What does it say?
The land distribution flows northward as the remaining tribes receive their portions (Jos 19). Just as Caleb received a special inheritance earlier, the other faithful spy, Joshua, also receives his own land within the portion given to Ephraim.
In Numbers 35 Moses had instructed the designation of six cities of refuge where one accused of manslaughter could flee until full investigation could be made of the matter. The innocent are protected from false accusation and retaliation and even the guilty find refuge from excessive penalty. Here (Jos 20), the people obey by designating six cities of refuge, three on either side of the Jordan.
Next (Jos 21), the Levitical cities are appointed. The tribe of Levi receives no land grant because they are the tribe set apart for special service to the Lord.
What does it mean?
The tribe of Dan complains that their portion is too small. Not only that, they aggressively set out to take more territory. They forget that though the land was divided by lot, it is really God in control, giving them what they need (Pro 16:33). Complainers are really mad at God and then mistakenly take matters into their own hands.
The cities of refuge, in symbol, point to our refuge in Christ. There we find freedom from the penalty of sin. God counts our sin as ignorance, just as manslaughter is taking life unwittingly (in ignorance) and without motive (Luk 23:34).
As this is a missiological Bible reading as well as chronological, we cannot fail to notice that the Levites, those called to serve, are assigned to cities scattered among the tribes. Possessing the land at last represents finding our position of resting in God’s grace (Heb 3-4). But the Levites find their “peace” as they are scattered among the people ministering. This is our position of peace!
How will I respond?
Am I a complainer? Honestly? If so, what is it about which I am mad at God?
My peace is found by being in my place, on mission and in the middle of the people. I find myself feeling frustrated, depressed or even angry when I am not in my place or fail to recognize that it is God who assigns me my lot in life. What should I do today to rejoice in where God has put me rather than complain?