We’re nearing the end of this book of Joshua and these two chapters we read tonight are more allotments, but tonight they are for different reasons than the allotments we read about yesterday. First is the designation of cities of refuge. These were laid out in the laws given in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and now that they’ve taken the land it’s being put into effect by designating these cities mentioned as places where someone can flee an avenging family member until their case can be heard in court. Fleeing to a city of refuge doesn’t guarantee safety, it just prevents vigilante justice from being carried out.
Then there are the designated cities of the Levites. They did not receive an allotment of land because they’ve been set aside in service to God, and so are given cities to live in around the country with each tribe giving them a certain amount of cities and towns based on their population and land size.
Jesus tells them the parable of the wicked steward, and his shrewdness in acting before he lost his post. He brings in the debtors to his master and cuts their debts by half in one case, and by 20% in the other. The master commends him for being so concerned for his future that he’d take such drastic and dishonest actions before he was removed from office. He wasn’t commended for the actions themselves, they were downright immoral, but for doing what he had to do to secure his future.
Jesus points to this as a twofold parable against the Pharisees because they’ve been wicked stewards of the old covenant in these recent years and have heard all that Jesus has said, but instead of doing the right thing they’ve been trying to catch him in traps to have him killed. This would secure their future just like the steward’s.
Jesus also tells us that we should be as concerned with our eternal salvation as he was with his temporal existence. He took what time he had to settle accounts and win favors, are we taking the time we have to listen to Jesus and do his will? We don’t even have to work at it like the steward did, we just have to obey God and remain in his grace.
Jesus goes into another story, that may or may not be a parable. It opens with the typical beginning of a parable ‘there was a man…’ but the poor man mentioned is done so by name. This is not typical of the parables of Jesus and some say it indicates that he is telling a story of an actual person, and not just a tale to make a point.
When the two men die they both go to Sheol, or the land of the dead, because heaven is not opened until Easter Sunday and the hell of the damned is not filled until the final judgment. So while Lazarus is being comforted by Abraham, the rich man is languishing on pain and he requests that Lazarus be sent back to warn his brothers, a slight glimmer of charity in his soul. But Abraham counters that they have Moses and the prophets, or the whole of scripture to warn them about the destiny of the wicked, and if they will not hear them then even a man coming back from the dead won’t convince them.
What I believe he is saying is that those who are completely deaf to the warnings of scripture won’t take seriously a miracle right before their eyes. How many times have we seen a person run around in circles to deny evidence for God that is right in front of them. They have to open their hearts to that faint knocking they hear from the Holy Spirit, because a man has risen from the dead and they’ll never listen to him until they are open to the initial graces given.