“And the congregation shall rescue the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he had fled, and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.”
Numbers 35:25 ESV
I’m really thankful for the insight Tara-Leigh shared on the podcast this morning about why the death of the high priest was what ended the period of asylum. She shared that the high priest’s death provided the atonement for the guilty man.
The Old Testament points to Jesus on nearly every page! What a beautiful picture of Jesus, our Great High Priest, whose atoning death paid on the cross cleanses us from all unrighteousness!
But I think this passage points to Jesus with not just one finger, but two. Consider this:
Cities of refuge were designated as places one could go to escape the avenger of blood. It wasn’t so a killer could escape justice: if they were found guilty of murder, they still had to pay. But they could escape vengeance. Cities of refuge allowed time for the congregation to rule on the case. That way, if someone killed someone else unintentionally, they could find refuge.
Numbers 35 is the first time in Scripture the word “refuge” is used. But it definitely is not the last. In 2 Samuel 22:3, David called the Lord,
“my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.
Then, it’s all over the wisdom literature: three times in Proverbs and forty six times in the Psalms. This is followed by fourteen times in the prophets.
So, yeah. The concept of refuge went far beyond being a place where a murder suspect could await trial. It became a dominant metaphor for God’s loving protection for His children.
Finally, the word “refuge” is used once in the New Testament, by the author of Hebrews:
“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Hebrews 6:17-20 ESV
The author of Hebrews talks about two unchangeable things, and they are both in this passage:
- Jesus is the shelter to which we flee for refuge. Through Christ, we have strong encouragement to hold fast to the anchor of our soul.
- Jesus is the high priest who enters into the inner place behind the curtain, to make atonement for our sin.
Do you see it? Jesus is our Shelter and our Savior!
Our refuge and our Redeemer.
Our protection from sin and our propitiation for sin.
Our shield and our sacrifice.