Sun, Dec 21, 2008

CITY OF REFUGE NUMBERS 35:9-34

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
CITY OF REFUGE
NUMBERS 35:9-34

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Numbers chapter 35. In this portion of Scripture the Lord is instructing Moses and the children of Israel about these cites of refuge and we will be looking at what these cities were all about. Then, and more importantly, we will look at the picture that the Holy Spirit is painting for us regarding our city of refuge, Jesus Christ.

            Before we get to our text this morning, let me share with you this story. As you will see, this story is a picture of our security in Christ, our city of refuge you might say. We are told:

The son of a chieftain of the Macgregors was killed in a scuffle at an inn on the moors of Glenorchy, by a young gentleman named Lamont. The manslayer mounted his horse and fled, and though sharply pursued, in the darkness of the night succeeded in reaching a house. It happened to be the house of Macgregor himself. “Save my life!” cried Lament to the chieftain, “men are after me to take it away.” “Whoever you are,” replied Macgregor, “while you are under my roof you are safe.” Very soon the pursuers arrived, and thundered at the gate. “Has a stranger just entered your house?” “He has; and what may be your business with him?” . . . “The man has killed your son! Give him up to our vengeance!”

The terrible news filled the house with lamentation; but the chief with streaming tears said, “No; you cannot have the youth, for he has Macgregor's word for his safety, and as God lives, while he is in my house he shall stay secure.” This story has been told for centuries to illustrate Highland honour. What shall we say of the older story, that illustrates Divine love? To Jew and Gentile, high and low, rich and poor, friend and enemy, the grace of Christ is free.

- (From The Biblical Illustrator Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.)

            What a beautiful picture that is for us regarding Jesus Christ and how we are secure in Him.  Now let me give you a little background information. The children of Israel are on the boarder of the Promise Land, on the east side of the Jordan River and God is preparing them to enter into the Promise Land.

            In Numbers chapter 34 the Lord gives them the boundaries of the land of Canaan and once they are in the land, Joshua and Eleazar were to divide the land up among the various tribes and one representative from each tribe was to be there.  For the Levites, within the various tribes they were given cities to dwell in, areas for the animals to graze. And these 48 cities were not an inheritance to them; their inheritance was the Lord. But God also wanted the Levites spread out throughout the land of Israel so they could represent Him before the people, so they could teach the people the things of God, so they could help them in their walk with God and-so-on.

            Out of these 48 cites that were given to the Levites, 6 of them would be cities of refuge, and we will read of what that was all about, what that meant in a few minutes.  There were three of these cities of refuge located on the west side of the Jordan River in the Promise Land and three cities of refuge on the east side of the Jordan River where Ruben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh settled, outside the Promise Land. Thus, on each of these sides there was a city of refuge located in the northern part of the land, in the middle of the land and in the southern part of the land.

            You see, they were located in such a way that nobody would be too far away from reaching one of these cities of refuge if they needed to flee there.  With that said, let’s begin reading in Numbers chapter 35, starting in verse 9, and see what the Lord has for us as we look at our city of refuge, Jesus Christ!

NUMBERS 35:9-34

            For us today these cities of refuge seem like a strange concept. Why did they have them in the first place?  I like the way that Warren Wiersbe sums it up in his commentary. He wrote:

The nation of Israel had an army, but it didn't have anything equivalent to our modern police system. If somebody was murdered, the members of the family and clan saw to it that the murderer was punished. However, if a man accidentally killed someone, that was a case of manslaughter, not murder; and it would have been wrong to make him pay with his life.

The man could flee to one of the cities of refuge and present his case to the elders who would hear him and the witnesses. If they thought he was guilty of murder, they would turn him over to the family and the authorities for punishment. If they concluded that he was innocent, they allowed him to stay in the city of refuge under their protection until the death of the high priest. Then he was free to return home. He was not allowed to pay a ransom and be freed sooner (v. 32).

If the man was guilty, he was stoned to death. Murder was a capital crime in Israel for which there was no ransom (v. 32). The blood of innocent victims polluted the land, and the land belongs to the Lord (vv. 33-34; see Gen 4:10; 9:5). The only way the land could be cleansed was by the death of the murderer.

Guilty sinners today can flee by faith to Jesus Christ and find refuge from the judgment of God (Heb 6:18). Because Jesus is the ever-living High Priest, salvation is secure forever; for "He ever lives to make intercession for them" (7:25, NKJV). He bore the guilty sinner's punishment; therefore, there can be no condemnation (Rom 8:1).

(From The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe.)

            You see folks; there is that sanctity of life. God tells us that we were created in the image of God and if someone murders another person, then that person is to be put to death. Yes, God is for capital punishment because life is precious. We are told in Genesis 9:5-6,Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.

            I know that there are some who will argue that it is hypocritical for Christians to be for the death penalty and against abortion, and we have dealt with this on Thursday, but I do believe it is important for us to understand the difference. Have you thought this out? They are comparing that the murder of an innocent boy or girl in the womb of their mother and someone who has murdered someone is the same!  Give me a break!  What did that innocent child due in their mother’s womb? Absolutely nothing!  And yet, someone who has willfully murdered someone did commit a crime and God says that they deserve death for their actions!  And He even says that if this is not carried out, then the land will be defiled, it will become contaminated!

            If you did murder someone and you ran into one of these cities of refuge, the priest would hear your case and on the witness of two or three people he would make his judgment. If you were guilty of murder, then you would be handed over to the avenger of blood, which was usually a relative of the victim, and then you would be stoned to death!

            If it was manslaughter, unintentional homicide you might say, then your life would be spared if you were in one of these cities of refuge.  But you would have to remain in the city of refuge until the high priest died, which could be 1 year, 10 years, 20 years or it could last your entire life! Yes, the tragedy also affected their life!

            And, not like today, you could not buy your way out of a sentence of murder and you could not buy yourself out of the city of refuge. You had to pay your dues, whatever the judgment!

            Now why go through all this when it really does not apply to us today? Well, capital punishment I believe does apply but the cities of refuge obviously don’t. The reason is simple. I believe these cities of refuge paint for us a picture of Jesus Christ and that is what we will be focusing on with the remainder of our time this morning. There are several points I will be focusing on and I truly believe that as we conclude, you will see the beautiful picture the Holy Spirit is painting for us!

1.  THE CITY OF REFUGE IS A PICTURE OF THE BELIEVER FINDING REFUGE IN JESUS CHRIST

            How true that is as we look at the Scriptures. In the Psalms alone there are some 21 references of God being our refuge.  Let me give you a few examples of this.  In Psalm 46:1-3 we are told, God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling.

            In this Psalm the sons of Korah are saying that in the midst of the storms of life, in the midst of utter destruction, we don’t have to fear because God is with us. He is our refuge, which is the Hebrew word, MACHCEH, (makh-as-eh’) and it can mean hope, shelter, and trust!

            Just as those cities of refuge were a place of refuge, of hope, of shelter for those who ran into it, Jesus Christ is our refuge, our hope, our shelter as we run to Him. Outside of Him there is all kinds of devastation but as we rest in Christ there is that hope, that rest in the midst of the storm!

            David, as he was hiding out in a cave for his life, running from king Saul who wanted to kill him, wrote in Psalm 57:1-3, Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, To God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me; He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.

            David nestled under the arms of God for protection just as a baby chick nestles under their mother’s wings! There truly is that rest in the Lord, not an absence of calamity, but a peace in the midst of the storm, in the midst of the calamity, as this story illustrates for us. We are told:

Long ago a man sought the perfect picture of peace. Not finding one that satisfied, he announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. The challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere, and paintings arrived from far and wide. Finally the great day of revelation arrived. The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another, while the viewers clapped and cheered. The tensions grew. Only two pictures remained veiled. As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd. A mirror-smooth lake reflected lacy, green birches under the soft blush of the evening sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Surely this was the winner.

The man with the vision uncovered the second painting himself, and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace? A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky precipice; the crowd could almost feel its cold, penetrating spray. Stormy-gray clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind and rain. In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a spindly tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls. One of its branches reached out in front of the torrential waters as if foolishly seeking to experience its full power. A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. Content and undisturbed in her stormy surroundings, she rested on her eggs. With her eyes closed and her wings ready to cover her little ones, she manifested peace that transcends all earthly turmoil.

- Berit Kjos, A Wardrobe from the King, pp. 45-46

            That is the peace that God has for us, if we would only rest in Him. Now some feel that you just need to have faith in something, in anything be it God or whatever! Are you kidding me?  If the person or thing or object you are placing your faith in is not real or it can’t do anything about what you are going through, then that is empty faith. Our Lord is there with His loving arms wrapped around us, carrying us through these times.

            In Psalm 91:1-7 we are told, He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler  And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.

This Psalm deals with our security in the Lord as we are "abiding in the shadow of the Almighty". Who is this protection for? Who can attain this peace, this safety? Those who abide in Christ these promises are for. God is referred to as the "Most High" which speaks of His power, His majesty. He is spoken of as being the "Almighty" the EL SHADDAI or the "All Sufficient One". We find in Him all we need for comfort, protection, peace, safety, and-so-on. God is saying here that He wants to protect us from two things that will come against us and try to destroy us. The first is that He wants to deliver us from the snare of the fowler, which is a trapper of birds. And think of it this way. Satan is the trapper, and we are the birds he is trying to trap, destroy. Secondly, He wants to deliver us from the perilous pestilence, which could be speaking of false doctrine that can kill you.

How can we protect ourselves? Draw close to God. He wants to protect us. What is our protection from false doctrine? The protection is found in the truth that is found in God's Word opened up to us by His Spirit. It is His truth that will set us free from all the deception that is out there!  But you will only find this if you are “in Christ.”

Let me share one more Scripture with you on this subject. In Hebrews 6:17-20 we are told, Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

We have this hope, the promises of God because God has made an oath and He can’t lie or go back on His Word.  We can have this hope as we take refuge in God’s promises, they are that certain.  And as you trust in God, as you trust in His promises it will dispel fear, discouragement as our life is anchored in the promises of God.  That is why Satan loves to twist the Word of God; he loves to see us fearful, discouraged, to doubt God’s promises to us. Don’t let him!

            So don’t be discouraged, hope in the promises of God and Jesus will lead us to glory! When the storms come, and they will; when the weather starts to get rough, and it will; anchor your life in Jesus!  You see, Paul tells us that we will see the very presence of God; we are assured of access to God right now through Jesus but one day we will see Him face-to-face.  So don’t go back, don’t remain dull of hearing but move forward keeping your eyes upon the Author and Finisher of your faith, Jesus Christ!

           Paul also tells us that He, Jesus, is our forerunner which was a Greek military word that spoke of a reconnaissance man who blazed the trail for everyone else to follow.  Thus, Jesus has gone first to make it safe for us to follow, He blazed the way to heaven and to God and now we must follow right behind Him, our High Priest, Jesus Christ!

            Thus, just as these cities of refuge were places people could run to and take refuge in, we can run into the arms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our city of refuge, and take shelter in Him!  We can flee to Jesus for refuge!

2.  THE CITY OF REFUGE IS A PICTURE OF HOW JESUS IS WITHIN REACH OF THE NEEDY

            As I have said, these cities of refuge were spread out throughout the land of Israel and thus, it was within reach of anyone who needed to take refuge there. In Joshua 20:7-9 we are told of where these cities were located as they were now in the Promise Land, So they appointed Kedesh in Galilee, in the mountains of Naphtali, Shechem in the mountains of Ephraim, and Kirjath Arba (which is Hebron) in the mountains of Judah. And on the other side of the Jordan, by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness on the plain, from the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead, from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan, from the tribe of Manasseh. These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwelt among them, that whoever killed a person accidentally might flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stood before the congregation.

            Folks, can you imagine if it was hard to come to Christ! If you had to jump through this hoop and go over that hurdle, be so good, do this or do that? It would not be within our reach because none of us are good enough to enter in, no matter what we do! But the reality is that Jesus is within reach of the needy, and that is all of us, we all need Him!

            Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Sin is heavy, it burden’s us down, but if we come to Christ He lifts that burden from us and we can rest in Him. Religions will weigh you down, as did the Jewish religious leaders with all their activities for salvation. Jesus says to come to Him and rest! He doesn’t say work your tail off and if you do enough you will get in! It seems so easy and yet man feels there must be more to it than that, so they put forth all their efforts in working and finding no rest!

It is as Paul said in Hebrews 4:1-3, 9-11, "Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: ‘So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest,’ although the works were finished from the foundation of the world...There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience." May you enter in by faith and receive His rest!

            Thus, all have easy access to God the Father through Jesus Christ!  All have easy access to Jesus Christ, He invites all to come to Him and revive the forgiveness of sin! You see, if He was not within reach, if He was not easy to get to, then it would be hopeless for us, but He is there for all to receive Him!

3.  THE CITY OF REFUGE WAS OPEN TO ALL JUST AS JESUS IS OPEN TO ALL

            These cities of refuge were not just for the Jews but also for the stranger, the Gentile you might say.  They were there for all who needed refuge, they could enter in, no one was restricted, no one was turned away, not even Bear fans!

            The door of salvation is open to both Jews and Gentiles and access is made through Jesus Christ.  Paul, in Romans 1:16-17 makes this point about both Jew and Gentile being saved by the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Gospel message. He wrote, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’

            Not only that, but God’s desire is for all to be saved and not face His judgment. In II Peter 3:9-10 we are told, The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. But apart from Christ you will not enter in, you will die in your sins and face His judgment!

            But make no mistake about it; the door of salvation is open to all, not just to the Jews. You don’t have to fear that you will be turned away, left out because if you enter by the Door, Jesus Christ, He will not turn you away. Salvation is yours!

4.  THE CITIES OF REFUGE WOULD BE A PLACE WHERE ONE WHO IS IN NEED WOULD LIVE, JUST AS IT IS WITH JESUS

            Please understand that you did not come to these cities of refuge to check out the shops they had, what kind of work was there, what kind of homes they had. You did not come to these cities of refuge just to look around! You came to these cities of refuge to live, to find protection, a place of refuge!

            Too often today people say things like, “I will try Jesus.” I am not even sure what that means completely but I do know it is not good.  What they are basically saying is that, “I will try Jesus as long as I get what I want.  I will stick with Him as long as things go the way I want them to go.  As long as I am happy, this Jesus will be okay! If it doesn’t work out, well, I will try something else!” If that is the mentality you have, you are in trouble. You don’t “try Jesus” you receive Him into your life by faith to be Lord and Savior of your life. You allow Him to come into your life just as Jesus said in Revelation 3:20, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

            Folks, we are all in need of Jesus and we need Him in our lives. He needs to be on the throne of our hearts to rule and reign in our lives. We don’t just “try Jesus” we receive Him by faith!

5.  THE CITES OF REFUGE WERE THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE FOR THE ONE IN NEED BECAUSE OUTSIDE THEY WOULD BE DESTROYED AND THE SAME IS TRUE FOR JESUS

            The only place for safety for a person who committed manslaughter was these cities of refuge. If they wandered outside the city and the avenger of blood caught them, they would be put to death!

            Folks, salvation is only found in Jesus. There is no other way to heaven. We are told in Acts 4:12, Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.  You see, there is salvation in no other name, none, only in Jesus! In fact, Jesus said in John 8:24, Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am [He], you will die in your sins.  In other words, if you don’t believe that He is the Great I Am, Almighty God, then you will die in your sins!

            I don’t think it gets any clearer than that. Apart from Christ, being outside of His walls of protection you might say, you will die in your sins!

6.  FULL FREEDOM COMES WITH THE DEATH OF THE HIGH PRIEST JUST AS OUR FULL FREEDOM CAME WITH THE DEATH OF JESUS

            For those who came into the cities of refuge, they could not come out until the death of the high priest. Now, as I have said, that could last a lifetime for the one within this city. But once the high priest died, then there was full freedom given to the person.  He could leave the city without fear that the avenger of blood would come after him to kill him.

            Prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, those who died in the faith, looking forward to the coming Messiah, went to a place called Abraham’s bosom in the center of the earth.  Keep in mind that Hades or Sheol, Hell was divided into two compartments and those that died outside of the faith went to the side where they were tormented until the Great White Throne Judgment when they will be sent to the outer darkness.  Those dying in the faith were comforted on the other side, Abraham’s bosom. You can read of this in Luke chapter 16.

            When Jesus was crucified and placed in the tomb those three days and three nights, He told His disciples before hand that He would be three days and three nights in the belly of the earth and I believe it is Abraham’s bosom where He went to as He set the captives free when He rose from the dead and now that side is empty because to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

            And now our freedom is found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Listen to what Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:14-19, And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

First of all if Christ did not rise from the dead then what Paul and the apostles were preaching was empty, there was nothing to it, which brings them to an empty faith!  Secondly, if they were preaching a resurrected Christ and knew that He did not rise from the dead, they didn’t see him, they would be liars and people would have believed a lie!  But even worse, if Christ did not rise from the dead then our faith is empty and we are still lost in our sins!  Do you see how important the resurrection of Christ is?  You see, if death had power over Jesus, if He was defeated by death, then Jesus is not God and if He is not God then He can’t pay the penalty for our sins!  And, as I have said, our sins are still upon us because if Jesus Christ is not risen, He can’t save us!

            Paul continues on and says that if Christ hasn’t risen from the dead then those that have died in Christ have perished, there is no hope, life is over!  The conclusion is simple, if we have placed our hope in an empty faith, if we are still in our sins, then we are the biggest fools around!  In fact, we are the most pitiable, the most pathetic people around!  But Paul is not going to leave us in this hopeless condition for he tells us, But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  I Corinthians 15:20. 

            On this Spurgeon tells us, “The fact is, that the sliver thread of resurrection runs through all the blessings, from regeneration onward to our eternal glory, and binds them together.” Look t how it is played out in our lives:

  • The divinity of Jesus rests on the resurrection of Jesus – and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.   Romans 1:4.
  • The sovereignty of Jesus rests on the resurrection of Jesus - For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.  Romans 14:9.
  • Our justification rests on the resurrection of Jesus – who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”  Romans 4:25.
  • Our regeneration rests on the resurrection of Jesus – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  I Peter 1:3.
  • Our ultimate resurrection rests on the resurrection of Jesus – But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  Romans 8:11.

Most of you remember Houdini, the great magician.  Houdini claimed that on the 50thanniversary of his death he would come back from the dead.  Thus, on that date a group of his followers gathered together at his gravesite in San Francisco waiting for him to return, and they waited, and waited and nothing happened, maybe he got lost?  You see, the tomb of Jesus is empty; He did rise from the dead.  Not only did Christ rise from the dead but we too will rise from the dead one-day, we will get new bodies for our spirit and soul to dwell in!

            Thus, with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have full freedom knowing that one-day will be raised in glory!

7.  THE CITIES OF REFUGE WERE ONLY FOR THE INNOCENT, WHILE THE GUILTY CAN ALL COME TO JESUS TO FIND REFUGE

            Here is a crucial, a vital distinctive between the cities of refuge and Jesus. In the cities of refuge, if you did murder someone and went there for safety, you would find none. You would be sentenced to death for your crime.  There was no alternative for you; justice must be made in this situation.

            But in Christ, all sinners, every last one of them can come to Jesus and receive forgiveness of their sins. In Isaiah 1:18 we are told, ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.’  It truly is the blood of Christ that cleanses us from all our guilt and sin, He washes us as white as snow! And of course Jesus said in John 3:16-17, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

            I don’t care what you have done, where you have been, how bad you think you are, Jesus loves you and He died for you and all you must do is receive that free gift by faith. All the guilty, all sinners are welcome!

            As I close this morning, I hope you have seen that our refuge, our hope, our shelter is only found in Jesus, the one who died for our sins as this story illustrates for us. We are told:

According to the Chicago Tribune, on June 22, 1997, parachute instructor Michael Costello, forty-two, of Mt. Dora, Florida, jumped out of an airplane at 12,000 feet altitude with a novice skydiver named Gareth Griffith, age twenty-one.

The novice would soon discover just how good his instructor was, for when the novice pulled his ripcord, his parachute failed. Plummeting toward the ground, he faced certain death.

But then the instructor did an amazing thing. Just before hitting the ground, the instructor rolled over so that he would hit the ground first and the novice would land on top of him. The instructor was killed instantly. The novice fractured his spine in the fall, but he was not paralyzed.

One man takes the place of another, takes the brunt for another. One substitutes himself to die so another may live. So it was at the cross, when Jesus died for our sins so that we might live forever.

- Choice Contemporary Stories & Illustrations For Preachers, Teachers, & Writers, Craig Brian Larson, Baker Books, p. 57

            Folks, what a wonderful Savior we have. Wherever you are at this morning, may you find that rest, that refuge, that shelter in the arms of our loving Savior Jesus Christ!  Jesus is our City of Refuge!

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