Joshua 20:1-3 tells of God’s command to build cities of refuge for those who accidentally killed someone - a place to which a person could run so that relatives of the deceased could not take revenge.
“According to the rabbis, in order to aid the fugitive, it was the business of the Sanhedrin to keep the roads leading to the cities of refuge in the best possible repair. Every river was to be bridged, and the road itself was to be at least 32 cubits (about 16 metres) wide. At every turn there were to be guide posts bearing the word “Refuge.” from Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p.208
Sadly, no such place exists for us in our day and age. Churches are supposed to be places of refuge but as often as not they are just one more place to experience judgment. Yet we need a place to go. We need a place of safety. Psalm 31 gives about as good a description as any of the human dilemma.
We’re in distress - vs.9,10. Who can look at the state of human relationships and not be brought to the brink of tears over the way we treat each other. I just saw a news clip where a man tried to steal a seven-year-old girl from the front of a Church where she was out hiding Easter Eggs. She managed to jump out of the vehicle, but is was close. We know how visual men are and how jacked up they can get over looking at pictures. We know that it can cause them to cross a line they might not have crossed had that temptation not been available. Yet porn is a multi billion dollar a year business in North America. We are caught in a schizophrenic lifestyle where we lament the symptoms of our disease but we also refuse to treat it. We’re willing to blame others but never ourselves. Who cares if someone is dying because of X. It's not hurting me!
We’re sinful - Period - vs 10. Again, there are some who, in an attempt to remove real guilt, simply change the rules. Examples?
Problem: Can’t stop screwing your neighbours spouse?
Secular Solution: Call adultery between consenting adults good.
Problem: Can’t stop lying?
Secular Solution: Call it fibbing, or white lies, or mis speaking, or exaggerating.
Problem: Can't love your spouse as you love yourself?
Secular Solution: Call divorce good.
Problem: Can’t stop having unprotected sex?
Secular Solution: Call killing the resulting children - a choice.
Problem: Can’t separate the sin from the sinner?
Secular Solution: Say that sin does not exist.
The fact is, the very planet we live on, as well as the people who inhabit this world are drowning in sin. Contrary to secular suggestions, greater wealth, greater education, greater health care, cleaner water, or changing definitions of right and wrong are not going to bring us a solution. We may be more comfortable and attain more knowledge but we're still killing ourselves.
We are being attacked - vs.11-13 We experience from our fellow man:
Sometimes even threats of violence.
This life entails real misery, real heartache, real loss.
Atheists call people weak for admitting a need for refuge.
“You religious people need a crutch.”
Yes, religious people are weak. That's because all people are weak. It's only the religious who have admitted the truth. And we go to the only place where real shelter can be found; in our Lord and Saviour and Creator.
And atheists? They seek shelter in relationships, or mood altering drugs, or work, or looks, or wealth / possessions, or in whatever cause de jour they can immerse themselves to numb their minds. They don’t recognise those as secular shelters nor do they recognise that those shelters are ineffective for curing our root problem, an alienation and rejection of Creator God’s role in our lives.
We are soul sick and only a soul Healer will bring about lasting change.
So where does one go when:
You’ve hurt your children physically and emotionally
Your child phones at 2:00am from jail
You’ve been caught with someone else’s spouse
Your addiction can’t be denied any longer
You are sexually disoriented
You’ve been fired for dishonesty
You’ve chosen yet another partner as bad or worse than the last.
Where can you go to find solace, acceptance and forgiveness?
Where can you go and be listened to and not rejected?
“So we can come boldly and with confidence to the throne of grace where we can find mercy and receive grace in our times of need.” Hebrews 4:16
With arms open and welcoming, God has provided refuge and comfort for us. He is our crutch, our hiding place, our home. In response we are to provide refuge for others who are hurting and in need of shelter from the storm.
“Praise be to the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2nd Corinthians 1:4.