There were six cities in the land of Canaan which were set apart as places of refuge, to which a man might flee if he had, either by accident or design had killed another. These cities were easy of access. Three were on the west side of the river Jordan, and three on the east side. Every year the roads leading to them were examined, to see that they were in good condition, and that there was nothing in the way to stop the manslayer as he was running from his pursuer. At different points there were the guide-boards, and on them were written, REFUGE! REFUGE!
If any man by accident killed another, and reached one of these cities before his pursuer, he was allowed to stay there until the death of the high-priest who was then living. But if in anger a man had purposely killed another, then although he sought refuge in one of these cities, he was given up to the avenger of blood to be slain. You will find more about these cities and their names if you read the thirty-fifth chapter of Numbers, the nineteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, and the twentieth chapter of Joshua.
But what interest can boys and girls and all older persons have in these cities?
I will try to tell you. God has different ways of teaching. A great many things about which we read in the Old Testament are what is called types. A Type, in scripture language, means a pattern or a likeness to a person who is to come, or to an event which is to take place. It is suppose to point forward to something more valuable than itself. Thus, for example, the blood of the Lamb which was slain on the Jewish alter was a type, or a foreshowing, of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ for our salvation. Hence John the Baptist pointing to the Savior, said to his disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29 the paschal lamb, which was slain to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from the bondage of Egypt, and the lamb which was offered daily, both morning and evening, in the service of the temple, were representations of the greater sacrifice which Christ came from heaven to make for our salvation.
So the land of Canaan was a type of heaven. The lifting up of the brazen serpent on a pole was a type of our Savior’s crucifixion; and the cities of refuge were a beautiful type of Jesus Christ; who is the sinner’s refuge.
You know, my dear children, we have all sinned, and that we all need a place of safety. “The avenger says, “Thou shalt surely die.” Escape for thy life. But that we may not die eternally, God has given us the Bible as our guide-board; and the Bible is constantly pointing to Jesus Christ as the sinner’s refuge. He is our hiding-place. It is to Him Isaiah refers when he says,” And a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”
The way to our city of refuge is plain. “I am the way,” is the Savior’s own direction. The gate is always open, and the assurance is, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”
I want you to remember, dear children, that it is a great deal easier to run to this city of refuge when you are young, than it will be if you put off until you are older. The promise of the Savior is, “Those that seek me early shall find me.” Will you not seek him when He may be found? How sad it will be if you neglect to do so. You will need a refuge when the tempest of God’s judgments shall burst upon the wicked. Oh, then how glad you will be if you can say, as David said of his trust in God, “Thou art my hiding-place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.”
The Master’s Hand
“In the still of the air the music lies unheard
In the rough marble beauty hides unseen
To make the music and the beauty needs
A master’s touch, the sculptor’s chisel keen.
Great Master, touch us with Thy skilled hand
Let not the music that is in us die
Great Sculptor, hew and polish us, nor let
Hidden and lost, Thy form within us lie!
Spare not the stroke! Do with us as Thou wilt!
Let there be naught unfinished, broken, marred
Complete Thy purpose, that we may become
Thy perfect image, thou our God and Lord!”