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Cities of Refuge & Places of Protection


Nowadays there is a lot of talk of law and order, as well as crime and punishment—or perhaps a lack thereof. Back in Old Testament times, the twelve tribes of Israel received apportionments of land for inheritances. God also instructed Moses to designate six “Cities of Refuge,” three on either side of the Jordan River. A person who committed manslaughter (involuntarily) could flee to a city of refuge for temporary protection.


The biblical Cities of Refuge ensured that the accused would live long enough to face a just trial under the law. (They should not be confused with the new “Sanctuary City” concept in which those who break immigration laws can permanently evade justice.) The Bible states:


“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall select for yourselves cities to be your cities of refuge, that the manslayer who has killed any person unintentionally may flee there. The cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the manslayer will not die until he stands before the congregation for trial.” (Numbers 35:9-12)


God’s plan in the Old Testament thus protected against the development of “family feuds” or “blood feuds”. In tribal societies, punishments and retribution were typically meted out on a tribal or family basis.


Muhammad and the Early Muslims Seek Protection

The idea of refuge is also familiar to Muslims. A.D. 619 was an important year in Islamic history. At that time, Muhammad’s uncle Abu Talib died. Abu Talib led the Hashemite clan of the Qurayshi tribe of Mecca. He had asserted protection over Muhammad. Anyone who attacked Muhammad would face the wrath of the Hashemites, thus starting a blood feud.


Abu Talib’s protection helped Muhammad overcome the persecution he faced in Mecca.

When Abu Talib died, another uncle named ‘Abd al-‘Uzza assumed leadership of the Hashemites. However, he withdrew protection from Muhammad. Thus, Muhammad renamed him Abu Lahab, which means “The Father of Flame.” Sura 111:1-3 states, “May the hands of Abu Lahab perish and he himself perish! Neither his wealth nor his worldly gains will benefit him. He will burn in a flaming fire.”


Then, Muhammad and the the young Muslim community fled to Mecca. They eventually made the Hijra (emigration) and relocated north to Medina, then called Yathrib. Muslims also frequently recite the short “seeking refuge” suras, 113 and 114. However, they cannot have a personal relationship with the deity to whom they pray.


The Lord Jesus Christ as the Place of Protection for Believers

In contrast to Muhammad, Jesus did not flee persecution. He “drank the cup” of persecution all the way to Calvary. However, He did not simply face rejection, persecution, and death. The Lord Jesus Christ rose triumphantly over death! In Liberty to the Captives, Mark Durie contrasts how Jesus and Muhammad dealt with persecution. I highly recommend that book!


Where can Christians find protection and refuge? The author of Hebrews describes believers in Christ as “we who have taken refuge” (Heb. 6:18). God’s promise, as ratified by the blood of Jesus, is an “anchor for the soul” (v. 19). Believers also love to read Psalm 91:


He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!” (Ps. 91:1-2)


Many Muslims are now finding spiritual shade under the shadow of His wings. Let us pray for a great harvest of Muslims to the glory of Jesus Christ! The Lord Jesus is the one true place of protection and refuge.


 

NEW BOOK

by Dr. Fred Farrokh



Seventeen times per day, Muslims pray that Allah would keep them from going astray—in the way that Christians have gone astray. But have they?


Rather than portraying Jesus Christ as an imposter who claimed to be divine, Islamic theology presents Jesus as a mortal prophet who served his generation as other prophets did their respective generations. Since Christians believe the biblical narrative that Jesus is Lord, God, and Savior, it is not surprising that the standard Islamic narrative asserts that Christians have gone astray. In fact, if Christians are correct in their beliefs, then the advent of Muhammad, and the religion of Islam itself, are unnecessary to God’s cosmic history. This book probes deeply into the extremely urgent—but often unasked—question facing Muslims regarding when, where, and how the main body of Christians may have gone astray.

 

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