If you have worked through my first devotional in this series, Cities of Refuge: Running Toward Grace, then you are familiar with the Levitical cities designated by Moses as a sanctuary for anyone accused of manslaughter. As we discovered, these six cities were spread throughout the land of ancient Israel as beacons of hope to anyone accused of accidentally taking the life of another person. By law and tradition, the next of kin (or the Blood Avenger) could pursue and slay the killer of their loved one—since the price of a life was always another life—but Yahweh offered a unique mercy in the case of accidental manslaughter (Numbers 35:6-34).
If the accused reached the 2000 cubit boundary line that surrounded the city of refuge, they were protected from the Blood Avenger and then allowed a fair trial. If it was determined that the victim died due to premeditated actions, the accused was then put to death. But if the death was caused by an accident, the manslayer was sentenced to life inside the city of refuge. The manslayer would remain there until their death, or until the death of the High Priest of Israel, at which time anyone who was imprisoned within a city of refuge was allowed to return home and was forever freed from the consequences of their crime.
This is a beautiful Old Testament picture of salvation, isn’t it? We are all guilty of breaking the law (James 2:10) and in desperate need of rescue, but if we flee to Yeshua, our refuge, and plead for mercy then we are promised grace and release from the condemnation of our sins. And our perfect High Priest, Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), already died on the cross to set us free from the wages of sin and death.
So the question remains: because we are redeemed, safely held in the sanctuary of our Savior’s love to await His return, now what? What responsibilities do we have as people saved by grace and how do those responsibilities make us more like Him? I think we can look to the Cities of Refuge again to help answer this question; because not only are we sinners redeemed by the blood of Yeshua, we are also called to be priests like the men to whom the Cities of Refuge were given as an inheritance and a responsibility.
Those in the lineage of Levi, one of the twelves sons of Jacob, were called as priests and given the privilege of interacting in a unique way with God and given access to His holiness by way of the sacrifices they were to take part in. Since they were to be completely set apart, or consecrated, for service to Yahweh, they were not given an inheritance like the rest of the tribes. There was no large portion of land set aside for them to settle in or to raise crops to sustain their families like the rest of their tribal brethren. Instead the Lord assigned them forty-eight cities (including the six cities of refuge) along with surrounding pasturelands (Numbers 35:1-6) and provided them with the tithe to live on so they could devote their lives to Him instead of the never-ending cycle of working the land.
In 1 Peter 2, we are told that although we may be rejected by men, we are chosen, we are precious, and we are part of a priesthood for the purpose of offering spiritual sacrifices to Yahweh. This is no flippant allegory Peter is making, our designation as priests to the Living God is just as weighty as it was to the sons of Levi, and it comes with both rewards and responsibilities. These men were refined, purified, and made into something completely new, a priest devoted to the service of the Almighty.
So if you and I are also called priests of the Living God and are given such abundant rewards for being called by His name, should we not also be just as diligent as the Levites in understanding this role? And as representatives of Yahweh and also the Body of Christ bought by his blood, should we not be even more devoted to our responsibilities?
Tomorrow we will dive a little deeper into what our priestly responsibilities are and how the Cities of Refuge can serve as a reminder of our identity as priests and people who bear the name of our Messiah.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever considered your role as a priest of the Most High God? If so, how does your understanding of this identity fit into your daily life?
When you think of the word “priest,” what comes to mind? Does the word have a positive connotation for you? Or a negative one? What personal experiences might have contributed to your ideas about how a priest should behave?
Spend some time today with the Lord giving him praise for his abundant grace, for the privilege of serving in His priesthood, and for offering His son as an eternal refuge for your burdened heart.