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This chapter is but short, but the contents of it are interesting. The Lord appoints, and the children of Israel set apart, six cities for refuge. And as those cities were evidently a shadow of good things to come, the relation of them is made the more particularly.
I cannot enter upon the subject of this chapter, without again and again calling upon the Reader to attend to the very precious doctrine veiled under the appointment of this city of refuge. Its importance cannot be more strongly implied, than in the frequent notice of it made by Moses. So particular was the man of God in following up the Lord's commands concerning it, that we find it in many places. Exodus 21:13 ; Numbers 35:6 ; Deuteronomy 19:1-3; Deuteronomy 19:1-3 . And yet it must not be overlooked in the book of Joshua. How delightful a thing it is to see such provision in the gracious mercy of God! But this is not the principal point in the subject I wish the Reader to notice. Had the merciful provision made by the Lord for unintentional blood-shedding, been the only thing intended from the appointment of those cities of refuge, surely a court of enquiry among the elders of Israel, would have answered every purpose, in acquitting innocent persons upon those occasions. Doth it not strike the mind therefore with full conviction, that the whole of this was typical of some greater thing? And what so likely as that of representing the great shelter and deliverance to sinners from the blood-shedding of our poor souls, when by unbelief and sin we unintentionally destroy ourselves. Dearest Jesus! how strikingly art thou pointed out herein, as the refuge of thy people, and what a strong consolation have we all to flee unto, in the shelter of thy blood and righteousness? Hebrews 6:18-19 .
Those instructions are again repeated, which we find in Deuteronomy 19:1-7 , as if the Holy Ghost was pleased to have this important subject very clearly to be understood. I beg the Reader not to overlook that feature in it, which speaks of the death of the High Priest. Here we find that by the death of the High Priest, the poor captive got his freedom, and was permitted to return to his own city. Reader! was it not the death of thy High Priest and sacrifice that procured thy ransom? Did not our Jesus, liberate all his people in the day he died on the cross? And before that glorious moment was not his intentional offering of himself, as the lamb slain, from the foundation of the world, the grand cause wherefore the souls of his people, though kept in captivity, as in the city of refuge, from the avenger of blood, were kept by grace, and saved from everlasting destruction? Oh! thou dearest Jesus! how precious dost thou appear as the city of refuge to my soul, from all the avenging pursuits of my own guilty conscience, and the terrors of a broken law! And how delightful doth thy everlasting priesthood become, in that thou ever livest, and the efficacy of thy salvation remaineth; while the Jewish High Priests continued not by reason of death, thou hast an unchangeable Priesthood, and therefore art able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by thee. Hebrews 7:23-25 .
Those three cities were now named, which the Lord had before commanded should be appointed so soon as the people were settled in Canaan: see Numbers 35:14 . Their situation favoured the flight of the poor manslayer, at whatever part of the land he might happen to be in, when he shed blood. For Kedish was in Naphtali, the most northern of the tribes: Hebron as far south; and Shechem nearly central to them both. But who doth not see in this Jesus shadowed forth. He is nigh every poor sinner, and every poor slayer of his own soul: being brought nigh by the blood of his cross, hath access to the Father, on every side of the throne, and from every way. How sweet the Psalmist sings to this; and the prophet points to his person. Compare Psalms 32:7 with Isaiah 32:2 .
These three cities were before appointed, and are only here again mentioned. Deuteronomy 4:43 . The situation of those cities were not only favourable for the flight of the poor manslayer, but as they were over against Bethpeor, the idol of the Amorites, a place of refuge in such a spot, served to teach the Israelite, the distinguished privilege of God's people over idol nations. No Bethpeor could afford an asylum, like the city of refuge. But, Reader, when you have duly contemplated the privilege of Israel over other nations, call to mind the Christian ' s over Israel. Jesus himself is our city of refuge, our hiding place, our sanctuary. In him, my soul, thou mayest find shelter from all the pursuits of law, the terrors of conscience, the divine justice against sin, and the avenger of blood, when thou by sin hast destroyed thyself. Hosea 13:9 .
Reader! observe in this verse, how thy God, had an eye to the Gentile church, even from the beginning. The stranger is regarded, as well as the Israelite. May we not say upon it, as the Holy Ghost hath authorized us: Is Jesus the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes! of the Gentiles also. Seeing it is one God which justifies the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith. Oh! precious, precious salvation, which includes both in one and the same fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ the righteous. Romans 3:30; Romans 3:30 .
MY soul! pass over all inferior considerations in the perusal of this Chapter, to attend to that grand, and most important one which the Holy Ghost hath here held up to thy view in the city of refuge, as a lively similitude of thy never-failing and always open refuge the Lord Jesus Christ. And do thou learn from the care which the blessed Spirit hath shown, in causing it to be among the first things regarded, in the division of Canaan, that its importance must have been great indeed. And as a whole chapter in the history of Joshua ' s victories is here appropriated to this subject, and no other suffered to make a part in it, do thou give it thy whole attention, and suffer nothing to break in upon thy meditation, until thou beholdest Jesus, as thy city of refuge to which thou art fled, and in whom thou art fully delivered from the wrath to come.
Yes, blessed Jesus! thou art, indeed, a refuge from every storm and a covert from every tempest. Raised up and appointed by our God and Father, thou shelterest poor sinners who through sin and ignorance and unbelief have destroyed their own souls, and savest them from the malice of hell, the threats of a broken law, and the avenging cries of their own awakened consciences. Haste then my soul, flee for thy life, take refuge in the person, the blood and righteousness of thy crucified Saviour; and as thy High Priest liveth forever, abide in him, and forget thine own home, and thy father's house: for he is thy rest forever, and in him thou mayest dwell as thine eternal habitation.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Joshua 20". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent