“You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.—Exodus 23:9 NLT
According to an old Roman proverb, “Repetitio mater studiorum est”—repitition is the mother of all learning. It seemed good to God to say it twice, that the Israelitas should not forget their sad history as foreigners in Egypt.
The repitition of God’s commandments is worthwhile, because intergenerational memories do not last long. A society easily forgets the experience of its ancestors and the roots of its present power and prosperity. God did not want Israel to forget its slavery in Egypt and the hard oppression she suffered there. God knew, as the philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
In the 19th Century the United States of America received a statue from its ally and friend, France—the famous Statue of Liberty. A poem by Emma Lazarus was engraved in the base of its pedestal in 1903, reminding the world of America’s immigrant heritage:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
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; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
With such reminders, the United States of America should never forget its duty to ensure justice for immigrants, nor should any other country in the world that desires to live in the penumbra of Liberty.
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.