God’s Plan: Immigration & Crime, Part 1


God’s Plan: Immigration & Crime, Part 1
Companion blog to “Refuge

In light of the current conversation going on about children being separated from their parents at the border, our pastor has taken the time to faithfully dig into the word of God and suss out the truth about the “sojourner”, crime and the separation of people involved.  So let’s start here…

The Jews have always had great pride in their cities.  In Joshua 13-19 we see four whole chapters dedicated to the detail of how God wanted the lands to be divided up.  The Tribe of Levi was the only tribe not given individual lands.  They were given forty-eight cities[1] within Canaan and pasture lands for their animals.  Six of those forty-eight cities were to be considered  “cities of refuge (safety)”[2] for those who accidentally killed someone.  These same considerations were also given to the sojourner (stranger) who was in Canaan.

Wrong-Doing, Consequences & Restoration

Moses in the wilderness, making national policy as to how these lands were to be divided up, was living several generations after the murderous actions[3] of Levi that caused him to lose all of his inheritance.  Still, we see God’s grace invade and choose the Tribe of Levi to be His special population of priests.  This is a huge example of where sin abounds, grace abounds that much more.[4]  We see this concept of God cleansing believers from sin[5] and the restoration of loss[6] carried throughout the Bible.

God said that we will be marked by the behaviors of our fathers (ancestors) for generations.[7]  God is not saying that we will be punished for the sins of our fathers.[8]  He is saying that the effect of a disobedient generation can filter down into the next generation’s actions and is very difficult to change without God’s intercession and restoration.

Justice, Mercy & Intent

When we look at the six cities of refuge and God’s purpose for these cities, we see that God didn’t want us to look just at the actions of the man-slayer, He wanted us to focus in on their intent.

  1. The man-slayer, distinct from the murderer, didn’t intend to kill.[9]

When God, through Moses, established this new nation of Israel with its lands and laws, He also set judges over the people who were tasked with doling out justice or satisfaction for laws broken.  These judges also had to look deeper into the facts to ascertain intent when criminal acts were committed.  This is where they then could apply ‘mercy’ to the sentence.  Oftentimes we confuse justice with mercy.

‘Justice’ is a rightly given penalty that members of a particular society are all aware of when an intentional criminal act is committed.  It is something expected and rightly demanded in that society.  It is a dependable constant that helps to subdue the rise of evil and the continuation of lawlessness.  If our child is murdered, then we CAN expect or demand justice to prevail and the known sentence for murder adhered to.

‘Mercy’ is a gift of taking away or altering a known penalty of law by those tasked to dispense it based on a determination of the criminal’s intent.  We don’t expect mercy to be applied to crimes, but it can be asked for in the form of leniency after a verdict is rendered.  It is never a given.  Can you imagine someone who has intentionally broken the law expecting or demanding the gift-of-mercy?  That’s ridiculous!  That would show just how arrogant the criminal’s heart really was towards the people around them and their justly expected need for safety and stability.

Today, it’s not seen as politically correct for any of us, even judges, to stand up and declare ‘intent’, but that is exactly what they are civilly and divinely ordained to do.  God has entrusted these fallible human men and women to exercise judgments over us, including the ability and right to determine intent.[10] The judge is a servant for God that He calls “an avenger” and God tells us “to be afraid” when we defy authorities because the avenger will carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.[11]

God even talks about constraining “the avenger”(judge)[12] by an appointed congregation (jury, appellate courts, etc) when there are more facts, like ‘intent’ to consider.  We see a system of checks and balances.  These Biblical principles are now and always have been God’s plan for us as it regards rightful governmental authorities.

Sometimes wrongful judgments will be executed by rightful authorities but either way, the decision made was still God’s ministry as it regards that matter. God can use whomever He pleases, even evil people, to attain His ends.  Remember how Joseph told his brothers, “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”.[13] We have to remember that what might sometimes be injustice is still God bringing about good for us.[14]

Thankfully, in our country we are allowed by our governmental system to appeal what we feel is a wrongful judgement.  Therefore, not accepting a judge’s decision is not defying authority, it is working with the authorities to dig deeper and try harder to come up with more complete and satisfying answers to problems that are more challenging.

Separation is the price. Restoration is the goal.

In the case of the man-slayer that is mercifully rescued (by God’s orders) from the avenger, he/she was separated from their former life (family) and sequestered in a city of refuge so that they would not be killed.  Death is and always has been the just punishment for killing a human because he/she is made in the image of God.[15]  The man-slayer must remain separated until the appointed time and then be restored to his people.  That was the goal.

Next week we will look more at how the Bible talks about rightful authorities separating the criminal from their families and how that applies to the current conversation of illegal immigrants being separated from their children.

I hope you will subscribe to this blog and keep learning all God has for you through these lessons taught by Pastor Steve Wilson of Grace Community Church.


[1] Numbers 35:1, God told Moses to distribute the lands of Canaan accordingly.

[2] Joshua 20-21

[3] https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/simeon-and-levi-divided/

[4] Romans 5:20,  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/where-sin-increased-grace-overflowed

[5] 1 John 1:8-9

[6] Views From The Pew: Buying Back Lost Opportunities, by Melissa Strautman

[7] Exodus 20

[8] Deuteronomy 24:16, Ezekiel 18:19-21

[9] Joshua 20:3

[10] Romans 13

[11] Romans 13:4 & Numbers 35:19, “the avenger of blood”

[12] Numbers 35:25

[13] Genesis 50:20

[14] Romans 8:28

[15] Genesis 9:5-6