“Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). What is the message to ancient Israel here? What should the message from this verse be for us, as well?
Centuries earlier the Lord told Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13; see also Genesis 17:8, Acts 13:17). This is, of course, what happened, and in the early chapters of Exodus the dramatic story of their redemption (Exodus 15:13) and salvation (Exodus 14:13) from Egypt has been recorded for posterity, a symbol, a type, of the redemption and salvation that we have been given in Christ Jesus. In this verse, the Lord wants them to remember where they had been and what they had been — and that was, strangers in another land.
In other words, remember when you were on the margins of society, outcasts, even slaves, and thus at the mercy of those who were stronger than you and who could abuse you and, indeed, often did. And though Israel was a chosen nation, called of God, a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6), and though there were some differences between them and the strangers among them — especially in regard to religious services — when it came to “human rights,” the stranger, the widow, the orphan needed to be treated with the same fairness and justice as the Israelites expected for themselves.
Read Matthew 7:12. How does the verse encapsulate what the Lord was telling ancient Israel about how they were to treat the weak among them?
This admonition to Israel about how they were to treat outcasts was not, by any means, the norm in the ancient world, where outcasts could be treated in some cases no better than animals, if even that well.
In contrast, Israel was to be different, a light unto the nations. And yes, that difference would be found in the God whom they worshiped, how they worshiped Him, and the whole religious system of truth that God had given them. Yet, their kind treatment of the marginalized could have been a powerful witness to the world of the superiority of their God and of their faith, which in one sense was the whole point of their existence, anyway, to be a witness to the world of their God.