Loving Kindness For Strangers

Titus 1:8.   Be a lover of hospitality.       

1 Peter 4:9.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.         

For many people the mention of hospitality calls to mind Martha Stewart more than the Gospels. While it is worthy to mention the value of opening your home to others, there is a bit more being conveyed in these words.

The word being translated hospitality actually means loving kindness to strangers. And the word strangers refers to resident aliens, minorities, and sojourners in the land. In other words, these scriptures are dealing with the age old problem of ethnicity, prejudice and racism. Do you really think that will ever be properly dealt with outside of Christ?

To demonstrate this truth, let’s start with a narrative from Luke 17 where Jesus is met by ten lepers seeking their healing. He orders them to go show themselves to the priests. As they departed they discover that they have been cleansed and one of them returns to glorify God in giving thanks before the Lord’s feet, and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus comments:

 Luke 17:18.     “there are none found that returned to give glory to God, besides this stranger.”                                                

The Samaritans were a despised people living among the most misunderstood people in history, and are enshrined in the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ by the words  “Good Samaritan”.

These strangers stand out among the members of society by whose treatment the Lord will judge the nations.                 

Matthew 25:31-46.   ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you have done to one of the least of these My brethren, you did to Me.’

So what does the Law and the Prophets have to say about this thorny topic? Let’s consider this survey:

Exodus 22:21.    You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.                                           

Exodus 23:9.  Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.                        

 Leviticus 19:34.  The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.                                               

Numbers 15:14, 15.  One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.                                 

Deuteronomy 10:18, 19.   He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.                                                    

Isaiah 56:1-8.   Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord speak saying “The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants. Even them I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.”              

Jeremiah 22:3.  Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.       

Ezekiel 22:29.  The people of the land have used oppression, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger.

 Malachi 3:5.   And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.       

So we see beyond the prophets condemning society’s injustice, a Law given to Moses that was acutely concerned for the rights of strangers. How then did this wall of separation come to exist that Paul speaks of in his letter to the Ephesians?

Ephesians 2:12.    At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.                                                  

How could this be true when the Law of Moses had made every accommodation for the foreigner who desired to seek the Lord?  In verse fifteen he says that the enmity was created by the law of commandments in ordinances: nomos entole en dogma. This expression refers to what Jesus referred to as the traditions and rules of men undermining the Word of God.

Because of the mutual hatred and distrust that existed between the Jew and of the neighboring societies, no Jew would even sit at a table and eat a meal with a gentile. This is something that even the apostle Peter was called out on by Paul, the apostle of the gentiles. In contrast, Jesus always ate with publicans and sinners.

Galatians 2:11-14.   Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.  And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?”                             

Even though he had fully embraced the gentile as a fellow believer when the Lord had given him a vision that corrected his views in Acts 10, his fear of men resulted in hypocrisy.

Acts 10:28.   Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful (Pharisaic) it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.                     

And finally he concludes:

Acts 10:34, 35.  Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.       

As an elder of the first church in Jerusalem, Peter was very familiar with the complications of a Jewish/Gentile fellowship. When he wrote in his letter to show hospitality without grumbling, the word used is more often translated murmuring. This grumbling or murmuring began early on in the church.

Acts 6:1.   And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.                             

Note the clear racial overtones to the situation at hand. The solution the apostles came up with to deal with the problem was to have the congregation choose for themselves seven men to appoint over the administrative duties.

The apostle Paul recalls for us in 1 Corinthians 10 how murmuring and complaining was the “original sin” of the congregation in the wilderness. The people had just passed through the Red Sea and witnessed a great deliverance when they soon were murmuring against God and Moses.

Exodus 15:24.  And the people murmured against Moses, saying, what should we drink?

 Exodus 16:2.  And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:             

Now in their defense I would point out that they had traveled three days in the wilderness and not found any fresh water. Most Christians have murmured and complained about far less. The point is that this is far more serious than most give consideration.

1  Corinthians 10:11.   Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.      

When Paul says that this issue is where the ends of the ages meet, he was ushering in the end of the age of justification by works of the Law and bringing in the age of justification by grace.

John 1:17.   For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.                                                 

1 Corinthians 10:5, 6.  But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.                   

Hebrews 3:14-19.   For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; While it is said, today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom He swore that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.                              

In other words, regardless of the covenant, grumbling and complaining are an offense to God and will be considered an act of unbelief. And now we can look to Abram to complete the picture and find the purpose.

Paul taught that Abram was the father of justification by faith, for when he was told his offspring would be as the stars of heaven, he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

James pointed out that Abraham later proved his faith by offering his son Isaac in obedience to God. But in Hebrews we are reminded that the first great act of faith, without which nothing else would have followed, was his departure from his home land.

Hebrews 11:8-16   By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went… he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country…for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God… and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.   (highlights.)

James wrote:

James 1:27  Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.                        

Why then does he not mention strangers along with widows and orphans as the Law of Moses and the prophets do so often? Because we are called to be the stranger, the pilgrim, the sojourner in this world. We cannot conform to this world and expect to be translated into a heavenly homeland.

A community church may compromise to be inoffensive and socially acceptable, but any individual who hopes to go from the called to the chosen, or elect; must be willing to step outside that comfort zone. To set hands on the plow and not look back until you have completed your course and remain faithful. Here is how:

Philippians 2:14-16.     Do all things without murmuring and disputing, That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.                                                          

 

Kings of the Earth

John 3:31.   He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

There is a multitude of Bible teachers who embody the notion of an earthly man that speaks of the earth while failing to lay hold of The Spirit of Truth.  A perfect example is the many teachings that refer to the early monarchy in Israel as represented by Kings David and Solomon, being the “Golden Age” Of Israel. This view from the earth fails to identify the True Golden Age of historical Israel from the view of the One from above, who is above all. 

Joshua 24:31.  Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the Lord which He had done for Israel.

Prior to Messiah Yeshua coming to earth, this time prior to the falling away in the time of the Judges would be the Golden Age of Israel as viewed from a heavenly perspective. This also gives us a unique lesson in faith from an Old Testament narrative. This period stands out by a complete lack of description for the era. One verse! One statement, and moving on.

2 Corinthians 4:18.  For  we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Romans 8:25. If we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

In the absence of a narrative, we have to believe that God’s Word is True, without a testimony for confirmation. For if Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, AND all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, then we must believe that they lived under the blessings promised for those who were faithful.

Deuteronomy 28:1, 2.  Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.  And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God.

Clearly, the people did not abide under the blessings of Deuteronomy 28 long enough to see themselves set over all nations of the earth. However, as a people who served the Lord for most of a generation, the blessings would have been tangible.

Even more so, after using only 14 verses to describe the blessings of a faithful people, Deuteronomy 28 goes on to use over 50 verses to describe the curses to be brought on by disobedience! Surely this generation avoided all of these calamities. 

By faith, we must believe that life was more bountiful for Israel at this time than any other. Because:

Numbers 23:19. God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

We can now contrast this period with the time of the monarchy of Israel.

What stands out immediately even from this scant information is that even after the leader Joshua passed away, the elders of his generation were able to keep the people walking in the Way of the Lord, without a central figure. 

There was no king in Israel, and there was no intention in the heart of God for there ever to be one. When the elders demanded a king from Samuel, he received this word from God;

1 Samuel 8:7.  And the Lord said to Samuel, Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.

While God did not desire to see a king reigning over His people, He did anticipate their demand and gave instructions for how a king in Israel should conduct himself.

Principles Governing Kings

Deuteronomy 17 :14-17. When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me, you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 

And he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, You shall not return that way again. Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.

Now we can grade this so called Golden Age of Solomon by the expectations of God in the Law.

Solomon multiplied wives, who turned his heart away. Strike One.

1 Kings 11:4. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.

Solomon multiplied horses for his military.  Strike Two.

1 Kings 4:26.   And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.

1 Kings 10:28.   And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt….

Solomon greatly multiplied gold in his kingdom, silver was not accounted.   Strike Three.

1 Kings 10:21.  And all king Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.

1 Kings 10:27. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones.

1 Kings 10:14. The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was 666  talents of gold.

The Golden Age indeed!

Before anointing Saul the first king of Israel, Samuel warned the people of what a king would demand of them.

1 Samuel 8:11-20. And he said, This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots.  He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 

 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants.  And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work.  He will take a tenth of your sheep. 

And you will be his servants.  And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you on that day. 

Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.

King David fed his people as his flock, but this king’s levy came into full effect under the reign of Solomon. After forty years, the people had enough of this hardship. When his son Rehoboam ascended to the throne, they immediately voiced their grievances.

1 Kings 12:4.  Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he placed on us, and we will serve you.

The kingdom was soon divided and the rest is history. Israel fell to Assyria first, later Judah was taken into captivity to Babylon. The Lord spoke on this through the prophet Jeremiah that the captivity would last seventy years, for each year that the land of Israel was denied a Sabbath year of rest.

2 Chronicles 36:20, 21. And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

During the Golden Years of Israel after Joshua, the land enjoyed a Sabbath rest every seventh year, according to the Law of Moses. If the land required 70 years of rest, then no Sabbath year was kept for 70×7=490 years. The people would not keep the Sabbath year for fear that they would not meet the king’s levy.

Further Instructions For The King

Deuteronomy 17:18-20.  Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.

Solomon clearly did not follow these instructions, nor would it appear that any of the kings who followed. In comparison, we have seen that after Joshua died the elders of Israel were able to keep the people in service to God with the Law of Moses. When you consider that Solomon was very young when he ascended the throne, were there not enough priests, scribes, elders and advisers in Jerusalem to impress upon the new king the need to follow God’s Law? He was sincere enough to pray for wisdom when God first appeared to him and inquired of his request. God then blessed him with all the things that any man would desire. When he then applied his wisdom to the things of the earth, all was vanity and anguish of heart.