One of the great comforts in the Scriptures is the way the term “refuge” is applied to God. David cries out to God in seek of a place of safety and salvation.
O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me…Psalm 7:1
David compares his foes to lions seeking to tear him apart. But he turns to God, seeing YHWH as a shield to save the upright in heart (v10). David is supremely confident not only in God’s ability to save, but moreover, in His willingness to deliver His people. Thus, in a moment of adversity, David pleas to God for refuge.
In The Bible for Everyone, Goldingay translates the word as “shelter.” To use another metaphor, David finds himself in a raging tempest, battered by the wind and the rain. But the Lord is safe harbor, shelter from the storm. David’s confidence in God is grounded in his awareness of God’s righteousness (a word that occurs throughout the Psalm). With the righteous God on his side, David can close with this word of praise:
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.Psalm 7:17
The Promised Land was to be divided into territories for each of the twelve tribes — with the exception of the Levites. The Levites were given a special task as priests: to tend to the things of God. Since they had no territory of their own, 48 cities were designated throughout the land of Israel for the Levites to inhabit. Of these 48 cities, six were designated as “cities of refuge” (Numbers 35). The cities of refuge were a provision for those in Israel to seek asylum. Per the law of Moses, murder was punishable by death; however, in the case of unintentional death, one could retreat to a city of refuge to find safety.
What a picture! A city of priests; a city of refugees. A city where those who tend to the things of God are neighbors with those in need of grace. The cities of refuge were for the accused and the homeless alike. Can you imagine the conversations that must have taken place in this city — how the people would speak of the grace of God in these cities of refuge? Can you imagine the hospitality of these residents — knowing as they did that this very city was an expression of the mercy of God? And can you imagine their degree of joy in knowing that everything they experienced was pure grace?
Such is the case for those who find refuge in the Lord.