Read Ex 23, Matt 25
A very special quality of the Jewish people is when they look at a passage of Scripture, they study it so as to understand all its ramifications. That is why they have rabbis and the Talmud. If God said something, they wanted to be very careful to fully obey what He said. The greatest explainer of the ramifications of the Scriptures was the Lord Jesus. Especially in His Sermon on the Mount, He taught what each of God’s laws fully meant. For example: Jesus said, “You have heard it said, ‘Do not murder for anyone who murders will be subject to the judgment.’ But I tell you, anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to the judgment.”
In Exodus 23:19 we read, “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” From this command, the Jewish people derive a significant part of their kosher laws. Being kosher is very important to the Jewish people. If a person does not keep kosher, his claim to Jewishness is deemed suspect. The ramification of this verse mean that every good Jewish kitchen has one set of cooking pots and utensils for cooking meat, and one set of pots and cooking utensils for anything else, for anything else might possibly have some sort of milk product in it. One might think the directive, “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk,” has nothing to say to today’s Jewish person. But instead its ramifications affect them very significantly.
Also in Exodus 23, we read in verse 9: “Do not oppress the alien. You yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.” Again, this is a law the Jewish people have taken very seriously. From my cursory knowledge of early history, I wonder if there has ever been a tribal group who so quickly received the alien into their community. Within a very short time, the alien became indistinguishable from any other Israelite. Much more than kosher, I believe assimilation is what once, paradoxically, defined the Jewish people. E.g. Rahab, Ruth, David’s mighty men, those who returned from Babylon.
We as Christian Believers do not subscribe to the kosher laws. As they are not commented upon in the New Testament, we accept that this prohibition is specifically for the Jewish people. But the first thing we see in the formation of the early church was the need to fully accept the aliens—who happen to be us, as almost all of us are the Gentiles (all the people who were not part of God's chosen community). Like Israel, we are obligated to remember that once we were aliens, those “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God.” Eph 2:12
The Lord Jesus tells us in His most poignant of parables, “I was a stranger and you took me in.” He says that to those who will be welcomed into His Kingdom. But to those who will be eternally excluded he says, “I was a stranger and you did not invite me in.” The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for some people without knowing it have entertained angels unawares.”
Very clearly from these passages we understand that we as Believers are obligated to be supportive of any international person in our neighborhoods, our schools, or in our churches. Never are we allowed to despise, or behave hatefully towards strangers and foreigners.
But are further ramifications that we are reasonably expected to understand from these alien/stranger laws? How do we behave towards those who are not part of our own special group? And might we sometimes form our own little group because it makes us feel good about our own personal worth when there are others outside who long to be a part of it?
When I was a young boy I had a best friend whose name was Jay. He and I were the same age, and our families were at our chapel whenever the doors were open. There was another boy who also was our age and was always at the chapel. Resourceful kids that we were, Jay and I came up with an incredibly fun game. We called it ‘ditch.’ Here’s how it worked. Jay and I would chum up to this kid. Then, at a given signal, we would both take off running in different directions and meet up at a prearranged destination. Much to our satisfaction, this ditched boy would always run after one of us. But with enough twists and turns through the people at church and through the parking lot and down the basements (our church had two basements) the one he was chasing would eventually elude him and then would come to our prearranged place. Did this third boy cry? I don’t know. We weren’t around to see. Horrible! Like the Psalmist I cry, “Remember not the sins of my youth.”
Prayer: Father, forgive us for our continual hard-heartedness. Show us every day the stranger who we need to include, and who we need to perceive as if he were the Lord Jesus Himself.
In yesterday’s devotional, Daniel said God’s fairness is treating people with equality. Today’s devotional is an illustration of that.