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.                                                          

 

Mercy Is Strength

Psalm 18:1.  I will love You, O Lord, my strength.

Such a beautiful sentiment expressed here in the translation of this verse.

Examining the Hebrew, we find these words:   Racham YHVH Khayzek

Racham is used 47 times in the OT, and means mercy and compassion. Yet in one single verse, it is translated Love. Welcome to that verse. Translators are very effective in presenting the Psalms of David in beautiful, poetic language. However, what this actually says is “(In) The mercy of the Lord is (my) strength.”

So why the outlier translation of racham? The problem for the translation is the word khayzek, and relating mercy to strength. The dictionary definition of mercy is clemency, forbearance, forgiveness. This is only the correct understanding from the perspective of a man of the earth, who understands earthly things. From the perspective of the one granting the mercy, in this case the heavenly Father, it is an impartation of strength.

Consider this verse:

Zechariah 10:6. I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back, because I have mercy on them. 

We can now condense this verse to ‘strength and salvation are found in the mercy of the Lord’. A statement that is not the least bit controversial.

Now we can apply this knowledge to a parable of Jesus in Matthew.

Matthew 18:23-27.  Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.  The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’  Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

First consider how this falls on the ears of His listeners. How unlikely a scenario! Can a ruler dare sully his reputation by allowing someone to walk away with this great debt forgiven outright? Rulers tend toward ruthless in their reputation out of necessity. If he becomes known as someone who just wipes away someone’s debt, he will surely be taken advantage of by others.  For the sake of His parable, this serves Jesus well, because in this scenario, the One granting the mercy is His heavenly Father.

When Moses asked the Lord to reveal His name unto him, he received this description of God’s desired reputation:

Exodus 34:6, 7.  And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,  keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.

Our Father, unlike a king of the earth, can afford to be merciful and gracious, and desires to be known as such. However, He makes it clear that He by no means clears the guilty. This is why people were instructed in the Gospels:

Matthew 3:8.  Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.

Returning to the parable, we now find the servant who received forgiveness engaging in unacceptable behavior.

Matthew 18:28-34. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’  So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you  all.’  And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.  So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.  Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.  Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’  And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

Notice that we cannot question the king’s authority here. He can forgive a debt today, and cast into torment the following day for the same debt, made worse by unrepentant behavior. Now comes the stern warning to all who call themselves believers:

Matthew 18:35.  So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.

And yet we hear taught “the unconditional love” of God. This defies the very nature of a covenant relationship. Even the most lackadaisical Christian knows the Lord’s prayer, but the words of Jesus given in commentary after this prayer, makes the same demand.

Matthew 6:14, 15. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

And so this:

Matthew 5:7.   Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Preaching Blasphemy

Acts 9:20.  At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.   

How much significance should be placed on this point that Paul immediately began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God?  First, consider the evidence that came out at the trial of Jesus Christ.

John 19:5-7. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate said unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.

Pilate said unto them, you take him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.  The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.           

At a public trial, the testimony of His accusers was that Jesus must die for claiming to be the Son of God. Now the man who was previously persecuting the church, one of high esteem among the religious leadership, was preaching this very thing! This is an extraordinary turn of events, that the one who was identified and accepted by the original disciples as the “apostle to the gentiles”, would first boldly preach in the synagogues of every place he visited.

For many have come before and after claiming to be a messiah, a fact of which has often been attested. For messianic Jews to simply proclaim Yeshua haMashiach in Israel or anywhere in the world is nothing new under the sun.  If you want to stir up the status quo, preach the Son of God. 

Acts 5:34-39.   Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.  For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined , who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.                                 

It is noteworthy that this same Gamaliel was the headmaster of the school of the Pharisees where Saul trained. And who was the one man that disregarded this advice and set off on a murderous rampage against the church?  Irony!

Before appearing at the judgment seat of Pilate, Jesus was examined by the High Priest, along with the scribes and elders. Many false witnesses came forward to accuse Jesus, but none of the charges held. Then the High Priest played his trump card:

Matthew 26:63-66.  But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.                                  

And so the religious authorities found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and worthy of death for claiming to be the Son of God. Then Saul, upon his conversion immediately preached this in the synagogues, thereby, bringing the same charge against himself. Then he gave this testimony of himself before his conversion.

1 Tim 1:13.   Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

This is his conversion, to embrace what was called blasphemy, and reject what was before:

Acts 22:3.   I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.                                

The Lord Jesus Christ expects us to preach His Blasphemy, for this is the most excellent glory that He received:

2 Peter 1:17.  For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.   

John 10:36.  Do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 

Under Judgment

1 Corinthians 11:31&32.   For if we were judging ourselves thoroughly, we wouldn’t be coming under judgment. But when we are judged, we are being disciplined by the Lord so that we might not be condemned along with the world.                                                         

If we are to judge ourselves, by what standard are we to discern the body  (V.29)? Paul provides the answer to this question in Colossians 2:

Colossians 2:16,17.  Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body of Christ.                                         

Many translations miss what Paul is saying here, and modify verse 17 drastically. There seems to be the notion that “the body of Christ” at the end of the verse seems to just hang. The authorized KJV adds the word “is”, while other translations completely change the text to “the reality is Christ (Messiah). Verse 17 cannot be separated from verse 16 as many translations do, because the point is by what means are we to be judged. It is not by what you do or don’t eat, or any other religious observance, which are a shadow of things that are now established in the body of Messiah.

Allow me to give you an example. I have heard on many occasions a believer say; ”I am in the church every time the doors are open!” That’s great, but here’s what the Lord says about religious observance:

Matthew 23:23.  “Woe to you, Torah scholars and Pharisees, hypocrites! You tithe mint and dill and cumin, yet you have neglected the weightier matters of Torah—justice and mercy and faithfulness.  It is necessary to do these things without neglecting the others.            

There are weightier matters with which we must concern ourselves, and these are established within the functioning body of Messiah. At the judgment, no one is going to hear; “Ah yes, my good and faithful servant. You were in the church every time the doors were open. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

Consider these words of the Messiah:

Matthew 7:22,23.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’. 

We may perform many wonderful works, but did we know our Master’s voice. Did we perform His Will, or our own in His Name. This must be given serious consideration. 

Ezekiel 33:13.  When I tell the righteous that he will surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered. But in his iniquity that he has committed, he will die.     

The Lord has ordained the good works that we are to abide in through faithfulness.

Ephesians 2:8-10.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not from yourselves—it is the gift of God.  It is not based on your deeds, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship created in Messiah Yeshua for good deeds, which God prepared beforehand so we might walk in them.   

 

Set Before Faithful Men

2 Timothy 2:2. And the things that you have heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit unto faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

The Memorials of God exist to perpetuate the memory of His intent and purpose. A faithful man understands that his commitment is not only to learn and live in the Remembrance of the Lord, but also to discipleship and the passing on of the doctrine of Christ to faithful men. This is what brought about the calling of Abraham.

To Command your Children and your Household

Isaiah 18:19.   For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

This testimony of God concerning Abraham is echoed in the testimony of Cornelius.

Acts 10:2.  A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.

A righteous man instructs others in the way of the Lord to keep right judgment.

Psalm 106:3.  Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that does righteousness at all times.

To Love what He Loves

Psalm 33:4, 5.  For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in the Spirit of Truth. He loves righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

To love righteousness and judgment is to abide in His presence by the Spirit of Truth; for “righteousness and judgment is the habitation of His Throne.”

A Righteous Nation under God

Jeremiah 22:3. Thus saith the Lord; Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.

We stir up our hearts by the Remembrance of His compassion for those who are afflicted.

Psalm 103:6. The Lord executes righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

Genuine conversion is only accomplished by the righteousness from above.

Isaiah 1:27. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.

Born from Above

1 John 2:29.   If you know that he is righteous, you know that every one that does righteousness is born of him.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit through faithful men.

John 16:8.  And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.