Refuge for the Sinner Unawares

By John Thiel

What is the difference between unwitting or deliberate sinfulness relative to our salvation? We are focusing on an element of the city of refuge. The church is the city of refuge for God’s people and we as members in the church are to understand that souls that come into the church find a refuge there indeed, a refuge from condemnation.

Numbers 35:15 These six cities shall be a refuge, [both] for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.

A murderer who has done something unwittingly it says in the margin. The avenger of blood had the right to kill that person, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. This was a type of Jesus being the city of refuge.

The cities of refuge appointed for God’s ancient people were a symbol of the refuge provided in Christ. The same merciful Saviour who appointed those temporal cities of refuge has by the shedding of His own blood provided for the transgressors of God’s law a sure retreat, into which they may flee for safety from the second death. No power can take out of His hands the souls that go to Him for pardon. ” {PP 516.3}

There is no condemnation for those who go to him into the city of refuge but there is something in this scripture that qualifies what will provide a refuge in Christ. It is the sin that is done unwittingly. Is there a difference between a sin done unwittingly and a sin done deliberately? In the judgement that was applied in the city of refuge over the person that came there, there was a court session and the person was examined.

Numbers 35:20 But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die; 21 Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote [him] shall surely be put to death; [for] he [is] a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him. 22 But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait, 23 Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing [him] not, and cast [it] upon him, that he die, and [was] not his enemy, neither sought his harm: 24 Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments: 25 And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil. 26 But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled;

The congregation was to judge if the murder was done in revenge or not.

Any person–Hebrew, stranger, or sojourner–might avail himself of this provision. But while the guiltless were not to be rashly slain, neither were the guilty to escape punishment. The case of the fugitive was to be fairly tried by the proper authorities, and only when found innocent of intentional murder was he to be protected in the city of refuge. The guilty were given up to the avenger. {PP 515.3}

Jesus is the city of refuge and Satan is the avenger of blood. When a person was guilty of deliberate sin and antagonism against God deliberately, Satan was then the avenger of blood for that person. The person who had not sinned deliberately with hatred and revenge and antagonism deliberately had mercy. Observe God’s character and the difference made between a sinner and a sinner.

Exodus 34:5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear [the guilty]; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth [generation].

Forgiving any kind of sin. Iniquity which is lawlessness, transgression which is breaking the Ten Commandments and sin of any kind he will forgive.

It is true that God “will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7), but He would take away the guilt. {MB 22.1}

There is a guilt that he won’t take away and that is where a person deliberately refuses the counsel of God in their life. They are the deliberate sinner, not the unwitting sinner. How does this relate to us in the church? It is distinguishable. Who are the sinners in Christ, who are freed from the avenger when they are judged? The avenger of blood didn’t want to let Moses go. The avenger of blood was fighting with Jesus.

Jude 1:9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.

Here you have a case of Lucifer, Satan, the avenger of blood holding onto Moses because he had sinned.

But it was not long before Christ came to raise Moses to life. As He stood by the grave and bade him come forth, Satan stood by His side, saying, “I have control over him. I tempted him and he yielded. Even Moses was not able to keep God’s law. He has transgressed and has placed himself on my side of the controversy. He appropriated to himself the glory which belonged to God. He is my property, for by his sin he has placed himself in my dominion and in my power.” {10MR 159.4}

Satan contended earnestly for the body of Moses. Again he sought to enter into controversy with Christ in regard to the injustice of God’s law, and with deceiving power reiterated his false statements about not being fairly treated. His accusations were such that Christ did not bring against him the record of the cruel work he had done in heaven by deceptive misrepresentation, the falsehoods he had told in Eden that led to Adam’s transgression, and the stirring up of the worst passions of the hosts of Israel to incite them to murmur and rebel until Moses lost command of himself. {10MR 159.5}

The sin of Moses was not premeditated. He was surprised into it. He took to himself the murmuring of the people when they were really murmuring against God. 160 {10MR 159.6}

There is reasoning here that the accuser of the brethren, the avenger of blood will use to legalistically to crush any hope in any sinner and he is so right. But there is a reasoning that comes from Jesus which qualifies the deliberate sin verses the sin done unwittingly that was a good illustration. Did you notice Moses was surprised into sin? He wasn’t laying wait ready to pounce on the Israelites, they got to him.

How careful is the Lord Jesus to give no occasion for a soul to despair. How He fences about the soul from Satan’s fierce attacks. If through manifold temptations we are surprised or deceived into sin, He does not turn from us and leave us to perish. No, no, that is not our Saviour…. He was tempted in all points like as we are; and having been tempted, He knows how to succour those who are tempted. Our crucified Lord is pleading for us in the presence of the Father at the throne of grace. His atoning sacrifice we may plead for our pardon, our justification, and our sanctification. The Lamb slain is our only hope. Our faith looks up to Him, grasps Him as the One who can save to the uttermost, and the fragrance of the all-sufficient offering is accepted of the Father. {OHC 49.2}

If you make failures and are betrayed into sin, do not feel then you cannot pray … but seek the Lord more earnestly. {OHC 49.3}

Satan keeps on coming to us to make us doubt that we are really sinners who have no hope or even sinners who have hope, he makes us doubt we are sinners with hope. When we look at our sins of the past, he points at them like he pointed at Moses’s to Jesus, and says look, he yielded. There was another person who sinned grievously and there again, Satan points and people judge that the sin he did was willingly and deliberately. He had been betrayed into thinking that as a king he had a right over his subjects and when he took Bathsheba he thought he was right to think that way but when she fell pregnant, he thought he would be betrayed. He didn’t lay in wait as such, I’m going to violate God’s law I don’t care. This is the reasoning of heaven so that the difference between king David and king Saul who deliberately withstood what God told him to do until he did it so much, that there was no hope.


There was another man Judas who did it in the church and resisted Christ. We can see the difference. They are surprised or deceived into sin. As we go through our trials and perplexities of sense of looking back at our sins and making us feel depressed about our past, we are in the city of refuge and we are to be comforted in the appreciation that heaven doesn’t read our sins in that way unless we deliberately resist heavens overtures. Mary was caught in adultery. Jesus knew about Mary and as a result she was not in that hopeless state. She was judged as worthy of salvation.

Mary had been looked upon as a great sinner, but Christ knew the circumstances that had shaped her life. {DA 568.1}

Think about that, she had sinned but Christ knew the circumstances that had shaped her life and the background he takes into consideration. When people are sinners, he does not regard them as deliberate sinners when they are betrayed by their background.

He might have extinguished every spark of hope in her soul, but He did not. It was He who had lifted her from despair and ruin. Seven times she had heard His rebuke of the demons that controlled her heart and mind. She had heard His strong cries to the Father in her behalf. She knew how offensive is sin to His unsullied purity, and in His strength she had overcome. {DA 568.1}

Notice how God judges and in the judgement in the heavenly sanctuary in which we are right now being judged, we can take such comfort that he judges things according to what he knows that has been the background of our falls. We have a city of refuge where we will be safely guarded in the judgement as he judges like that. The thief on the cross is another example. He was thief and he was hanging on the cross in punishment for his sin but again by his background he had been surprised betrayed and deceived in to sin. How is it with you and me as we travel along in our path and discover more of our sinful self? The Lord in the judgement has a record of our sins that would have been committed had we had opportunity. He shows us the things that mar our life. When he shows you to yourself through orchestration of events in the church and as he shows you, you say, yuck, I can’t even feel good about myself. As he shows to you these ugly things, how do you feel? Do you feel you have any hope? How many times this has been expressed how hopeless we feel?

Jesus knows the circumstances of every soul. You may say, I am sinful, very sinful. You may be; but the worse you are, the more you need Jesus. He turns no weeping, contrite one away. He does not tell to any all that He might reveal, but He bids every trembling soul take courage. Freely will He pardon all who come to Him for forgiveness and restoration. {DA 568.3}

The souls that turn to Him for refuge, Jesus lifts above the accusing and the strife of tongues. No man or evil angel can impeach these souls. Christ unites them to His own divine-human nature. They stand beside the great Sin Bearer, in the light proceeding from the throne of God. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Romans 8:33, 34. {DA 568.5}

Should Christians Defend Themselves?

Not even Jesus argued with the devil. If you and are accused of something, our character likes to say I’m alright, I’m hiding in Jesus and I can even use this as an argument to people. Don’t’ do it. Not even Jesus argued with the accuser. Don’t try to bolster your acceptance with the person who accuses you. Just hide in Christ. If you do that to the accuser, he will keep grinding you in the dirt. The strife of tongues will keep on going. The Lord wants to quash the strife of tongues. When people accuse you, run to Christ and stay in the city of refuge, that’s all. This will take away all the tit for tat activities that happen between people. Hide in Christ and let him do this work with us, as he does this work in the city of refuge, all we do is keep on calling upon Jesus Christ for my acceptance and hide in him.

Hiding in Christ

I love the song ‘Hiding In Thee’. This is the internal comfort that we take but we don’t have to comfort ourselves in the eyes of the people. When the accuser of brethren comes say, Yes I’m a sinner, please forgive me among human beings. There is a beautiful comfort that I wanted to put into focus again so we have reason to praise the Lord for His wonderful work. So we can say praise the Lord for His loving kindness to us. May we keep focused on this reality. Stay in that city of refuge and let Him recover you.

About The Typist

Sabbath Sermons is a small resource information ministry in Australia standing upon the original platform of the Adventist truth. We are dedicated to spreading the special 'testing truths' for our time and are not affiliated with the various denominations. This website is administered by lay members only

Posted on 18/08/2010, in Prayer Meeting Sermonettes. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thank you.

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