2 Sam 3:20-27 “So Abner came to David to Hebron, and twenty men with him. And David made Abner and the men that were with him a feast. And Abner said unto David, I will arise and go, and will gather all Israel unto my lord the king, that they may make a league with thee, and that thou mayest reign over all that thine heart desireth. And David sent Abner away; and he went in peace. And, behold, the servants of David and Joab came from pursuing a troop, and brought in a great spoil with them:but Abner was not with David in Hebron; for he had sent him away, and he was gone in peace. When Joab and all the host that was with him were come, they told Joab, saying, Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he hath sent him away, and he is gone in peace. Then Joab came to the king, and said, What hast thou done? behold, Abner came unto thee; why is it that thou hast sent him away, and he is quite gone? Thou knowest Abner the son of Ner, that he came to deceive thee, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to know all that thou doest. And when Joab was come out from David, he sent messengers after Abner, which brought him again from the well of Sirah: but David knew it not. And when Abner was returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him quietly, and smote him there under the fifth rib, that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother.”
Abner died a fool’s death. After the death of King Saul, Abner made Ishbosheth king over a portion of Israel. He served only 2 years. David’s men fought Ishbosheth’s men. Abner switched sides when his king accused him of adultery.
Joab went to a city to find Abner to kill him. Knowing the laws of Jewish customs, David sent him to a city of refuge. If he’d stayed in the city, he wouldn’t have died.
Psalm 46:1-11 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.”
The cities of refuge came from each tribe giving a portion (6 cities) to the Levites to be a place of safety for the guilty. There is no place like it on earth. The guilt and the punishment could have been on him, but he had a place to escape to.
Joshua 20:2-4 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses: That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither:and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood. And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.”
David escorted Abner to Hebron, the city of refuge. Trust, safety, healing, comfort were part of the city of refuge. Washing Irving wrote, “A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”
We need a city of refuge from the world. There are all kinds of chaos and death. People don’t have to live this way. We have a refuge in the church. Racism and hatred dissipate in the body of Christ. We all have value in the city of refuge. Even the unlovable can find love in the House of God.
The church is more than a social gathering. Just as a mother is more than a contributor of DNA, safety, love, and refuge are in her arms. The church is a place of security and freedom. The church is like a mother that will keep you, protect you, and love you. This is a place where you can grow and mature and have another chance. Here you will be valued and have innocence again.
Deut 33:27 “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.”
A fireman came to a barn that had burned to the ground. The animals were killed, but when he came to a hen, burned to death, underneath her, he found three live chicks! Just like a mother to protect her young.
The original meaning of the word refuge is ‘a place to fill void,’ ‘maim or lacking parts can fill what’s missing’. A void you have socially can be filled in the church. A spiritual void can be filled in the church. A family void can be filled in the church. ‘Shelter or place of safety, protection from another country’ are also synonyms to ‘refuge’.
How many times have you fallen and mom came running? It’s the same in the church. Hagar, Ishmael’s mom didn’t want to see her son’s die. Moses’ mother didn’t want her baby to die. Samuel’s momma made a coat for her boy. Solomon, when he was faced with the decision of who the real mother was, knew because a real mother wouldn’t let her baby die. There is no sickness on a child that a momma won’t pray for. The church ought to be a mother’s love for a sinner.
Isaiah 4:6 “And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.”
Isaiah 25:4 “For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.”
Psalm 27:1-5 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.”
Why did Abner meet Joab outside the gate? Joab wanted to kill him! He left protection. He was a fool!
Why do we walk out from the protection of the church? There is a place of safety, but Abner was a fool! Satan wants to pull you out from the city of refuge in order to destroy you!
We can all learn from Abner.
2 Sam tells the story when Joab had gone from David’s presence. Joab took Abner aside privately, in the gate, outside the gate of Hebron, outside the place of safety, and stabbed him in the side. Joab didn’t kill Abner inside the city.
Jesus died on the cross and shed his blood because we are all guilty. Where can we find safety? Only in the city of refuge. God won’t ‘get you’. Joab will. Satan will go after you. You must stay and live and build your house in the city of refuge. That’s the only place where you will be safe. It’s like Momma’s arms. I’m comforted in Momma’s arms.
The comfort is not the same as what’s in the world. It’s safe only in Jesus’ arms.
Excerpted from a sermon preached by Pastor Anthony LoCascio.
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If you are in the Chicagoland area, come to The Life Church located at 3030 Central Road in Glenview, IL. Services are Sundays at 1pm and Wednesdays at 7pm. We would love to see you there!