God’s Heart for the Vulnerable

When the Old Testament talks about God’s justice, it often does so by highlighting His particular concern for those most vulnerable to injustice. Three particular groups are highlighted repeatedly: the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner (or, in different English translations, the stranger, alien, sojourner, or immigrant).

Not only does God love and provide for these vulnerable groups of people, He also commands His people to do the same. As we saw yesterday, God even instilled policies to ensure that these vulnerable groups has the means to provide for basic needs such as food.

Later, God sent prophets to rebuke those who had failed to protect these vulnerable groups. Jeremiah and Malachi warn of God’s judgment for those who failed to keep these commands, listing mistreatment of the orphan, widow, and foreigner alongside sins such as adultery, sorcery, lying, and shedding innocent blood.

The Bible also takes these three groups—widows, orphans, and foreigners—as metaphors for how God rescues each of us in the midst of our vulnerability. The Prophet Isaiah compares God to a husband, redeeming a widow. In Galatians, Paul describes our salvation in Jesus as a process of being adopted as God’s children. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes that those of us who are Gentiles were once strangers and aliens to God’s covenant with the Jewish people, but that by Christ’s death, we can be naturalized in as citizens of God’s kingdom, reconciled to Him and also to one another.

God deeply loves the vulnerable—and, at least in a spiritual sense, that includes all of us.

Reflection Questions:

1. How could you practically serve and reflect God’s love toward those who are vulnerable in your community?

2. How might recognizing your own vulnerability—and God’s grace in redeeming us in the midst of it—inform how you respond to those who are vulnerable as widows, orphans, or foreigners in our society and around the globe?

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Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

We tend to think about refugees and other immigration issues through the lens of what we view on television, hear on the radio, or see shared on social media. However, if we regard God’s word as the authority for our lives, we also need to think about refugees as a biblical issue, because the Bible speaks repeatedly to God’s heart for refugees and other vulnerable foreigners. In fact, the Hebrew word for a “resident alien”—ger—appears 92 times just in the Old Testament. We’ll look at several of those passages this week, with some specific instructions from God to His people about how to treat “the stranger in the land.”

Even before we encounter any specific biblical injunctions concerning how to treat the refugee or other foreigners, we find that each human being—refugees certainly included—is made by God and in His image.

It is because each human being (regardless of ethnicity, gender, legal status, disability, or any other qualifier) is “fearfully and wonderfully made” by the Creator God that each has inherent dignity. We value and protect human life because we believe it is precious to God. That commitment to life compels us to do all we can to shelter and protect refugees, who in many cases have been forced to flee to preserve their lives.

That each person is made in the likeness of the Creator God also suggests that human beings have remarkable creative potential. Take Sergey Brin, for example: as a six-year-old, he and his family fled discrimination in the former Soviet and came as refugees to the United States. Using a God-giving creativity, he went on to co-found Google, which is now among the world’s most valuable companies, providing tools most of us use on a very regular basis and employing many people in the process.

As resilient and entrepreneurial people made in the image of their Creator, refugees have remarkable capacity to contribute, and we deny the image of God within them when we speak of them (or anyone) merely as a burden.

Reflection Questions:

1. What has been the primary influence on how you think about refugees? Have you ever before considered what the Bible might say on this topic?

2. How does the teaching that refugees are made in the image of God inform how you think about and respond to them?

Finding God Part Twelve

Every relationship requires communication. So it is with God. We need to hear from him, and he wants to hear from us.

* Read and study God’s word, the Bible, both by yourself and with others. This is how God speaks to us. The more we know and understand the Bible, the more we know who God is and what he wants for us. It might seem overwhelming at first, but with consistency and good teachers, you will quickly learn what God intends for you.

* Pray, talk to God daily. Learn to share your thoughts and feelings with God all through the day. Make this a habit; think of it as spiritual breathing. God is always with you, and he wants to share every moment with you. Do so. Learn to thank God for everything, even the small things. He will then show you his will for every decision you make.

Finding God Part Five

Being at peace with God is not automatic, because by nature we are separated from him. This separation is the “something wrong” that is at the root of our selfishness, loneliness, and dark feelings.

Through many immoral and amoral acts, thoughts and attitudes, we keep moving away from God, not toward Him. All of us do this, no matter how moral and upright we may seem on the surface.

If you search your own heart honestly, you already know this is true. This has caused a split between us and the One who made us and loves us. This split is called sin.

Hearing God Speak Part Five

The point of these verses is this: Because the Scriptures are the Word of God — the communication and revelation of the living God — they have effects on us that are better than the effects of anything else we can read or study or watch or listen to.

God understands you better than anyone else. He knows how people get to be the way they are and how they are affected by their surroundings. God understands society perfectly. God knows all facts about how the world works. God knows the future and how everything will come out in the end. God is wiser than any wise writer. God is more caring than any counselor. God is more creative than any artist. It simply stands to reason that what God says will be more useful to us than what anyone else in the universe has to say. Not to sit at his feet and soak our minds with his wisdom is sheer craziness

May God increase your confidence that the Bible is his very word! And may that persuade you that by meditating on it and following it there is great reward — greater than much fine gold. And may you discover every day the benefits of life and wisdom and joy!

Hearing God Speak Part Three

Never reduce Christianity to a matter of demands and resolutions and willpower. It is a matter of what we love, what we delight in, what tastes good to us.

When Jesus came into the world humanity was split according to what they loved. The light came into the world and men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19). The righteous and the wicked are separated by what they delight in—the revelation of God or the way of the world.

But someone may ask: How can I come to delight in the Word of God? My answer would be twofold: 1) pray for new taste buds on the tongue of your heart; 2) meditate on the staggering promises of God to his people.

The same psalmist who said How sweet are your words to my taste (Psalm 119:103), said earlier, Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (Psalm 119:18). He prayed because to have holy taste buds on the tongue of the heart is a gift of God. No man naturally hungers for and delights in Gods wisdom. Ask God to work this miracle in your life.

Hearing God Speak Part Two

The Holy Spirit is the divine author of all Scripture. If this doctrine is true — and it is — then the implications are so profound and far-reaching that every part of our lives should be affected.

Because Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture, it is true (Psalm 119:142) and altogether reliable (Hebrews 6:18).

It is powerful, working its purpose in our hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and not returning empty to the One who sent it (Isaiah 55:10–11).

It is pure, like silver refined in a furnace seven times (Psalm 12:6).

It is sanctifying (John 17:17).

It gives life (Psalm 119:37, 50, 93, 107; John 6:63; Matthew 4:4).

It makes wise (Psalm 19:7; 119:99–100).

It gives joy (Psalm 19:8; 119:16, 92, 111, 143, 174) and promises great reward (Psalm 19:11).

It gives strength to the weak (Psalm 119:28) and comfort to the distraught (Psalm 119:76) and guidance to the perplexed (Psalm 119:105) and salvation to the lost (Psalm 119:155; 2 Timothy 3:15).

The wisdom of God in Scripture is inexhaustible.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 

If I would count them, they are more than the sand.