“Yahweh spoke to Moses on the desert plains of Moab beyond the Jordan across Jericho, saying, ‘Command the children of Israel that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their property cities to live in; and you will give to the Levites pastureland all around the cities’ ” (Numbers 35:1–2).
The idea of giving is ancient. Before God’s people even enter the promised land, they’re commanded to help the Levites—who will be serving them as spiritual leaders—by giving them cities. Now that God has given to the people, He asks that they give back to His work. There is an opportunity for obedience, and this obedience will come with the blessing of continued spiritual guidance from the people to whom they are giving the land. But giving is not the only concept at play here.
Shortly after this, God asks the people to provide refuge cities for murderers (Numbers 35:6–8). He institutes a system of grace—a type of house arrest. The idea that synagogues and churches are places where criminals can find refuge (sanctuary) likely finds its origins in this.
This system of grace also manifests itself in types of hospitality. We see this several times in Paul’s letters. For example, Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians was on the rocks, yet he still requests hospitality for his fellow ministry worker: “But if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to fear, for he is carrying out the Lord’s work, as I also am. Therefore do not let anyone disdain him, but send him on his way in peace in order that he may come to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers” (1 Corinthians 16:10–11).
God is gracious, and He calls us to be the same way—even when we don’t want to, and even when our sense of justice makes being gracious frustrating.
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