+ In the Old Testament, the so-called the refuge cities existed, which were six cities, where God commanded Moses, and after him Joshua the son of Nun, to assign those places which were located in the midst of the cities of the Levites, to be a refuge for anyone who kills a man unintentionally, escaping revenge” The Lord also spoke to Joshua, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Appoint for yourselves cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the slayer who kills a person accidentally or unintentionally may flee there; and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood. And when he flees to one of those cities, and stands at the entrance of the gate of the city, and declares his case in the hearing of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city as one of them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them. Then if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not deliver the slayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unintentionally, but did not hate him beforehand. And he shall dwell in that city until he stands before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the one who is high priest in those days. Then the slayer may return and come to his own city and his own house, to the city from which he
fled.” ( Joshua 20:1-6).
+ All the signs and symbols in the Old Testament, which speak of refuge, are nothing but signs of the path leading to the person of Christ, Who is, without question, the true refuge for all who believe in Him and unite in Him. The church teaches us in the Prayer of the Gospel ( ie, the prayer that the priest says before reading the Gospel at church), praying to the Lord and saying” for You are the Life for all of us, our Salvation, our Hope, our Healing and our Resurrection. This means that Christ is our Savior, our Refuge from emptiness, sin, despair, disease and death. A Refuge to all His children whether on earth or in heaven under all circumstances and times. And now let us come together and contemplate on one of those symbols; the cities of refuge.
+ The first thing that draws our attention is the word of God to Moses concerning the refuge cities, why Moses?! Moses represents the Law and commandments which no man was able to keep without falling. It is known as our teacher James the Apostle says” For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” ( James 2:10-11). For the Law revealed to man his sins and transgressions and declared God’s wrath against the transgressors” because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no
transgression” ( Romans 4:15). Thus Moses presented the Law as a curse and wrath from God on every sinner, as if He was claiming justice from sinners. We have found in Christ the safe haven from the curse of the Law and its rule that was like a sword on our necks, for He has fulfilled the Law, being born without sin” Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth” ( Isaiah 53:9). This was fulfilled through His incarnation, crucifixion and death on the cross, ending the rule of the law on us” having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” ( Colossians 2:14). John the Baptist testified saying” He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” ( John 3:36).
+ Saint Paul has explained the practical way of having Christ as our refuge. After believing in Him, we must put on Christ in Baptism, making Him rightfully our refuge” For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” ( Galatians 3:27). For whoever believes in the
Son of God, the Savior and puts on Christ in baptism, has sought refuge from the wrath of God.
+ We take refuge in Christ to Him is all glory from satan who brings charges against us” Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” ( Romans8:33). It also gives joy to our hearts, this magnificent view that Saint John records in his revelation, he says”
Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” ( Revelation 12:10-11). How great is our Lord, the Savior Who placed Himself as a refuge for His disciples at the time of the cross, especially peter who transcended over the rest of his brethren when the Lord said to His disciples” Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered….. Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” ( Matthew 26:31,33). Our teacher, saint Luke the Evangelist, reveals the mystery of the hidden war of satan against the children of God, and also the secret of the love of Christ for His children, proclaiming this truth when the Lord says” And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” ( Luke 22:31-32).
My beloved, if one of us is suffering from satan’s battles and the bitter complaint of his conscience driving him away from his faithful Redeemer and Savior, then, he has no other way but to cast all his hopes on the One Who loved him, and died for him, to be your refuge, and He will fight your fight, and you will see and give thanks and glory. Is not the table of the Lord on which He offers His Body and Blood every day the practical refuge to confront the evil enemy, as David says in the Psalm” You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over” ( Psalm 23:5).
+ The refuge cities were in the middle of the other cities, and this refers to the name of Christ, the cornerstone without Whom there would be no salvation nor refuge” This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” ( Acts 4:11-12). The question then is whether Christ to Whom is all glory the centre of our lives?! The centre of our thought?! As the Book says” casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” ( 2 Corinthians 10:5). And do we take our ability to live and move from Him personally, trusting and believing His words “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” ( John 15:5)??
Is He the strongest attraction force in our lives? Longing for Him with our bodies, souls and spirits?! Listen to Isaiah the prophet expressing this by saying” Yes, in the way of Your judgments, O Lord, we have waited for You; The desire of our soul is for Your name And for the remembrance of You. With my soul I have desired You in the night, Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; For when Your judgments are in the earth, The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” ( Isaiah 26:8-9). Let this be the prayer of every one of us in his lifetime, praying to Him Who has truthfully loved us and gave Himself for our salvation. Praying to Him and saying” O, my Lord Jesus Christ be the center of my life, and let Your name be the refuge that I seek for protection.
+ The fugitive to the cities of refuge stood at the doors of the city, and spoke to the elders, who would then allow him to enter and dwell amongst them in the city, staying there until the high priest dies, which then gives him freedom to return to his city and house. The fugitives thought that entering the city would give them hope for survival, but they found themselves in a prison that has no freedom of choice to come out of until the death of the high priest, in contrary to our Savior, whom when we run towards the doors of His mercy, encourages us and says” I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” ( John 10:9). Come without fear, for I have the real and complete freedom and life” Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” ( John 8:36). The death of the high priest has a deep spiritual meaning, his death refers to the lifting of the rule of the Law” But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” ( Romans 7:6). The presence of the High priest was an obstacle to the freedom of this desperate fugitive. Then came our good Messiah, the glorified High Priest, in the order of Melchizedek, to die in and for us once and for all, ending and completing all what was required by the Law, fulfilling the Divine Justice” Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” ( Hebrews 9:12). And thus offering us the glorified freedom of the children of God, bringing us back to the house of the Father, not as strangers but as sons” Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” ( Ephesians 2:19). How great is our High Priest, the Everlasting, Who gives us true freedom, offering a sacrifice of His Body and Blood, for us to eat and drink so He can live in us forever, giving us eternal freedom.
+ My beloved, if we hide in Christ for refuge by believing in Him and by baptism, He in return stays with us, His Body and Blood, manifesting Himself through us” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” ( 1 Corinthians 11:26)… God is our refuge, how great of a refuge He is.i