Thursday

17 November 2016

“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (v. 19)

Psalm: Psalm 51


Background

The opening exhortation in this passage that answers the question, "What does the Lord your God require of you?" echoes the words of Micah 6:8, used powerfully as a theme earlier this year in the Methodist Conference, "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God". As may be expected in Deuteronomy, with its emphasis on the central importance of the law, this almost liturgical catechism which may have been used as part of priestly worship, adds the need to "keep the commandments of the Lord your God" (v. 13). Whilst fearing (or worshipping), loving and serving God are all requirements, so too is "to walk in all his ways" (v. 12), which means obeying the God-given law. This now is the complete duty of all the people of Israel.

For a people about to enter a new land, it is timely to remind them of their own history as they work out how to relate to those already living in Canaan. The law that they have been given places responsibilities upon them with respect to those around them, for they are not only required to love God but to demonstrate that love through the fair treatment of the orphan, the widow and the stranger (verse 18).

The Israelites may not have been treated well themselves in Egypt, ending up as slaves in a foreign land, but nevertheless that experience also led them to become a prospective nation, with their "seventy ancestors" (v. 22) growing in to a population as "numerous as the stars in heaven", just as God had promised Abraham (Genesis 15:5). Now it was their turn to have the responsibilities of a nation towards others who were strangers living amongst them and they would be judged by their response. Walking in the way of God does not mean abusing those who are different, as was their own experience in Egypt, but acting in love and making a practical improvement to the lives of those who have little or nothing but who are now their neighbours.


To Ponder

  • What does it mean to you to "walk in all God's ways" (v. 12)? How easy is that in our society?
  • Who are the strangers in our society and how should we respond to them?
  • Reflect on the news headlines today. Pray for those who cry out for justice.


Bible notes author: Dr Richard Vautrey

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