Perhaps the most direct Old Testament parallels to serving refugees can be found in the Bible’s commands regarding the “foreigner” or “sojourner.” God made a promise to Abram that his descendants would be “sojourners” in the land (Genesis 15:13), and the nomadic history of God’s people would become the controlling motivation for them to treat other foreigners with dignity and generosity. When they encountered foreigners in their land, the Law commanded that God’s people should “not oppress” nor “do him wrong” but rather “love” him/her (Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:33-34, and Deuteronomy 10:19). This emphasis on righteous hospitality for the foreigner continues through the Psalms and Prophets (e. g. Psalm 146:9; Jeremiah 7:6, 22:3; Ezekiel 47:22; and Zechariah 7:10) and is perhaps summarized by the words of Isaiah, who writes that in the days of the Messiah “sojourners will join [God’s people] and attach themselves to Jacob” (Isaiah 14:1).
The New Testament develops and deepens this theme. Jesus’ own famous parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates his summary of the Old Testament commands to love God and neighbor, even if that neighbor is from an unexpected people group. The Samaritan, moved by pity, serves the broken man on the Jericho road by caring for his physical wounds, making sure he was socially secure by bringing him to the inn, providing economically for him by leaving two denarii (Luke 10:25-37). These practical implications of being a good neighbor and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom to those in need become even more explicit in the book of Acts and the Epistles. The first words of Jesus’ great commission to his followers after his resurrection provides a telling summary: “Go and make disciples of all peoples” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In conclusion, then, the Bible reveals that God’s people are to apply God’s truth in such a way that it impacts and takes into account not only the “spiritual” concerns of the foreigner but also their religious, social, and economic needs.