In the Old Testament, when Israel conquered, divided and possessed the land of Canaan, God designated six special cities called the “Cities of Refuge.”
These cities were a place of safety for the man who accidentally killed another person. It was a place where he could flee and find protection from “the avenger of blood.”
God made the cities convenient. Three of these cities were west of Jordan and three were on the east. The one responsible for the accidental homicide would quickly need a place of sanctuary to escape the dead man’s family who would be pursuing him. Ultimately, the man’s innocence or guilt would be determine by the elders. But in the meantime until emotions subsided and tempers cooled, the one seeking asylum was safe in the city of refuge.
The cities of refuge were easily accessible and always available. Their gates were open to all who needed them. They were place of security, shelter and safety– a constant reminder of God’s grace and mercy.
No wonder Jehovah is often referred to by the Psalmist as his refuge.
“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble” (Ps (9:9).
“In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.” (Ps 62:7)
“I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.” (Ps 91:2)
The word “refuge” is from a verb that literally means “to flee.” It denotes “a shelter; a rock of refuge.” Inherent in the word is the idea of safety. Care. And protection from danger.
Life is filled with many trials, troubles, temptations and even tragedies. Sickness. Suffering. Death. Divorce. Financial setbacks. All of these trouble us. Or our friends, family or brethren at some time in our lives. Currently, we’re experiencing a crisis as we deal with COVID-19. It has filled many with worry. Fear. Even panic. Sadly, some have even taken their own lives due to the financial fall out as a result.
When life as we know it has been turned upside down, when everything seems to be falling apart, and when the future looks uncertain and even foreboding, we know that our God is a dependable fortress to whom we can flee, find protection and feel safe.
This is something that the secular world has trouble understanding. Vice-President Pence has been ridiculed for his faith and calling for people to pray during this crisis. Mike Lindell, the founder of My Pillow, was unmercifully mocked for his statement of faith at a recent Cornoavirus press conference for encouraging people to pray and read their Bibles.
Faith in God during these stressful times provides comfort, consolation and contentment, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Through prayer, meditation and the promises of scripture our hope lies not in political or scientific solutions, but in the power, providence and protection of the Almighty.
Interestingly the literal meaning of the names of the six cities of refuge, provide a graphic word picture that speaks to God’s sanctuary of safety. Kadesh means righteousness; Shechem, shoulder; Hebron, fellowship; Bezer, fortress, Ramoth, heights; and Golan, Joy.
Our God of righteousness, offers a divine shoulder to lean on. The everlasting arms. We share in divine association and fellowship. He’s our rock and fortress. He lifts us to new heights. And even in tough times we can experience the joy of our salvation.
God is not a spectator in our suffering, but a shelter for those struggling during the severe storms of life. In the words of the hymnist, Vernon J. Charlesworth, we ‘re reminded of this assurance and offer this prayer:
The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide,
A Shelter in the time of storm.
O Rock divine, O Refuge dear,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Be Thou our Helper ever near,
A Shelter in the time of storm
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman