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What Nehemiah's Wall Reveals About Trump's Immigration Policies

What Nehemiah's  Wall Reveals About Trump's Immigration Policies

A friend of mine, who is a Christian musician who was prominent in the 1970's, wrote this on his Facebook page after President Trump issued his executive order on immigration;
Compassion is a Christian value and I believe an American one as well.  Closing the borders of our country based on religion defies imagination.  I'm not naive.  I understand that terrorists are looking to enter our country, and I am for all the background checks and law enforcement we need to do to make sure they aren't allowed in.  But my faith, and I'd like to think basic human decency, demands that I not turn a blind eye to the suffering masses who are fleeing war ravaged regions of the world.  How exactly to meet their needs will be debated, but surely Christian folks can agree that Christ taught us to serve the least of these. Compassion shouldn't be a partisan issue.  The book of Matthew speaks to me today… "For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
I've seen several similar statements from Christian friends and family members. I responded to my friend that I understood his feeling but I just wanted to ask him if a God fearing nation that valued compassion has to have open borders then why did Nehemiah build a wall? Nehemiah was in the court of the Persian King Artaxexes during the period that the Jews who had lived through the diaspora were returning to the land. The Exiles had principally returned in three previous waves. Jews were living, working and worshiping again in Israel, but life was very hard especially in Jerusalem. The infrastructure of the city was still in ruins. Nehemiah petitioned the King for permission to return and rebuild the infrastructure of Jerusalem which principally involved building a Wall around the city. He  is often heralded as a model of leadership, and compassion for a nation. So my question is why did Nehemiah build a wall? Was it cultural? Did Nehemiah build a wall  for the same reason the Jews in Samuel's time wanted a King? Was it because every one else had a wall.. There is no place where Nehemiah concisely states his reason for wanting a wall. He tells the King that "the city, the place of my father's grave, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?" (Nehemiah 2:3)The King commissioned Nehemiah to return and build a wall, but even so, why? Why was a wall needed?Shealtiel and Zerubabel had returned with repatriated exiles and rebuilt the temple (Ezra 1-6). The Priest Ezra had returned with repatriated people and rebuilt the system of worship and the laws (Ezra 7-10). So at the time of Nehemiah people were living, working, worshiping and prospering in the city. Why was the wall needed? 

We discover the purpose the wall served when we hear from those who opposed it. "But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Amonite  heard this it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel?" These two opponents of the wall were from tribes that were enemies of Israel. They opposed the wall because it prevented them from destroying the city. Nehemiah built the wall to keep the nation's enemies out. It had nothing to do with hate or apathy. As governor of Jerusalem Nehemiah's chief responsibility before God and his King was the sovereignty and security of his people. Protecting national sovereignty and  security is the first duty of national leaders even compassionate ones. Nehemiah built a wall for the same Trump seeks to build one on our Southern border, and issued an executive order restricting travel from several nations.

Was Nehemiah a xenophobe? Was he a hater? Is Trump? My friend's statement on his Facebook page reveals his kind and gentle heart. It's that heart, and his evangelistic fervor that gave him artistic success; however, it also reveals that he is not a Bible scholar. His arguments are non-sequitor, and he jumps to several false conclusions about Trump's policies. For many Christians and churches President Donald J. Trump's strict immigration policy marks the end of what may have been the greatest opportunity the church in American has had to fulfill the Great Commission in our life time. Since the passage of the 1963 and again the 1988 immigration laws there has been an influx of people to our shores from countries that are closed to the gospel. The people's of the world are all around us. There is virtually no part of the United States either rural or urban without immigrants. It is clear that these people are our neighbors. How the Bible calls us to respond to the poor and the immigrant is clear. We are to treat them humanely, clothe them, treat them with basic human rights. When a Muslim or Hispanic or Indian family moves into our neighborhood, we are to welcome them as we would any other. We are to help them with food, clothing, transportation and education. The church I attend has an outreach to the immigrant and refugee populations of Indianapolis. We teach them English, help them assimilate into the culture, help them meet their needs, assist them with immigration and present the gospel. God has brought these immigrants to our shores and it is our obligation to minister to them. I am proud and completely supportive of what my church's compassionate ministry to immigrants and Refugees.

Does our nation's high regard for compassionate and human rights compel us to permit entry to anyone in need? Is it consistent with a nation who claims to be built on Judaeo-Chistian values to prohibit refugees and immigrants from countries that harbor terrorist or support our enemies. Many Christians object tor President Trump's recent executive action restricting refugees and other immigrants from some nations he deems as hostile to us. Some Christian openly teach that if we love our neighbors and if we are to be witnesses for Christ, then we should allow anyone into our country who presents themselves at the border if they are in  need. The civil war in Syria is a humanitarian crises, which the Obama foreign policy exacerbated. There is no doubt that we bear some responsibility for the crises, and have some responsibility to help. Are we to ignore the genocide and civilian casualties of this war? That the Bible calls us to respond generously and unreservedly to the poor, refugees and the immigrant is clear. How can we who claim to be ambassadors of Christ and refuse these people?

Nehemiah built a wall to control the borders of Jerusalem, keeping them safe.  Governing authorities have biblical roles that are distinct from individuals. Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God's." Governingauthorities are ministers of God” (Romans 13:10). There role is different from that of the individuals. Leaders are charged by God to bring order and structure to society. Protecting national sovereignty and security is part of that responsibility. That is why Nehemiah built a wall and why Trump is building a wall and restricting access to the US border. Some will argue that while public welfare may have been the reason for Nehemiah to build his wall, the only reason for Trumps immigration policy is fear. Security is not a matter of fear. I lock my home so that I will not have to live in fear, rather than securing my home out of fear.

Nehemiah's wall was consistent with the way God told Israel's to respond to foreign nation. While Israel was to be compassionate and help aliens and refugees, they were also called to protect their security, religious identity, and borders. It was not a matter of living in fear, but of keeping the people from living in fear of their enemies. There is nothing in Trump's plan to control the borders that diminishes the importance of caring for the downtrodden or diminishes our national opportunity to help oppressed people or refugees. While the United States is neither a theocracy nor a covenant people as was the Jewish state. The history of Israel and the Old Testament symbolizes values for just and compassionate people and nations to follow. Paul speaking of the Old Testament said:
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction,that through endurance and through the enc our-agement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Roman 15:10 ESV)
The Old Testament message of hope and health for the nation of Israel has application for the post modern United States. Understanding the commands God gave to the nation of Israel regarding foreign nations can help us to understand how Christian values can be applied to national immigration policy in our time.

Israel was called to be a Priestly nation to the gentiles (Exodus 19:6). God's redemptive work in the nation was a witness to the gentile nations of how God could live in their midst. The New Testament teaches all believers share in a Priesthood to bring redemption to the world (1 Peter 2:4-10) Many Christians value open immigration and refugee resettlement as the as the means of caring and bringing the message of redemption to the nations. Are we neglecting our priestly role and living in fear when we deny entry to some refugees and immigrants​​​? Nehemiah came to Israel to build a wall. to establish Jerusalem's sovereignty and to protect them from their enemies. God lead Israel's leaders to to secure their borders to control immigration.  

The Jewish law placed restrictions on  immigration  to the nation of Israel:

•Some ethnics groups were prohibited from entering the country. Some aliens who entered the country were never allowed to enter the covenant. They remained non-citizens.
•Some non-Jewish aliens left Egypt during the Exodus; they were required to give up their religions and assimilated into Jewish culture (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4; Jos 8:35)
•Some aliens who lived among the Jews were considered intruders. Some laws were exclusively applied to them (Lev 12:19;17:10,15; 18:26; 20:2; 24:16); restrictions were place on their beliefs and practices. Foreigners who chose to worship Jehovah and live under the Jewish law became members of the covenant and full citizens of the Jewish nation  but there were still some legal restrictions placed on them. 
•Some ethnic groups were not allowed to become citizens for up to 10 generations (Exodus 12:48; 34: 15- 16 Deuteronomy 7:1-4; 23:3); in at least one case the Lord told the Jews to annihilate an ethnic group (Deut 14:21). God judged ethnic groups related to Israel based on how they treated Israel (Ob11).
•The Old Testament civil law included controls on immigration to protect the safety and sovereignty of the nation. Aliens from enemy nations were viewed differently under the law than those from Israel's allies. The leaders of Israel even on occasion divided families to secure the nation. The High Priest Ezra commanded Jews who have intermarried with people from pagan cultures to divorce them; the wives and children of those marriages were expatriated.(Ezra 10). The role alien people's were allowed to play in the nation of Israel was strictly regulated to preserve the religion, to secure the culture, to keep the nation healthy and safe, and to provide for the ascendancy of the Messiah.

While taking care of alien's, oppressed people and refugees is always incumbent on believing people. Governing authorities are responsible for building a just and fair society, for preserving culture, and national identity. The Bible clearly teaches that controlling immigration is a duty of government. The responsibility of the individual to his neighbor is different from the responsibilities of governments to maintain order in society. Citizenship is part of a Christians stewardship

The Bible clearly teaches that controlling immigration is a duty of government.

Samson's Jawbone recognizes that the New Testament economy is a spiritual one not a national. The Jewish civil law does not govern secular nations in the modern era. So Nehemiah's motivation to secure the city has no direct application to Trump's policy. The New Testament does give some relevant guidance for relations among differing people groups in the age of grace.

First, God establishes every nation so that through his dealing in their culture and history his redemptive work will progress..
[26] And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, [27] that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, (Acts 17:26-27 ESV).

God providently directs the cultural, ethnic and historical events that shape a nation for his kingdom purpose. God even stands behind secular and despotic leaders to accomplish his purposes (Psalm 2) Preserving sovereignty and cultural identity of a nation is consistent with Christian values..

Second, God establishes governments that people might live in peace and harmony with each other (Romans 13) and with other nations. Governments make rules to bring order and while no secular government has to follow Old Testament civil law. National leaders actions to secure the safety and sovereignty of their people in no way prevents Christians from helping immigrants and refugees. Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God's.” He came to fulfill the Law not abolish it; in other words, Paul speaking of the Old Testament said, "it was written for our instruction." The principles and practices of the Jewish law can still guide individuals to live holy lives and nations to apply healthy policies. Since God lead the nation of Israel to control immigration, and lead Nehemiah to build a wall for the welfare of the people, national leaders who are controlling borders and immigration are upholding biblical values. Christian values of compassion and care are consistent with Trump's wall and with his restriction of refugees. Helping refugees in no way requires their repatriation to this country

Refugees can be served in their home areas as well or better than they can through repatriation. The Center for Immigration Studies has documented the cost of resettling a refugee in this country is $65,000 per person. The United Nations Commission on refugees can help refugees in their on countries for about $1500 per person. There are many churches successfully operating ministries to help refugees resettle, and learn English in this country. Ministry can be more efficient and effective when done in native languages, involving national churches and where the native culture is predominant. President Trumps plan for safe zones in Syria may be a more compassionate alternative to repatriation. Furthermore Trumps temporary Executive Order is neither a ban on refugees, or Muslims. More than 700 people have been admitted from the affected countries since the order was issued.

So it is clear that what President Trump is doing is neither unbiblical, nor uncompassionate. My friend's Facebook objection acknowledged that government has the right to control borders. The question he raises is whether restricting access to  refugees is an act of fear. He repeated some false media claims. Trump,s restriction on immigration is no more rigid than those President Obama applied on Iraq in 2012. Trump's temporary ban on travel to some places is not a Muslin ban. It does not mention any country by name, rather identifies countries identified statutorily as terrorist country. Here is part of the text of the executive order:
I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and non immigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and non immigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.
Trump's order stops some refugees  or other immigrants from seven countries for 90 days, and caps refugee entries to 50,000 over the next six months. Until 2007 the United States admitted on average 20,000 refugees a year. Obama only admitted 50,000 in 2011 and 2012. His cap was raised one time to 70,000. Under order as it stands the number of refugees that can enter the country today is larger than it it was for most of Obama's term.
•The order mentions nothing about religion. Anyone coming from those nations will be vetted regardless of their religion. There is no religious test being applied to those who are being detained. Furthermore the ban allows for exceptions to be made by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and State Department.

There is nothing in Trump's order that prevents Christians from caring for immigrants and refugees, nor does it close our borders to those who are oppressed or persecuted

God has established the sovereign boundaries of our nation. He guides our history. A Christian government has a duty to control boundaries for the sake of maintaining civil order and accomplishing God's purpose for a nation. Obviously the scripture teaches that prisoners and criminals should be treated with dignity, but it still gives governments rights to punish them and deny them certain privileges. We can act compassionately towards the downtrodden and refugees without compromising our safety and security. An immigration policy that, protects our sovereignty and controls our borders is consistent with Christian values.

An immigration policy that, protects our sovereignty and controls our borders can be consistent with Christian values.
Understanding why Nehemiah built a wall can help us apply Christian values to the current immigration debate. While we may differ on what our country's immigration policies should be. Some may well believe the compassionate thing to do is to grant amnesty to those living here illegally, and to grant entry anyone who wants to come. Christians who value controlling entry can still act compassionately toward neighbors and refugees. When dealing with aliens the Bible compels us to act compassionately especially to refugees, it also compels leaders to implement policies for the protection of the nations safety and sovereignty. The government is a "minister of God" called to preserve and protect our cultural and national sovereignty. We as Christians are to live as lights and engage everyone around us with truth and grace, and we are to pray for our governing authorities to exercise wisdom and justice in the  exercise of national policy. Christian values can guide a nation. Christian people can engage immigrants and refugees compassionately and a wall can be built, and immigration can be controlled to provide safety and security for the nation.

(All scripture references from the English Standard Version ESVonline copyright Crossway 2001-2010 accessed July 18, 2010)


This post first appeared on Samson's Jawbone, please read the originial post: here

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What Nehemiah's Wall Reveals About Trump's Immigration Policies


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