When God established His people in the Promised Land, He divided up the territory among the twelve sons of Israel - giving Joseph's sons two shares and the tribe of Levi, no shares. Levi was set apart from the beginning to serve the Lord at the places of worship, acting as a stand-between for the people with the Lord.
But God also created six "cities of refuge" - cities to which the innocent could run and be sheltered from the kind of injustice that vengeance often brings. Once in a city of refuge, as long as the innocent stayed inside the walls, no harm could come to them. No one could come to avenge the death of a loved one that occurred by accident. No one could come to exact a price on someone who was, by the Lord's standards, innocent.
Then, when God started setting apart a few cities throughout the land for the Levites to dwell in, He started by giving the Levites all six of these cities of refuge. Even though they laid in the territory of other tribes of Israel, these cities of refuge belonged to the Levites - the servants of God.
This is important for those of us who are living in a land that isn't ours. We are all but strangers here, given a small space in someone else's territory for the time being.
And...we are all Levites.
We are the servants of God who have been called to tend the places of refuge in this world. We are called to be sacred spaces where the innocent can run and find shelter. We are called to keep the vengeance of the world at bay and to declare, in no uncertain terms, that those within our walls are safe here.
It is much as the prayer that Jesus prayed in the book of John. He prayed for "the ones You have given me." Not for everyone. Not for the whole world. Specifically, Jesus prayed for those God had given Him. Jesus was the living example of this city of refuge principle that goes all the way back to the wilderness.
So, then, should we also be. We should invest our lives in the protection of those God has given us. In their safety. In their protection. In their refuge. In their love. We should invest ourselves in stewarding well these cities God has given us, these sacred places to where the innocent come running. To where the world comes running to find shelter.
It's no minor calling. It's no small thing. Out of the thousands of cities that Israel inherited on the other side of the Exodus, out of their own freedom from slavery, only six of them were cities of refuge. Just six.
But oh, what sacred spaces.
May we offer the same to the world around us.