PLACES OF REFUGE
We were reading in Deuteronomy 4 and there were several things that jumped out at us, especially verses 41-43 concerning the ‘cities of refuge’. Moses is speaking to the people concerning what they must remember when they go into the Land and then, suddenly and seemingly out of context (although we know it is not), there’s this mention of ‘cities of refuge’, and then the narrative picks back up and continues.
This prompted us to contemplate a much asked question – will there be ‘safe places’ or ‘places of refuge’ outside the Land of Israel in the last days? Well, if there ARE places of safety, and the end is declared from the beginning, then we should be able to find at least an allusion to ‘safe places’ in the Torah. For since GOD’s people are scattered among the nations and throughout the globe, it would stand to reason HE would provide ‘safe places’ or cities of refuge for those in distress, fleeing from the enemy.
Before the people of Israel set foot in The Land, Moses established – at God’s directive – three cities of refuge east of the Jordan, outside the Land if you will . . . As a side note, ALL the tribes ‘crossed over’ ( making them Hebrews, ivri ) and then three tribes went back across the Jordan and settled east of the Jordan. But they DID all ‘cross over’. Just to clarify, in Exodus 35 Israel is told to establish SIX cities of refuge. In Deuteronomy 4 Moses establishes the first three cities ‘east of the Jordan’, and then in Deuteronomy 19 they are reminded to establish three safe places inside Israel proper or ‘in the midst of Your Land’. Here we see Scripture making a clear distinction between the three cities ‘in the midst of Your Land’ and the three cities ‘to the east of Jordan beyond Jericho’ or outside the Land, if you will. There also seems to be an implied stipulation that obedience to the commandments, statutes and ordinances is necessary for physical life during the time in the safe place.
Earlier, in Deuteronomy 4:27-31, God said the people would become scattered among the nations due to their disobedience , they would worship other gods, but if and when the people would turn and seek YHVH with all their heart and soul, they would find Him . . . ‘and when you are in distress and all these things have come upon you in the ‘latter days’, then you will return to The Lord and listen (shema) to His Voice’, which implies walking in obedience to His laws, statutes and ordinances. ( vs. 13-26)
And here’s another interesting gem that jumped out at us. In Deuteronomy 4:34-ff, the wording used speaks of ‘bringing one nation out of another with a Mighty Hand, an outstretched arm, and with great terrors, signs and wonders.’ This is the very same phraseology used in Ezekiel 20:32-38 . . . “‘You say, “We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone.” But what you have in mind will never happen. As surely as I live, declares Sovereign YHVH, I will reign over you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered–with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you. As I judged your ancestors in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will judge you, declares Sovereign YHVH. I will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am YHVH.” The rebellion is against God and His ways. “Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. And the LORD directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” (Deut.4:12-14) And once again God will bring the one nation out from among those into whom HE scattered His people and another birthing takes place . . . and this takes place ‘in the latter days’, which takes us back to verse 34 of Deuteronomy chapter 4.
We see in Scripture how our God works in patterns. So just as Moses established ‘safe places outside The Land’ before the people of Israel entered the first time, so, in the latter days there will be places of safety for His people ‘when they are in distress in times of tribulation and being pursued by the enemy. And just as ‘listening to His Voice’ was integral for entering the Land during the First Exodus, walking in obedience to His Word will be prerequisite for walking into the Land in the time of the Greater Second Exodus. Just as the rebellious did not enter the Land the first time, neither will the rebellious enter the Land this final time . . . ‘for although HE brought them out from all the places they had been scattered, they (the rebellious) will NOT enter the Land.’
So, in the ‘latter days’, before we enter the Land, when we are in distress due to dire conditions and circumstances; and the hunter is hunting and we are being pursued by the one who seeks to kill the body outside of righteous judgment and the testimony of two or three righteous witnesses, there will be ‘safe places’. HE, God Almighty, will not abandon or destroy us. HE will not forget the covenant HE made with our forefathers, that HE confirmed with them by oath. And just as Abba will not forget His covenant, so we are commanded ‘not to forget the Torah of His servant Moses, for by it we shall live’.(Malachi 4:4, Ezekiel20:11)
Will there be ‘places of safety’ ? Yes . . .whether in ‘the midst of your Land’ or ‘east of Jordan beyond Jericho’, the answer is yes . . . for though we know not what we must endure before we enter the Land, we know and are known by The One that goes before us. For He is our Strong Tower and will provide safety for His people ( both spiritually and physically) in these ‘latter days’ . . . but ONLY if we hear His Voice. Shalom – R&J