On Sojourners, Walls, and Illegal Aliens, Part 1 (The Walls of Jerusalem)

walls-of-jerusalemI have to start with a confession. I have trouble staying awake when the preacher starts a sermon bringing up Nehemiah and building walls. I do.

It’s just that I’ve heard it so many times before. It’s as though preachers think we never listen.

I mean, I can imagine the preacher thinking in his study, “No one ever studies Nehemiah. So let’s do a 30-part series on Nehemiah. And the best part of Nehemiah is the part about building the walls of Jerusalem. We can talk about teamwork, leadership, and all sorts of things that all start with the same letter …”

Heard it. Tired of it. And so I’m not going to do that. This might be boring for entirely different reasons, but it won’t be because it’s been preached 500,000 times.

You see, Pope Francis recently said,

A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.

Well, someone said something that reminded me of all those Nehemiah-building-the-walls sermons. Why is it okay — preachable, even — for Nehemiah and the Jews to build walls and not okay for the US to build walls?

The Vatican is surrounded by a very tall, large wall. I’ve been there. And the Swiss guards who defend the Pope have very real machine guns with very sharp bayonets — and look none too friendly.

So the Pope seems to have over-simplified things. I mean, Jesus spent much of his ministry in Jerusalem — which had some really big walls — and Jesus never asked for them to come down. In fact, when the Romans tore the walls down — along with the Temple — in 70 AD, this was taken as a sign of God’s displeasure — but not his displeasure with the walls. Nowhere are the city walls of Jerusalem spoken of in the Bible in other than laudatory terms.

So I have no idea what the right answer is, but I thought it might be interesting to take a look at what the scripture says about walls. But also about sojourners. The blogs have lately been filled with studies regarding sojourners, but they rarely consider that God clearly approved of city walls.

So the answer isn’t quite as simple as some would make it. Nor is it all that difficult. We just need to start with scripture — all of it — rather than with our political perspective. Scripture should direct a Christian’s politics — but we often let our politics tell us how to read scripture. It’s a bad habit we need to break.

The Torah is quite clear that the Jews were to care for the sojourners in their midst. It’s often been argued that sojourners are much like illegal aliens. Maybe. Maybe not. But if illegal aliens are to be treated well — why put up the walls?

So what does the Bible really say? I don’t know — not enough to feel comfortable expressing much in the way of an opinion. Not yet. So I figure I’ll take a look. We might chase some wild geese or take some bad turns, but who knows what we’ll learn along the way?

The walls of Jerusalem

In the ancient world, cities had walls because walls kept out the bad guys — invading armies, thieves, other criminals. The system was set up to control who could enter. And in times of invasion, the surrounding population would flee the countryside and seek safety inside the city’s walls.

The early books of the OT mention city walls as an accepted fact. There is no approval or disapproval. It’s just how things were, among both the Jews and the surrounding nations. Then there’s —

(1 Ki. 3:1-3 ESV) Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem.  2 The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD.  3 Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places. 

Solomon’s completion of the wall around Jerusalem is listed as one of his great accomplishments.

(2 Chr. 8:3-6 ESV)  3 And Solomon went to Hamath-zobah and took it.  4 He built Tadmor in the wilderness and all the store cities that he built in Hamath.  5 He also built Upper Beth-horon and Lower Beth-horon, fortified cities with walls, gates, and bars,  6 and Baalath, and all the store cities that Solomon had and all the cities for his chariots and the cities for his horsemen, and whatever Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion.

And conquering and fortifying other cities with walls was a matter of national pride.

(2 Chr. 14:2-7 ESV)  2 And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.  3 He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim  4 and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment.  5 He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him.  6 He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the LORD gave him peace.  7 And he said to Judah, “Let us build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the LORD our God. We have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side.” So they built and prospered. 

When king Asa built walls around additional cities, he is credited with being one of the good kings of Judah.

(2 Ki. 14:11-14 ESV)  11 But Amaziah would not listen. So Jehoash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah.  12 And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home.  13 And Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Jehoash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and came to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for four hundred cubits, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate.  14 And he seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house, also hostages, and he returned to Samaria. 

The partial destruction of the walls of Jerusalem by the Northern Kingdom allowed the theft of gold and silver objects from the Temple and the king’s own palace. This was perceived as a bad thing.

Later, Uzziah is credited with destroying the walls of the cities of the enemies of the Jews, that is, the Philistines, and with building walls for his own people —

(2 Chr. 26:3-6 ESV)  3 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem.  4 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done.  5 He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.  6 He went out and made war against the Philistines and broke through the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod, and he built cities in the territory of Ashdod and elsewhere among the Philistines.

(2 Chr. 27:2-3 ESV)  2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD according to all that his father Uzziah had done, except he did not enter the temple of the LORD. But the people still followed corrupt practices.  3 He built the upper gate of the house of the LORD and did much building on the wall of Ophel.

Hezekiah is praised for strengthening the walls of Jerusalem.

(2 Chr. 32:5 ESV)  5 He set to work resolutely and built up all the wall that was broken down and raised towers upon it, and outside it he built another wall, and he strengthened the Millo in the city of David. He also made weapons and shields in abundance.

When king Manasseh repented to follow God, he built more walls for Jerusalem —

(2 Chr. 33:14 ESV)  14 Afterward he built an outer wall for the city of David west of Gihon, in the valley, and for the entrance into the Fish Gate, and carried it around Ophel, and raised it to a very great height. He also put commanders of the army in all the fortified cities in Judah. 

When Nebuchadnezzar defeated Judah, the wrath of God was made clear by the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem —

(2 Chr. 36:19 ESV)  19 And they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its palaces with fire and destroyed all its precious vessels.

So the pattern is simple and clear. Good kings build or improve city walls. Bad kings allow the walls to be breached.

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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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11 Responses to On Sojourners, Walls, and Illegal Aliens, Part 1 (The Walls of Jerusalem)

  1. Eric Thomas says:

    There seems to be a tension between where we are and where we want to be. We yearn for the day when we no longer need walls or boarders. We also want to live in a world without hospitals or fire departments or prisons. I just don’t think we are there yet. Here’s to the new heaven and earth.

  2. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Interesting thoughts, Jay. Ironically, this lines up pretty well with my own thinking. I am not opposed to a physical wall or a secure border because it should force people to use an established process for entry. Now, whether I agree with the details of the process / policy for entry is a different matter entirely. But, having a secure border is entirely reasonable IMO.

  3. Larry Cheek says:

    There is no walls in the Spiritual realm. Even Satan cannot harm anyone within that realm. Are we not members of this realm after being born again? Think about that a little, Christ said that his Kingdom is not of this world, therefore can we of this world be in it if we are not also outside this world?
    Any other conclusion would demand that we are only a candidate waiting for entrance. Not yet an adopted member of the family.

  4. Gary says:

    I see the Hispanic surge in population in the US as ironic justice. There is no statute of limitations for possession of stolen property. Our nation stole what is now the SW US from Mexico in the Mexican-American War in 1848 in violation of the Adams-Onis treaty of 1820 when we gave up all claims to Texas and the SW. Our history blotted out that Hispanics were here first. St. Augustine, Florida was two generations old when Jamestown was settled by the English. I welcome the growing Hispanic share of our population as an antidote to the ethno-nationalism that has come out of the shadows and into the corridors of power.

    As a Christian I believe Jesus would identify with the Sanctuary Movement if he were physically present with us today. Jesus and his parents were refugees when they fled Nazareth and lived in Egypt as foreigners. That aspect of Jesus’ life is immortalized in the scripture “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” Given that the USA will be destroyed at Jesus’ return I find it hard to believe that God cares one whit about our nation walling in the lands our forefathers stole. How can any Christian believe that borders are more important than suffering people who bear the image of God? Christians would do well to take a deep breath and ask ourselves what would Jesus do were he physically with us now? Would he identify with the poor and the suffering of our world or with those who proclaim America First? Isn’t the latter idolatry?

  5. Monty says:

    Gary,

    So I guess your answer to the plight of all those who suffer in the world is to let them all in. Come one, come all? Just out of curiosity what does that look like in say 10 years ? Millions and millions of refugees, illegals? I see chaos. Like it or not immigration has to be done in a structured way with certain limitations. Less we look like a Wal-mart employee opening the doors on Black Friday. We have to have borders. That’s a totally different issue than being kind to the downtrodden. I mean if we were serious about helping those in need there’s a great ministry waiting to happen with all the homeless(of our own US citizens)living on the streets right under our noses. The reason that no one is screaming about the homeless and hungry we already have is it’s not a political issue like the illegal alien debate. It’s the fashion of the day.

  6. Larry Cheek says:

    Gary,
    Are you opening your home to those refuges who cannot find a place to stay because of a lack of a job and resources for the necessities of life, share your food, medical, roof and transportation? How many and how long of a time would you consider that you could finance this effort? If then you run short of funds, just borrow against your good name way beyond your ability to repay so you can continue support. Is that not what you are expecting your brothers and sisters to do?

  7. Eric Thomas says:

    I have no problem with immigration but when you think about it even the Kingdom of God has vetting.

  8. John says:

    Gary said,

    “As a Christian I believe Jesus would identify with the Sanctuary Movement if he were physically present with us today. Jesus and his parents were refugees when they fled Nazareth and lived in Egypt as foreigners”.

    I totally agree. I sense that a couple of years ago when when the political landscape got hot and the wall became popular, a lot of “What Would Jesus Do” T-shirts were folded up and put away in the chest-o-drawer, waiting for an easier, more opportune time to be brought out again.

  9. Gary says:

    Monty, why is it that the unjust American seizure of half of Mexico in 1848 has any right before God to be protected today by the construction of another Great Wall? I have no problem with borders per se but aren’t you glad there was no wall preventing the escape of Jesus, Mary and Joseph to Egypt? What if they had been sent back to a ruler who wasn’t above murdering children?

    Practically speaking, we have had extreme vetting of refugees and immigrants ever since 9-11. There has not been a single terrorist attack by anyone from the banned six nations since then. What is happening now with the travel ban and the wall is racism pure and simple. I’m not saying that is the intent of everyone who supports these policies but we know from his own organization, Breitbart, that Steve Bannon is a racist who now has the ear of the most powerful man in the world. Not even Richard Nixon would have had someone like him as an advisor.

    You can’t be a disciple of Jesus and proclaim America First. If Jesus is Lord then national interests and borders must be subordinated, for Christians, to the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Can anyone imagine Jesus turning in anyone to the first century equivalent of ICE? When the State begins to act unjustly Christians must be clear in our standard for justice.

  10. Alabama John says:

    Is heaven going to let everyone in? No, we teach only those few very much alike in their past lives thinking and actions will be allowed to enter. Narrow is the way. Not a wall, but much worse, eternal torment for those not allowed in.
    We want a wall, but will not desire torment for those not allowed in.

  11. Monty says:

    Gary,

    I am not America first before God. That is your extrapolation for anyone who sees it different than you. What about abortion on demand? Gay marriage? I know how you stand on those issues, you see it’s just too easy to say if you don’t see this like I do…….then …….

    As far as the analogy of Jesus going into Egypt, that was 3 people. I don’t think we’d be having this conversation over 3 illegal Mexicans or any other group. We’re talking millions of illegals or potential refugees. That’s not exactly apples to apples but it help’s you bolster your argument if you’re down scaling it to the nth degree. I won’t be made to feel bad because someone tries to minimize such a huge and vast problem as to be ridiculous.

    Just a question for you Gary? Do you believe that the Koran, if practiced fundamentally, by Muslims is anything for other religions and other nations to be concerned about?

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