I’ve been reading through Deuteronomy lately, and this passage stuck out at me. Moses is at the end of his life: after forty years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites are about to take possession of the land that God has promised to them. Moses knows he will not be going with them, but the book of Deuteronomy records some of his final instructions. I imagine it as something of a commencement ceremony: the final charge before finishing a long and arduous phase and moving into another. Here’s part of that charge:
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all His ways, to love Him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul? Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good. The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong to the LORD your God, as does the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD was devoted to your fathers and loved them. He chose their descendants after them—He chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Therefore, circumcise your hearts and don’t be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is the God of gods and LORD of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing. You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. You are to fear Yahweh your God and worship Him. Remain faithful to Him and take oaths in His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome works your eyes have seen.
(Deuteronomy 10:12-21, Holman Christian Standard Bible, italics mine)
For Moses, how God’s people treated the immigrants who came into this new land they were about to receive was of utmost importance. They were to love the immigrant—along with the fatherless and the widow—because God loves them. God’s love for the vulnerable is a central descriptor of his character, along with his might and his impartiality.
The Israelites were also told to love foreigners because of their own experience as foreigners in Egypt. They knew precisely how it felt to be mistreated because of their non-citizen status: they had been oppressed and enslaved under Pharaoh. Their children had been mercilessly killed. God’s command—through Moses—as they enter into the Promised Land is: don’t be like Pharaoh, instead, be like Me.
I think that a lot of evangelicals are unsure of what to do with the Old Testament, particularly the books of the Law. We’re under a “new covenant” in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:7-13), and Jesus makes clear that certain regulations of the Hebrew Law, such as dietary requirements, are not binding on us (Matthew 15:11). Plus, if we’re honest, the applications of the Pentateuch to our contemporary lives seem a lot less apparent than those of the Gospels, the Epistles, the Psalms, or Proverbs; it’s no accident that some of us carry around abridged versions of the Scriptures that only include those segments of Scripture (and that even those of us carrying the full Scriptures with us don’t often read the whole thing).
The Old Testament books of the Law are not irrelevant though. Like the rest of Scripture, they are “inspired by God and… profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15). In particular, Deuteronomy tells us a great deal about God’s unchanging character. Included in his character is a love for immigrants, orphans, widows, and others who are vulnerable—a concern that was true as the Israelites were entering the Promised Land, was true at the time of and in the Person of Jesus, and is true today. If we are to faithfully follow the Triune God, we must emulate his love for immigrants.
Matthew Soerens is the co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2009) and the US Church Training Specialist atWorld Relief. His blogs appear here on Mondays.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
We’re always looking for new guest bloggers; please check out our Guest Blog Submission Guidelines if you’re interested.