The Bible and Immigration
Compiled by Ramon Arias | August 22, 2013
When dealing with issues of immigration one must keep in mind the vital aspects of our history:
- The United States of America originally was established as a Christian Nation.
- The United States of America became a nation under God’s Jurisdiction, meaning to be under His Revelation and Law.
- The United States of America is no longer a Christian Nation and is under God’s judgment.
- Christians in the United States of America are the only ones who can reverse the present downward moral spiral.
We must also keep in mind that the only agenda that really matters is God’s not man’s. It is not about our vision for the world but God’s as clearly stated by Jesus: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
We must also keep in mind that, every true Christian is a citizen of heaven, just like Jesus was while having His human experience here on earth. “For our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20a).
THE BIBLE HAS MUCH TO SAY ABOUT MIGRANTS, IMMIGRANTS, ALIENS, STRANGERS, SOJUORNERS, REFUGEES, THOSE WHO SEEK ASYLUM AND HOSPITALITY
The story of the human race is a story of continuous migration.
After the fall Adam and Eve were exiled (Gen. 3:22-24). For the first time we read of God’s concern for the sojourners in the world and from this point on His concern continues throughout the Bible.
Cain kills his brother Abel. (Gen. 4:8-16) His punishment was to wander on the earth.
The population of the earth began to increase until it became corrupt and filled with violence. At this point, Noah and his family are chosen to preserve the human race, God instructs him to build the ark, and then proceeds to fill it with two of each kind of living creatures (Gen. 6:5 – 8:22) Noah and his family become migrants without a known destination. God commands these sojourners to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Gen. 9:1b)
After the flood there was only one nation that consisted of Noah, his three sons - Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their families. Genesis 10 reveals how Noah’s sons spread out into many nations having freedom of movement. It is evident that God did not command them to establish geographical borders. Men create Borders.
The whole earth spoke one language as the family of Noah continued to migrate. After the Babel experience (Gen. 11) they became so different, they relocated and each family had its own territory, its own language, and its own culture. There were 70 different families, and they each lived among themselves. The migration story continues.
Is God in the Business of Migration and Immigration?
God then speaks to Abram and says, “Get out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, unto a land that I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1) Abram, his wife Sarai, and Lot, Abram’s nephew, and their servants become migrants going into a land they had never been to before.
Every war has stories of refugees, migration and asylum (Genesis 14). In modern wars the victims are civilians, majority of them women and children.
God tells Abram that his descendants will be aliens and explains to him the period of time that they would serve in bondage and also His judgment upon that nation, “He said to Abram, "Know for sure that your seed will live as foreigners in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them. They will afflict them four hundred years. I will also judge that nation, whom they will serve. Afterward they will come out with great wealth,” (Gen. 15:13-14).
Is it a Biblical mandate to care for the stranger, as one never knows when the stranger might be an angel from God? In Genesis 18:1-8, we read the story of the three strangers near the oaks at Mamre and Abram’s hospitality to the strangers. He offers them the best of what he has.
Hagar, the Egyptian slave-girl, the foreigner, bears Abraham a child, Ishmael. Eventually they are exiled into the wilderness and God promises to make Ishmael a great nation – the same promise given to Isaac. (Gen. 21) we know how that story plays out in our time.
The Biblical concept of hospitality is based on offering food, water and shelter to the stranger, the sojourner, the alien, the migrant, and the foreigner. (Deuteronomy 16:10-12.) Entertaining relatives or friends is not the same type of hospitality.
Sodom and Gomorra
The people of Sodom and Gomorra had the most beautiful and wealthiest country in the world. They did not want to share it with anyone. They hated wayfarers, and they made life miserable for them. It was their practice to deny food, water, and shelter to anyone who dared to invade their territory. If anyone was bold enough to come, he was subjected to torture, including homosexual gang rape. Only very wealthy and prominent people, like Abraham’s nephew Lot, were permitted to settle in Sodom and Gomorra. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah gives us light regarding the hospitality to strangers. We know that it was the inhabitants’ wickedness, immorality and all sorts of perversions that were the reasons God judged them. Nonetheless, Lot welcomes the angels, (Genesis 19:1-9), but the people of the town refuse to extend the welcome mat. Their lack of hospitality to the strangers brings about their destruction. "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.” (Eze. 16:49).
Because of famine, Isaac had to migrate and settle in the land of Gerar as an alien. (Gen. 26:2) Jacob had to migrate to another land in search of a wife. Later he is forced to flee because of his sons’ violence. God directs him to Bethel. We eventually learn that Jacob settles in “the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan.” (Gen. 37:1)
Joseph was sold into slavery, was transported to Egypt and there he rises to power. When famine strikes over much of the known world, Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt seeking grain. Then Joseph’s father, brothers, their families, flocks, and all they possess leave Canaan and migrate to Goshen, where there is food. (Gen. 37-47)
The book of Exodus begins with a story of persecution of infant boys and moves on to reveal the suffering of the Hebrews. The child Moses grows up to witness the oppressive treatment of the Hebrews by the Egyptians. He kills an Egyptian in his effort to defend a Hebrew, and becomes a criminal alien, fleeing for his life to a strange land. He is taken in and given sanctuary in Midian.
In Midian, Moses marries Zipporah and is eventually called by God to return to Egypt because, in God’s words, “The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” Moses wonders how he could possibly do this and God replies, “I will be with you.” (Exodus 3:1- 3:12) In the Exodus, God migrates with the Hebrews.
Moses returns to Egypt, and facilitates the Hebrew Exodus through a series of plagues and dialogues with Pharaoh. When his people are finally permitted to leave, they leave as most refugees leave, with not enough time to pack, but with God leading them.
Is God on the Side of All Migrants of the World or Just of His Chosen People?
In Exodus 13:17-18, 21-22 we read, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines…God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea…The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day…. and a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, that they might travel by day and night. Neither …left its place in front of the people.” We clearly see how God protected the Israelites. And it is important to remember that this migration pattern also included care of the refugees. God provided manna and water and all they needed to survive.
A Sobering Thought
The Hebrew reach Canaan and prepare to enter the Promised Land. It is important to note that the joy of the Hebrews on entering the Promised Land resulted from the Canaanites having their land taken away from them and their becoming refugees and internally displaced persons. The joy of the Hebrews was the destruction of the Canaanites. There cannot be victors without victims.
The Bible also contains advice on how the people are to act once they are in the promised land and one of the first instructions if found in Deuteronomy 10:17-19, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Deuteronomy includes numerous statements of how God’s people are to care for the alien in the land. 14:29, “The Levite, because he has no portion of inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”
Does God’s Blessing also Depend on How We Treat the Stranger?
Deuteronomy 23:7, “You shall not detest and Edomite, for he is your brother; you shall not detest and Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land.”
Deuteronomy 24:17, “ You shall not pervert the justice due and alien or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge.
Deuteronomy 24:19, “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
All of Deuteronomy 26 is important, as it shows the relationship between each and every person’s ancestry and the responsibility that is placed on the people of God to care for the alien. One example is Deut. 26:5b, which reads, “A wandering Aremean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien….” We are reminded that we all are descendents from migrants on the earth. And that same chapter in 26:10-11, continues, you shall set down the first of the fruit of the ground and bow before the Lord. “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and your house.” The chapter continues to express the importance of caring for others and in 26:12, during the third year, which is the year of the tithe; it is to be given “to the Levites, the aliens, the orphans, and the widows.” The sacred portion is given to these groups at God’s command.
In the New Testament we have the mandate to care for people that are most in need. In fact care of the alien is so important that Deut. 27:19 states, “Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow. And all the people shall say Amen.
The Bible and the Treatment of Refugees
Along with Deuteronomy and Leviticus, in the Hebrew Bible giving guidance for treating refugees, we also find advice in Psalms. It is important to note that refugees will often refer to the Psalms that they read and recited to themselves as they were fleeing and seeking a safe haven. One that is used very often is Psalm 91, which begins: “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” For God will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge…”
The Psalms also define the refugee experience. This is best seen in Psalm 137: “By the rivers of Babylon—we sat down there and we wept when we remember Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps. For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”
Throughout the Hebrew Bible we read the story of the exile of the Israelites. This can be followed in Kings, Chronicles, Esther, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Amos. It is Amos in (Amos 5: 24), who calls for justice to roll down like water and righteous like an ever-flowing stream. In God’s economy – all people are sisters and brothers and share equally and are welcomed. The stranger is cherished and welcomed.)
Literally every one is on the move and most are going into exile. This includes the prophets, the priests, and the people. Exile shows no mercy, however there are persons who did not and do not go into exile. 2 Kings 24:14 explains, “Then he led away into exile all Jerusalem and all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land.”
The Migration Story is Key to Biblical Ancestry
In the book of Ruth, one family is the focal point. It begins with Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons, who take Moabite wives, having to leave Judah and move to Moab because of a famine. Eventually all the men die, and the women are left alone. Naomi is a stranger in a strange land, who learns that there is no longer famine in Judah, so she exercises her right to return. However, she does not go alone, Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law, says, in Ruth 1:16, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God!” The rest of the story is the story of Boaz adhering closely to God’s requirement to offer hospitality to the stranger. He permits her to glean, protects her, and eventually marries her bringing the sojourner into the fold and making her part of the family.
Job also knew the importance of caring for the stranger, in Job 31:32, he states, “The alien has not lodged outside, (for) I have opened my doors to the traveler.
God’s admonition through the prophet Malachi who repeats the words of the Lord of Hosts, “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:5).
The New Testament and Migration
Jesus was truly an alien He came from heaven (beyond the last galaxy – although he did tell us the kingdom is within) and took the form of a human being to become for us the Refugee Christ. From the human perspective all Christians owe their salvation to an alien and a refuge.
We know that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph settled for about two years in Bethlehem, until after the Wise Men’s appearance. Once they left, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him. Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” (Matt. 2:13-15)
The white folks, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph become asylum seekers among dark skin people of Egypt. Without travel documents, they crossed the border, looking for safety and sanctuary. Someone takes them in. Someone welcomes them and protects them.
Back in Bethlehem, Herod is killing all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under. Jesus and his family fled political persecution. This is one of the present day grounds for asylum and refugee status. After the death of Herod, the family is able to return.
Jesus was quite active in supporting those most in need. He readily saw the plight of the day laborers and resonated with their desire to make a living. Most notable is Matthew 20:1-16, in it he likens the kingdom of heaven to a landowner who hires laborers for his vineyard. He hires people throughout the day and pays them all equally finally summarizing what he does with the last will be first and the first will be last. Jesus resonated with the plight of the workers and resonated with the Hebrew Bible mandate to treat the workers fairly.
His most compelling argument for caring for the stranger can be found in Matt 25:35-41, in it he gives the inheritance of the kingdom to those who cared for him by stating, “…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Jesus’ life was a life of service to others, without regard for their national origin.
The New Testament urges validation of each person, by reinforcing Biblical hospitality. Hebrews 13:2 urges, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” The mandate was, is, and remains clear. As we read the New Testament, we see people moving freely, without borders, and we see new life, as their lives are changed through contact with Christ and / or his disciples. Paul reinforces this teaching in Romans 12:13, with, “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”
Jesus’ last message to his disciples was a migration/immigration message. It is a statement that not only calls for migration, but also insists on it. Matt 28:18-20 is the great commission, in which Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
After Jesus’ ascension to heaven His followers become migrant messengers, taken his teachings throughout the known world. They travel as immigrants, as refugees, as migrants. They are imprisoned, they are persecuted, and they are exiled. (Religious persecution is still grounds for asylum.) The New Testament ends with John writing the Book of Revelation, in exile, on the Isle of Patmos. The Biblical story that began with migration, ends with migration and exile, it seems obvious that God accompanies each and every migrant on his or her journey of hope, faith and liberty.
THE FOLLOWING IS SOMETHING FOR FURTHER STUDY
Another Angle: What the Bible Says About Nationhood and Citizenship
After the Great Flood, there was only one nation in the entire world. It consisted of Noah and his three sons - Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their families. The Creator divided mankind into separate nations after they attempted to build a tower to reach heaven, the well-known tower of Babel. Each family group acquired a separate language and a separate culture. In fact, they became so different; they could no longer live together in peace and harmony. They were forced to go their own separate ways and relocate to other lands. Each family had its own territory, its own language, and its own culture. There were 70 different families, and they each lived among themselves. People left their own tribal territory for business purposes only.
The Nationhood and Citizenship of the Hebrew People
Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land; they were commanded to expel the seven idol-worshipping pagan Canaanite nations who lived there. The reason for this was that, if these nations were not expelled, they would contaminate the Israelites with the pagan ideology of idol-worship, immorality, and barbarism. Citizenship in Israel was by covenant and family, this was the only way foreigners could live among the Israelites and be part of God’s blessings on all the society.
Jesus’ Introduction of the New Nation of God and New Citizenship
Jesus’ removal of the kingdom of God from ancient Israel (Matthew 21:43), the family basis of political citizenship disappeared (Leviticus 25:23-34). Now Christian civil citizenship must be confessional, does this mean that true Christian nations should have open borders? To screen civil citizenship in terms of anything other than Christian confession is to make undesirable foreign residents a threat?
The Nationhood and Citizenship of the Christian People
OUR CITIZENSHIP. Since we are under God, we are also under God’s revelation of Himself according to His ethical and moral law. The Bible says we are citizens of heaven. Paul understood this point when he wrote: “Our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven” (Phil. 3: 20a). Yet we are also citizens of this world, and therefore under lawful authorities here. We have a dual citizenship and this complicates more our situation since we face the fact that we are citizens of nations, counties, and cities with pagan philosophies, ideologies and religions.
The History of Passports
Passports came into existence in the West until 1914. It is known that few Western nations had strict immigration laws. We must also keep in mind that there was also no mass democracy or socialism as we know them today. Prior to 1914 people who would obey the laws and work hard were seen as a benefit and were welcome. When mass democracy and the rise of socialist ideology began to spread all over things changed for all who wanted to migrate to Western nations. With the increase of income tax immigration became more difficult in every nation. Close the border mentality is the result of foreigners wanting to take away benefits that belong to taxpayers.
There is no simple handbook of Christian action when the nation is more pagan than godly. This has been a fact, a God-approved plan of action becomes more complicated for the born again believer, nonetheless, we are bound to resolve it.
A Highly Divided Human Race
We humans are deeply divided religiously, racially, geographically, culturally, and in many other ways as each perceives life and the worldview, even though we are all of one blood. Paul, addressing the men of Athens, affirms that God created the world (Acts 17:24), no person, family, society institutions or civil government is sovereign, God is the only one is totally sovereign over all things, in need of nothing from man (Acts 17:25). “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
Bible believing people, the Puritans, who came here to practice their Christian faith, without religious and political persecution, founded America. Their vision for a Nation Under God is far from being fulfilled. The majority of the people who come legal or illegal want just the material benefits. Christian Americans have a right to preserve and protect this heritage of biblical faith and the civilized moral principles that flow from it.
The Real Problem for the USA
Those who come without the intention of changing their culture are destroying America by bringing their rival faiths, rival gods; these are the real dangers facing the United States of America. Under this light the real problem changes the issue concerns theology and the rival confessions of faith. The issue is the kingdom of God vs. the kingdom of Satan. When immigrants become citizens they received full voting rights meaning they will impose their cultural values with their barbaric practices, pagan worship, and witchcraft. This is not short of national suicide. The majority of the third world population hates America. The great majority that come, legal or illegal, do not sympathize with the principles of American Biblical Civilization and are receiving the power to destroy it. Such immigration is a Trojan horse that will surely destroy this “almost Christian Nation”.
The Inauguration Ceremony of the Statue of Liberty 1886
On October 28, 1886, Reverend Richard S. Storrs, D.D, began the inauguration ceremony of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World with a prayer:
Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, who art of infinite majesty and mercy, by whose counsel and might the courses of the worlds are wisely ordained and irresistibly established, yet who takest thought of the children of men, and to whom our homage in all our works is justly due: We bless and praise Thee....
It is in Thy favor, and through the operation of the Gospel of Thy grace, that cities stand in quiet prosperity; that peaceful commerce covers the seas....
We pray that the Liberty that it represents may continue to enlighten with beneficent instruction, and to bless with majestic and wide benediction, the nations which have part in this work of renown....
We pray for all the nations of the earth; that in equity and charity their sure foundations may be established; that in piety and wisdom they may find a true welfare, in obedience to Thee, glory and praise; and that, in all the enlargements of their power, they may be ever the joyful servants of Him to whose holy dominion and kingdom shall be no end.
The United States of America should remain at all cost:
One Nation (under God)
One Language (English),
One Allegiance (the Pledge)
 Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World. October 28, 1886, prayer by Reverend Richard S. Storrs, D.D. opening the inauguration ceremony. Inauguration of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, by the President of the United States (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887), pp. 18-21.