, and Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron on the western side.

Joshua 20:1-3 Then the LORD said to Joshua, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, 3 that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood.

So a City of Refuge served to shelter a man fleeing there for the safety it would provide. Safety to protect him from another man who sought to take his life.

For this study we consider how Jesus Christ is:

• A Protecting Refuge
• A Pleasant Hope
• A Personal Refuge
• The Believer’s Permanent Peace

C. First thing I want you to see from the scriptures is that our God is a Protecting Refuge
For this message I want to expand upon the importance of a God appointed place of refuge. Lord willing the Holy Spirit will grant us permission to taste and see. So follow me with your Bibles open so I can demonstrate to you how the idea of a refuge would have served the New Covenant readers of Hebrews. From….

Isaiah 25:4
For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,

Psalms 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.

Psalms 94:22
But the LORD is my defence;
and my God is the rock of my refuge.

God’s Word gives us many reasons why sinners should flee to Jesus Christ for protection and refuge.
From the Old Testament

⁃ Jeremiah 31:30 But everyone shall die for his own sin.

⁃ Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.

⁃ Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins shall die.

From the New Testament

⁃ Romans 3

10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Those who flee to Jesus find protection from God’s own wrath.

I Thessalonians 1:10 …Jesus who delivers us (His saints) from the wrath to come.

Those who flee to Jesus must look to Him as God’s provision to save them from their sins.

Hebrews 9:26b But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Those who look to Jesus Christ need Him who has the power to deliver them from spiritual darkness and this evil world. Of God’s saints it is said….

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

Galatians 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Helpless sinners look to Jesus because He is a friend of sinners.

Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.

D. He is not only a Protecting Refuge, Jesus Christ is also a Pleasant Hope for all those who put their trust in Him

In 1 Timothy 4:10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Note: All who are not in Christ receive a delayed judgment because of God’s love for the believer. In this sense, Jesus is the Savior of the world because He holds back His judging hand from all who rightly and immediately deserve it. Judgment is delayed. This is a blessing received from God upon the unbeliever. In fact, God often blesses the unbeliever because of the presence of a believer.

Psalm 119:114 Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.

Note: Remember how the Hebrew word for hope can at times be translated to refuge.

Jesus Christ is much more.

He is altogether lovely.

Songs 5:16

His mouth is most sweet,

and he is altogether desirable.

This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

He is the rest for our conscience

Mat 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

He is the joy of our hearts

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

He is the satisfaction for our souls

Psalm 36:8 They (his saints) feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

He is the brightness of our hope

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

He is the gladness of our spirit

John 20:20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

He is the preciousness of God’s promises

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.

E. Lastly, Jesus Christ is a Personal Refuge and a Permanent Peace for the weary soul.
God’s Word applies this picture of the city of refuge to the believer finding refuge in God on more than one occasion:

⁃ Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. More than 15 other times, the Psalms speak of God as our refuge.

There are obvious points of similarity between the cities of refuge and our refuge in Jesus.

⁃ Both Jesus and the cities of refuge are within easy reach of the needy person; they were of no use unless someone could get to the place of refuge.

⁃ Both Jesus and the cities of refuge are open to all, not just the Israelite; no one needs to fear that they would be turned away from their place of refuge in their time of need.

⁃ Both Jesus and the cities of refuge became a place where the one in need would live; you didn’t come to a city of refuge in time of need just to look around.

⁃ Both Jesus and the cities of refuge are the only alternative for the one in need; without this specific protection, they will be destroyed.

⁃ Both Jesus and the cities of refuge provide protection only within their boundaries; to go outside means death.

⁃ With both Jesus and the cities of refuge, full freedom comes with the death of the High Priest.

He is the pleasantness of our peace with God, It is found in Him

II Peter 1:2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Jesus Christ is a Permanent Peace

There is a crucial difference between the cities of refuge and the saint’s refuge in Jesus. The cities of refuge only helped the innocent, but the guilty can come to Jesus and find eternal refuge.

I Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Ezekiel 33:9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

F. Concluding remarks
Earlier in this message I pointed out Joshua 20:1-3 so you could see that there were indeed six cities appointed by God to serve as cities of refuge.

Joshua 20:1-3 Then the LORD said to Joshua, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, 3 that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood.

Now at the conclusion of this message I want to reveal to you a seventh city. A glorious City, the City of our God, New Jerusalem, Sion.

Hebrews 6:17-18 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

Hebrews 11:8-10; 14-16 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (now jump to verse 14) For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

The 7th city of refuge is made by God.

Revelation of John 21:1-2 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Video Link to Cities of Refuge as presented at
Commentary: Moe Bergeron

Into The Light


Safety is found in the light of God

A few years ago, a friend of mine was keeping a very serious temptation in the dark. His friends and his pastor often asked questions about things that didn’t line up, but instead of seeing those questions as evidence of God’s mercy at work in his life, my friend continued to hide. He denied any wrongdoing and skirted the pointed questions about his past.
Then one day he succumbed to this temptation and was caught. It was the kind of deed that puts one in jail for a very long time. His family was devastated and his church was dismayed.
Afterward, I wrote him and asked him how we was processing these recent events. I’ll never forget what he wrote back to me. In short, he said God had given him many opportunities to confess and repent, but he didn’t see it as the mercy that it was. Instead, what he kept in the dark became the very thing that the Enemy used to destroy him. By nursing his secret sin and fearing the opinions of others more than the judgment of God, he destroyed all that was valuable to him — including his witness for the Lord.
Light EnteringI’ve thought a lot about this in the ensuing years, especially in the context of small groups and accountability relationships. In certain circles, we can talk a lot about “safe” people and “safe” churches, places where self-righteous judgment isn’t the most dominant relational characteristic. While it is important that we cultivate humility in our relationships (which is what being “safe” is all about), safety is not found in the reaction of others. Safety is found in the light of God.In God’s mercy, the one thing we don’t want to do — drag our sin out of the darkness and confess it others — is the very thing that will actually spare us. As it says in the first chapter of the gospel of John, life is found in the light:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14, emphasis mine)

Grace and truth co-exist in the One who is the true light, who came into the world on a divine rescue mission to give those who receive Him the right to become children of God. This is jaw-dropping truth! We want to hide our ugliness, our brokenness, our darkness. But when we willingly expose it to the Light, we are healed and restored.
This means confession and accountability are some of our primary weapons in the spiritual battles we face every day. This “life together in the light” should be the culture we create in our churches and in our families. We should be eager to help each other, not to judge one another. There is but one wholly righteous Judge and He tells us to meet Him at the point of our most severe criticism, the Cross, so that we can see clearly how great is our sin. The wonder is that at this place of severe criticism, we receive completely unmerited mercy! When we are truthful about our temptations and sins, we find grace to repent and change.
So how can we create this culture in our small group or church? It starts with each of us being willing to remove our own “fig leaf” mask and get real. Why does it seem so much harder to tell one another the truth that God already knows? For that matter, why does it seem so hard to tell one another the truth that most of us can already see in each other?! If I find it hard to confess my pride or anger, I’m being illogical. Nearly everyone around me is already aware of the overflow of my heart in those areas. But confession is the healing balm that brings me into the Light, where grace and truth meet me for full restoration!
(If you want to read further on this topic, I highly recommend Ed Welch’s classic book, When People Are Big and God Is Small. It’s not just for those who fear rejection. It’s also for those who crave approval. Both of those motivations keep us in the dark, instead of the light.)
~ Carol
Some blog posts are worth repeating. This is one of them. ~ CMC
Read the original post and/or comment at Carolyn McCulley’s blog.
Carolyn McCulley
Carolyn is the author of two books, Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World (Moody Publishers, 2008) and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred (Crossway, 2004). Carolyn is also a contributor to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2005), as well as to other webzines and publications. She is a frequent conference speaker for women’s ministry events and also maintains a blog, Radical Womanhood.