Ancient near east cultures were and still are places where honor is paramount. These cultures have a deeply embedded pattern of saving face and protecting the honor and family name and part of that involved and still involves the display of power. So when a family member died because of some one else’s activity, wether intentional of not, those suffering the loss were determined to display their power by killing the assailant.
Now this process isn’t all bad, when the party is guilty, but in the case of a legitimate accident where no fault or blame lies, it left individuals open to great misuses of justice. Such was the reason for the cities of refuge we find in Joshua 20. These cities were to be sprinkled among the people, so that any individual fearful of his life might flee there within a day and come under the safety and protection of the city elders.
All of these cities were to have roads built to them so that it would be easy to flee according to Deut 19:3
Build roads to them and divide into three parts the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, so that anyone who kills a man may flee there.
Remembering that all the old testament testifies to Christ, we must ask what this was meant to declare to the people of God. First, we learn that access to Christ is open and available to any who desire to flee to his city for the one born jewish or the gentile can all find rest in the arms of Christ.
Second, we are reminded that there is always a place to flee, a refuge where the believer can find solace, safety and security against the one seeking their life and ready to accuse them of wrongdoing, for in Christ, our refuge we find our safety, we find our security and we find our declaration of innocence. As long as we are wrapped in his protective arms, nothing can harm us. We are secure.
Third, the beauty of our refuge in Christ is picked up over 50 times in the psalms were we are told that refuge in God is better than any refuge in men and Paul assures us,
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (2Thes. 3:3)
Christ is our protector. He never dies and nothing can overpower us. In fact, Satan has lost his standing in heaven where we are now seated and so we never need fear the accusations of the father of lies again. Truly in the cities of refuge we find a picture pointing to Christ our refuge.