If you’ve spent any time watching crime dramas on television, the idea of a “safe house” is familiar. A step even greater than this would be witness protection. These are the images that came to mind for me. However, a city of refuge is quite different. A city of refuge is the designated location intended protect the guilty not the innocent.
The extent of guilt is what comes into question. And this is not the simply the internal emotion of guilt but the “I’m in trouble for doing something wrong” kind of guilt. You might ask, would a court of law find me guilty? There again, the city of refuge is meant to protect the one who killed another “by accident.”
Think of a time when you completed a HUGE task that may have taken you days, months, or even years to accomplish. Got something in mind? Remember the feeling of exhilaration when you had completed something marvelous? Do you think that Joshua was feeling a little bit of this as the distribution of land was now complete?
Perhaps Joshua was wondering, “what’s next for me?” Up to now, he had had a clear purpose. First of all, he was called to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. Then he was to lead the charge in “cleaning house” and eliminating the competition for the land, those who were living there. Next, he was to make sure all the tribes were accounted for and received the land blessed by God’s hand. Now, Joshua’s “next steps” were a bit unclear.
Benjamin was the baby of Jacob’s family and full brother to Joseph. I always remember that those boys were both born of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel. Jacob’s love and devotion to her was always a precious part of that story for me. It was a sad day when Rachel died young, leaving her young sons to be brought up by another.
While Joseph was Jacob’s favorite, it was Benjamin that Joseph thought of when he reunited with his brothers in Egypt all those years later. While Benjamin’s portion is smaller than some of the other brothers, it has Jerusalem which has such a rich history of faith.
What kind of emotions do you think these seven tribes were feeling still being “homeless?” Anxious? Bored? Curious? Impatient? Certainly, life was way different for the Israelites than for us today. We can only apply our own “filters” on their situation. I always like to put myself in the moment the best I can.
I can just imagine the hush, or collective gasp, that occurred over the masses of people at Shiloh when they were told to go pick their land and God would bless it. Joshua seemed a little surprised that he had to bring up the subject of land division as if he was wondering, “what are they waiting for?” Joshua said to them, “Select three men from each tribe, and I will send them out to explore the land and map it out. They will then return to me with a written report of their proposed divisions of their new homeland.”
I got out my pen and paper to try and map out the relations of Joseph mentioned in this reading. I’m afraid that didn’t really help. I even turned to a commentary and decided that rather than get caught up in these details, I would look for the message to me. That’s always a good thing when we read God’s Word. If something doesn’t make sense, and the Spirit isn’t opening up any sort of revelation, pray for the message.
The message I’m taking away today is be twofold. Be careful what you ask God for and be grateful to God for what he gives you. I’m curious what spoke to you today? Let me explain what I am reflecting on today.