★ Cities of Refuge

The Basic Meaning and Pattern of “City of Refuge”

(Psalm 46:1, Hebrew 6:18, Numbers 35:1-8, Deuteronomy 19:4-10, Joshua 20:21)
“God is our refugee, our strength, and our help in distress.”
“….. Those of us who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”

Christ is our “City of Refuge”, our refugee. Praise God, He became our “City of Refuge” through the salvation that His son Jesus Christ has accomplished for us. We can run to His bosom, be saved and be kept secure.

He not only forgives all our transgressions, but also releases and keeps us safe from the firm grip of sins. By faith, we have died with Him, and shall live again with Him. Our sinful bodies destroyed to the extent that we might become victorious and sanctified (Romans 6:6-7). For that reason, we need to escape into Him every moment. He can save us to the end and Satan can no longer hurt us! “Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). Christ is the word. He is not only the word that leads us to a new birth, He also let us grow through His Word, take roots in Him, unite with Him and Hide within Him. Nothing in the outside world can affect us. Therefore we accept His word by faith and experience the truth which sanctified us (Jn 17:14-17). Every single word of His carries power and strength! All we have to do is to rely in His rich, authoritative and living truth, meditate on His Word day and night, never to abandon His Word in our deeds and earnestly abide by all of His command. His truth will keep us safe to the very end! Therefore, our life cannot depart from the salvation and protection of the “City of Refuge”. Just as David’s Prayer: “Oh God, Please protect me, because I take refugee in you. You are my Lord, l have no good besides you.” (Psalm 16:1-2). ” “And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” ( Revelation 12: 13-14)

Apostle John, in his vision, saw the big red dragon persecuting the woman who gave birth to the boy infant; today, similarly, all God’s workers and church leaders are the subjects that the evil one intends to devour. For this reason, God has prepared “City of Refuge” for His workers in many places all over the world. This is the “wilderness” of tranquility, where they can retreat to, to escape from the chase and assault of the red dragon, whenever they are physically exhausted, whenever they are entrapped in a difficult mess, and whenever they are attacked by Satan. This is a “City of Refuge” with form. When retreat from the battlefield, this is the hiding place where God’s workers can be once again “trimmed and equipped”. There they can set aside their burden and work load and find time to be close to Him. This is absolutely necessary.

But more importantly, the workers of God must learn to escape to the formless “City of Refuge” – that is to be within the bosom of Christ. He must learn to enter the “inner room” and hide himself deeply before His throne. God values each of His workers, much more than any work! Just like prophet Elijah when he tried to escape from the power and fierce pursuit of Jezebel, a harlot, who was determined to kill him, God led Him to Mt. Horeb just when he had no one or nowhere to turn to. There on the mountain, God led him through piercing mountain-and-rock breaking wind, awesome earthquake and fire. His “old self” was thoroughly and completely broken. Only then did he hear the gentle voice and was given the new commission from God. Only then did he realize that God had saved seven thousand men who did not bowed down to the Baal for Himself. From that point on, Elijah could not be self-conceited, self-boosting, or accusative of others any more. Just like Jacob who wrestled with God at Peniel. God touched the socket of his thigh and he had the experience of seeing God face to face. The prayers and Scripture reading in spirit are like the two wings of a great eagle, it will enable us to fly to the “wilderness”. We will be shined upon by His light, repent and hence be cleansed, and be renewed in strength. It will let us be lifted up on the wings of His Spirit. Our spiritual eyes will be open before Him. In one aspect, we will begin to view and understand God’s heart with clearness. On the other, we will be able to pierce through “the mysteries of the harlot” and escape from her most dangerous, clever plots to wipe and slaughter. So, it is vitally important, that God’s workers need to return to the “City of Refuge” both with form and without, to be preserved and kept safe.

After Saul fell to the ground at Damascus upon meeting God and received grace, God took him to the Arabian “wilderness”. For three years, he retreated from the world and was edified by God alone. He ate the Book which turned into life. He experienced the lessons of the cross. He then stayed quiet in his own native town for a lengthy duration, as if he was in a tomb, buried and set aside by God. All of these to force his old self to die completely surrender totally and wait patiently until the end. When finally God’s time came, God opened the door for him to spread His gospel in Antioch. Once he completely became God’s, he also became the “epidemic” of that time, an apostle of the gentile whose entire life met God’s heart’s content (a small man).

From Deuteronomy 19:4-10 we learn that the “City of Refuge” is the refugee prepared for all those who killed others unintentionally. The man may not had the intent to kill, but the iron head of his axe flies off the handle, strikes and kills his friend. He must flee to one of these cities and therefore be preserved, because otherwise the avenger of blood might pursue and overtake him. This was the purpose and reason that God touched His servant Song Shang Jie to setup Home of Grace for Christ’s Workers in many places. All of us, who have received His grace, are willing to save more souls. But our lives and examples cause others to stumble because our old lives have not changed nor united with Him. Or, we made others stumble just the same when we display our talents and gifts, not knowing that we should conceal ourselves or else we become the idol of others. Consequently, we bring harm to many, cause hindrance to the salvation of many souls. We may even lead others onto the wrong path and “kill by mistake.” More tragically, some heavily gifted and used servants of God were easily tempted and fell victim to pride, money and sex and never returned, simply because they did not “overcome their old flesh” and were paying attention only to the outward extravagant and transient success.

Therefore, the servants of God must pay attention to the constant seeking of growth of his own “life”. He needs to be ready to flee to the spiritual “wilderness” at any moments. He needs to run into the presence of Christ and be close to Him and draw his strength from the heaven above. He needs to know His will before he can start to work. If a God’s servant has not taken a break for a retreat in a long time, for certain he will become spiritually numb. He won’t know God’s will. He may accomplished a lot work wise, still his work is done according to man’s will and liking, and is “man-made”. By working in the flesh, through human temperament, and according to the way of the world, all the hustle bustle and labor would only be for the building of the Tower of Babel. In the end, it still will be torn down by God. Work of such nature is not leading people to God, but to one’s self. It could even be stealing God’s glory, taking over God’s place, thus departing from God’s plan further and further! God’s servant Song Shang Jie late in his life proposed the “Hymns on top of the Mountain”. There were two stanzas in that hymns that revealed God’s mind and demands for His workman: “Enter pass God’s veil in the tent to meet God. Listen carefully to His gentle voice. All His workmen must take retreat, pray in the spirit with one mind and heart, live in Him and become one body, and know His will and proceed as one.” ” On top of the holy mountain, God gathers His workmen; forsake all else, in spirit they meditate, pray and read Scripture, first God’s will they want to know, this precedes His work to toil.”

This writer recalls the many years of serving Him. On the surface, she appeared to be fervently serving Him, treading and bustling across large areas of territory; but amidst her hustle bustle, she neglect her fellowship with God. She did not dwell deeply within Christ. She gradually became the idol for the believers. Like iron head of axe that slipped off the handle, she gradually became disconnected with God. She was all dried up spiritually and lost strength. In her recollection of those days, God was no longer important. Work plus result, praise and approval of men were important. Her heart even deviated to the unrighteousness. She took the object of her work (little donkey) to be her idol. Consequently, she served and offended God at the same time. Praise God for His mercy. He took her back to the “City of Refuge” in time. Through daily rotational reading and meditation of His word, she retreated back to Himself. As His light shone upon her, she saw herself laden with filth. She repented incessantly in pain to cleanse herself; had she fail to do that, she would have been devoured by Satan. The consequences would have been unimaginable! From her personal failures, she deeply comprehends the importance of “City of Refuge” to God’s workmen (including all who killed others by mistake). May those who serve God recognize the necessity of spiritual retreat in the Lord! Otherwise they may spread the gospel to others, but they will leave themselves out (I Corinthians 9:27).

For many years, the burden and vision to prepare “City of Refuge” as retreat for God’s workers has become increasingly urgent for the coworkers at the Home of Grace. We believe that the Holy Spirit is working incessantly at many places. It has touched many of God’s servants to recognize the significance and importance of “City of Refuge”. Many are willing to take the time to retreat to the presence of God. This brings themselves many blessings. More importantly, together with other servants of God, they seek and learn God’s will, awaiting the commission from the Holy Spirit. Together, they will complete the great commission to spread the gospel!

The following is a brief outline of the spiritual significance of the “City of Refuge” and the secret if a man were to be preserved by God:

1. United with God through Scripture reading and prayers: God’s children can be united with God and kept secure within God’s love only through constant prayers and the reading of His word. (Jude 20-21). In Psalm 61, when David’s heart was faint, he asked God from the end of the earth to lead him to higher ground. He truly experienced that” You are my fortress that frees me from my enemies. I want to live in your tent forever. I want to run to you and dwell in the shadow of your wings.” Only when we study the Word, pray and run to Christ (“City of Refuge”) ourselves, can we like wise lead others to unite with the Lord. This is to eat and digest the Book, seek Him without ceasing, and in a steadfast way keep Lord’s truth through the Holy Spirit. This will enable every believer a direct path to the life of living water through His Word. It is not to let us rely on the “bag of water” from the ministers. It will not sustain us for very long. We will soon be lifeless and dry. We want to live within Christ forever. We will not let anyone or anything hinder or decrease our closeness to Him. Flower and grass may wither; only the truth of God prevails from everlasting to everlasting.

2. Make intercessions for all men after God’s heart (Isaiah 62:6-7, I Timothy 2:1-4): We need to be thoughtful of God’s heart and thereby fired up about Zion! We need to cry out for the salvation of all people without ceasing. Prayers for all the nations must be the priority! For all the ages in the past, the revival of churches and the expanding of gospels are the results of the prayers of God’s children. Without prayers, there would have been no revival. Prayers are the urgent need of this age. We cannot pray only for our personal “small circle”. We need to intercede for all the people! When Haman, the foe of the Jews, was in power and control, he wanted to wipe out all the Jews. Esther risked her life and pleaded for the lives of the Jews to the king against the king’s rule. Her action was right on target at defeating Haman’s plot. It thoroughly uprooted the power of Haman. All the Jews whose lives were preserved and protected gathered to welcome the “Day of Purim” great revival. So the work for the “City of Refuge” is the work of prayers. It is the work of the living water of the Holy Spirit. May God raise faithful watchmen in all places to raise their hands and cry out to God for salvation of all men! Let the knowledge of knowing the glory of God fill all the earth, just like water fills the ocean!

3. Love lost souls and be compassionate about saving people: We need to follow God’s example and value each soul to be more precious than all things in the entire world. We need to follow our Lord’s command to spread the truth of God’s grace to all the nations Not to slight and overlook any of the men, we must also face the entire human race and seize the opportunity to spread the gospel to those who do not believe. We won’t ask for results. We won’t worry about gain or loss. Let us bring all those who are lost into Christ (The City of Refuge), to enjoy the everlasting saving grace of Christ!

4. Strive to be “holy” and “unified” with all our might. (I Thessalonians 4: 3-6, Hebrew 12:14): Let us be encouraged to be holy and united according to our Lord’s command. The root cause of division in churches is unholiness. Unity precedes holiness. Only holiness can avoid the unity of flesh, emotion and the will of man, or else the body of Christ will be corrupted. Therefore, we must do our best to preserve a heart of unison given to us by the Holy Spirit. We need to pay special attention to the holiness of all our relationships -holiness among the co-workers, holiness in marriages, holiness on the money matters, holiness of our thoughts and most inner being, and holiness of our outward deeds! “But as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all you conduct;” (I Peter 1:15). In addition, we must be set apart and be holy from men or organizations that deviate from the truth of the gospel. We absolutely should not mix; should not compromise! God’s church will be pure and blameless only if we are united in holiness in Christ and to fight for the truth.

5. Willing to abide by his will and take the narrow path (Matthew 7:21, 11:12. Acts 13:22): At the eve of our Lord’s second coming, men misplace their zeal and withdraw. They deviate from the truth and the “narrow path” of the cross. They only seek the pleasures in sight and personal blessings. They disregard the will of God and the commission to spread His good news! We must follow the example set by Apostle Paul. Even in the face of countless trials and tribulations, he stood firm and obeyed His will. He was unyielding, unwavering, and never changing till his death. Similarly, you and I are facing with the test and decision whether we are to obey His will and walk the narrow path. We should follow Christ. A willing mind to endure suffering will be our weapon. We are attentive only to God’s liking and not man’s. We walk firmly in the narrow path of the cross. Until now, God is still searching for men like David that are after His own heart – following God’s will in everything (Acts 13:22)! Let us remember well the teaching of our Lord: “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26).

Consequently, Christ is our “City of Refuge”! Come to Him, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and He will give us rest. Take His yoke upon us and learn from Him, for He is gentle and humble in heart, and we will find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28/29).

“O taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)

Home of Grace

7/28/2007 (Modified)