“Cost of Now Welcoming the Caravan”
On Friday, October 2, the LA Times reported that a caravan of migrants from Guatemala left a day earlier and crossed into Honduras and is traveling north. Even though they know that the current U.S. administration has not allowed anyone seeking a better life to enter the U.S., in desperation, the poor are risking their lives for an unknown future. Even amid despair, they have found the courage to hope. These migrants from Central America are not the first people to travel in a caravan seeking a better life in another land. History is made up of these stories.
There is a particular story about a group of people who were so dissatisfied with their lives that they set out on foot, seeking a better life through a hot, barren desert. Their account tells of running out of food and water under the scorching sun, and even facing armies of neighboring countries. Because people of other countries saw them as dangerous and considered these strangers as enemies, they were forced to settle in an unhabitable desert. They vowed never to forget the bad treatment they received and promised to take revenge against those who endangered them. The children of the migrants eventually formed an armed resistance and took revenge on the neighboring countries who did not welcome their ancestors by killing every man, woman, and child. This is the story of Israelites and Amalekites.
Amalekites, rather than opening their doors to the caravan of poor migrants looking for a better life, came out and prevented Israelites from entering the Amalek land. The act of not welcoming the caravan of poor migrants on route to a promised land was so egregious, and God says that God will “utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exodus 17:14). Forty years later, Moses, when reciting all of God’s Laws for Israelites to keep in the Promised Land, reminds Israelites of what the Amalekites had done and reminds Israelites of their obligation to wipe out the Amalekites. “Therefore when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies on every land, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; do not forget.” (Deuteronomy 25:19)
Later, when Israel gets established as a country in the Promised Land and anoints Saul as their first king, this command is given to him as the first act to perform as the King of Israel.
Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (I Samuel 15:1-3)
This command is so serious that when Saul does not follow God’s commands and does not “utterly” destroy Amalek – Saul allows a person to live - Saul is immediately rejected as the king of Israel. (I Samuel 15:23)
When we look at the story of Israel traveling through the desert looking for a place to live, to live in a place where they will be able to fulfill their dream of a better life, we can read their exodus from Egypt as every person’s story of dreaming about a better future. The Promised Land being a land of “milk and honey,” is no different than Chinese immigrants calling U.S. the Gold Mountain. Cities in the U.S. were named Zion, Bethlehem, and other biblical cities as them being the promised land for immigrants.
A caravan on foot, or a boatload of refugees fleeing oppression or seeking an opportunity to live on their own terms, is the story of the people of God. Whether it is called Exodus, Pueblos Sin Frontera, Mayflower, economic immigrants, war refugees, or migrant caravan, it is the story of the people looking for a better life.
The definition of the people of God is “those who are on the journey to the Promised Land,” or the definition of “migrant” is “being the people of God.” When Amalekites did not welcome the journeying Israelites into their world, they faced God’s wrath until they were completely destroyed. The current administration said that those from Finland, whites, were welcome, while other nations where it is a majority people of color, were described with profanity, making racism the official policy of the country.
Scriptures tell us that those who do not welcome the migrants seeking a better life will be wiped off the face of the earth. So the question is, how long will the U.S. last? Will we change our way, or will we simply wait until the wrath of God is unleashed? Our denying entry to poor migrants seeking a better life invalidates our right to exist as a country. To avoid God’s punishment, we must welcome strangers and aliens.