Jeremiah 22:3 Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.
Jeremiah 22:16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the LORD.
She came wondering up to our porch about 3 weeks ago. Initially, of course, I thought, “what is she doing on our property”? As I walked toward her, she was obviously homeless, seemingly a “stranger” to the area, and probably only in her 20’s at that. I had all my preconceived answers for her (sorry, I don’t have any money. Maybe you can find a rescue mission. If you come back on Sunday, maybe we can help, etc.). But her request? “Do you have any extra clothes I could use?” Ouch. The Holy Spirit spoke to me, I went into my wife, and asked for some money she could use to get some clothing at Goodwill. She was very grateful. Another man came to me within the past month. He left the Louisiana area after major flooding, hit hard times, and was homeless, living under a bridge. As he walked up, and before I knew his story, the same preconceived notions came to my mind. But he only wanted a ride to work, which we gave him, along with lunch. He even offered a couple bucks for the ride across town. And God paid us back 10 fold. The night we gave the lady $10, someone gave us $100 for DINNER. And it’s happened time and time again.
In these passages I am reminded of God’s heart for the poor, the oppressed, the widow, and the fatherless. I think many of us, especially in America, have grown hard to “pure religion”. In this morning’s reading, God could have said “stop your immorality”, or “stop your idolatry”, or “stop the violence”. But He said in reference to Jeremiah 22:3, “For if ye do this thing indeed (not stopping those things, but stopping the oppression of the poor, needy, strangers), then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people.” If they cared for these people, God would turn their captivity. If these people are high on God’s priority list, my prayer this morning is that He’d help them to be high on mine. It’s not easy. We’ve been conditioned to be hard here. But it’s “true religion” (James 1:27).
There are two specific ministries among others that I can think of that may be near to God’s heart, if we have a desire to be involved in something that is. First, is the bus ministry. Oh, I know, “they’re not poor. They have a nicer tv than me”. Yes – but how many have a father that’s involved in their life, if a father that they know at all? I just read that 70% of children born in Milwaukee (where violent riots have been this week) are born out of wedlock… How many move from house to house, and city to city, as strangers to the society of which they are a part? How many are “oppressed” through drugs, abuse, and more? One great way to be involved in a ministry close to God’s heart is through this great ministry.
Another area is missions. One thing that has broken my heart and changed my life has been my trips overseas. There you see true, horrible oppression. Those are true strangers in the land. There are countless fatherless, widows, and poor people. If I want to touch God’s heart strings, I ought to be involved with things that are near and dear to His heart. Giving to missions and praying for missions, and asking if the Lord would have me to serve on the field are great ways to start.
I can pray and give, for sure, to both of these ministries. And then I can ask how the Lord would have me to be personally involved, whether through being part of a bus route, or by taking short term missions trips, or by potentially going myself, if He wills. Might our hearts today be stirred by the things that stir God’s heart. I know that He repays 10-fold, time and time again.