CHRIST, OUR REFUGE – There’s one humongous mother-of-a-storm coming, but our God has prepared for us a safe, secure Hiding Place!

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Our Refuge

 

 The Scriptures are jam-packed with colorful verbal illustrations and graphic word-pictures.  A close look at many of the prophecies, particularly those found in Daniel and the Revelation,  reveals a fantastic array of creatures and animal representations that foretell exciting things to come.  These fascinating cartoon-like images images are more than merely entertaining video graphics.   They are God’s communication devices, designed to arrest our attention, and draw us into a deeper grasp of their significance.

The entire Bible is bursting with types and symbols that more-vividly illustrate the various aspects of God’s Master Plan, and more completely depict the many facets of the Messiah, Who He would be, what He would do, and what was yet to come!

 

In John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of    searching the Scriptures, “… for they testify of Me”, He says.  Now, the Scriptures    to which He referred were   what we know today as    the Old Testament.  The Old Testament comprised  the entirety of the existing Scriptures at that time.  And the Old Testament is,   as is the New Testament,   centered on Jesus.  It’s all about Christ.

 

PREVIEWS of JESUS-TO-COME!

Beginning back in Eden, immediately after the Fall of Adam and Eve, God presented to our first parents the prophetic picture of a future Savior  Whose “heel” would be “bruised”, but Who would ultimately deliver a deadly wound to the serpent’s head.  What an encouraging picture of assurance that is for us, living in these latter times.

 

The Great Flood of Noah’s time is a figure of the Final Judgment, while the Ark itself, which preserved God’s Creation, is a symbol of Christ, in Whom all may find amnesty, both now and in that Final Day of Reckoning

 

The pure, spotless Passover Lamb and its shed blood  is another direct representation of Jesus.   Throughout the Old Testament, God consistently presents vivid images of the long-awaited Annointed One – clear images found in the wilderness Tabernacle, in its furnishings and in its services.  More interactive illustrations come alive in the significance of His Holy Days, as recorded in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  All more completely point to the coming Savior.

 

We find further Old Testament pre-views of Jesus in the Rock that faithfully supplied water for the Church in the wilderness, in the Pillar of Fire and the Pillar of Cloud that led and protected Israel during those 40 years.  And in the Old Testament we see Jesus, the coming Redeemer, depicted in the imagery of the Statute of Redemption;  and then we see Him in the detailed Messianic prophecies – as the rejected, crucified Savior.  Every single one points ahead to the long-awaited Annointed One.

 

Cover-to-cover, the Word of God simply overflows with an abundance of figures, symbols, and object lessons, many of which were designed by God specifically to flesh-out, a more complete knowledge and understanding of the promised Messiah.

 

Incidentally,   the New Testament, separated from the Old Testament, is like a one-legged man.  The two belong together – they are inseparable.  These are the “Two Witnesses” spoken of in New Testament prophecy.  They support and perfectly complement each other.

 

My wife is a survivor of the bombing of Berlin  during World War II – unquestionably, a frightening time for a mature adult but,    without doubt,   an absolutely terrifying experience for a small child.

 

She told of once spending two weeks in an underground bunker, as the battle raged above and all around;   the sounds,  the smells,  the concussion of the ordnance,  the intense heat of the bunker walls,  and the trembling of the ground beneath  the bunker … and then,      the silence,   and the waiting.   She spoke, too, of finding comfort and encouragement in the companionship and support of neighbors in those uncomfortable quarters.

 

She recalls that    stored on the shelves within that sturdy shelter was an adequate supply of drinking water    with some food items of basic nutrition that would prove essential in sustaining them    thru the duration of their stay in that refuge.

 

The bunker provided her  and her mother, her siblings, and their neighbors with more-than-sufficient protection, right  in the midst of the fire, the exploding bombs, the fractured buildings and flying debris. They were sheltered and cared for,  and  as they remained in the bunker    their safety was assured,   their needs were met.

 

In the same way, those refugees of God’s judgment on the antediluvian world of Noah found safety,   security,   and a life-support system within the Ark – which was  merely a bobbing speck on the surface a drowning planet.  But inside the refuge of that vessel,  they were free from the judgment that had befallen the multitudes outside.  And all their needs were amply supplied.  They were sheltered and safely transported through their time of trouble,   to a new beginning.

 

It wasn’t enough    just to know about the bunker.    It wasn’t nearly enough to simply get closer to the bunker.      In order to receive the benefits of that refuge – to find safety from bodily harm and loss of life – to be sustained thru their time of trial – the family had to step down inside that bunker,  and commit to staying there in the security provided    behind its strong walls and heavily-barred door. 

 

It wasn’t enough   just to know about the Ark, or to hang out near the ArkNoah’s people had to enter  the Ark, and the Bible says that the door  then  was closed.  They had to commit  wholly  to the shelter that God had provided;  to place their trust in the refuge and remain in the Ark –  there would be no turning back – and they were assured of finding safety and sustenance thru the duration of the crisis.

 

Have you considered the tremendous courage it must have taken to enter that Ark – in the face of laughter and ridicule – because,    to that point in time,    it had not rained on the earth – not a drop – never!  No one had ever experienced   flooding.  “What’s a flood?”   “What’s ‘rain’?”

 

But those who dared to believe Noah’s nearly unbelievable warning,    those who chose to accept God’s offer of mercy,  must have considered the taunting and mockery such a small price to pay for redemption from certain, total annihilation.

 

Now, this account is recorded in Exodus 33:18-24:  God summons Moses, up to the top of  Mount Sinai, for the purpose of giving to him the Tables of Stone, on which were inscribed the Decalogue.    While up there,  Moses requests of  God, “Show me Your glory”.  So God tucks Moses into   a cleft, a crevice, in the Rock,  while He passes before the Patriarch, declaring    His goodness and His majesty. 

 

Scripture plainly testifies that,    to sinful humanity, “Our God is a Consuming Fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24).   So … God provided for Moses    a Refuge,    a hiding place, placed him in it,  and then He covered him with His Almighty hand,    symbolically    introducing Himself as The Rock of Our Salvation,   in which    the Lord Jesus is, for us,    the Cleft in the Rock,   our Hiding Place,    our Refuge.

 

There’s one illustration, beginning in Numbers35:10, that most aptly depicts the many, many facets of the coming Savior, and it’s found in God’s Statutes, where He instructs Joshua to establish the Cities of Refuge.   Are you familiar with the Cities of Refuge?  What a study this is, and what a beautiful illustation of Christ!

 

As the Israelites prepared to cross over the Jordan River and to,  at long last  enter the Promised Land,  Joshua was instructed to set up,   for a very unique and explicit purpose,   six special Cities,   with three on each side of the River.

 

Watch this:  Numbers 35:10 “When you come over Jordan into the Land of Canaan, then you shall appoint cities of refuge, that     the manslayer     may flee thither (may flee there) … which killeth any person without intent.”

 

12 And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not,  until he stand before the congregation in judgment.

 

13 And of these cities which ye shall give,    six cities shall ye have for refuge.

 

14 Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.

 

15 … that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither (there).”  KJV

 

The Cities of Refuge were under the stewardship of the Levites – the Levitical priesthood – and were established for the purpose of providing a safe place  where one who had accidentally taken a life could seek asylum – could find shelter  from “the avenger of the blood”, and could receive sustenance and safety until his case could be heard,  until he could be judged  fairly. 

 

Our God is a God of justice,   and  of  a God of great mercy;  and these were the days of  “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,      a life for a life”.   Oh, the wonderful mercy    of our God!   Have you seen … have you received … do you know the depth of God’s unfathomable mercy    and His amazing grace?  Now watch this:

 

From W.W. Prescott’s book,  In Christ:  “The roads leading to these cities were always kept in good repair; and there were signs put up all along the highway, Refuge, so    the one who was fleeing might lose no time, and make no mistakes on his way.”  The  providence of Our Father!  This is Who He is!

These Cities of Refuge were to be strategically situated throughout the land so that, from any location within their territory, a City of Refuge would be   not more than   a half-day’s journey away.       God’s       great      mercy!  That’s His way!

 

Again, from Professor Prescott:  “Do you see how perfectly the lesson applies?  Jesus Christ is not far from any one of us.  The way to Him is just as easy as God can make it;   and the way is always open and kept in repair;    and He has pointers (signs) up in every place, pointing to Jesus Christ, the Refuge.   And just as soon as one is  in Him, he is safe from the pursuer,  just as long as he stays   in Him.  If he gets outside of Him,    it is at his own risk;    he is likely then to pay the penalty.  But if he abides in Him,  he is safe.  There is no condemnation.”

 

Let’s take a look at the names of these Cities of Refuge, and note how their meanings  so aptly describe the anticipated Savior:  East of the Jordan, there was Golan (“to reveal”) The Savior came to reveal to us the Father; Ramoth (“exalted, lifted up”) He was to be “lifted up” and would draw all  unto Him;  and Bezer (”to be fortified, to make inaccessible”) A Mighty Fortress is our God.  Then, west of the River was Kadesh (“to be holy, to sanctify, consecrate”) As we abide in Him, we are sanctified, we are made holy; Shechem (“shoulder, as to bear a burden”) The Messiah would bear our sin-burden to judgment at the Cross; and Hebron (“to unite, join, bind together”) God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.  In Him, in Our Refuge, there is no distinction between male-female, free-bond, Jew-Gentile – all are one in Him.  Fascinating!  The Lord’s complete resume is stated in the names of the Cities of Refuge!  They thoroughly depict the Savior!

 

So the Cities of Refuge were established for the purpose of providing asylum for one who had taken a life and required protection from “the avenger of the blood”.  It was clearly stipulated in the Statutes that if the slaying were intentional, or had been committed with malice, the offender was to be put to death, as required by Law.   By the way, “the avenger”,  who was,  by Law,  the victim’s next-of-kin, was required by that Law to carry out the execution  by his own hand!

 

Now, if the slaying were judged to be    not deliberate, or not intentional, the offender was returned to the City of Refuge, where he could live safely … …

now follow this … until the death of the High Priest.     Can you see where this is going?

 

The Cities of Refuge provided asylum for the one who had committed a capital offense.   Is mankind   under condemnation?   Oh, you bet it is!  God’s Word says: Ezekiel 18:20  “The soul that sinneth, it shall die”.  Are we all not on eternity’s death row?  And Romans 6:23 states: “The wages of sin    is death”.  There’s no other way we can “spin” that!   Might not our own personal,     and our corporate situations     require the benefits   of an all-sufficient    Refuge?

 

So, if the slaying had not been committed in enmity, the offender was permitted to dwell in the City of Refuge, Scripture says … until the death of the high priest.

 

Do you know …  … Who is our High Priest?  That’s Jesus!  Our High Priest is Jesus!  You really want to take a good look at, and carefully study, the first three chapters of Hebrews.  What a powerful    and compelling case    is presented there:

 

Chapter one states that it was absolutely essential that the Savior be wholly and totally God in order to completely reconcile fallen mankind to the Father.  His name is Emmanuel – God with us, or more correctly, God in us!   

 

And Hebrews, chapter two says that He had to be fully human,   in substance and in nature,  in order to qualify as our Mediator.  Jesus refers to Himself in Scripture 83 times as “the Son of Man”.  So thoroughly He identifies with us,  as One of us.

 

Then in chapter three, we’re told that He is now our consummate  High Priest and Intercessor.  His   is a high priesthood of the order of Melchizedek – superior to the Levitical priesthood.   The entire book of Hebrews   makes an excellent study!

 

So, the Cities of Refuge were established to portray in living detail the Savior Who was to come.  And although all of humanity are guilty as charged and condemned by the Law – we may seek Refuge in Christ;  we may take asylum, safely abide in Him – in Christ our Refuge.   He is our Hiding Place … from the condemnation of The Law … from the natural consequences of a life in transgression of God’s precepts.

 

Now, it gets even better.  Do you like happy endings?   So do I!   So does Our Heavenly Father!  He orchestrates happy endings!  Listen!  The transgressor was permitted to dwell safely in the City of Refuge  until the death of the High Priest,    at which time he was to be set free, to return home,   no longer under the condemnation of the Law.

 

And here is where the illustration comes full-circle,  because it is the death of   our High Priest – and our High Priest is? … that’s Jesus!   It’s the death of Jesus Christ at the Cross  –  it’s the death of Jesus, Our High Priest,  that ultimately releases us – that sets us FREE  from the condemnation of The Law of Sin and Death.

 

Hear, now,  the testimony of the Apostle Paul – with my very favorite Bible passage:  Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”… to those who have entered the Ark;  who are now hidden in the Bunker;  who have fled to the safety of the Refuge … to those whose High Priest has died!  Have you    taken refuge in Jesus Christ?  Have you appointed Him   your High Priest and your Mediator? 

 

Are we not guilty as charged?  We are!  But, what happened to our condemnation?  Where did it go?  Our High Priest  took it upon Himself,     so that we may be free.  Listen to Jesus’ own words:  “If the Son of Man   makes you free, you shall be free indeed”.   That’s an offer  that   no rational person should refuse!

 

Now, listen!  If the man-slayer were foolish enough to  neglect to seek asylum in the City of Refuge, well then,  he was “fair game” for the avenger of the blood of the deceased  to execute the slayer, right on the spot,   if he were to be caught.

 

Why would a person who had committed a capital offense – one punishable by death – neglect to avail himself of the refuge of a safe-house  –  of  a legal hiding place,  that’s been provided for him by the Law?   No doubt, it did happen  back then … and, do you know,    it’s still being done today … right to this very moment!

 

Hebrews 2:3 “How    shall    we    escape    if we neglect such great salvation?”

 

Furthermore, speaking of the individual who had entered  the City of Refuge and had received asylum:  if he were foolish enough  to leave the security of the City, for any reason,  great or small,  he too would be fair game for the avenger to slay him, instantly, without hesitation.  He had to remain inside the Refuge in order to be assured of protection from the consequences of his actions.

 

Likewise, should we choose to step away from our personal relationship in Christ; should we elect to leave His care and His custody,  we must then bear full responsibility for the consequences of our choice to separate from Him.

 

Most interestingly, now, please take note of Numbers 35, verse 15: “These six Cities shall be a refuge, both for the Children of Israel, and for the stranger and the sojourner …”

 

Does God cover all the bases here?  Is He not making His salvation accessible to everyone?   It’s not just for ”the club”, not just for “members only”.  Grace and mercy were, back then, – and they still are – available to allHE IS an Equal-opportunity Refuge!  That’s mighty good news, because we are all transgressors, all offenders, all guilty as charged, all under condemnation of the Law.  And there was a time when each and every one of us was a stranger, a sojourner.

 

Have you read Romans 3:10?  “All are guilty – there is none righteous, not one.”

Isaiah 53:3  (The Message) “We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.  We’ve all done our own thinggone our own way.”

Romans 3:23  “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard”

Romans 6:23  “The wages of sin is death …”

… and there’s Exodus 34:7 –  “God will by no means clear the guilty” Ouch!

 

The Scriptures confirm that there is one humongous, mother-of-a-storm coming, the likes of which have never been seen before.  The winds have already started to blow, and the shaking time has begun.  But we have an Ark, sturdy and strong, and fully stocked.  An Ark prepared for these times     in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We have a Refuge     far greater than any bunker ever devised by man!

 

According to the prophecies revealed in the Scriptures, we are presently living in the antitypical “Day of Atonement”,  the “Day of  Covering”,  and those angels depicted in Revelation as flying in the midst of heaven  are proclaiming “the hour of His judgment is come.

 

There is a Refuge;   He’s near at hand,   and the Way is free   and it’s clearly marked. We can find asylum and safety, and all our needs will be supplied in Him!

 

It’s not enough to simply know about  the Savior.  It isn’t enough to hang out near the Church.  It’s not enough  just   to attend church or to participate in some activities.  In order to be sheltered and sustained thru the difficult times    requires our committing to the One Who   has already gained the victory, and is able to cover us, to provide for us, to deliver us, and to see us all the way thru.

 

As Martin Luther wrote: “A Mighty Fortress IS our God, a Bulwark  never failing” and Deuteronomy 33:27 says: “The Eternal God is thy Refuge, and underneath are the Everlasting Arms.”       

 

And in John 5:24 from the NEB,   Jesus says: “In very truth, anyone who gives heed to what I say and puts his trust in Him Who sent me    has hold of eternal life, and does not come up for judgment, but has already passed from death to life.”

 

We want to secure ourselves deep inside that Mighty Fortress … to take up a firm position in Christ, our Refuge,  and we can know to a certainty that all will be well.

 

So tell me, “How shall we escape    if we neglect such great salvation?”   What could possibly be the exit-strategy if we let eternal redemption – the Refuge of the Almighty God – slip thru our fingers??

 

Listen with your heart   to God’s all-inclusive invitation to His Eternal Refuge in Jesus Christ . It’s found at the very end of the final chapter of the very last book of the Bible:

Revelation 22:17  “The Spirit and the Bride say,’Come!’  And let him that heareth say, ‘Come!’  And let him that is athirst come.  And whosoever will, let him take freely of the Water of Life!”

2 Sam 22:3 NEB “The Lord is my Stronghold, my Fortress and my Champion, my God, my Rock where I find safety; my Shield, my Mountain Fastness, my Strong Tower, my Refuge, my Deliverer, Who saves me from violence.”

 My dear reader: You really want to make note of these following passages for your own personal study, to reinforce your confidence – and also to share as you encourage others -

The Lord, Our Refuge, provides:

Daily sustenance – He’ll supply your need – Matthew 6:33, Ephesians 3:20

Rest for the burdened and weary – Matt 11:28 

Freedom from fear – Psalms 34:4   Proverbs 3:24

Deliverance from trial & temptation?    Rev 3:10    Heb 2:18   II Peter 2:9 

I Corinthians 10:13    God will be your Refuge!

Psalm 91:9 says the Lord is “ thy Habitation  (your Abiding Place) …”  NEB  “For you, the Lord is a safe Retreat; you have made The Most High your Refuge.”

 

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