URBAN PLANNING

I lived in Wilsonville Oregon, a unique town recently.  It is a community composed entirely of new buildings, seemingly all laid out in advance by city planners.  It is a suburb of Portland Oregon, and a total change of scenery to me.  It has parks for walking the dog, and state and national parks nearby.  Other suburbs offer more traditional old city centers dating back before the turn of the century.  But this was laid out in advance, according to a plan.  God made such plans for the cities of Israel. 

And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,

Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them.  And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts.  And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about.  And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities.  And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities.  So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs.  And the cities which ye shall give shall be of the possession of the children of Israel: from them that have many ye shall give many; but from them that have few ye shall give few: every one shall give of his cities unto the Levites according to his inheritance which he inheriteth.  Num 35:1-8 (KJV) 

God also made plans for the use of cities in providing for some of the evils of human nature.  There are to be cities for criminals to escape to, a refuge against possible lynch mobs.  These are still a type of prison, as the criminal must not leave that refuge.  We will hear about this law again in coming events in the bible.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan;  Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.  And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.  And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge.  Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.  These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.  And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.  And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.  Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.  The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.  But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die; Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.  But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait, Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm:  Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments:  And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.  But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled; And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood:  Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.  So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.  Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.  Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.  And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.  So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.  Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel.  Num 35:9-34 (KJV) 

While we may consider the Old Testament to be harsh and unforgiving, this gives evidence of a patient and merciful God.  A guilty man having no conscience might be expected to flee from the city of refuge and die in his sin.  But this allows a man to live his life in a nearly normal way instead of trusting a group of peers to pass judgment.  God knew that we are not yet equipped to execute righteous judgment.  Another kind of judgment would be required of the leaders of Israel though.   

And the chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of the sons of Joseph, came near, and spake before Moses, and before the princes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel: And they said, The LORD commanded my lord to give the land for an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel: and my lord was commanded by the LORD to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother unto his daughters.  And if they be married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then shall their inheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and shall be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall it be taken from the lot of our inheritance.  And when the jubile of the children of Israel shall be, then shall their inheritance be put unto the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.  Num 36:1-4 (KJV) 

These families had only daughters to receive their inheritance.  This meant that their husband’s tribes would acquire those lands, causing the girl’s tribes to be reduced in size.  Their leaders are concerned. 

And Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying, The tribe of the sons of Joseph hath said well.  This is the thing which the LORD doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry.  So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.  And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers.  Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe to another tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himself to his own inheritance.  Even as the LORD commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad:  For Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their father’s brothers’ sons:  And they were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father.  These are the commandments and the judgments, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.  Num 36:5-13 (KJV) 

So God required the women to marry only within their own tribes, assuring the inheritance to stay within their own borders.  Israel was to consider marriage only among other Jews, and these women were further limited to their own tribes.  How many homes today might gain harmony if young people considered the heritage of their faith before they married?  How well can an interfaith relationship work if their faiths reject the teaching of the other?  Can we make God’s commandment void by our human love alone?  God speaks to his New Testament Saints today about this as well. 

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,  And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.  2 Cor 6:14-18 (KJV) 

We too have an inheritance to protect, and your church may be trying to protect you from harm by urging your regular attendance in fellowship.  They often have social activities for just such a purpose.  We can remember that Samson surrendered part of his heritage for a Philistine woman and consider our own choices.  We are called to be the New Jerusalem, a city designed by the great planner.  It can be a city of great beauty if built on that timeless plan of Godly wisdom.

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