Joshua-Wayne Barber/Part 17
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|We’re going to be looking at the six cities of refuge that they created and for specific reason. Have you ever offended somebody and in no way intended to do it? We all offend in many ways, James says, and particularly in what we say. Have you ever done that and you didn’t intend to? Well, welcome to the normal Christian life.|
Christ, our refuge (Joshua 20)
Turn to Joshua 20. You say, “Wayne, you are skipping chapters. This is not like you.” Well, I’m going to explain that before the time is over. Hopefully, you’ll understand. I want to preach today on the subject of Christ, our refuge.
Now, let’s be reminded, the reason we’re studying Joshua is so that we might learn from them how to possess the life that we have in Christ Jesus. “Wayne, you can’t do that.” Yes we can; 1 Corinthians 10:6 says, “All of these things happened to Israel for our example.” So we’re going to go to school on them.
You see, God gave them a land. He gave them an external covenant. Our covenant is internal. And as they had to learn how to possess the land that God had given them, we have to learn how to possess the life that is ours in Christ. They had to learn to possess that land by faith; we have to learn to possess what we already have by faith—to experience it and to walk and live in it. Now, for this reason, and we said this in chapter 1, we really can’t get into the land part of it. That was strictly given to Israel. You have to be so careful when you handle the Old Testament. However, we’re looking at the character of God and how He works with His people. We can’t get into that land. And much of Joshua that we skipped over is simply a blueprint of the land that God gave to them. And it’s very carefully outlined.
In chapters 11 and 13, amongst other things, outlines the land that the two and a half tribes inherited on the east side of the Jordan. They didn’t want the land on the west side, which is Canaan, which became Israel. They wanted land on the east side of the river. Those two tribes were Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh. So we skipped over chapter 11 and chapter 12. That’s the land. We can’t really get into that. As we saw the last time, nine and a half tribes were to divide the land on the west side of the Jordan River. That’s what’s known then as Canaan and came to be known later on as Israel.
From chapter 14 to chapter 19 we have the specific dimensions of that land that is given to those nine and a half tribes on the west side of the Jordan River. Chapter 15, ironically, outlines the land for the tribe of Judah. It’s interesting He starts with Judah. Judah’s not mentioned as a preeminent tribe earlier on, but it’s beginning to take preeminence. And you know that the line that Jesus is going to get His humanity is going to come through the tribe of Judah, through the line of David, and then Jesus will be born of a virgin in the New Testament. Judah begins to come to the forefront. A whole chapter’s dedicated to the land given to Judah.
In chapters 16-17 it outlines the land given to Ephraim and to Manasseh, sons of Joseph. Now, I don’t know if you remembered they were sons of Joseph. Just a half tribe of Manasseh; the other half is on the other side of the river. Chapter 18 tells us the headquarters has been in Gilgal. They always go back to camp at Gilgal. But Gilgal is going to shift now. It’s going to go to Shiloh, and Shiloh is where the tabernacle will be set up. In chapter 18 also, verses 11-28, it outlines the land allotted to the tribe of Benjamin.
In 19:1-9 it outlines the land allotted to the tribe of Simeon. In 19:10-16 it outlines the land allotted to the tribe of Zebulun. And in verses 17-23 of that chapter it outlines the land allotted to the tribe of Issachar. And in verse 24-31 of that chapter it outlines the land allotted to the tribe of Asher. And then in verse 32-39 it outlines the land allotted to the tribe of Naphtali. And the last part of that chapter, 40-48, it outlines the land allotted to the tribe of Dan.
We could have jumped in here or there. There’s a place where they give Joseph his city to dwell in. There’s a place in there that describes Caleb taking the land that God had given him, the land of Hebron. But I didn’t sense that that’s where we needed to camp out. We’re moving today to chapter 20 where we have our text that we’re going to look at this morning.
We have technically—and what a great time to say this on Father’s Day—technically, we’ve been looking at God the perfect Father and how He works with His people. He still does the same with you and with me. In chapter 1 we saw how He’ll create a flood. He’ll take our circumstances and flood them. He’ll make them overwhelming to us so that we can learn how to walk by faith. We learn how to get our feet wet and how to step into the water of His will. When we do, we experience His power as the Jordan backed up 17 miles. They began to realize, wait a minute, this is what it’s all about by saying yes to Him.
In chapter 2 we saw that the Lord always goes before us. Nothing ever gets to us that doesn’t go by Him first. That’s such a comforting thought. They send the two spies over. God’s already prepared Rahab and she’s a believer. And she hides the spies and gives them information they needed to know which was the peoples’ hearts of that whole land had melted. The land was theirs.
In chapter 3 we saw how the Ark went before them. The priest had to carry that Ark. The Ark was a picture of God’s presence with the people. He led them across that river. He’s the one that’s always in front, behind, He’s beneath, He’s above and He lives in us. The Ark to us is the Lord Jesus Christ: a beautiful picture that we studied together.
In chapter 4 they crossed over and we saw how He leads them right into the victory and shows them what it is to walk with Him.
In chapter 5 we saw that once we experience His life, we finally enter into the spiritual battles of life. If you’re not walking with Him, you’re not in any spiritual battle. Neither am I, if I’m not walking with Him. I’m just a prisoner of my own choices. But He is the one who not only takes us through the circumstances of life; we learned in chapter 5, He is our divine captain. He’s our warrior. Like Ephesians says, He’s the garment, but He’s also the armor.
In chapter 6, that’s when they went against Jericho, and the divine captain appeared to Joshua. In chapter 6 we saw how the overwhelming power of God is manifest to people that trust Him and how easily the enemy is defeated when we say, yes, to Him.
In chapter 7 we saw the devastating results of sin in the camp. Achan didn’t understand community. He didn’t understand covenant. He, evidentially, didn’t realize that if he’s in covenant with God, he’s in covenant with others, and that his sin would not just affect him, but affect others in the camp. As a result, it happened that way. They went up against Ai, not knowing what Achan had done by taking the spoils of war from Jericho, and they were miserably defeated.
Well, in chapter 8 they dealt with that sin. And we saw when we confess and repent of our sin, God doesn’t kick us out. God understands that we’re going to sin. God understands our imperfection—and He goes ahead and uses them once again. They come to the place of Shechem and they are between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. They renew their covenant. A beautiful picture of how they need to be reminded what this is all about. This is not a game.
And then in chapter 9 we see how flesh is so fickle. How easily Joshua and the leadership of all of Israel were deceived by the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites told them they were from a foreign country when in reality they were the next battle. And God had told them not to make covenant with the enemy, but they did. They were deceived into making that. But they admitted their failure. They assessed as to why it happened and they accepted the consequences and what I love about them is, they got up and moved on. You see, failure is allowed in the vocabulary of the believer. God understands that. Failure is a tool that will drive us to our depending on Him.
And in chapter 10 we saw how God worked in mighty power once now that they are again saying yes to Him. He threw hailstones at the enemy from heaven. I love that! And not only that, He caused the sun and the moon to stand still for a single day so that Israel might win the battle. Well, the last part of chapter 10 is them defeating the five kings. Chapter 11 and chapter 12 we’ve already seen is he gets into dividing the land.
Chapter 14 we have a little interlude with Caleb, who has been a man willing to wait upon the Lord for 45 years he’s waited on that promise: satisfied with God, trusting His timing, resting is His strength. And finally, after 45 years, he gets the land called Hebron. Hebron, oddly enough, becomes one of the cities that we’re going to talk about even today.
Well, that brings us to chapter 20. Now let me introduce my thoughts in chapter 20. We’re going to be looking at the six cities of refuge that they created and for specific reason. Let me just introduce it by saying this, though. Have you ever offended somebody and in no way intended to do it? It wasn’t premeditated. Perhaps, it was a sinful thing, but you didn’t premeditate that, it came out. We all offend in many ways, James says, and particularly in what we say. Have you ever done that and you didn’t intend to? Besides me, would you raise your hand? Anyone besides me? Well, welcome to the normal Christian life.
Now here’s the key! Did they receive it when you went and asked forgiveness or did they turn against you? They judged your motive, even though it was not premeditated. And did they tell other people who have now judged your motive and here you are. You didn’t intend it to start with. You know you’ve offended them by how they’ve responded. You’ve gone to them, done everything you know to do, and they won’t let you off of the hook. Has that ever happened to you? Well, today, hopefully this will encourage you, because that’s exactly what we’re going to be dealing with.
In the days of Joshua there was a practice when somebody killed somebody with premeditation—they thought it up, they went after and killed the person—then a family member could avenge that person’s death by taking the person’s life that killed them. Now, that was just their times. But there were times that the cause of death was unintentional. It was not premeditated. It wasn’t meant. And they had a special place for this. They had six cities of refuge. If you killed your brother and it was unintentional, you could run to one of these six cities of refuge. They would meet you at the gate and you would state your case. If the high priest agreed with what you said, you could come in and have refuge. You could have asylum inside of that city. And as long as that high priest lived, then you could stay in that city. You were safe in the city of refuge.
Numbers 35:9, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them when you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall select for yourselves cities to be your cities of refuge that the manslayer who has killed any person unintentionally may flee there. The cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger so that the manslayer will not die until he stands before the congregation for trial. The cities which you are to give shall be your six cities of refuge. You shall give three cities across the Jordan and three cities in the land of Canaan. They are to be cities of refuge. These six cities shall be for refuge for the sons of Israel and the alien and for the sojourner among you that anyone who kills a person unintentionally may flee there.”
So in fulfillment of His word, God has spoken this to Moses before then had crossed over into the land. Now, in fulfillment of this they create, now that the land has been divided, they create these six cities of refuge. Three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west side of the Jordan River. This is for the innocent person. The person who delivered a blow to somebody and it killed him, but he never intended it and, therefore he has a reprieve. He has an asylum. He has a place he can run to—these six cities of refuge.
So we have in Joshua 20:1 the creating of those six cities. “Then the Lord spoke to Joshua saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel saying designate the cities of refuge of which I spoke to you through Moses. That the manslayer who kills any person unintentionally, without premeditation, may flee there and they shall become your refuge from the avenger of blood.”
Now you may say, “How in the world could you kill somebody accidentally?” Well, Deuteronomy 19 explains it, “Now, this is the case of the manslayer who may flee there and live. When he kills his friend unintentionally, not hating him previously. As when a man goes into the forest with his friend to cut wood, and his hand swings the ax to cut down the tree, and the iron head slips off the handle and strikes his friends so that he dies, he may flee to one of these cities and live. Otherwise, the avenger of blood might pursue the manslayer and in the heat of his anger overtake him because the way is long, and take his life, though he was not deserving of death since he had not hated him previously.” So what I want you to catch in this thing is premeditation and this which is unintentional. It happened, but it was unintentional.
So in Joshua 20:4 we go back and finish our text, “He shall flee to one of those cities and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and state his case in the hearing of the elders of that city, and they shall take him into the city to them and give him a place so that he may dwell among them. Now, if the avenger of blood pursues him anyway, then they shall not deliver the manslayer into his hand. He is safe there, because he struck his neighbor without premeditation and did not hate him beforehand. He shall dwell in that city until he stands before the congregation of judgment, until the death of the one who is high priest in those days. Now when the high priest dies, then he leaves the city. Then the manslayer shall return to his own city and to his own house to the city from which he fled.”
Now, these were known cities of refuge. A person who had taken the life of another unintentionally could flee there. The roads were well-kept. The signs were marked everywhere—“City of refuge”—to make sure the people knew where their avenue of escape was. They always had access to it. As long as the high priest lived, they were safe. When he died, then they had to leave that city.
Now in our lives as believers in the new covenant, you’re wondering, “Wayne, how in the world are you going to take six cities of refuge and apply it to the life that we have in Christ Jesus?” Well, let me see if we can do that. As I was studying, and I’m going to share it with you how God spoke it to my heart. Sin is sin in our life in the new covenant. There’s never any excuse; flesh is flesh. Whether it’s intentional or whether it’s unintentional, sin is sin. It must be dealt with. Christ is always our refuge no matter.
But there are two words for sin. There’s a word that has to do with premeditated sin and there’s a word that has to do with unintentional, in the sense that, yes, we make a choice, but we didn’t intend to do that. We didn’t set out to do that. Any time there are two Greek words for anything, you have to discover, not how some German theologian used it, you have to discover how is it used in scripture? What is it trying to tell us? How did the Holy Spirit use that word in scripture?
The first word is hamartia. That’s when the person pulls the bow back, aims: boy, you talk about premeditated. He aims, but he’s aiming at the wrong target. It’s not as much as he misses the target; he hits the wrong target. He pulls it back and shoots and that’s the word, hamartia. That’s the intentional, premeditated. I mean you thought it through. You made the choice. You knew what you were doing in making that choice.
But there’s another word for sin that’s translated sin in the New Testament, and that’s paraptoma. It means to stumble along side. Even the word itself, the etymology of the word means to lapse in one’s walk. You can even be deceived into this kind of sin. It’s not to plunge headlong, but it’s to fall into. It’s not to jump into, but to fall into. It’s not like the premeditated harsh word for sin which is hamartia. Yes, it’s sin. It still needs to be dealt with.
In Galatians 6:1 it says when you see your brother in a sin, go to him, you that are spiritual. And what is the word that’s used? Paraptoma And what was the sin in the book of Galatians? They didn’t set out to be bad people. They just bought a bill of goods that was wrong. And in doing so, they fell along side. They bought the religion rather than living under grace.
Now, Christ is our refuge for both. He is all six cities combined in one person. We run to Him for premeditated sin. We’ve already seen that with Achan and how we deal with it. But we also run to Him when we have sinned and wounded our brother, delivered a blow to our brother, gone to our brother, and our brother will not let us up, and the avengers began to come because of the people that they’ve told. The people have taken up an offense for this one and now they are coming at us. Where do we run? What do we do? We run to Jesus. We run to Jesus. He is our refuge. Where do we run? We run to Him.
You don’t know this, but when I came to this church, a dear friend of mine, he’s a dear brother, dear family, broke relationship with me. He said there’s no possible way that you can convince me that God’s lead you to go there. And he got really upset. He’d done a whole lot for my ministry that we were in, full time conference work. I did everything I knew to do make it right, but until this day, to this day, he has not spoken a word to me. And you wonder, what do you do? Who do you go to? No telling who they’ve gone to. You think, what do you do about that? That’s my point! That’s my point! We have a refuge and the way is clearly marked. We run to Jesus. He is our refuge.
When I was pastoring in Chattanooga, we had to let a staff member go with some very severe problems in his family. That man, in 72 hours, did more to damage my character and my reputation nationwide, than you can possibly imagine. We sat down and we talked it through. I said, “You know my heart. This is not what this is all about. You know how we’ve worked through it.” But he wouldn’t let me up. And the avengers that came along his side: the avengers of blood. Friends of his began to get on my trail with letters that they would write to me, etc. It was two years before I ever even heard anything from him, and finally one day he called me and apologized to me and asked me to forgive him.
But what do you do? What do you do? You haven’t intended anything. They’ve become judge and they’ve become jury. They’ve judged your motives. You’ve gone to them. You’ve asked them to forgive you. They will not let you up and they are going to bear down on you. They’ve told enough people that the avengers of blood are on your trail. Where do you run? Where do you run? And that’s my message today. You run to Jesus! He is our refuge! As we possess what is ours in Him, we have the safety, we have the safe harbor in Him. He is the safe place. He is where we run. Let’s look to Christ our refuge.
These six cities had names, and each name tells us another dimension of Jesus Christ and our life and how He is our refuge. If you’re not walking with God this morning, you will not have a clue what I’m talking about. But those of you that are walking with God, you’re going to run to this truth because you’re going to understand it that quickly. You’re going to know what I’m talking about. You’re going to know where your refuge is. You’re going to know where your solace is. You’re going to know where it is that you can find peace and find an audience that will listen to you. He’s there and He’s available and He’s accessible. Run to Him! Run to Him.
God is our holy place
First of all, He is our holy place. Joshua 20:7: “So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali.” Now the word Kedesh in the Hebrew means a holy place. The word holy there means a place that is pure. Isn’t that awesome! A place which was without defilement; a place which was without corruption; a place that is set apart under God. Christ is our safe place. A place where there are no accusations; a place where truth is upheld and is paramount; a place where we can find rest for our weary souls; and a place where we can find a hearing that somebody will listen to us because they know our heart. They know the situation and they are the eternal judge that we stand before.
As our High Priest, He never dies. And the thing that is so beautiful about this is we never have to leave that place. We never have to go back. We can stay right there. We can live and practice His presence daily in our life. Run to Jesus! Run to Jesus! He is our holy place. He hears us when we cry out to Him. It’s so critical to understand this truth in our life, because we live in a fallen earth and we all deal with flesh everyday and we all offend as James says. We need to know that we have a place to where we can run. In Him and in His word we are safe. When we have done what He’s asked us to do, when we have gone to seek forgiveness and they won’t let us up, when they prejudged our motive, when they have gone to get other avengers of blood and they’re on our trail, we’re safe in Him.
When I was going through a very difficult time of knowing the truth but not being able to say anything, there’s a little tract that a friend of mine gave me: “They can, but you can’t.” They can go talk, but you can’t. You have to keep your mouth shut, but you have a refuge where you can run.
Moody Radio was something that was awesome in our area. Matter of fact, we’re going to introduce you to Dr. Joseph Stowell, hopefully. I want you to know him. I want you to know about Moody, what they do, and what they stand for. Dwight L. Moody, you might catch the name, that’s where the institution comes from.
Joseph Stowell was on the radio one day and you know what he said! He was talking about this. Now, he didn’t use this text or anything, but he was talking about the fact of when you’re falsely accused, or when you’ve offended somebody and you didn’t intend to do it and the people won’t let you up, they will not forgive you, they’ve gotten other avengers of blood to come after you. Joseph Stowell said, listen, there are two things that God will use to vindicate you. The first one is truth because God knows the truth. Secondly, it will be time. You’re going to have to give it time. It will be in His time.
And I never will forget how that ministered to my heart because I knew he’d been where I’d been and where you’ve been. When you didn’t intentionally seek to do anything, but you’ve wounded your brother, and you go to him and he won’t let you up. He thinks it’s premeditated. He judges you as a person and has the avengers of blood on your trail. Run to Jesus! Run to Jesus! Don’t run from Him! Run to Him! He is our holy place. We have a true hearing with Him because He knows the situation.
God is our strength
Secondly, He is our strength. You talk about something that will weaken you is when this thing happens in your life, but He becomes our strength as we surely already know. It says, “So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim.” Shechem in the Hebrew is the word that means the back or the shoulder. It’s the picture of strength, of that which holds something up. In fact, the Old Testament talks about prophecy of Jesus. It says “the government shall be upon His shoulder,” picturing the fact that He’s holding something up. It rests upon Him.
Christ our refuge supports us when others pursue us unjustly. It is His strength that we’re desperate for when we are being wrongly pursued by those who only want to avenge. They’ve taken up an offense for their brother and they’re coming after us. In the context of warfare Paul says in Ephesians 6, which is exactly what this is, he says in verse 10, “Finally, brethren, be strong in the Lord [because He is the reservoir of our strength that we run to] and the strength of His might.”
In that wonderful prayer that Paul is praying in Colossians 1:9-11, he says, “For this reason, also, since the day we heard of it, we’ve not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God,” and then he says this, “strengthened with all power.” In other words, we need to be strengthened if we’re not going to be weak in points. What is it that weakens us? He says, “According to His glorious might for the obtaining of all steadfastness and patience.” And those two words steadfastness and patience are two words implying difficult situations and difficult people.
Christ becomes our strength. He’s the one within us that helps us to bear up under when people are unjustly pursuing us. When we’ve done what God’s told us. We’ve gone to them and they will not let us up; when they’ve pre-judged our motives. He becomes our holy place and He becomes our strength as we possess what is ours in Him.
God is our ally, our friend
Thirdly, He is our ally, our friend. Well, I’ll tell you what, when you are being pursued by those who seek to avenge us, it’s hard to find a friend, isn’t it? It’s hard to find an ally. It’s hard to find the fellowship you’re looking for. It’s hard to find the community. In fact, it makes you feel guilty in a way that’s not God. It makes you feel so beaten down and so weak.
In verse 7 of Joshua 20, “So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), in the hill country of Judah.” Oh, the times in the 41 years of ministry that God has allowed me to have that only in Him could I find the friend that I was looking for. Only in Him could I find the ally, because He knows everything. We don’t have to explain anything to Him, He knows it. We run to His presence. We run to His presence and we find that friend that sticks closer than a brother.
He is our refuge, He is our holy place, He is our strength and He is our ally. To those persecuted people in the New Testament in Asia Minor Peter writes, and it’s so beautiful. He wants them to know they have an ally, they have a friend. He wants them to know that this is God and that God has a plan and even though they are going to suffer for a little while, He has the answer; in Him is the answer. And he says in 1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action. Keep sober in spirit. Keep your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Man, don’t look at what’s going on right now. Look at what’s coming! You haven’t seen anything, yet. The apostle Paul said, “I don’t even want to talk about what’s going on right now. It’s not worthy compared to the glory that is coming one day for His people.”
Oh, what Christ is to us, folks. He is everything we’re looking for. When we’ve been falsely accused, when we’ve done what God’s told us to do, when people prejudge our motives, when people will not let you up and be free to be what God wants you to be, when they seek out others and the avengers of blood are on our trail, He is our city of refuge. Everywhere in scripture the markings are there. Run to Jesus! Run to Jesus! Run to Jesus! Run to Him! He is our refuge!
God is our fortress
Fourthly today, He is our fortress. It says in verse 8, “Beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, they designated Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben.” And that word Bezer can mean a fortress or it can mean gold ore in the sense of treasure. And I think both here are appropriate as we put it together. A fortress and yet a treasure, both are appropriate for Christ.
I love the old hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Where do you think that came from? It came from people who had been in those valleys, people who had been falsely accused. It came from people who had the avenger of blood on their trail. He is our mighty fortress. He is that fortification that stands around us and lives in us and is above us and is beneath us.
In fact, Paul says in Colossians, “You are hidden in Christ who is in God.” How secure do we need to be! Paul speaks of Christ being our treasure in Colossians 2:3, “In whom is hidden all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge.” He’s our fortress, but in Him we also find our treasure. When we run to Him, He gives us wisdom. He gives us understanding of what to do next and He comforts our heart. His will is good and acceptable and perfect. And when we’re in His presence we can receive it and walk and rest in it. He is our strong tower.
One of my favorite verses, and I love to read through Proverbs over and over again, is Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower.” Don’t you love that verse? “The righteous [those who are living, seeking to say yes to Him], the righteous runs into it and is safe.” When you’re being pursued by those who will not forgive and you’ve done what God’s told you to do, what do you do? You run to Jesus! He is our fortress! And in Him we are safe. He is our treasure!
God is our high place
‘Fifthly, He is our high place. I love living in Albuquerque. I love being up on the side of the mountain coming down to church especially in the evening when you look down and see the lights of the city looking down at it. You know, when you’re down in the city it doesn’t tell you a whole lot, but when you get up above it, you can understand a whole lot of things; can’t you. Christ exalts us when we come to Him: lifts us up to where we can see it in a clearer perspective. I had a young man last night tell me, “Wayne, thank you for saying that because I’ve been down here. I need to get up here. I need to run to Jesus. I need to let Him open my eyes and see the big picture instead of what I think is going on in my life.”
It says in verse 8, “Beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, they designated Bezer in the wilderness on the plain from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad.” The word Ramoth means “heights” or it means “high place.” What a beautiful picture of Jesus; when we run to Him, the perspective He now gives to us. In fact, He wants us to live there. He’s not going to die, so we need to stay there. If we stay there, in the place of refuge, seeking Him and clinging to Him, what happens is He opens our eyes and we see things differently.
In the book of Habakkuk, which one of these days, I pray that God will let me preach because I love that book and I think you’d be encouraged by it. It’s an awesome book! The prophet Habakkuk cannot understand why God would raise up the Chaldeans. “What are you doing, God?” And God’s trying to show Him, “I’m raising up the enemy which are the epitome of what Israel’s becoming and they’re going to be used to purify My people.” God has to do a real work in Habakkuk to straighten him out. By the third chapter, oh, my goodness, he is completely changed. And it says in 3:19 he says, “The Lord God is my strength,” he’s finally come to his senses, “and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet.” That’s the feet of a deer that can walk in those high places. It has to have specially designed feet to walk on those short ledges. He says, “He’s made my feet like hinds’ feet and makes me walk”—He makes me walk, He makes me walk; one translator says, He drives me to my high places—“He makes me walk on my high places.” Why, because that’s what I’m designed to do. In Him I’m designed to walk on the high places. And when you run to Him who is your refuge He clears the picture so that we can understand what we could not understand before. It’s an awesome thing to be up here looking down and seeing what it’s like.
When we first moved to Albuquerque, we saw that sign that said “Albuquerque next 19 exits.” I laughed for I don’t know how many miles. I couldn’t believe it: 19 exits! Who ever heard of a city with 19 exits? And I still couldn’t get a grasp of it until the first time I flew out of Albuquerque. Oh, how interesting it is when the plane takes off and makes its circle and because of the weather patterns it comes around the city and flies over it and you look down and you say: Oh, I’m surprised there are not 30 exits. You see it from a different perspective. Run to Jesus! Run to Jesus!
All we’ve been talking about for over two years now is having a personal relationship with Him. And I’m telling you, if you’re not walking with Him, this is all missing you by a mile. I’m sorry! But if you have an intimate relationship with Jesus today, this is speaking to your heart right now. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve been in His presence and you’ve found exactly what the scriptures say He’ll be.
God is our captor and our rejoicing
Finally, He is our captor and our rejoicing. And I’ll tell you how I got that. “Beyond the Jordan,” verse 8, “east of Jericho, they designated Bezer in the wilderness on the plain from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan from the tribe of Manasseh.” Now the word Golan can mean two things. It can mean their exile or their captivity, or it can mean their rejoicing. Some people take it one way, some people take it another. I’m going to take it both ways. In the case of Christ being our refuge, to me He’s definitely both.
Isn’t it awesome that when the avengers of blood are on our trail, they’ve heard the story of the one who will not let us up, who will not forgive us. They’ve heard his side. They’ve heard his prejudgment of our motive when it’s not even what God said and he’s gotten them on our trail. Then we immediately are exiled into captivity. When we run to Jesus, He’s our captor when we run to Him. Isn’t that awesome! I don’t know if you caught that or not, but it sure was fun saying it. Sometimes I understand a truth and as I’m saying it I wonder if you’re catching what I’m saying. We’re driven to Him. We have no other place. We’re exiled to Him. Oh, what’s happened to me! Oh, glory! This is what I’m looking for. Sometimes when you don’t want to go to Him, He runs you to Himself. You’re exiled to Him. There’s no place else to go. There’s nobody that wants to hear our side of the story. Nobody cares. He cares! And when they’re on our trail, we’re exiled to Him—the very place we need to be. It’s in Him we find our rejoicing. He’s our captor. He is the one who has come for us. We’re chained to His chariot.
But we also find every bit of joy we’ve ever been looking for right when we get to Him. Isn’t that awesome! Run to Jesus! Run to Jesus! Isn’t there a song about that? Run to Jesus! Hang on to that! “Oh, brother, Wayne, this is too simple.” Well, my friend, thank God He made it simple.
You’ve been falsely accused. You’ve tried to explain your side of the story and nobody wants to listen, especially not the person who’s been wounded. What do you do? You run to Him! You run to Jesus! And you’re going to find everything you’re looking for in Him. And He’s your High Priest who never dies, so don’t leave. Stay there! Practice His presence moment by moment.
When we run to Him, He’s our refuge. He is our holy place. He is our strength. I want to say “our” because I’m speaking to you, but I say it to me because I feel conviction. He is “my” holy place. He is “my” strength. He is “my” ally or my friend. He is “my” fortress and “my” treasure. He is “my” high place. He is “my” captor and He is “my” rejoicing. Run to Jesus! Run to Jesus!
In the Old Testament there’s a story in 2 Samuel. Asahel was the brother of Joab. Joab was the commander of David’s army. Abner, who was a nephew of David, sided with Saul. Saul and David weren’t getting along real well. Asahel in a particular battle was being chased, or was actually chasing Abner because of the fact that Abner had gone over to Saul. As he was running, Abner turned around and said, “Don’t chase me, I don’t want to hurt you. I mean, you’re family, I don’t want to bother you.” He kept running and the guy kept chasing and kept chasing him and finally Abner stopped and had his sword pointed that way, but he just stopped and the back of the sword went through the stomach and out the back of Asahel and he died.
It was unintentional. It was not premeditated. And so Abner did what he should have done, he ran to Hebron, which was a city of refuge and he was safe there. He had a hearing and they understood. He was accepted, but then Joab, the brother of Asahel who had died, decides he’s going to be the blood avenger. He goes to the gates of the city and he coaxes Abner out beyond that invisible line where he was safe. He comes out based on, “Hey, man, just wanted to talk to you,” and when he got out there, Joab killed him. When they told David about it, David cried out and wailed, “Oh Abner, Abner, you died a fool’s death. If you’d stayed inside the city, you could have stayed safe.”
Listen, friend, when you run to Jesus, don’t run away. Stay there! It’s in Him you find what you’re looking for. And when the world could care less about your side of the story, and they don’t, run to Jesus! He cares! And remember what I said earlier, truth and time will vindicate you. While we’re in it we don’t know, but in the meantime, you can enjoy the life that you have in Him. Run to Jesus. Run, run to Jesus. The way is clear.