Exile and Repentance, Part 8 (The Vulnerable of Society and Torah)

Arch_of_Titus_MenorahI guess we do best to start in the Torah.

God’s election of Israel demands a response — a changed heart that submits to God’s loving will — a will that shows us what is best for us.

(Deu 10:16-19 ESV) 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

God takes no bribes, but treats all fairly — meaning that we should do the same. God cares for and demands justice for widows and orphans. Those who can’t look out after themselves have God himself as a protector — and he commands his people to follow his example.

God demands that the “sojourner” (also translated “alien” or “stranger”) be cared for by his people, even though the sojourner is not among the elect. The love God urges is not just inward. The elect aren’t allowed to only love the elect. After all, the Israelites were once sojourners (aliens) in Egypt, and so they should care about those who sojourn within Israel.

The Torah’s teachings on sojourners has become a hot topic due to the politicalization immigration in the US — and now in Europe.

A sojourner is one whose permanent residence is in another nation, in contrast with the foreigner whose stay is only temporary. … The Israelites themselves were sojourners in Egypt (Gn. 15:13; Ex. 22:21; Dt 10:19; 23:7). Indeed, this fact was to govern their attitude to the sojourners in Israel. These might comprise a whole tribe such as the Gibeonites (Jos. 9) or the remnants of the Canaanite tribes after the Conquest. Their number was quite considerable, as may be seen in Solomon’s census of them (2 Ch. 2:17). 

The sojourner had many privileges. The Israelites must not oppress him (Ex. 22:21; 23:9; Lv. 19:33–34). Indeed they are to go further and to love him (Dt. 10:19). One reason given for the observance of the sabbath is that the sojourner may be refreshed (Ex. 23:12). The gleanings of the vineyard and the harvest field are to be left for him (Lv. 19:10; 23:22; Dt. 24:19–21). He is included in the provision made in the cities of refuge (Nu. 35:15; Jos. 20:9). He is ranked with the fatherless and widow as being defenceless; and so God is his defence and will judge his oppressor (Pss. 94:6; 146:9; Je. 7:6; 22:3; Ezk. 22:7, 29; Zc. 7:10; Mal. 3:5). The chief drawback of his position is that, if he is a bond-servant, he is not included in the general liberation in the year of Jubilee (Lv. 25:45–46).

As far as religious life is concerned, he is bound by the law which forbids leaven during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex. 12:19). He must abstain from work on the sabbath and on the Day of Atonement (Ex. 20:10; Lv. 16:29). He shares the prohibitions on eating blood (Lv. 17:10, 13), immorality (Lv. 18:26), idolatry (Lv. 20:2) and blasphemy (Lv. 24:16). He might, however, eat unclean meat (Dt. 14:21). He is not compelled to keep the Passover, but if he wishes to do so he must be circumcised (Ex. 12:48). He is indeed virtually on a level with the Israelite (Lv. 24:22), and in Ezekiel’s vision of the Messianic age he is to share the inheritance of Israel (Ezk. 47:22–23).4

In the NT the great feature of the gospel is that those who were aliens from Israel, and so were ‘strangers and sojourners’ (Eph. 2:12, 19–20), have been made fellow heirs in the Israel of God. Now Christians are the aliens in this world and must live as pilgrims (1 Pet. 2:11).

H. M. Carson, “FOREIGNER,” New Bible Dictionary, 380-381.

Torah’s teachings on sojourners is truly remarkable. These are people with no inheritance rights and who are of a different ethnicity than their conquerors. And yet, even though many were a conquered people, the Israelites were required to give them justice the same as for ethnic Israelites.

(Deu 14:28-29 ESV) 28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.”

God established a system of tithes to support the priesthood as well as sojourners, orphans, and widows. That’s right: God created a welfare program.

(Deu 15:7-9 ESV) 7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. 9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin.”

God required his people to freely lend to the poor among them, and not to refuse loans even though loans were forgiven even seventh year. In modern terms, God created a bankruptcy system, and required that the poor be provided for with loans even when it was inevitable that the loans might never be repaid.

(Deu 15:11 ESV) 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

Generosity to the poor is a command.

The commands conclude with —

(Deu 26:17-19 ESV) 17 “You have declared today that the LORD is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. 18 And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, 19 and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.”

We see the idea that Israel was to be a demonstration to the world of the wonders of God’s love. It’s not so much that they were to send missionaries as that they were to live in right relationship to God, to each other, to those in need, and to the sojourner so that the world would see that God makes these people “his treasured possession.” We are God’s treasured possession and a sign to those outside God when we become like God and love those whom he loves.

You see, before Israel could be a light to the world, Israel had to be a light. That is, before they could share the blessings of righteousness with others, they had to be righteous. The first step in being the light of the world is forming the community that God requires.

And Israel’s failure is also the church’s failure. The church sends missionaries, but fails to evangelize as it should because it fails to be holy to the Lord as it should be. The church cannot be effective until its righteousness exceeds the world’s righteousness — and sometimes the church is less righteous than even the world.

God is still God, and he still loves the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, and the poor. He still commands us to be openhanded to those in need. We’d rather please God by singing without instruments and making certain our elders have multiple children. That’s easy. Being the church — being the light of the world — now, that’s hard.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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3 Responses to Exile and Repentance, Part 8 (The Vulnerable of Society and Torah)

  1. rich constant says:

    I think I would say Jay because of our hermeneutic that we’ve been Wrong headed for a long time.
    as I see it by studying these wrongheaded stiff-necked people of God or you could say God’s Word where we learn to discern both good from evil.
    You’re opening up a whole brand new can of worms, because we don’t use the Old Kingdom of God as an example of how not to do some things.
    Or we could say that old Torah covenant, that teaches us how to live In a Kingdom, because God’s Will can be done and it’s come.
    then you gotta throw God’s Judgement on somebody and the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of teachers or leadership.
    although I think that were in a comfort zone where we live in and participate with the powers and principalities And the governments of them. and by proxy allow them to take care of everything that were supposed to be taking care of.
    there are so many issues and so many incidentals that could be changed. if only we wanted to, For our body to grow big and strong. we Have just become complacent with grace.
    albeit a bad Hermeneutic.
    Hopefully this kind of study pulls people away from that. I would hope so it really is supposed to be an organization suitable to the fullness of times.
    And in Romans chapter 12 I think it’s 6 there’s an awful lot of people that aren’t being used to the fullest extent that they should be used or feel like they’re being used.
    John Mark puts these gifts as a vocation. seems that were obligated to reciprocate the love that we’ve been given a little bit more to church or the kingdom of God on earth has put itself inside the box Of ignorance Rom. chapter 10 didn’t put itself in the box of the regulatory principle because of freedom that love gives. it is simple enough to figure out how to get out of it. but the creativity and innovations that are necessary to move the church into compliance with a kingdom That is built around love is another story altogether.

  2. Jim Haugland says:

    Admitting I have a tough time applying this OT Jewish command to today’s illegal aliens. Many of them are law abiding and hard workers; yet others break our laws and have committed horrific crimes yet are at times released and not deported because we often do not even obey our own legal system in these matters. Even Israel’s sojourners were expected to follow most Jewish customs and laws and not abuse Jewish hospitality.

  3. Dustin says:

    Jim,

    I once felt that way. However, when I looked back at history, I saw that Europeans stole this country from the Native Americans. The native peoples were enslaved, murdered, and beaten in order for the first settlers to have access to the natural wealth of this nation. Finally, they were forced by our government to give up their native lands and moved to reservations. They were portrayed as brute savages to the public.

    Yes, there are a few bad apples in the bunch of immigrants as with all people groups. Most are coming from countries where there is no hope because of the violence of drug cartels. It is unfair that we place such a burden of law on them when the majority of the citizens of the United States are using and claiming ownership of land that was not their own. We are a very privileged people and have a chance to show grace to people who have little at the moment. As with all forms of love, there will be those who won’t accept it. There will be those who choose violence and those with mental illness who can’t choose a path. We must show love anyway.

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