[Feb 13]--Foreigners and Outsiders

            As I write this, a debate has been raging for years about the effects of illegal immigration on our country. There are people on both extremes of the political spectrum who disagree with others about how to deal with the problem, or even the extent of the danger. For example, the editors of the Wall Street Journal opinion page (usually on the conservative side) favor some type of immigration reform by which illegal immigrants can become legalized and get on the path to citizenship. Other hard-core conservative elements vehemently oppose what they call “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, claiming that they take jobs away from citizens and keep wages low.
            Every nation in history that has some prosperity has had immigrants attempt to make a good living within its borders. And just as frequently, those immigrants have been treated less than kindly. Double-standards before the law or even outright persecution is the norm rather than tolerance.
            Obviously every nation must have control over its borders, but the Lord never ever ever sanctioned or condoned poor treatment of immigrants within the borders of Israel. On the contrary, he repeated warned his people that he had special concern for the “foreigner,” another term for immigrant. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think that these verses are telling us to throw open our borders to anyone who wants to come in. But it does tell us that God condemns any persecution or double-standard, which was (and is) the norm.
            So why do I bring it up, then? Because that “alien,” the foreigner that Isaiah is talking about? That’s you and me. Unless you’re Jewish, then God took you as a “wild” (non-native) olive branch and grafted you into the “vine” of his Kingdom.
            Now again, we need understanding. Right here and now, Gentiles are not “grafted” into God’s Kingdom by observing the Sabbath and other Mosaic laws. We’re saved by placing our faith in the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). So what is the passage saying?
            According to the Law given to Moses, certain foreigners, while not mistreated, were still forbidden from fully participating in the worship at the Tabernacle (and later the Temple). The same went for eunuchs. But God here says that his ultimate plan will be for the door to be opened for anyone to enter. I personally think that there’s a “now and not yet” aspect to this, just like with a lot of predictions. I believe that God was announcing during the time of Isaiah that the doors were opened for anyone who was willing to do things “God’s way” during that time. If someone joined the Lord's people and expressed that solidarity by following the Law of Moses, then he'd accept him. No national or racial or ethnic background could keep someone out of the Kingdom if they were willing to do things God’s way.
            The complete fulfillment was brought by the Messiah, and the same principle still applies, actually more than ever. In Christ, there’s no Jew or Gentile, man or woman, slave or free. Your skin pigmentation or national background didn’t matter to God during the time of Isaiah, so it matters even less now. The only requirement, just like then, was that you get in by doing things God’s way. We’re brought in by simply placing our faith in Jesus.
            One of the reasons why this is so important is that we sometimes need a reminder that it’s always been the Lord's ultimate plan to bring in people from all types of backgrounds into his redeemed family. Does the phrase in vs. 7 “house of prayer for all nations” sound familiar at all? It should. Jesus quoted this phrase as he drove the money changers out of the temple area of the Gentiles. The temple of his time had an open courtyard which was supposed to be for Gentile worshipers to come and make sacrifices and learn about the God of Israel. But the temple leaders had turned it into a marketplace, making it virtually impossible for Gentiles to worship the one true God in the one place officially set aside for them. That’s what made Jesus so angry that—for the only time in his earthly life—he resorted to physical violence. You want to make Jesus angry? Get between him and an outsider who’s seeking him out.
            So are you in tune with God’s heart? Are you looking for opportunities to share his love with an “outsider”? He wants that person not to perish, but to come to repentance. Are you in sync with that? Why not?

Yes, Father, I want to be in sync with your heart. I want to bring people into your Kingdom, both here and across the world. Pour me out, break me in half, whatever it takes.

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