TODAY’S READING: Joshua 19–21
God commanded Moses to establish cities of refuge and Joshua implemented this obedience. Not everything in missions must be novel. While each generation has the responsibility, what each generation doesn’t have is the right to change the chief objective of missions. The goal has always been to see disciples made and churches planted among every unreached people. We stand in a long line of others who played their part, and now in our age we must play ours.
The city of refuge concept had precedent in other cultures and contexts. “A Sumerian incantation hymn dedicates a temple… The temple is described as the ‘house of refuge, wide house of the protective deity.’ As described in the Sumerian hymn, this house of refuge functioned as a ‘far off ship moored in a foreign land’… It was designated for ‘that person who in his own village, any man could cut him down.’” There is uncanny similarity to certain contexts around the world where a profession of faith in Jesus and obedient discipleship to Him makes a person fair game for any who would want to harm or kill him. The haunting beauty of a “far off ship moored in a foreign land” nicely pictures those who have followed Jesus hiding in Him when no place left in their own country is safe for them.
At the end of the day, those from unreached and unprotected peoples do us the great service of exemplifying the truth that our shelter is in a Person, not a place.
The Lord’s our Rock; in Him we hide
A Shelter from the time of storm.
Great evils and great tragedies (like great blessings) are not physically restrained. Harm cannot be avoided through geography or wealth. Cancerous cells or demons are not intimidated by any race or any person. From some things, there is no place to hide. The man or woman being persecuted because he or she is the first believer in Jesus from that people or the only believer in a family realize quickly that there is nowhere to run other than to Jesus.
When we are unsafe in our own land, when the danger is our own family, when there is physically nowhere to go, we run to our “ship moored in a foreign land.” We run to our ark who is a Person not a place. Augustine wrote about the city of God. That city is not political and it is not physical. It is the sanctuary of the people of God living in the presence of God. In missions, the people of God have a responsibility to give shelter to those who have nowhere else to go. This does not mean extraction, for how will the church ever be built if everyone leaves? I believe it means the body of Christ mooring its ships in difficult harbors, taking on risk and suffering along with the persecuted, providing family and care and the presence of Jesus when it can be found nowhere else. We take the cities of refuge to the nations. We anchor our boats in the city ports and inland harbors of Emirati Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Once all the land was allocated (assigned for conquest), Joshua himself was given a portion. The work of making disciples among unreached peoples is for all—leaders included. Let us all take some land. Let our leadership footprint be smaller. Let all travel and let all teaching, leading, and training come from working models. And let the big rock of every missionary be a city of refuge for the unreached. If all of us in missions make it our priority to make disciples, then it will be for us as it was for the conquerors of Canaan (21:43–45): The Lord will give to us all that He swore to give our fathers. Not a man will stand against us. The Lord will deliver all the unreached peoples to us as our inheritance. Not a word of God will fail, nor any good thing which He has promised. All will come to pass.
 The Chronological Study Bible Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 250.
 From the hymn “A Shelter in the Time of Storm” by Vernon J. Charlesworth