Go and celebrate because of all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. Remember to include the Levites and the foreigners living among you in the celebration. – Deuteronomy 26:11
In a real sense, Lent can be looked upon as a solemn journey toward a celebration of life and liberty. As Americans, we have so much to be thankful for in this land of opportunity.
After their arduous journey through the wilderness, the Israelites also had much to celebrate. Their journey had been difficult, to say the least. It had taken them through famine, drought, enslavement, and the deadly perils of the Sinai desert. Upon their arrival and settlement in Canaan, the Israelites were instructed to offer the first fruits of their harvest to God at the house of worship. This offering was to signify and celebrate the land of promise into which God had brought them.
But the celebration of their deliverance into the Promised Land was not only to include the Israelites and their priests (the Levites). God expressly instructed them to also include the foreigners in their celebration.
Perhaps the directive to include foreigners was a way of reminding the Israelites that they and their ancestors were once foreigners in strange lands, subject to the hospitality of other nations. Or maybe the directive to include the foreigners was a forecast of the fact that their future descendant, Jesus, would also be a foreigner in another country as he and his family fled persecution.
In any case, there is no valid appreciation of what God has given us, without the inclusion of foreigners: those who are in our neighborhoods and those who are at our borders.
Lord, may our hospitality to strangers reflect the magnanimity of your grace toward us. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.