“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”
A believer asked me, “Bro. Bon, what can you say about the recent things that are happening around the world today? Are these Biblical?”
What he meant is the Corona Virus that as I write this article, has already infected about 170,000 people and has already taken 6000 lives around the world. It has recently declared as pandemic and the number of people being infected is also skyrocketing exponentially every day. Here in the Philippines, the whole Metro Manila was put into a lockdown paralyzing the economy of most of the region.
But Corona Virus is just one of the notable things that had happened to our world recently. As we enter into a new decade, in the first week of January only, Australia is already burning with forest fires killing almost a billion animals. After that, millions of Locusts have been plaguing Africa and then Corona Virus started its outbreak in China. Not to mention the tension between Iran and America which the Bible refers to as “wars and rumours of wars”. If this is not Biblical to you, I don’t know what is.
If we will try to look at Matthew 24:3-8, we will notice that these events is the Word of God unfolding before us:
“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
Truly, these are the signs of the coming of our Lord. Famines, pestilences and here in the Philippines alone, there are earthquakes and volcanic eruptions happening in diverse places. And the Bible is telling us that all of these are just the beginning of sorrows. As the “morning” draws nearer and the physical appearing of the Lord is at hand, we should expect that more sorrows will come so that those only high “quality” believers can endure up to the Rapture.
These are what the Bible calls the “Birth pains”. Just like an expectant mother who suffers more and more pains as her due to give birth draws nearer, so is when our redemption draws nigh.
BUT THIS ARTICLE IS NOT ABOUT FAMINE, PESTILENCE AND OTHER SORROWS TO COME. THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT WHERE TO FIND OUR PLACE OF SAFE REFUGE DURING THIS CRISIS AND IN THE DAYS TO COME.
Everywhere, people are looking for a place of safe refuge for them and for their love ones, but the Bible has already shown us what to do, where to find safety, peace and hope in times like this. And our Lord has told us to flee to that place and stay there!
So before we start, here are things that we will learn after reading this article:
- We will know the cities of refuge in the Old Testament and their spiritual meanings.
- We will know the importance of fleeing in those cities.
- We will know how these places of refuge can shield us from the avenger of blood.
- We will know who are the foolish people.
THE CITY OF REFUGE
In order to know what our place of refuge is and where to find it, we need first to look at the Old Testament, especially the nation Israel. What happened to the physical Israel will also experience by the Spiritual One – if we don’t learn from them. These pestilences we are experiencing now had already happened before. According to Romans 15:4
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
The Old Testament was written for our learning that we might have hope! And according to 1 Corinthians 10:6-11, all those things that happened to them are for our example and “they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
Therefore, let us look at the passages that tells us about this place of refuge. Let us first study the physical Israel then later, relate it to the spiritual One.
According to Joshua 20:1-9:
“The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,
Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:
That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.
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.
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 beforetime.
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.
And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.
And on the other side 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 appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.”
In the passages above, our Lord instructed Joshua to build cities of refuge throughout the land of Israel. Why is this? It is because in the Old Testament, people are living under the law, that is “an eye for an eye” “a tooth for a tooth”. If you murdered someone, you would be put to death. Plain and simple.
But what if you have killed someone accidentally? Let’s say for example I’m chopping down trees and having not really maintained my tools, my axe head flies off, striking a man and killing him. Or what if I’m building a house and suddenly a hollow block fell off hitting my fellow worker and killing him instantly. The Law says that even if you killed someone accidently, the closest relative or the kinsman of the slain person could come for your life. The kinsman in this case is known as “the avenger of blood”. They will come to seek justice over the spilled blood of their brother or close relative.
Indeed, it’s terrible to live under the Law. Thank God, we are already under Grace and not under the Law anymore! Anyway, this is the reason why the Lord instructed Joshua to build cities of refuge. So that the slayer will have a place of refuge from the avenger of blood.
ARRIVAL AT THE CITY
If you have killed someone, you need to run as fast as you can. You need to get to a city of refuge where you can be safe and have your case heard. And if you arrive to the city before the avenger of blood, according to verse 4 upon entering, you need to stand at the gate and shall declare your case to the elders of the city. Then they shall take you into the city and give you a place that you may dwell among them.
And if the avenger of blood pursues you, the people of the city will not going to let him in and they will protect you from him.
According to verse 6, you can dwell in the city until you stand before the congregation for judgment. And if the high priest on those days dies, automatically you will be declared not guilty and you can then return to the city where you came from. The avenger of blood cannot slay you anymore as it will be against the law.
THE MEANING OF THE ANALOGY
You may ask: “But brother Bon, what’s the relation of Joshua 20 to the corona virus we are facing right now? Where can we find our safe refuge from the virus?”
Remember that the cities of refuge were created during the time of Joshua. It was Joshua who set those cities to be a refuge for Israel from the avenger of blood. And we know that we, the Spiritual Israel, are also living in the time of Joshua right now. It is in our time that Joshua (our Lord Jesus) will set up cities of refuge for us.
Here is the meaning of this analogy from the old testament, its spiritual meaning and its relation to pestilence we are facing right now:
- The Fleer – in the analogy, we are the murderer who flees for his life from the avenger of blood. We are the sinners who sins against God. Our crimes against our Lord and against His creations are so heavy that today, we are paying the price. We are the real reason why this virus started and why it keeps on spreading. And now because of what we have done, we do everything to flee from it so that it won’t take our lives.
- The Innocent One Killed – our Lord Jesus Christ is the innocent One we have killed because of our trespasses and sins (Rom. 5:8). We killed Him (Acts 3:15) even though He did no wrong and He died because of our sins (Rom. 4:25, 1 Pet. 3:18).
- The Avenger of Blood – is no other than our Lord Jesus Christ also (1 Thes. 4:6). He is our Kinsman redeemer Who will avenge the blood of every innocent man (Rom. 12:19, Psa. 94:1-2, Deu. 32:35). During His second coming, our Lord Jesus comes with justice and righteousness He judges and wages war (Rev. 17, 19). The Lord is the avenger of blood for people that have not sought a safe refuge. He is the only One Who has the power to give and take life (John 10:18).
During the plaque in Egypt, He is the avenger of blood Who take the lives of every Egyptian firstborn, every cattle and every beast in Egypt. Exodus 12:12-13 says:
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and WHEN I SEE THE BLOOD, I WILL PASS OVER YOU. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”
He is also the One Who takes the lives of every person that died in this Corona Virus plague. When He passes Egypt during that time, He didn’t ask whether this person is good or bad, it simply came down to whether they were sheltering under the blood of the lamb! One need not to be super smart to get what I mean with this. So the question is, are we under the blood?
- 4. The Cities of Refuge – are no other than the Word of God Who is our Jesus Christ again (John 1:14, Rev. 19:13). The city of refuge that provides shelter and safety for the one fleeing pictures Christ (Psa. 91:1-2, Psa. 18:2). Right from the first sin of Adam and Eve, our Lord has always been the One who has sought to provide a place of shelter and security for the sinners. Whether they would take that place is another matter, but the heart of our Lord has always been for the sinners to find safety and forgiveness.
Below is a map of the location of the six cities of refuge in Israel.
From the map above, we can see that our Lord wasn’t trying to make it hard to reach these cities. He placed these cities accessible so we could make it. We didn’t have to run the entire length of Israel to go to them. Yes, we need to make an effort, but it was within reach for those that saw the seriousness of their need to flee. Some of these cities were located in the north while some were the south of Israel.
It’s the same today. A sinner doesn’t have to travel a long way today to find a spiritual place. There are churches placed by our Lord which is under the blood and whose sole authority and teachings is only the Word. But we need to come to take refuge.
Take note also that these cities of refuge is for everyone. Young, old, male, female, slave, free, Israelite, Gentile verse 9 says “These were the appointed cities for all the sons of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them, that whoever kills any person unintentionally may flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood.”
Whosoever… rich, poor, male, female, king or peasant, the invitation is available to all and all should take advantage of it! Do you need a place of refuge from the virus? Come to our City of refuge!
5. The High Priest – according to verse 6, when the High Priest died, automatically the fleer will be declared not guilty and he can then return to the city where he came from. The offender could go free and need not to fear. Because of the righteousness of the High Priest, his death acts like an atonement that caused those who had fled into a city of refuge to go free. And our High Priest is no other than our Lord Jesus Christ whose death on the cross has set us all free!
In summary, there is only one in this picture that is not a type of Christ and that is the one who has committed the crime and is fleeing. That is a picture of us.
WHAT IF WE WILL NOT FLEE?
So what about those who decide not to run to the City? These are the people who have unintentionally killed a man but decided not to take refuge. What becomes of them? In this case, there is no safety outside of these Cities. There is no safety outside the Word of God. The nearest kinsman will surely come and will seek justice. He will do it through these viruses, plagues or other pestilences. When will He come? Would it be today? Tomorrow? In a week? Next year? Who could tell? But surely the avenger of blood will come and the perpetrator was simply living on borrowed time. What a horrible position to be in.
Today, people live as if they have forever. They are not under the blood and are not in the refuge of the Word. They live like the avenger of blood won’t ever come to them. When is He coming? Who can tell? But sure enough, justice is coming and these people do not know how long they have got.
At this point, I would like to draw your attention to another kind of person. They are the people who have arrive in the City. They have taken refuge and live in the City in a long period of time but then foolishly go outside the gate of the City thinking that the avenger of blood won’t arrive. Just as they have set their foot outside the City, the avenger of blood arrives and kills them. One great example of such person in the Bible is Abner.
For a little background on the story of Abner, after the death of King Saul, David was anointed King (1 Sam. 16) but the house of David and the house of Saul are still in battle with each other (2 Sam. 3). David’s general was Joab and Saul’s was a man called Abner. The brother of Joab is Asahel (who was described as a fleet-footed like a wild gazelle). He chased Abner and would not stop even if Abner told him to several times. In the end Abner, in self-defense, killed Asahel. And Joab of course wants revenge. So we read:
“Now when Abner had returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him privately, and there stabbed him in the stomach, so that he died for the blood of Asahel his brother.” (2Sa 3:27)
“And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth?” (2Sa 3:33)
David said that Abner died as a fool dies. Why did David said this? What did Abner do that he died just like a fool? If we will read carefully 2 Samuel 3:27 again, we will find the answer. The verse told us that Abner was in Hebron. As we have seen in the map, Hebron was a city of refuge. One couldn’t just go inside that City and kill someone. So Joab tricked Abner to come to the gate of the city. Outside the city, Abner is not safe and in there, Joab killed him.
Abner’s foolishness was in knowing that he is safe inside the city but still chooses to go outside thinking that Joab will not kill him. Just like King David said, he died as a fool just like many others today who have heard of their need to flee to Christ but choose not to. They are the kind of people who are already under the blood and in the protection of the Word but still chooses to go outside the Word. They have lived long enough inside the City. They are born into a Christian family. All their life they go to church but it came a point in there lives where they think that the avenger of blood won’t come. And so they go outside the City to experience the worldly lifestyle. And in the time they are not expecting it, the avenger arrives and killed them.
This is the reason why we should always stay inside the City of refuge. Do not be tricked by the enemy to go outside. Our only strong tower is the name of the Lord. We should run into It for we are safe there (Pro. 18:10)!
Are we already in the City of Refuge? Are we under the protection of His Word? When the avenger of the blood comes, will He see the blood in us and will just Passover us? Remember, our Lord Jesus Christ has the sole capability to take and give life. All of our lives are in His hand. Viruses may infect us but we will only die if our Lord Jesus will allow it. Now, the only requirement for our lives not to be taken is if He can see the blood in us. So are we in the blood? Have you run to the City of refuge?
If not, take heed. The avenger of blood is coming. God loves you but He is also a God of justice and He cannot leave sin unpunished. Someone must take that punishment. If you will not run to our Lord for a refuge then you will be paying for your own sins. Be wise, don’t foolish, and flee to Christ! This is the only way that we will be safe in any viruses!
May the Lord will continue to guide us into all His truth is my prayer.
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