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Cities of Refuge
Dr. Tony Chute, Lead Pastor
Overview: Moses provides a joyful yet realistic portrayal of life in the Promised Land by proscribing three annual festivals while establishing three cities of refuge, all under the direction of three specific offices. The three festivals recall God’s goodness towards Israel in delivering them from slavery, providing for them in the wilderness, and blessing them year after year in the land. The three cities of refuge offer God’s protection for people living in a fallen world where accidents happen, and justice is demanded. The three offices include judges, priests, and kings, all of whom are called to be godly in their character, impartial in their assessment, and unwavering in their commitment to the Lord. The prospect of enjoying God’s gift of life together while recognizing the precarious nature of life itself points us to the role of the church today as a “city of refuge” in a fallen world.
01. The church functions as a city of refuge in a fallen world when visitors are welcome to come and find relief from their burdens in light of what the Lord has done.
02. The church functions as a city of refuge in a fallen world when its members are purposeful in being distinct from the world while remaining mindful of their need for forgiveness and grace.
03. The church functions as a city of refuge in a fallen world when its leaders are followed as they follow the Lord, and they themselves are eager to point others to the Lord.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION & DISCOVERY
1. What is the purpose of each of the three festivals listed in Deuteronomy 16:1-17? What significance does the Bible place on the act of remembering what the Lord has done? What observance has the Lord given us to remember His great work of salvation? See Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24 for further insight.
2. What examples of injustice are assumed in Deuteronomy 16:18-20? How do judges, priests, and kings promote justice in the land, according to Deuteronomy 17? How might the instructions from these passages apply to leadership in the church today?
3. Note how the language of Deuteronomy 17:7, 12 is used in 1 Corinthians 5:13 in the context of church discipline. What purposes does church discipline serve according to 1 Corinthian 5:3-8? How would you respond to someone who believes that church members have no business confronting others with their sins? How should our mindfulness of our own need for grace temper our judgment of others?
4. What did Moses tell Israel to look for in the prophet that would succeed him, according to Deuteronomy 18:15-22? How does this passage place all future prophets on notice with regard to their predictions? How does this passage point directly to the ministry of Jesus?
5. Why were cities of refuge implemented in the Promised Land? What does their presence suggest about the need to consider all facts and circumstances in the pursuit of justice? What is the purpose of requiring “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot?” Is it for revenge? Or might there be other reasons involved?
For Further Reading: Megan Hill, A Place to Belong: Learning to Love the Local Church (Crossway, 2020)