You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. -Exodus 23:9
This verse is one of many places, throughout the Old Testament specifically, where God commands his people to care for sojourners in their midst. People who’ve been driven away from their homeland. People who have been separated from their people, ethnically. People who have been separated from their families. He says, care for them, do not oppress them, do not abuse them, do not take advantage of them. Look for opportunities to care for them. For you know the heart of a sojourner. You were sojourners in the land of Egypt, and you know what it’s like. The implication is clear, to be oppressed in a land like that, to be enslaved, to be treated harshly. So care for people in your midst who are like you were, who are sojourning away from their homeland, away from their family, away from that which is familiar to them.
God knows the heart of the broken and hurting and He calls His people to care for them deeply.
We see this all throughout the Old Testament, and then of course the New Testament makes clear you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus saying that command right after talking about a Samaritan woman helping out a Jewish man. The picture is clear from cover to cover in the Bible. One, don’t oppress others, enslave others, abuse others, take advantage of others. Love others as yourself, lay down your life to love others. And specifically, much like we saw in Exodus and see all throughout the Bible, God’s care for orphans, God’s care for widows, we see God’s care for sojourners.
So now, take this biblical picture that we have from Old Testament to New Testament of God’s care for sojourners and think, are there any people like that in the world today? And a quick look, all you have to do is read this verse and then think, okay, God cares about sojourners. God cares about those who’ve been driven from their land or displaced people. Let me do a quick search and see what that looks like in the world today. And a quick search will show you that around 80 or so million people are forcibly displaced right now. That’s about 1% of the world’s population. And most of those, like 80%, this is just a quick search, 80% of the world’s displaced people are in countries or territories affected by acute food insecurity and malnutrition. So you have 80 million people forcibly displaced from their homes.
And I think about settings I’ve been in with refugees around the world and here in the United States, and all the trauma that goes with being forcibly displaced from your home. And to end up 80% in a place that is affected by acute food insecurity or malnutrition. I think about refugee camps I’ve been in, some of the most humbling, overwhelming scenes to see families huddled up in little tents with little food and freezing cold temperatures. There are so many different pictures represented this 80 million people. Just like you and me, 80 million people, some of the top hosting countries for refugees would be Turkey, almost twice as much as the next country. So Turkey with nearly 4 million refugees, and other countries like Colombia, Pakistan, Uganda, Germany. And then as far as countries who are displacing people, Syria is way at the top of that list, with six to seven million people forcibly displaced from Syria. And then other countries like Venezuela and Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar.
So Exodus 23:9 drives us to pray. Oh God, please help us today to care well for sojourners. God, we pray that you would help us to care well for refugees. God, as we are surrounded by people in the United States who may have come from other places, we pray you’d help us to care well for refugees, for sojourners in our midst. God, we pray that you would use us as your church to be a reflection of your care for sojourners around the world, in a world where 1% of the population is forcibly displaced like this, millions of people. God, we pray that you would help us to be a reflection of your love and your care for them. Even as we know the heart of a sojourner in each of our lives, we were wandering away from you. You came running after us. We praise you for your love for us in the gospel.
Jesus, we praise you for even this picture that we see in your life. From the very beginning of your life, going to Egypt, then coming back with your family. God, we praise you that you know the heart of a Sojourner. And we pray that you would help us to be a reflection of your love. We pray for refugees in the world today. We pray for refugees who are being oppressed. We pray for your deliverance from that oppression and abuse, to think about the Rohingyan refugees from Myanmar. God, we pray for your mercy for them and for millions of other refugees like them. God, we pray for your grace toward them. We pray for your salvation be known among them, and we pray that you would help us as your church to care well for sojourners in our midst and sojourners around the world. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.