Earlier this summer when I was preparing my lecture Jesus vs Xenohpobia, I went to my favourite Bible study site biblehub.com and searched the Scriptures for the word “refugee”. Two passages touched me in a special way, both being from prophet Isaiah’s book.
Isaiah 16:3-4 says: “Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees. Let the Moabite fugitives stay with you; be their shelter from the destroyer.” This is in the middle of a prophecy against Moab, that warns the kingdom for an upcoming disaster. In the previous chapter, God says: “My heart cries out over Moab; her fugitives flee as far as Zoar, as far as Eglath Shelishiyah. They go up the hill to Luhith, weeping as they go; on the road to Horonaim they lament their destruction.” (Is 15:5).
It is thus clear that even though this catastrophe is described as being the result of God’s judgment due to the idolatry of the Moabite people, He still cares for them and wants people to give them shelter from the ones who destroy them. Even people who do not worship the Lord still deserves love, care and humanitarian aid.
The other passage is Isaiah 21:13-15:
A prophecy against Arabia: You caravans of Dedanites, who camp in the thickets of Arabia, bring water for the thirsty; you who live in Tema, bring food for the fugitives. They flee from the sword, from the drawn sword, from the bent bow and from the heat of battle.
Again, this is a prophetic warning about the upcoming war that will strike the Arab people, but still the point that Isaiah makes is clearly that when disaster comes, refugees should be given help and refuge. He does not want innocent refugees to suffer and die, and so his prophecy is a forewarning to Dedanite caravans as much as it is a prophecy of judgment against Arabia.
It is important to remember that in Biblical times, passports, border controls and deportations hardly existed. Nations didn’t “choose” to receive immigrants or not, there was no distinction between “legal” or “illegal” immigration just as there is no distinction between legal and illegal rain. In a world with poverty and war migrants will unavoidably move to safer and richer nations. The Biblical response then, is to provide shelter, food and the Gospel to those seeking refuge.
This is a contribution to the MennoNerds synchro-blog on the refugee crisis.