Over the last few months we have been covering the Book of Joshua in morning sermons in my congregation. I though that it would be worthwhile sharing the conclusion of the most recent sermon with you. The passage is Joshua 20 – it would help if you were to read it first.
“This passage in Joshua reminds us of the order, and of the righteous nature, of the work and the will of God. It reveals something of God’s character to us – that he is not a God who would permit unjust retribution to take place against a partly-innocent party. That is because he himself would not allow unjust retribution to take place against an innocent party. This makes the death of Christ on the cross, though he was innocent, even more astonishing an act of self-giving on our behalf. He did not deserve death, yet he, God’s Son, offered himself in our place. He took on himself the penalty due to us. And even though God would not have the innocent punished unjustly, he allowed this sacrifice to be made so that the guilty, us, could go free.
In the Old Testament journey of the people of Israel we have already seen the sacrifice of the lambs whose blood paid the price due for sin when the angel of God’s wrath swept over Egypt. We have seen the sacrificial replacement by God for the son of Abraham, which is Isaac, with a ewe. And on the other hand we have seen the righteous judgement worked out upon the ungodly and rebellious peoples who inhabited the land which God had set aside for the chosen people. A judgement we hear of again in the Book of Revelation, when the unrepentant rejecters of Jesus Christ will die eternally so that the eternal place which God has set aside for his chosen people will be kept free from sin.
God’s cities of refuge placed throughout the Promised Land are places of gracious provision, places where life may be preserved, because God’s desire is for justice and for mercy to abound amongst his chosen people.
For our part we have for our gracious provision, Christ Jesus, and though we are not innocent, just as the one guilty of manslaughter is not innocent of the shed blood, Christ is our refuge. We must be thankful that in God’s mercy we have a place of refuge where we can flee. And we must be thankful that despite our manifold and overwhelming sins, intentional and unintentional, the guilt we hold for them will not be counted against us if we repent of them, and if our trust is placed in Jesus Christ alone, and in the sacrifice he offered for us on the cross.
As the funeral service says, we have a sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life for all who trust in Christ, who will change our frail and mortal bodies to be like his glorious resurrection body, according to his mighty power by which he is able to transform all things. What a wonderful and merciful God who provides such an astonishing and certain refuge for his true followers.
“…on that cross, as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid:
Here in the death of Christ I live.”