ONLINE CHURCH BULLETIN
God’s New Testament City of Refuge, Part 3
We must keep the road to the city of refuge smooth and plain (Deuteronomy 19:3). Refuge cities were situated upon hills so they could be easily seen from afar. History tells us that the Jews built causeways leading to the cities of refuge so a manslayer would not be hindered in his progress to safety. These roads were at least thirty-two cubits broad, nearly twice the size of most roads.
It was the Senate's duty to repair these roads annually. Each year representatives went out to make sure the roads were in good repair and all obstacles removed. They mended bridges, filled in washes, and cut back undergrowth. Where two ways met, they set up "a Mercurial post, with a finger to point the right way, on which was engraved in great letters: Miklat, Miklat-Refuge, Refuge."2 Jewish tradition holds that runners, educated in the law, were stationed at various stages to direct manslayers to safety. Everything was done so that lives might be spared.
In the New Testament, the Gospel plan of salvation is plain and simple (2 Corinthians 11:3--4). In another sense, "The word is nigh us" (Deuteronomy 30:14; Romans 10:8), and Christ speaks through the Word (Hebrews 4:12). The Gospel brings salvation to the very door of our hearts, and knocks for admission (cf. Revelation 3:20). One does not have to be intellectually brilliant in order to grasp what God expects him to do in order to be saved (cf. Psalm 119:130; Matthew 11:25). "The way of holiness," to those with seeking hearts, is a highway so plain that "the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein" (Isaiah 35:8; cf. 57:14; 62:10; Micah 4:2; Hebrews 12:13). It is an interstate billboard rather than a yard sale sign.
Christ is a "city set on a hill" (cf. Matthew 5:14). Look at yonder mountain; it is called Calvary (Luke 23:33). It is still clearly visible through the centuries. And, there are people sent to hasten us along the way (Mark 16:15). Christians point out the way to their families, friends, and neighbors, and assist them in flying to Him for refuge. Gospel preachers point out in every sermon what sinners must do to be saved. The way is so plainly marked that those fleeing for safety are able to find their way without trouble or confusion (cf. Psalm 119:105).
The entire Bible comprises posts of direction. The Old Testament was a schoolmaster to bring those under it to Christ (Galatians 3:247). It told that a Savior was coming. The four Gospel Accounts say, "He's here, and His name is Jesus!" (Matthew 1:21). Acts of Apostles contains the history of conversions, telling us how to get into His city of refuge (Acts 2:38; 4:12; 8:35--40). The Epistles of the New Testament tell us how to live as rescued sinner and how to remain in the refuge of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 3:15). Revelation is a description of the home of the soul, which awaits those who have "washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14; cf. 2:10; 21:4). At this point, the accuser of the brethren will have been removed as a threat to our happiness and security (Revelation 12:10).
If the fleeing slayer lost his way and went to a city other than the city of refuge, he would not have been protected from the avenger of blood. Likewise, a sinner may be sidetracked and take the wrong road (Proverbs 14:12). If the sinner goes to a place other than Christ for salvation, he is still lost in his sins (John 14:6; Acts 4:123). There is the very common danger of being misled (Matthew 7:15; 15:14; Acts 20:29--30; 2 Corinthians 11:13--15; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1; Revelation 2:2). If a man accepts the popular system of "faith only" for salvation, for example, he is on the wrong road (cf. James 2:24; Galatians 5:6; John 14:23; 1 John 2:3-5). If one attempts to go through the "Virgin Mother," the prophet Mohammed, or any other route besides Christ, he is in danger. Let all be sure that they take the road that leads to God's final city of refuge (Matthew 7:13-14; Mark 4:24; Luke 8:18).
Any person in Israel could go to a city of refuge (Numbers 35:15). The city fathers did not check one's pedigree when he arrived at the city gate. A servant or a sojourner could take asylum in a city of refuge, just as any Israelite citizen. In like manner, salvation today is offered to all men (Matthew 11:28-30), and upon equal terms (Acts 10:34-35). Simply put, the Gospel is for all (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Titus 2:11--12; Revelation 22:17). In Christ Jesus no difference is made between Greek and Jew, bond or free, male or female (Galatians 3:28); any who flee to Christ receive a warm welcome (cf. Romans 1:16; 2:6--11; Ephesians 2:12--18; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9).
The manslayer had to take personal responsibility (Deuteronomy 19:1-6). One had to recognize the danger he faced before he would exert the energy to flee to a city of refuge. He had to see the threat against his life before he would leave everything behind and begin a new life in a new city.
Further, the manslayer had to go himself-he could not send someone in his place. God provided the city, but He did not force a manslayer to go there. If the manslayer failed to go, his blood was on his own head. If the avenger overtook him dawdling on his way to safety, it was not because God had not provided a place. God has done everything possible for the redemption of man. Man is at fault if he neglects the opportunity given him.
The obligation to obey the Gospel is personal. A sinner is responsible for initiating his own salvation (cf. Acts 2:38, 40; Philippians 2:12). Parents cannot be baptized for their children, or children for their parents. Spouses cannot borrow righteousness from each other (Matthew 25:9; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Christian friends cannot take the place of their lost friends. Each must answer for his own soul, or be lost (Ezekiel 18:20; John 3:3--5).
Glad Tidings of Good Things