There were six cities in the land of Canaan which were set apart as places of refuge, to which a man might flee if he had, either by accident or design, killed another. These cities were easy of access. Three were on the west side of the river Jordan, and three on the east side. Every year the roads leading to them were examined, to see that they were in good condition, and that there was nothing in the way to stop the man-slayer as he was running from his pursuer. At different points there were guide-boards, and on them were written, REFUGE! REFUGE!
If any man by accident killed another, and reached one of these cities before his pursuer, he was allowed to stay there until the death of the high-priest who was then living. But if in anger a man had purposely killed another, then, although he sought refuge in one of these cities, he was given up to the avenger of blood to be slain. You will find more about these cities and their names if you will read the thirty-fifth chapter of Numbers, the nineteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, and the twentieth chapter of Joshua.
But what interest can boys and girls and all older persons have in these cities?
I will try to tell you. God has different ways of teaching. A great many things about which we read in the Old Testament are what is called types. A type, in scripture language, means a pattern or a likeness to a person who is to come, or to an event which is to take place. It is supposed to point forward to something more valuable than itself. Thus, for example, the blood of the lamb which was slain on the Jewish altar was type or a foreshadowing of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ for our salvation. Hence John the Baptist pointing to the Saviour, said to His disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The paschal lamb, which was slain to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from the bondage of Egypt, and the lamb which was offered daily, both morning and evening, in the service of the temple, were representations of the greater sacrifice which Christ came from heaven to make for our salvation.
So the land of Canaan was a type of heaven. The lifting up of the brazen serpent on a pole was a type of our Saviour’s crucifixion; and the cities of refuge were a beautiful type of Jesus Christ, who is the sinner’s refuge.
You know, my dear children, that we have all sinned, and that we all need a place of safety. The avenger says, “Thou shalt surely die.” Escape for thy life. But that we may not die eternally, God has given us the Bible as our guide-board; and the Bible is constantly pointing to Jesus Christ as the sinner’s refuge. He is our hiding-place. It is to Him Isaiah refers when he says, “And a man shall be as a hiding-place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isaiah 32:2).
The way to our city of refuge is plain. “I am the way” (John 14:6), is the Saviour’s own direction. The gate is always open, and the assurance is, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
I want you to remember, dear children, that it is a great deal easier to run to this city of refuge when you are young, than it will be if you put it off until you are older. The promise of the Saviour is, “Those that seek Me early shall find Me” (Proverbs 8:17). Will you not flee to Jesus as your hiding-place? Will you not seek Him when He may be found? How sad it will be if you neglect to do so. You will need a refuge when the tempest of God’s judgments shall burst upon the wicked. Oh, then how glad you will be if you can say, as David said of his trust in God, “Thou art my hiding-place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).
Sabbath Readings for the Home Circle, vol. 1, 148–151.