The Pharaoh Who Didn’t Know Joseph

Joseph saved his family. Well, God did, through Joseph. He said it clearly to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” But it just dawned on me, the “many people” were also the Egyptians.

How many of them would have died during a seven-year drought if God hadn’t warned Pharaoh, through Joseph, so that they saved grain during the years of plenty?

Joseph was a hero. His father was an honored elder, so much so that many Egyptian dignitaries accompanied Joseph and his brothers to Canaan to bury Jacob in the family burial plot when he died.

But then the Pharaoh who didn’t know Joseph came to power.

First off, he was afraid of the people of Israel. After all, they were so many! And of course he started playing the “what if” game. What if, in a battle against our enemies, they join the opposition?

That kind of thinking would have not taken hold if the people of Israel and the Egyptians were still friends. If the Egyptians were still treating them with respect. But apparently that wasn’t the case.

I’ve wondered, how did a people go from being protected to being enslaved. The roots were there in Joseph’s day. Scripture records that the Egyptians found it loathsome to eat with the Hebrews, which meant Joseph, even as the second in command of the nation, ate by himself.

Also back in that day, Joseph told his brothers that the Egyptians despised shepherds—which, of course, was exactly how the Hebrews made their livelihood.

So already the roots of division were in the society—elements of prejudice and disrespect.

Add in that Pharaoh “suggested” that some of Joseph’s newly arrived family could also care for his flocks and herds. Let the Hebrews do the dirty job, the Egyptians hated.

And would Joseph’s family have balked at this? Hardly! They saw Pharaoh and Egypt as their salvation. They would have died if they stayed home. Instead they were provided with abundant pasture land and the food they needed to survive the drought. Was caring for Pharaoh’s livestock too much to ask? Not at all.

Except, the foundation for slavery was undoubtedly laid right there. If the Hebrews did what Pharaoh asked when it came to the animals, why not ask them to “help” with the construction of a couple storage cities?

By the time the Pharaoh came to power who didn’t know Joseph, the Hebrews were not only numerous, they were invaluable. That’s the second horn of this ugly animal the Egyptians had created. Not only did they fear the Hebrews, they needed them and they didn’t want to lose them. So as part of the “what if” game, the Pharaoh postulated, What if they leave?

He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.” (Exodus 1:9-10, emphasis added)

His way of “dealing wisely?” First he brought in taskmasters to oversee the Hebrews’ work. Next to assigned the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys when they were born. That plan didn’t work, so he passed the law that the boys should be exposed as infants—thrown in the river, killed, by their parents.

I think it’s safe to say, this man who did not know Joseph also did not know God.

Think for a second with me: why would he order only the boys to be killed? What would become of those baby girls when they grew up? No Hebrew men to marry. Would the Egyptians take them as wives? Or more likely take those slaves for their harems?

We have no idea how long this edict lasted or how many babies died. Was it a generation of Hebrews, which would mean there weren’t many men Moses’s age who were involved in the Exodus. But that’s another story.

From this Pharaoh who didn’t know Joseph, I think it’s easy to see how fear changes everything. From offering friendship, mutual cooperation, protection, and shared benefits to slavery and murder.

Fear wasn’t alone. There was some greed there, too. This Pharaoh wanted to use people, particularly those he saw as inferior.

Are there lessons in this story for Americans today in conjunction with immigration? I’d say so. And I’d say they are these: don’t let fear dictate policy, in this story called “dealing with them wisely”; and second, don’t use people. Don’t use them as a political football, and don’t use them to further the American economy

Not heeding those two simple points may have the same kind of dire consequences for the US that they had for Egypt back in the day.

Published in: on September 4, 2018 at 5:08 pm  Comments Off on The Pharaoh Who Didn’t Know Joseph  
Tags: , , , , ,


President Donald Trump is getting a lot of flack and coming back with his own defense over his comments in a meeting several days ago. The media conclusion is that “Donald Trump is a racist.” Meanwhile, the “gotcha” form of reporting that goes on these days missed the real story.

The real issue is not what particular vile word the President used. Rather, the real issue is his belief in and support of merit-based immigration. Essentially he has said more than once that America should open our boarders to the best and brightest of other countries so that we can use their knowledge and skill for our own advancement. In other words, we should take the people who could best be an asset in their own country.

In all fairness, this is the kind of thinking of an entrepreneur—take what benefits you no matter who it hurts—and that’s exactly who Donald Trump is.

But that’s not what America is, and that’s not what made America great, as Mr. Trump so often likes to say.

Instead, our country became a desirable landing place for immigrants because of the attitude expressed on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

These words come from a poem by Emma Lazarus (1849–1887) entitled “The New Colossus.” She donated the sonnet in 1883 as part of a fund-raiser for the construction of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the whole poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal’s lower level.

These lines are also part of the poem:

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome

None of this attitude is remotely similar to merit-based immigration.

Simply put, America has been a land of opportunity in which a poor person, with nothing but his good name and a will to work, could make something of himself. So why now should we become something else? Something resembling a robber baron or a corporate raider?

Is that what America wants to become?

Yes, President Trump uses vulgar language. He’s done so on the campaign trail and he’s done so in private moments that made their way to the public airwaves. Once again he’s said something vulgar. Big deal. This is not the story. No one has to read into his comments something about his attitude toward countries made up predominantly of people of color.

What President Trump wants is rich people or smart people or talented people who can bring their assets to America. He doesn’t want people who are trying to escape poverty or tyranny or ignorance.

But those are the people who make up America: Irish people escaping famine, Jewish people escaping pogroms, English people escaping religious persecution, Mexican people escaping poverty, Vietnamese people escaping Communist oppression, and even African-Americans escaping slavery. I’m not sure there’s ever been a wave of immigration that has involved people who weren’t looking for something better, who didn’t see America as a land of opportunity, instead of a land in desperate need of what they have to offer.

Why change now?

We shouldn’t.

The only thing we need to do is enforce the rule of law.

And therein lies the problem—both sides of the immigration question are right and wrong at the same time.

Mr. Trump is right to want immigration to be safe (vetting those who wish to live here in such a way that we aren’t bringing in terrorists, drug dealers, and other criminals; doing away with “sanctuary cities” and states; clamping down on illegal immigration; stopping serial immigration). He’s wrong to believe that stealing the best and brightest from other countries is the right way to proceed.

The Dems are right to want a solution for the children of illegal immigrants and to make people from all nations welcome. They’re wrong to do so without putting safeguards in place.

We need real immigration reform, but now there’s talk of the Dems dragging their feet so that they can win more seats during midterm elections. And there is the giant problem in our government—politics. Too many elected officials care more about retaining their position and carving out their own little power pedestals than they do serving the American people, as statesmen did once-upon-a-time.

What we’re seeing is human nature at work. We can have the best form of government on earth, but sadly, it’s still dependent upon sinners to execute their responsibilities faithfully. It’s not going to happen.

Too many people are holding out for the perfect government to solve all the problems, to answer all the questions. Not going to happen.

Our faith is misplaced if we expect a President to be better than we are.

Our greatest need is to look at ourselves and deal with the sin in our own hearts.

Immigration And The Bible

border_mexico_usaSome people may think that immigration is a problem of contemporary times and that the Bible has nothing to say about the matter, but that’s not so. Scripture gives us principles we can follow in all kinds of situations though the details differ from those described in the pages of Holy Writ. When it comes to immigration, though, the people who lived in Bible times dealt with immigration much as we know it today.

True, a national identity wasn’t as defined as it has become. No one carried passports and there were no border crossings, no visas to procure, no inspections or laws about what you could and could not bring with you into the new country where you planned to settle down. Still, people left one city or people group and migrated to another.

Abraham, for example, left Ur of the Chaldeans and traveled to Haran where they settled for a time. God then directed Abram, as he was called at the time, to go to the land of Canaan:

Now the LORD said to Abram,
Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1-3)

Abraham lived a fairly nomadic life, but eventually his descendants more or less settled down—until a famine spurred them to seek a place where they could find food and water. Consequently, when his grandson, Jacob and all 75 of his clan made their way to Egypt during the seven year famine, the trip was not unheard of.

Staying for four hundred years—now that was the anomaly.

Of course, Moses himself was an immigrant even before he led the Israelite exodus. He had fled Egypt where he’d been born and raised, and lived in the land of Midian.

But even after the people of Israel escaped from Egypt and returned to their homeland, drove out the inhabitants, and settled in to build a national existence, people still immigrated.

Ruth, for instance, came from the country of Moab with her mother-in-law Naomi. Why? Because Naomi, her husband, and two sons had gone to Moab during another famine. One of the sons married Ruth, but died some years later. So Ruth immigrated to Israel.

She, a “foreigner,” ended up marrying Boaz, then gave birth to Obed, who was King David’s grandfather.

David himself did some immigrating. While he was on the run from King Saul, he spent time with the Moabites, more than once with the Philistines, and perhaps with others.

The question isn’t, did people immigrate in Bible times as much as it is, what did God say about immigrants?

In Abraham’s case, He directed him to migrate. Circumstances played a big part in others leaving home and going elsewhere, but regardless of the reasons for leaving, for going, God identified those who were separated from their homeland in order to follow Him just like He did orphans and widows, the poor and the needy. They were vulnerable and therefore God expected His people to protect them and care for them.

In fact when Ezekiel prophesied regarding God’s judgment of His people, the ill treatment of immigrants—sojourners—is one of Israel’s sins:

The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice. I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before me for the land, but I found no one. (Ezekiel 22:29-30; emphasis added)

Sojourners, then, were not to be oppressed.

But the Law spelled out in Leviticus indicates there was more than just not mistreating them:

‘Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. (Lev. 25:35; emphasis added)

Putting aside the point of this passage, which was to instruct how a poor person was to be treated, it’s clear that the sojourner was to be taken care of, at least until they were in a place to take care of themselves (see Lev. 25:47).

One last point: Scripture seems to make a distinction between the sojourner and the stranger who was living as an alien among them. This latter individual was not to be granted access to the temple. On the other hand sojourners were expected to keep the Sabbath and had access to the cities of refuge just like the people of Israel.

What can we conclude about immigration today, based on what the Bible says?
1. Sometimes immigration is necessary; sometimes it’s God directed.
2. Immigrants who want to leave their culture and be included with the people of God are welcome.
3. Immigrants are to obey the laws of the land.
4. The citizens of the land to which immigrants come, are not to oppress them
5. The citizens of the land to which immigrants come, should do what they can to help them with their transition.

Of course the US is not synonymous with “the people of God.” But I think we can extrapolate from the second principle that people who want to make their home in a new country, are welcome. They demonstrate their intention by learning and living according to the values of the country to which they’ve come. That’s what Ruth did.

We could wait a long time for our US Congress to reach an agreement on immigration policy. I personally think Christians who love God’s word should not wait. We should take it upon ourselves to follow God’s direction. We should be welcoming to those who have come to the US legally due to circumstances that necessitated their leaving home. We should help them to learn our laws and culture. We should do what we can to help them while they’re trying to get on their feet. We should do all we can to see that they aren’t oppressed.

In short, Christians shouldn’t ignore immigrants or assume the worst about a person who is new to our country. We should actually thank God for the opportunity to be a missionary without leaving home!

Published in: on January 25, 2017 at 6:03 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , ,

Immigration Reform And President Obama

President_Obama2I’ve long been an advocate of immigration reform in the US. The situation we’re in is unconscionable. Reportedly 11.7 million illegal immigrants reside within our borders. I don’t know another nation that has had such a situation with which to deal.

President Reagan’s unfortunate approach to the problem back in the 1980s was to proclaim amnesty and start fresh. Except that policy only gave those wishing to bypass the legal routes to immigration a higher incentive to carry out their plans.

Here’s what we need to fix:

    * A porous border
    * A ponderous law that makes people applying for legal immigration wait, sometimes for decades
    * The means by which criminals in our country illegally can be cull from our population
    * The means by which those who entered our country illegally and who are productive members of society may earn legal status

Apparently the Republican controlled House of Representatives has taken a “piecemeal” approach to these issues rather than aiming at a comprehensive approach. I see some wisdom in that. There ought to be solutions for some of the problems on this list with which we can all agree.

Nevertheless, the Senate hammered out a bipartisan comprehensive bill that offers viable solutions. The House of Representatives would be wise to bring the bill up for debate and offer whatever amendments they deem necessary.

The fact is, immigration reform ought not wait! Will it take another influx of unaccompanied minors for us to realize that what we’re doing now simply does not work?

But here’s the problem. President Obama has poisoned the water by acting unilaterally, and in my view, illegally. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so:

President Obama ’s decision to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants by his own decree is a sorry day for America’s republic. We say that even though we agree with the cause of immigration reform. But process matters to self-government—sometimes it is the only barrier to tyranny—and Mr. Obama’s policy by executive order is tearing at the fabric of national consent. (Wall Street Journal | Editors | I, Barack as quoted in “Obama’s unilateral action on immigration“)

As I see it, Congress is unlikely to roll over and let the President act like a dictator. But what will be the issue the two sides will fight over? Some media people, despite the assurances of GOP leaders that this is not so, say the House will once again shut down the government when the vote to fund government operations and agencies comes up. I have to think past experience will show Congress this is not what the American people want.

But all indicators seem to point to the American people wanting sensible, humane immigration reform, too. I’m afraid that will be the policy about which Congress decides to fight. I don’t see this being a better choice than shutting down the government!

What I’d like to see the GOP controlled Congress do instead is to craft some strong language repudiating this broadening of “executive order” that circumnavigates the Constitution which gave Congress the responsibility to make law. Not the President. Congress!

I’d like to see a Constitutional Amendment to this effect, though we ought not need a law that says the President must obey the law. But apparently we do. Past Presidents have used this “out” to get things Congress wouldn’t vote for, but this method of ruling turned a dangerous corner this week. It’s use is on the increase, and this latest order clearly circumvented the Constitutional process.

In many respects, I see President Obama’s speech which pointed the finger at “Congress,” rather than at the House of Representatives, as a first salvo at the new Congress coming into office in 2015 with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. If the President can turn the tide now so that the American people will blame Congress for perceived “wrong directions” instead of him, then the Democrats will have a leg up in the next election.

In other words, this President seems to be playing politics even as he is undermining our system of government.

I don’t think the immigration issue should suffer, and with it all the people who will be affected by inactivity regarding the vital issues connected with immigration policy. I also don’t think revenge is the right approach because these representatives need to be thinking about the people, not their own bruised egos.

The President was wrong to take matters into his own hands. The House leadership asked him not to do so. I understand that they would rightly be upset that he ignored them. But they’re not alone.

That’s been a problem of this presidency—Mr. Obama has not listened or led. He bullied “Health Care” (really, Mandatory Health Insurance) into existence, he ignored the advice of the military people who said we shouldn’t set dates for withdrawal in Iraq and Afghanistan, he didn’t formulate a policy on Syria for over a year, he’s had six years to work with Congress to pass immigration reform, and more.

Nevertheless, the Republican-led Congress must not lower themselves to school-yard brawl status. They need to act like statesmen. They need to pick their battles with the President carefully—something that the Newt Gingrich-led Congress failed to do with President Clinton several decades ago.

In short, the American people should not have to suffer while the executive and legislative branches play tug-of-war for power. We have three branches of government for a reason, and it’s time to get the judicial branch into this mess. Unless, of course, we like the idea of a dictatorship.

Published in: on November 21, 2014 at 6:43 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Christians And Immigration

Tijuana-San_Ysidro_border_crossingFrom time to time I think Christians get on the wrong side of certain issues, not because of our theology but because of our opposition to those who typically take positions we disagree with. Take environmentalism, for example. Apart from the ridiculous extremes that put Humankind as subservient to nature, Christians should be doing all we can to preserve and protect creation. That’s the job God originally gave us.

Immigration is another such issue. Christians are taking an unbiblical stand on immigration much of the time. Here’s what God’s position on immigration is:

For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Deut. 10:17-19)

No bribes? Good, good. We’re all for no bribes. Justice for orphans? Absolutely! Protect the orphans! For widows? Well, OK, though it sounds a little like welfare. But aliens? Love for aliens? Come on, don’t you realize . . . They might be here illegally. And we can’t condone illegal behavior. We simply have to maintain the rule of law.

I get the illegal issue, but I think that’s perhaps secondary. I think first Christians need to be front and center loving aliens and strangers—especially in America where we or our ancestors were most likely at some point aliens and strangers.

In fact, we celebrate and give thanks for the love our forefathers received when they were aliens and strangers in a holiday called Thanksgiving.

Now we’re in position to welcome, to show love toward, people who are new, who are learning the language, who . . . OK, I heard that . . . something like, But they AREN’T learning the language. Well, just maybe if we talked to them, we’d give them a reason to learn the language.

But think about being in a foreign country, where you don’t know how things work exactly, where you might be ridiculed for no other reason than that you came from somewhere else. Immigrants need love. They are precisely the neighbors Jesus said Christians are to love.

Yes, I think illegal immigration has muddied the waters. I do think we should be a land that believes in the rule of law. I do think people entering the country illegally should face some consequences.

But first, what we’ve been doing, isn’t working. Too many people who are sent back across the border because of their immigration status find a way to return.

Then, too, more and more people who have grown up in the US and who know no other home because they came here with their parents illegally as children, are facing the consequences of a decision they didn’t make and over which they had no control.

So what are we to do? I think Christians should become the vocal minority pushing for immigration reform. We need some brave lawmakers to step up and work out a fair law that will bring illegal immigrants the hope that they can become naturalized citizens without discouraging legal immigrants and without encouraging a new flood of illegal border crossings.

We also need to reach out to immigrants without worrying whether or not they are illegal. We should offer English as a second language classes and we should offer mentors who immigrants can go to when they have questions.

I’m sure there are many, many ways Christians can reach out to immigrants. My church makes a concerted effort to contact foreign students who are studying in our local universities. They are away from home, in a foreign country, adjusting to a different culture.

Sound familiar? Immigrants are going through those same things, so why shouldn’t we reach out to them in the same way, or more so? I mean, they’re staying, so we have a chance to build into their lives on a long term basis.

There are so many good things that would come out of Christians taking a stand to love immigrants. But above all, we’d be following the dictates of Scripture, and that ought to be enough.

It ought to be.

– – – – –

Photo credit: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

%d bloggers like this: