Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ezekiel: how shall we treatment the foreigners among us

This month’s study is on Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet of Israel who spoke about the coming judgment against the people of Israel and their enemies. There is a promise to restore Israel to the land and restore the covenant between the people and God. He prophesied during Israel’s exile in Babylon. Normally I would discuss various points throughout the book. However, this month I’m not going to do that. As I finished the book, one particular set of verses stuck out. Even as I planned to write my thoughts as I normally would do, this verse wouldn’t leave my head. So I decided to focus in these particular verses and why it struck a cord with me.

Ezekiel 47:21-23
“’You are to distribute this land among yourself according to the tribes of Israel.
You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign Lord”

Foreigner. Alien. Essentially anyone who wasn’t an Israelite. The Lord instructed the Israelites about foreigners before first in Leviticus 24:22 “You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.” The Lord calls for foreigners to receive the same treatment as the Israelites under the law. There would be no separate law for the foreign born. It was the same law. So if a foreigner was wronged or injured, he was to receive the same treatment as an Israelite would. Therefore, “an eye for an eye” (Leviticus 24:20) apply to the foreigners as well. In Numbers 15:29, the Lord instructed “One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien.” A foreigner is allowed and required to offer the same atonement for their sins as an Israelite.  Again, no separate law. God’s law covered Israelites and foreigners. Isaiah 56:3-8 teaches that God’s blessings were for all people, including foreigners and eunuchs, who were excluded from worship and treated as non-citizens to the Israelites. Isaiah says that any foreigner who “bind themselves to the Lord to serve him” (verse 6), obeys God’s law, follows his Word, loves the Lord, God will gather them together with “those already gathered” (verse 8).

In the New Testament, the distinction is Jew and Gentile. There is the same call to gather together. Paul writes in Ephesian 3:6 “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise of Christ Jesus.” This mystery is God’s plan to include everyone in his gift of salvation. I believe this is what Isaiah talks about in Isaiah 56:3-8. Paul also writes in Colossians 3:11 “Here this is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian [large group of Iranian Eurasian nomads], slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all.” There should be no barriers of nationality, race, education, social economic status, wealth, gender, religion or power when it comes to the followers of Christ. Christ came to break down barriers. First the barriers between God and the people and among the people themselves. We have forgotten this or we have ignored it. We, unfortunately, continue to build barriers. We still separate ourselves according to race, denomination, traditions, creeds and practices. We claim to all be followers of Christ and yet criticize others for their adherence to certain creeds or worship practices.

So what’s the point? Why did Ezekiel 47:21-23 stick in my head? The current climate about foreigners in this country has been on my mind a lot lately. The anti-foreigner sentiment right now makes it hard to ignore. I’m often torn about how I feel. On one hand, I feel and understand the need for foreigners to come to this country. The colonies and then the United States, has always been a beacon of hope for freedom, safety, and breathing room. Multiple branches of my family have come from different parts of Europe at different times for possibly the same reason. The United States has been a land of great opportunity when none existed in their homeland. I want others to have the same opportunity to come if they wish. On the other hand, I understand that many who come to this country would come with ulterior motives. Whether it is to perpetrate crimes or cause great harm to those who are trying to live peacefully. The suspicion of foreigners is nothing new. Any time in history and in any country, foreigners were looked at with distrust. The Lord commands the Israelites to not mistreat or oppress a foreigner twice when Moses gave the law (Exodus 22:21 and Exodus 23:9). So what do we do? I feel those who are here and have built a life peacefully should be allowed to stay here without fear of being sent back. We need to fix the immigration system, I recognize that, in order to allow those who want to create a peaceful life here and, hopefully, keep those who would not.

In conclusion, there is no easy answer to the immigration issue. I know this and I can offer no solution. I believe all I can do is pray that the individuals who are coming to the United States do so because they want a better life and they learn to live peacefully with everyone here. I can pray for protection from those who may come here with evil intentions. We need to remember that not all foreigners are evil. Just like the story of the Good Samaritan, even when a group as a whole is under suspicion or distrusted, there are always exceptions. And just as stated in Ezekiel 47:21-23, when a foreigner comes here and creates a life, we should treat them as any other citizen.