Kevin’s Lesson For Sunday November 28 –
The United Nations defines refugees as “persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection.” https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/definitions. Refugees are constantly in the news today, particularly with news of border crossing, civil war, poverty and the pandemic causing people to move from their native country to another.
It is easy to see the issue of refugees from being distant from the relatively stable life most of us live. But still, it is a fair question to ask: Are you a refugee? And more specifically, are you a spiritual refugee? Consider Nahum 1:7: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.”
The concept of refuge has deep Biblical roots. In Deuteronomy 4, Numbers 35 and Joshua20 and 21, God established “cities of refuge.” The passages below are from Deuteronomy and Numbers:
41 Then Moses set apart three cities in the east beyond the Jordan, 42 that the manslayer might flee there, anyone who kills his neighbor unintentionally, without being at enmity with him in time past; he may flee to one of these cities and save his life: 43 Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland for the Reubenites, Ramoth in Gilead for the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites. (Deuteronomy 4:41-43).
9 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11 then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there. 12 The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment. 13 And the cities that you give shall be your six cities of refuge. 14 You shall give three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge. 15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the people of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills any person without intent may flee there. (Numbers 35:9-15)
Lack of criminal intent is a necessary element for one to be in the city of refuge. Read Numbers 35:16 – 29 to compare a person who kills unintentionally with those who murder.
How does this apply to Christians today, especially considering how unlikely it is that we will kill another person. I suggest the answer lies in the idea of refuge – a time when we need protection and safety because of circumstances or events through no fault of our own. In other words, where (or to who) do we turn when things outside our control or actions happen? As Nahum suggests above, God is our refuge.
The concept of God as refuge is not unique to Nahum. Consider the following verses:
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalms 62:8)
“The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:12)
As David was being hounded and pursued by Saul he spoke of God as a refuge. He uses this idea three times in II Samuel 22. See verses 3, 31 and 33. He has the same idea in Psalm 7:1.
The concept of refuge is so prevalent in David’s and other psalmists mind that the word “refuge” is used 47 times alone in Psalms. Clearly, the idea of needing a place of safety is one that was particularly resonant to David and other people at that time.
Finally, the Hebrew writer uses the fact of refuge as evidence of the strength of God’s promise.
17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20).
For our discussion, consider these questions:
1.) Do we still need a place of refuge today? If so, what circumstances or events warrant seeking refuge?
2.) What is the mindset necessary to take advantage of a place of refuge?
3.) Regardless of whether circumstances or events are personally good or bad for you, should you consider yourself a spiritual refugee?