AN AMAZING FACT: On the Big Island of Hawaii there are ancient ruins of a village with a large oblong temple enclosure inside a huge L-shaped wall. The wall was constructed from thousands of lava rocks around 1550. It measures roughly 1,000 feet long by 700 feet wide. It is about 20 feet thick at the base and up to 20 feet high. This temple village was called Pu’uhonua, or the place of refuge. The massive wall separated the Pu’uhonua from the home of the chief.
In centuries past, even until the early 19th century, Hawaiians were forced to keep strict laws or pay a terrible penalty. They could not walk in the footsteps of a chief, touch any of his belongings, or get too close to him. There was even a law forbidding their shadows from touching the royal grounds. When a native Hawaiian committed kapu and broke one of the sacred laws, he was sentenced to death unless he fled to the place of refuge where the kahuna pule or “big priest” lived. Once inside the walls, he or she was safe and protected from judgment. No one was allowed to harm the person who sought refuge there. Later, the “big priest” would perform a rite of purification for the guilty party. They could then be declared forgiven; they were once again innocent and were free to begin a new life.
Cities of refuge are mentioned in the Bible as well. God told Moses to “appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally may flee there. They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger” (Numbers 35:11, 12). People who had caused someone else’s death by accident could run to a city of refuge and be protected while they awaited trial. No one was allowed to harm them as long as they stayed within the boundaries of the city of refuge.
Since we all incur guilt in our lives, we all need a place of refuge. That place is in the arms of Jesus. He says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). In Christ we receive refuge, forgiveness, and unending love.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25