“So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah… These were the cities [of refuge] designated for all the people of Israel and for the stranger sojourning among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there, so that he might not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, till he stood before the congregation.” “So by command of the Lord the people of Israel gave to the Levites… cities and pasturelands out of their inheritance… The cities of the Levites in the midst of the possession of the people of Israel were in all forty-eight cities with their pasturelands. These cities each had its pasturelands around it… Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” Joshua 20:7,9; 21:3,41-45
What a beautiful ribbon around all the warfare, conquering, and possessing by the Israelite tribes in Canaan is the establishing of cities of refuge and allotments to the priests! Everywhere and always, no matter our place, is the mercy of God and His abiding presence.
The Lord went before these warriors to give them the land, hill and vale, rock and pasture, interior and coast, but He didn’t then just withdraw His hand and say, ‘Get on with life, go at it alone from now on.’ He determined cities where unintentional killers could find reprieve, be heard, and eventually win their freedom, and He sprinkled throughout the nation His anointed priests to permeate their homes with His presence, to serve His people and lead them in the word and worship. He was to remain enmeshed in their lives, and they in His.
Sometimes we ask for guidance, seek the Lord for direction in job, work, ministry, then after acting on His help we settle in and forget Him. We make our move, plant our fields, decorate our spaces, embark on our plans, and neglect the deeper opportunities of spiritual growth, increased knowledge of the divine, richer worship, compassionate service to others. The Lord intends that everywhere we settle, both physically and spiritually, His presence abide as our light and impetus for decisions, and treating others with mercy and grace. We must not forsake His ways when given the freedom to establish our own.
Would I to be settled with peace of mind, to have true rest on every side of my heart, I must trust my Savior’s word to me, hold fast to His good and sure promises, and acknowledge His ever-present power and grace.
Lord on high, thank You for promising to be with me always, to the end of the age. May my life be marked by, and with, Your merciful and glorious presence. (Matthew 28:20)