What About the Refugees?

Part 2 - Some Biblical Examples

by Mary Stephens
Nov. 2015

In Part 1 on this series we discussed the history of immigrants and refugees who came to the U.S. in the past seeking a better life.  Some of them also brought ungodly or evil things with them.  We also talked about the Good Samaritan and the example that Jesus gave us through that parable.

This time we're going to talk about some biblical examples.

David In Gath

Because we need to be honest about the issue of refugees, it seemed like a good idea to think about the story of David when he and his men lived in Philistia as refugees for awhile when Saul was trying to murder David.

1 Samuel 21:10-15 And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard. Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?

First of all, we see that David escaped being apprehended, killed or thrown out of the country by feigning himself to be insane.  In other words, pretending to be something he was not.

The truth is that when refugees are received into a country, any country, it is possible and probable that there will be some people among them that are not what they seem to be.  This can be both for evil purposes or simply to protect themselves.  We heard that there were a lot of refugees in Europe who were "getting saved", and that someone posted a picture on Facebook showing a lot of them raising their hands "to accept Jesus".  The pastor who mentioned it was concerned that the people were not being dealt with individually and that they might not know what they were doing.  This is a legitimate concern for their souls.  It reminded me, though, of European Jews in the past who carefully taught their children the Lord's Prayer and the "Hail, Mary" so that they could "prove" they were "Christians".  It was not about being deceitful to do evil.  It was about protecting themselves and their children from persecution because of the their religion. 

Did you know that some people feel compelled to change their religion in order to stay alive?  No, they don't understand true salvation, and that is tragic.  But what they do understand is that no one wants them as Muslims, Jews, etc.; so they "convert" in order to get the help or safety that they desperately need.  Is that how you want people to "come to Christ"?  It is not saving belief.

After this event, David returned to Israel for a time, but after a lot of trouble from Saul, in desperation he decided to go back to Gath.

1 Samuel 27:1-6 And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand. And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath. And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal's wife. And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him. And David said unto Achish, If I have now found grace in thine eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there: for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee? Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day: wherefore Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day.

This is a true refugee story.  We don't know if this was God's will for David or not because at this point the Lord doesn't tell us one way or the other.  What we do find out is that David and his men were up to "no good" from the perspective of Philistines - if they had known.  Yes, David and his men were acting like terrorists, plain and simple.

In 1 Samuel 27:8-12 we learn that David and his men invaded three nations who were traditionally the enemies of Israel.  They killed all the men and women and took all the spoil.  They intentionally didn't leave anyone alive who could carry news to the Philistines and warn them what David and his men were doing.  Then, when Achish questioned David, he lied to him and told him that he had gone against Judah and some of their allies.  In verse 12 we learn the results of this, And Achish believed David, saying, He hath made his people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall be my servant for ever.

In 1 Samuel 28 we learn that the Philistines are going to war against Israel, but in 29 the princes of the Philistines objected to David participating as Achish had first planned.  Consequently, they were sent back to Ziklag, but in the process they were embroiled in another problem and battle which kept them effectively out of the war between the Philistines and Israel.  This was a good thing because it was in this battle that Saul was to die and it was well that David was not there so that he could not be accused in any way of having anything to do with it.

What we can draw from this, however, is that sometimes refugees are up to no good.  They do sometimes come under false pretenses with evil motives or plans.  The problem for us is that we are often not in a position to tell the difference.  As ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ, our goal is not to keep our countries free of trouble-makers.  Our job is to preach the message of reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

This doesn't mean that we should be careless or foolish or gullible.  But, our main concern should be with the souls of men.

A "potential terrorist" may have eaten dinner at my family's table once.  He was a co-worker of my brother when we lived in Arizona.  My family had a burden for Arabic people to see them come to faith in Jesus Christ, so my brother tried to befriend him.  He was interested in Ethiopian food, so we invited him for an Ethiopian meal.  He came.  He didn't have much to say and getting any information out of him was like trying to pry open a clam with a nail file.  My dad asked him if he had family around and he said he did, but when my dad mentioned him getting a dose of his "home food" from them he didn't act like he had much to do with them - which was strange considering the culture from which he came.  In retrospect I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out he was there with the intent to cause trouble.  We were, in fact, not far from Douglas, Arizona where the one of the 9/11 pilots was trained, and he would have been there around that time!  The thing that impresses me, however, is that the young man who visited our home was shown a different perspective of American Christians.  We showed him kindness, hospitality, and my brother tried to offer him friendship.  I don't know if he ever got to give him the gospel in any form.  Looking back, I'm glad that we weren't afraid of him and that my parents and brother showed him Jesus Christ instead of American patriotism and fear.  I think what they did was what Jesus would have had them do - even if that young man was a terrorist.  It was the ministry of reconciliation, not of hate or accusation.

Naomi and the Shunnamite

Ruth 1:1-2 Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.

There have been a lot of people who have accused Elimelech of sinning in taking his wife and sons to Moab.  First of all, God doesn't say that anywhere.  Secondly, we know that Ruth was going to believe, and this is a great example of predestination.  If they hadn't gone there it would have been harder for her to hear about Jehovah. 

The time of the judges in Israel was a time of much chaos.  Things went back and forth from being quite good to really horrible a number of times.  We don't know exactly when this family sought refuge in Moab, but it seems quite possible that they were leaving due to something quite unpleasant in Israel - famine, war, occupation by enemies, or whatever it might have been.  The point is that if the Moabites had not treated them with kindness (letting the sons marry their daughters was kind), they would not have survived and Ruth would not have been brought into Israel as a believer and become part of the line of Christ.  Elimelech's family was not just some refugee family.  They were there for a purpose.

The other reason that we can say that Elimelech may have been right in God's will is because of how the Lord dealt with the Shunnamite woman who had ministered to Elijah's needs in 2 Kings 4.  We read in 2 Kings 8:1-2, Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years. And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of God: and she went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years.  So, we see that in this case the Lord actually sent this lady and her household as refugees to Philistia so that they would survive the famine that He was going to send.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus

There are other examples that we could consider, but for the sake of time and space I'll finish with this one.

Yes, the Lord Jesus and his earthly parents were refugees in Egypt.  They were fleeing Herod who wanted to kill Jesus because He was the Messiah (and still is), and because He was a potential threat to the throne.

Speaking of the wise men leaving we read in Matthew 2:13-15, And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

Egypt - one of the most significant nations, types and entities in the Bible.  Generally it was not a good place to go, and yet God sent His own Son there as a refugee to escape the evil determined upon Him by Herod! 

Did you get that - Jesus Christ was a refugee!

That should give any person who loves Him pause to consider as to how to treat refugees, should it not? 

Matthew 25:34-46 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

I'm not going to delve into the wider ramifications of this passage.  There are a lot of people who define who "my brethren" are and then excuse themselves from helping the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and prisoners.  It is very interesting, however, that in the second group He leaves out the "my brethren" part.  If it was so terribly significant to indicate that this only means the Jews, why did He not say it twice?  (And, by the way, some of those "awful Syrian refugees" may be truly born again Christians, in case you were not aware of that.  There has been a church in Syria for centuries.)

This passage is clear on one thing at any rate and that is that if we want to identify with the righteous, we will be attending the needs of people like this, and we will be doing it as unto Christ not unto men.  This makes all the difference because it will define how we view the hurting people in front of us, whoever they may be. 

Galatians 2:10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

Hopefully, we will discuss the subject of strangers in more depth later, but it would be good to clarify here that "strangers" are not just "foreigners."  Strangers covers a much wider spectrum as we see the English word used in the King James Version.  One of the groups it applies to is refugees.  Those of us who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and become the children of God through faith in Him are strangers ourselves in this world.  As such, we should have not only sympathy, but also empathy for those who are also "strangers in a strange land."

1 Peter 2:11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;


So, we have seen here that, yes, some refugees are dangerous.  There should be caution when it is appropriate.

We have also seen that God has provided for His own by making them refugees.  This is His providence.

We have seen that through refugees He brought a convert to Himself.  This is His predestination.

We have seen that Jesus Christ Himself was a refugee for part of His childhood to save His life.  This was His deliverance.

We've seen that, in the person of Jesus Christ, we should minister to the needs of those who are suffering.  This is part of the ministry of reconciliation.

These things should define our view of the present refugee situations.  They should make us compassionate, kind, determined, sober minded, and wise.

Lastly, we should remember that we too are strangers in this earth, and we, of all people, should know how it feels to be hated for our religion and to be despised without just cause.  Those who know anything about church history should remember how very many among our ranks have suffered pain, hunger, nakedness, thirst, persecution, and even death because they "didn't belong."

The World's Bible

2 Corinthians 3:3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

Christ has no hands but our hands
To do His work today,
He has no feet but our feet
To lead men in His way,
He has no tongue but our tongues
To tell men how He died,
He has no help but our help
To bring them to His side.

We are the only Bible
The careless world may read,
We are the sinner's gospel,
We are the scoffer's creed,
We are the Lord's last message,
Given in deed and word.
What if the type is crooked?
What if the print is blurred?

What if our hands are busy
With other work than His?
What if our feet are walking
Where sin's allurement is?
What if our tongues are speaking
Of things His lips would spurn?
How can we hope to help Him,
Faithful till His return?

by Annie Johnson Flint


graphics and backgrounds by Mary Stephens