Safe at Last!
Numbers 35; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; Joshua 20; Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 515-517
We worship a God who loves us and is our refuge.
“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge” (Psalm 16:1).
Maria was in trouble. Big trouble. She had accidentally dropped a whole box of eggs. What a mess! Well, there was nothing else to do. She had to tell her mother—and clean up the floor. “It was an accident, Mom,” she began. “I didn’t mean to drop the eggs. Honest, I didn’t.” “I know that, Maria,” responded her mother. “I’m just glad it happened in the kitchen, where the floor can be cleaned easily.” Sometimes accidents just happen, but people don’t always understand. That’s what happened in our story today.
He staggered down the road, breathing in short gasps. The stabbing pain in his side made him stumble. He looked back over his shoulder in terror. There was no one behind him that he could see. But he knew someone would be coming.
He faced forward again and tried to run faster. It couldn’t be very far away now. The city of Shechem. The city of refuge.
The road down which he ran was in good condition. And all the crossroads had signposts that marked the way. “Refuge!” they read. “Refuge!” At least he wouldn’t get lost. The only question was Would he make it to the city in time?
He hadn’t meant to harm his neighbor. He hadn’t meant to hurt him. But his axhead had flown off and struck his neighbor’s face. It was true. He had accidentally killed a man.
Yes, he had done it. However, it had been an unfortunate, unplanned accident. Even so, his neighbor’s family would come after him. A life for a life. That was the law. But if he could get to the city of refuge, he would be safe. He would explain everything that had happened to the elders. They would keep him safe until a trial could be held.
He looked back again. Someone was running along the road behind him—far back in the distance. He sobbed and turned and tried to run even faster. He had to make it to Shechem!
The city gates were just ahead. Elders were waiting there to see if he would be permitted in. He ran faster. He would make it! He had made it! God was good!
Having cities of refuge was God’s idea. He knew that sometimes people get accused of something they did not do. And sometimes bad things happen by accident. So God told Moses to set aside cities here and there throughout the nation of Israel. Cities to which people could run for safety and be given a fair trial.
But the cities of refuge could keep people safe only if they stayed inside the city. If they went outside the city walls, they could be caught and hurt. Sometimes the people seeking safety had to live there the rest of their lives unless the high priest died. If that happened, all was forgiven, and they could go free.
We need a place of refuge today too. God is a refuge for us, but we can 59also provide a refuge for others. We worship a God who loves us and is a refuge for us and helps us be a refuge to others.