By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey
“He upholds the cause of the oppressed.” Psalm 146:7
In 1955, an African-American Christian woman in her 40s refused to surrender her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. As a result, many now view Rosa Parks as the mother of the civil rights movement and consider her act one of courage. But Rosa called her decision an act of faith. She said, “I felt the Lord would give me strength to endure whatever I had to face. It was time for someone to stand up—or in my case, to sit down. I refused to move.”
As followers of Jesus, we must be willing to stand, or sit, for what is right and just. Sadly, when life is good inside the “believer’s bubble,” very few voices cry out in protest against injustice.
Take a glance back through history with me for just a moment. Remember the Christians who lived in ancient Rome? They were tortured and killed for entertainment in the coliseums of Rome. Centuries later, generations of Africans were forced into slavery in America and kept in bondage until they were legally set free in 1865. But it didn’t end there. Sadly, our world has witnessed countless other atrocities, resulting in the tragic loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.
Something should go “tilt” deep down inside us when we think about these detestable actions against the dignity of fellow humans. And if it doesn’t, we need to check our spiritual pulse! God hates injustice and has a special place in His heart for the oppressed. In Psalm 146:7, the text tells us, “He upholds the cause of the oppressed.” It moves me to think about how His heart must break when He sees people who are precious to Him victimized by corrupt thinking and twisted morality.
God hates injustice so much that He gave us a living model for raising the standard of justice against oppression. That model is Jesus Christ!
Take, for instance, the time when He “cleaned house” in the temple where the merchants and moneychangers were in cahoots. They were requiring poor pilgrims who had come to worship to change their money for temple currency at exorbitantly unjust rates and, on top of that, they were forced to pay several times the market value for the cow, lamb, or dove that was to be used as an atonement for their sin!
Obviously, Jesus despised this unjust practice so much that He used a whip to drive the money changers from the temple, overthrowing their money tables and calling them thieves! He reacted so strongly because the merchants were taking advantage of people’s desire to serve and obey God. Injustice in the name of a just God is a serious offense to our God, who is perfectly just. In fact, throughout the Gospels Jesus took it upon Himself, at great risk, to be an advocate for the maligned and the oppressed.
One of history’s most tragic offenses to justice was the Holocaust. In Washington D.C., at the Holocaust Museum, there is a plaque with these words, “Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
Although the silence from the Christian community is often deafening when it comes to helping the oppressed, it is never too late to start. You and I need to link arms with the people who are taking justice to our unjust world by rescuing those who are victims of injustice.
The Old Testament prophet Micah said that when it comes to pleasing God, we must “act justly and love mercy” (Micah 6:8). Maybe, that’s why I would like to see the eleventh commandment be: “Thou shalt not be a bystander.”
Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2:7 NASB
Paul told Timothy that if he wanted “understanding in everything,” he needed to do something. It wasn’t enough just to read Paul’s letters or listen to the Law and Prophets. Timothy needed to go a step further and “consider” these words.
Paul used a word that means exercising the mind. In other words, he wanted Timothy to think. To seek. To dig deeper.
Paul was giving Timothy a challenge: If he wanted to receive understanding, he had to put in extra effort. This involved absorbing the words he had heard and read, mulling them over, praying and seeking God, and being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit.
If he did those things, Paul promised that Timothy would gain “understanding.” The Greek words here indicate that Timothy might have grasped bits and pieces of information, but this did not mean that he had understanding. God wanted to help him put the pieces together, so he would have true understanding “in everything.”
This same challenge applies to you. Remember the power and importance of reading God’s Word and hearing anointed messages. But if you want a deeper understanding, you need to dig deeper. If you want all the pieces to fit together, you need to exercise your mind, study, probe, and pray.
God is ready to reward your faithfulness and your desire to learn and grow. He is ready to put more of the pieces together for you.
Streams in the Desert – June 15
By: L.B. Cowman
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
He named the second child Ephraim, saying, “Certainly God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering. (Gen 41:52)
The summer showers are falling. The poet stands by the window watching them. They are beating and buffeting the earth with their fierce downpour. But the poet sees in his imaginings more than the showers which are falling before his eyes. He sees myriads of lovely flowers which shall be soon breaking forth from the watered earth, filling it with matchless beauty and fragrance. And so he sings:
“It isn’t raining rain for me, it’s raining daffodils;
In every dimpling drop I see wild flowers upon the hills.
A cloud of gray engulfs the day, and overwhelms the town;
It isn’t raining rain for me: it’s raining roses down.”
Perchance some one of God’s chastened children is even now saying, “O God, it is raining hard for me tonight.
“Testings are raining upon me which seem beyond my power to endure. Disappointments are raining fast, to the utter defeat of all my chosen plans. Bereavements are raining into my life which are making my shrinking heart quiver in its intensity of suffering. The rain of affliction is surely beating down upon my soul these days.”
Withal, friend, you are mistaken. It isn’t raining rain for you. It’s raining blessing. For, if you will but believe your Father’s Word, under that beating rain are springing up spiritual flowers of such fragrance and beauty as never before grew in that stormless, unchastened life of yours.
You indeed see the rain. But do you see also the flowers? You are pained by the testings. But God sees the sweet flower of faith which is upspringing in your life under those very trials.
You shrink from the suffering. But God sees the tender compassion for other sufferers which is finding birth in your soul.
Your heart winces under the sore bereavement. But God sees the deepening and enriching which that sorrow has brought to you.
It isn’t raining afflictions for you. It is raining tenderness, love, compassion, patience, and a thousand other flowers and fruits of the blessed Spirit, which are bringing into your life such a spiritual enrichment as all the fullness of worldly prosperity and ease was never able to beget in your innermost soul.
—J. M. McC.
SONGS ACROSS THE STORM
“A harp stood in the moveless air,
Where showers of sunshine washed a thousand fragrant blooms;
A traveler bowed with loads of care
Essayed from morning till the dusk of evening glooms
To thrum sweet sounds from the songless strings;
The pilgrim strives in vain with each unanswering chord,
Until the tempest’s thunder sings,
And, moving on the storm, the fingers of the Lord
A wondrous melody awakes;
And though the battling winds their soldier deeds perform,
Their trumpet-sound brave music makes
While God’s assuring voice sings love across the storm”