Joshua 21:13-22 (NIV) 13 So to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron (a city of refuge for one accused of murder), Libnah, 14 Jattir, Eshtemoa, 15 Holon, Debir, 16 Ain, Juttah and Beth Shemesh, together with their pasturelands–nine towns from these two tribes. 17 And from the tribe of Benjamin they gave them Gibeon, Geba, 18 Anathoth and Almon, together with their pasturelands–four towns. 19 All the towns for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, were thirteen, together with their pasturelands. 20 The rest of the Kohathite clans of the Levites were allotted towns from the tribe of Ephraim: 21 In the hill country of Ephraim they were given Shechem (a city of refuge for one accused of murder) and Gezer, 22 Kibzaim and Beth Horon, together with their pasturelands–four towns.
On verses 13-22: These verses continue to describe the towns given to the Kohathite division of the Levites, starting with the descendants of Aaron (v13-19) and then moving onto to the rest of the Kohathites (v20-22). Notice that these Levites are given two cities of refuge, Hebron (v13) and Shechem (v21). As discussed in Joshua 20, cities of refuge were towns where a person accused of murder could flee to for safety until he received a fair trial.
What can we learn from this? I’m trying to imagine what these cities of refuge would look like. Imagine this. In the city of refuge, you will find living there two seemingly opposite groups of people: priests and accused killers. As strange as that might seem, this is also a picture of the church. For in the church, you have people who are called to be priests who serve God, and you have people who are in great need of mercy. Very often, those who are called to serve God as priests and those who are in need of God’s great mercy as sinners are one and the same. You and I are, at the same time, sinners in need of God’s mercy and priests call to serve God’s ministry. Praise God! The church is where we find mercy for our greatest mistakes, and it’s also where we find our greatest purpose for living. Like a city of refuge, the church is where saint and sinner meet.
Lord Jesus, thank You that Your church is the greatest city of refuge, where we find our calling as priests and where we find mercy for our sins. Thank You that in Your church there is enough room for both sinner and saint. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!