It’s really quite a story. The way He brings all those people out of Egypt and into the wilderness, providing and teaching and shepherding them. Providing leadership and community and even food from heaven. And they cross again, another river to another place, and it is chapter after chapter describing it’s taking. Battle and blood and bounty, till the land is bare and waiting.
Ready for the division, word after weary word, the assigning of property. You get this and you get that and here, I’ll take a little from what I gave you and give it to them, until it’s right. Like my children trying to share a treat evenly among themselves.
I skim though it, all those chapters in Joshua, stopping every now and then to wonder at a sentence or two. The daughters who were also given land, the Levites and how did they feel anyway about not having any land of their own, and Joshua set apart with a city just for him. Till it’s done. The land is divided. The mission has been accomplished. The journey is over.
I keep reading, and I’m shocked by what God does next.
After all this time travelling and all these promises of a homeland and a place to belong and be a community of people, chosen and loved… after making sure the land is free of enemies and then settling everyone into their own spaces… just when you think it’s all perfect…
He sets up places of refuge.
Places of refuge.
Because He knows. He knows that communities, no matter how well-designed, no matter how longed-for, no matter how sanctified, are not always safe. And knowing all that, He planned ahead. He established safe havens. Sanctuaries.
Today we have community like crazy. We have churches and tribes and support groups and online forums.
There is no end to community, easily join-able and un-joinable. Click this and you’re in, click again and, boom, you’re out. Come and go, participate or don’t, friend or unfriend on a whim.
There’s all this community, but where are the places of refuge?
Yes there is Jesus and prayer and Sunday mornings and lots of church-type stuff to turn to. But sometimes, (can I just say this?), I need some Jesus skin I need a face-to-face. I need a hand holding mine.
Maybe you need that, too.
Today, maybe, we will be for each other a place of refuge. Because sometimes community is a big and crazy place, and people can get hurt there.