Today’s Reading: JOSHUA 19:49-21:45. 1 CHRONICLES 6:54-81
How did it go for you the first time you had to preach a sermon? Where you afraid? Nervous? Did your mouth get dry and did your throat swell shut? Truth is, most of you have never really had to get up in front of a church and preach a sermon. But a good friend of mine just preached his first sermon ever in front of our church a few weeks ago. He is an elder with my at our church in Eindhoven (International Baptist Church – Eindhoven).
I was with my friend a couple times each week as the day of the first sermon approached. He admitted he was nervous. Sure, as a worship leader, he could play the guitar and sing wonderfully, carelessly. But preaching a sermon was a whole new cup of tea. As he got closer to the date, he shared his topic with the other elders and we prayed with him for strength and peace and Holy Spirit led insight. For my friend this one preaching assignment was a personal test. My friend wanted to know if he could survive the preparation, delivery and outcome. If all worked out, he would agree to preach some more. If not, he would stick to leading worship and smaller teaching opportunities.
Let me tell you, my friend did a wonderful job. He captivated his audience, he drew them in and he preached a great sermon. As he began his sermon, he admitted he was a bit concerned, but he had decided to turn it over to God. He also admitted that the key to his overwhelming success was that he preached on a topic he understood and enjoyed learning about. He shared from his own personal interest in the topic.
His sermon comes from today’s reading. As elders we had been doing a series on different aspects of Christ in our lives. I had preached on Christ our High Priest, and Christ our King. Others had preached on Christ our Hope and Glory, Christ our way into the Holy of Holies and Christ our Intercessor. My friend chose these verses to teach us about Christ:
Joshua 20:1 – 9
1 The Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Now tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed Moses. 3 Anyone who kills another person accidentally and unintentionally can run to one of these cities; they will be places of refuge from relatives seeking revenge for the person who was killed.
4 “Upon reaching one of these cities, the one who caused the death will appear before the elders at the city gate and present his case. They must allow him to enter the city and give him a place to live among them. 5 If the relatives of the victim come to avenge the killing, the leaders must not release the slayer to them, for he killed the other person unintentionally and without previous hostility. 6 But the slayer must stay in that city and be tried by the local assembly, which will render a judgment. And he must continue to live in that city until the death of the high priest who was in office at the time of the accident. After that, he is free to return to his own home in the town from which he fled.”
7 The following cities were designated as cities of refuge: Kedesh of Galilee, in the hill country of Naphtali; Shechem, in the hill country of Ephraim; and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), in the hill country of Judah. 8 On the east side of the Jordan River, across from Jericho, the following cities were designated: Bezer, in the wilderness plain of the tribe of Reuben; Ramoth in Gilead, in the territory of the tribe of Gad; and Golan in Bashan, in the land of the tribe of Manasseh. 9 These cities were set apart for all the Israelites as well as the foreigners living among them. Anyone who accidentally killed another person could take refuge in one of these cities. In this way, they could escape being killed in revenge prior to standing trial before the local assembly.
In the sermon we learned from the above scripture the following:
- The cities of refuge provided protection in case of accidental killing vs 3.
- The cities of refuge provided protection against ‘avenger of blood’ vs. 3.
- That a person could stay safe in the city of refuge until death of high priest vs. 6.
- That a person could be free after death of the high priest vs. 6.
- That the cities of refuge were for Jews and for aliens. vs. 9.
The sermon went on to compare tie the idea of the cities of refuge to Jesus.
Hebrews 6:18-20 NLT:
18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.  This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.  Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus is our refuge He is the city of refuge that we can flee to.
protection in case of accidental killing
1 John 1:7:
But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
protection against ‘avenger of blood’
1 Peter 5:8b:
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
John 3:16 NLT:
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Safe in the city until death of high priest
Hebrews 7:23-24 NLT:
There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office. But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever.
Free after death of the high priest
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
For Jews and for aliens
Galatians 3:28 NLT:
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Having Jesus as our High Priest means that we can take refuge in the cities of refuge and never leave. The High Priest lives eternally, never forcing us to leave His refuge. Additionally, because Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we are free from the avenger and the guilt of our sin.
Didn’t my friend make a great connection from an Old Testament teaching? At first glance you would find it difficult to tie teachings about Jesus to a discussion of Cities of Refuge. Remember all scripture is God breathed and profitable for us.
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope
Next year when we hit this section of our chronological reading plan we can take a deeper look at what the names of the six cities mean.
Special Thanks to Elmer A. for sharing his message with us in such a wonderful way. What a fantastic way to start off a life time of preaching.