Credit to: Pastor Joseph Prince
“that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”
— Hebrews 6:18 NKJV
“fled for refuge” — In this context of the Lord’s irreversible blessing on our lives, there is this significant description of believers: they are those who “have fled for refuge.” This was written to the Hebrews, who were familiar with the term “refuge.” In the Jewish culture, there were cities called “cities of refuge” which were built during the times of Joshua.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.
‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, designate cities of refuge to which people can flee if they have killed someone accidentally. These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community. Designate six cities of refuge for yourselves, three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west in the land of Canaan. These cities are for the protection of Israelites, foreigners living among you, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety.’”
— Numbers 35:9–15 NLT
“cities of refuge to which people can flee if they have killed someone accidentally” — Cities of refuge were for people who had killed someone accidentally, not wilfully. In modern-day context, these murders were non-premeditated with no malice intended, i.e. manslaughter.
“three on the east side . . . three on the west” — God positioned and spread out the cities of refuge such that they were easily accessible for those who happened to kill someone accidentally to flee to.
Even in the Old Testament, God hides pictures of His Son:
“‘But if someone strikes and kills another person with a piece of iron, it is murder, and the murderer must be executed. Or is someone strikes and kills another person with a wooden object, it is murder, and the murderer must be put to death.’”
— Numbers 35:16,18 NLT
“if someone strikes and kills another person with a piece of iron [or] a wooden object, it is murder, and the murderer must be put to death” — This clause was included in the instructions for the cities of refuge. It is a picture of Jesus’ death: Jesus was nailed to the cross by pieces of iron, and the cross itself is a wooden object. This makes all of us who nailed Him there with our sins—both Jew and Gentile—murderers. This is considered premeditated murder, and the law is that murderers must be put to death. But Jesus did something that changed our whole situation:
“Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’
And they divided His garments and cast lots.”
— Luke 23:34 NKJV
“‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” — The moment Jesus prayed this prayer while He was hanging on the cross, He put all of us (whose sins nailed Him to the cross) in the category of unintentional sin, not premeditated murder. Because of this, all of us qualify for the city of refuge. We can now run to the true city of refuge—Jesus Himself.
In cities of refuge, there is protection and provision for the slayer. The person who enters a city of refuge gets to depend on the means and resources of the city. Cities of refuge were where the priests of the Old Testament resided, and the priests were well supplied. They lived a good life, they were clothed well, and they were fed the very best. God commanded it to be so.
In Numbers 18, God spoke to Aaron, the high priest of that time:
“All the best of the oil, all the best of the new wine and the grain, their firstfruits which they offer to the Lord, I have given them to you.”
— Numbers 18:12 NKJV
“all the best” — This is God saying to us that He has given us the best of the grain, the wine, and the oil.
The slayers who took refuge in a city of refuge were not priests, but murderers, yet they got to eat the food of the priests as long as they dwelled in the city of refuge. This is a picture of us enjoying God’s best blessings that we don’t deserve because we are in our true city of refuge—Jesus.