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Jesus Is Our City of Refuge

This article is based on Pastor Adrian Rogers' message, The Sinner’s Refuge.

Joshua 20:1-3

The Old Testament says someone is coming. In the Gospels, someone has come. In the Book of Revelation, someone is coming again. Jesus is the hero of the entire Bible.

Jesus in Joshua 20

Speak to the children of Israel, saying: “Appoint for yourselves cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the slayer who kills a person accidentally or unintentionally may flee there; and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood” (Joshua 20:2-3).

Cities of Refuge in the Bible

In ancient Israel, if a man was guilty of manslaughter—whether intentionally, or carelessly, or in self-defense—the nearest relative would avenge the blood of the person who had been slain. But God, knowing that sometimes people are unfairly judged, appointed cities of refuge.

Christ Jesus, Refuge of Sinners

Jesus is our city of refuge, our safety. Hebrews speaks of those “who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18b). The writer is talking about those who have come to Jesus.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe (Proverbs 18:10).

Significant Names for the Cities of Refuge

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 (Joshua 20:7-8).

By divine inspiration, the names of these six cities represent the character of the Lord Jesus Christ and what He does for us.


Kedesh (or Kadesh) means “holiness.” You will not be saved apart from a holy Savior. Jesus was the spotless, sinless Son of God. Because He is holy, He is the only one who can save us.

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

Wash clothes in dirty water, and they will still be dirty. What can wash away your sin? Only the holiness of Jesus, the sinner’s refuge.


Shechem means “shoulder,” or “support.” The Lord Jesus is our strength. “…And the government will be upon His shoulder…” (See Isaiah 9:6.) When the Good Shepherd goes out after one lost sheep, “he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” (See Luke 15:5.)

Some say, “I know my own weakness. I wouldn’t be able to live the Christian life.” Exactly. You are not able—but the Lord will put you on His shoulders and carry you through. If Jesus is your Savior, He will also be your strength.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).


Hebron means “fellowship.” There is a need in your heart for fellowship with God. Nothing else will satisfy you. God made fish to swim. God made birds to fly. God made you to know Him, worship Him, and fellowship with Him. And until you do, you will never understand what you are meant to be.

…That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3).


Bezer means “stronghold.” We find security in the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you think that if you gave your heart to Jesus Christ today, that He would ever let you go? He will not. He cannot. He must not. When you run into the city of refuge, the Lord Jesus Christ, He is your fortification.


Ramoth means “exalted.” Christ Jesus is sovereign, as the exalted Son of God.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… (Philippians 2:9-10a).


Golan means “separated.” Not only did Jesus save us from something; He saved us to something. We are separated from the world. If you are not, it is because you have not trusted Christ.

Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

You cannot hold onto God with one hand and the world with another. A Christian in this sinful world will stand out like a diamond in a coal mine.

The Nearness of the Cities of Refuge

God wanted anybody who needed help to have a city of refuge very nearby. Anybody who needed to flee could easily do so.

That speaks of Jesus, who is very, very near to you today.

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:8b-9).

Do you want to be saved? You do not have to make a pilgrimage to Heaven and say, “O God, send us a Savior from above!” He has already come. You do not have to go into the “netherlands” of the grave and say, “O God, raise up your crucified Son!” He is already raised. He is already present.

The “word of faith which we preach” is putting Jesus Christ in your heart and in your mouth.

All you have to do is believe what is already in your heart and confess what is already in your mouth. He is there. Believe Christ enough to confess Him as your personal Lord and Savior, and God says you will be saved. You will come into that place of refuge and eternal life.

Those Who Refuse to Enter the City of Refuge

The avenger of blood would chase down the person who had killed his relative. Though the killer had perhaps unwittingly killed, he was still guilty, so he would flee for his life to the city of refuge.

Here is what happened when he didn’t.

In 2 Samuel, a man named Abner killed a man named Asahel in a battle. Asahel’s brother was Joab, commander-in-chief of King David’s army.

Later, David and Abner and Joab were just outside of Hebron—one of the cities of refuge.

Now when Abner had returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him privately, and there stabbed him in the stomach, so that he died for the blood of Asahel his brother (2 Samuel 3:27).

Abner was killed by the avenger of blood, at the very gate of the city of refuge! But he was on the wrong side of the gate.

“And the king sang a lament over Abner and said: ‘Should Abner die as a fool dies?’” (2 Samuel 3:33) If you do not come into the city of refuge, Jesus Christ, then when you die, you will die as a fool.

Not one knows for certain that he will see the sunset today. “…Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

Come into the city of refuge by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!

List of Scriptures Referenced in This Article

Joshua 20:1-3,7-8; Proverbs 18:10; Hebrews 12:14; Psalm 46:1; 1 John 1:3; Philippians 2:9-10; 2 Corinthians 6:17; Romans 10:8-9; 2 Samuel 3:27,33; James 4:14

More Bible Verses About the Refuge of Sinners

In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:7-8).
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 6:15-16).
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:11).
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