As if Israel had not been required to give enough with all the tabernacle making and sacrifices, God specified that forty-eight towns in the land of Canaan were to be given to the Levites, caretakers of the Israelite religion. The towns, and the land extending over half a mile around the towns, belonged to the Levites for the on-going support of the tribe. The Levites were not only caretakers; they were also charged with teaching God’s law, enforcing it, and modeling it. The special provision God made for the Levites is sure indication of how important they and their work were to God – and the same importance is attached today to those who gives themselves in that same service.
God’s people lived in the land, and God lived among His people. Their behavior could bring shame on the land, and as a result, bring shame on God’s dwelling. Such would not be tolerated by the Lord. That’s why some sins required capital punishment. The only way to make things right was to get rid of the offender – and that meant death. All too often today the discussion of capital punishment focuses on deterrence of crime. The matter doesn’t seem to come up in scripture. Some sins are too heinous to be treated any other way than with extreme measures.
Which brings me to one final point: all sins are not the same. All sin may be bad, but some sins are worse than others, which can be clearly seen by the degree of punishment God required.