God the Protector, Provider … Host?
“Do as I say and as I do”, said no faint-hearted mortal.
But when a perfect God presents this challenge, it’s both compelling and a bit frightening.
Yet, this is our God. He not only commands us to be like Him, He leads us by example.
Our God never commands something of us that He hasn’t previously demonstrated. And this is just as true for hospitality as it is for anything else.
As horrifying as the ills of Judges 19-21, are (the stomach turning story of a Levite and his abuse of his concubine), it’s important to note that this was not the main point of the story. Whilst this should not downplay the value of the women, or life of anyone for that matter, it should elevate the value of the covenant of hospitality.
The township in question had earned the complete contempt of their countrymen due to their violation of the laws of hospitality. Not ‘tea and biscuits’ hospitality, however. But rather, sacred law, cultural identity, and lifelong covenant, hospitality.
In ancient times, hospitality involved a non-verbal, binding contract. The protocols were complex with expectations from both parties. The host would provide for and protect the guest whilst sheltering under his roof. The guest would graciously accept whatever fair was produced and enter a life-long, covenantal alliance with his host. To betray this contract was considered a heinous offense (Psalm 41:9, Obadiah 7, Luke 22:14-23).
How is this relevant?
The Old Testament is the heart of Christian faith-culture. Therefore, to better understand the teaching of Jesus, we need better understand this culture. For when we do, we receive a clearer view of who our God is and what is required of us.
- Wash feet
- Provided a meal
- Offer up their treasured child to protect their guests
- Expect life-long covenantal alliance from guests
Christ at the Last Supper:
- Washed feet
- Provided a meal
- Offered himself to protect and save guests
- Established ongoing, covenantal alliance with those who ate with him
Our Father in Heaven:
- Washes us clean with baptism
- Provides our daily bread
- Offered up his treasured son to protect and save us
- Guarantees ongoing, covenantal alliance with us
But wait, there’s more!
In addition, when we enter this covenantal alliance with the host, we automatically enter a covenantal alliance with those who belong to the host. So, by extension, when we accept the invitation to sit at the Father’s table, we enter an alliance with Him and with those who are connected to Him.
In short, if we choose to consider the culture and context in which our faith is rooted, when we enter God’s family, we are agreeing to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind, and to love our neighbour as long as we live (Matthew 22:37-40).
This law of hospitality was, and still is, a non-negotiable.
- Do you think it is relevant to consider the culture and context of the law in the Old Testament?
- Does understanding a bit more about the Old Testament law of hospitality impact your view of the Christian life?