When I read in the morning I’m on the lookout for a number of themes, each associated with a specific way I’ll mark my Bible. This morning it’s something I shaded in red that has me thinking–the color I use for observations about “the church” or, more generally, “the people of God.” Sometimes I’ll observe an attribute of the church or an affection of God towards His people. Sometimes it’s a “one another” command, other times it’s just a dynamic that seems to have marked family life. And, quite often, I’ll take note of how the people of God are referred to. The names or analogies used to describe God’s chosen inheritance revealing something of how God sees His children and how we should see ourselves.
Whether individuals are referred to as “brother”, “sister”, or “beloved” . . . or the whole is called ” the saints”, “the body of Christ”, or “the household of faith”, if every word I’m reading is God-breathed then every descriptor is carefully chosen and thus is there for my instruction . . . and for my meditation.
This morning it was such a reference that was shaded in red. A way of referring to believers that’s got me noodling. We are a people of refuge.
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, 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.
(Hebrews 6:17-18 ESV)
Context? The writer is addressing believers, particularly Jewish believers, who are having second thoughts about following Christ. It’s been hard, really hard. And there’s something tempting about going back to the more familiar ways, to the more culturally acceptable ways. But the writer to the Hebrews contends for their faith with one grand theme, “Jesus is better!” Not only is He better, He is the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel. He is the deliver superior to Moses. He is the Sabbath rest foreshadowed since creation. And He is the “Yes” and “Amen” of the promises made to Abraham.
And God’s promises and purposes, like God Himself, are unchangeable. Thus, they are a “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” And those who hold fast to such hope are those “who have fled for refuge.”
No doubt there is a allusion here to the cities of refuge (Numbers 35) established when God’s ancient people moved into the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–places where those who took another life accidentally could flee to avoid the “avenger of blood.” Jesus being the greater city of refuge.
Of those ancient cities their were six to increase the chances that someone could make it to safety before the avenger overtook them. Of the Christ there is but one, accessible by all, all the time, who call on His name. Only those who had committed manslaughter could avail themselves of the city, but Christ our refuge is available to all sorts of sinners, His shed blood sufficient to atone for all manner of transgression. For those who fled to a city of refuge, they were to remain in a manner of exile within the walls of the city. For us who have fled to Christ, we remain in Him only to find great freedom and liberty. Having fled to Him for refuge we have been released from the condemnation of sin and reborn to know true life, . . . abundant life, . . . eternal life.
But beyond the picture of the city of refuge, there is a sense in this banner for God’s people of a ship that has sailed for safe harbor to escape tempestuous seas. Of those who have sought a haven of rest from the storms of life. And whereas the refuge of the city is a once for all fleeing to escape the debt of sin, the refuge of the port is available continually, as God’s people are beckoned to continually enter “into the inner place behind the curtain” (6:19b).
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:16 ESV)
We who have fled for refuge are a people of refuge. Those who have found safety in the shadow of the cross. Those who have found sustaining grace in the arms of God. Those who have found sufficient strength for the day as we abide in Christ. Those who walk with abiding assurance through the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit.
A people of refuge . . . worth noodling on.
Because of grace. For His glory.