The last refuge — where to go when life gets messed up

The equivalent of a heart attack. To a nine year old.

Numbers 35

I played way too many video games as a kid. I would like to believe that the majority of the games I played weren’t completely mind-numbing, most of them being role-playing/strategy games which require moderate amounts of actual reasoning. Oh, how I justify it all.

Most of my time was spent playing two game series in particular: Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. Both of them feature similar attributes: turn-based battles, upgrades in levels and magic spells as you gain experience, a relatively linear and well-written story line, and places to rest or heal up when things got dicey.

If you’ve played similar games, you know exactly what I’m talking about–you’re hundreds of steps away from the nearest save point, and one particular battle sequence completely wipes out your whole party, and you spend the next agonizing several minutes staggering to a safe place, a trail of ghosts representing your dead companions behind you, low MP, running from every encounter with monsters, and you’re practically praying to Square that you’ll make it because you realize you completely forgot to save your game before heading out on your dangerous adventure.

The equivalent of a heart attack. To a nine year old.

The equivalent of a heart attack. To a nine year old.

One of these “save points” in Dragon Warrior IV is called “The Last Refuge” — a place you can get all situated just before you enter the lair of the final boss. The term “refuge” was lost on me, until I became a Christian; then I discovered the word is everywhere, painted all over the Psalms and tossed into the majority of worship songs. Chris Tomlin, I’m talking to you. In retrospect, I realized that the locales in my video games mean exactly the same thing: a safe, save point.

Numbers 35 also ascribes to cities that God establishes for the purpose of safety for people accused of manslaughter. If someone accidentally drops a boulder on someone (yes, a boulder), he can take off to one of these cities, and the accuser can’t do a thing. It’s like the magical force field that is every RPG town — even if monsters are following you all the way to the city gates, once you get in, u can’t touch this.

But it only takes one battle before you need a place of safety. Especially as Christians, we’re susceptible targets of punishing blows to our soul because of where we stand, and our hearts and minds need R&R. You could be full of HP, so to speak, and one day it could all get destroyed.

The immediate response should be to head straight to town. David kept using the analogy of God being a place of refuge because he was constantly under fire, both literally and figuratively, and he knew he needed to run to the Lord right away. Too many Christians stagger around hoping their wounds will just vanish, throwing up a quick “Sorry Lord,” and moving on, but they’re only making more of a mess. Humble yourself and get help today.

Anyone can go — it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been walking away from God or where you’ve come from. God is not particular about anyone’s state — He doesn’t play favorites (with one exception). Too many churches today are doing just that, unfortunately, and it’s important that we recognize that, while people’s hearts might be locked up, God’s heart is always wide open.

Once you’ve found a place of safety, stay awhile. Those accused of manslaughter among the Israelites were required to stay until the high priest change and the aggressors name become officially cleared. I think people get too jumpy when they’ve achieved a “victory” in their personal walk — usually mistaking an emotional high — and they put themselves at risk without making calculated, biblical changes to their lifestyle.

And once you do embark again, keep the towns close. If you get in trouble, you should know where to get help. A good accountability network is important to keep yourself safe. God strategically placed towns in each tribe’s territory to give everyone a fair chance to escape their accusers. Are you close to a town at all times, or have you been venturing out too far and too long?

God doesn’t strand us — He’s here to help all the time. Before you run out of MP or HP, take advantage of the cities of refuge. It might save your life.


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