Psalm 10: 12 Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed. 13 Why do the wicked renounce God, and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”? 14 But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan. 15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers; seek out their wickedness until you find none. 16 The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations shall perish from his land. 17 O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear 18 to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more.
I’m noticing this morning on whose behalf the Lord acts: the oppressed, helpless, orphan, meek. Reminds me of a verse from the prophet Isaiah:
Isaiah 40: 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.
Jesus’ sermon on the mount from Matthew offers similar sentiments. God does not tend to act on behalf of the powerful, the ones with resources (people, money, authority) at their disposal. It’s the ones who have no hope without the Lord, and who are aware of their great need of God, who tend to receive the advocacy of God.
I once met a pastor from rural China named Brother Yun. He was pastor to several underground churches, ones not sanctioned by the Chinese government. He’d been beaten and jailed several times and had the scars to prove it. He told stories of God’s amazing advocacy for the poor who mostly comprised the church in rural China. Miracles. Amazing acts of power. When asked why it is we do not tend to see these kinds of miraculous healings and such in the West, he mentioned all the hospitals he had seen while traveling in the US. And then said something to the effect of, “With all these hospitals who needs the Lord?” In other words, we tend to place our hope and trust in medical resources because they are comparatively abundant in the West. I don’t think he meant it as an insult, just an observation.
A few years later when I went to rural West Africa (not China) I saw the kind of thing Brother Yun was referring to. In many villages there was little in the way of institutional medical care. And so, even in villages suspicious of Christians, there was generally a request for us to pray for the children who were sick. And pray we did, fully aware of our absolute dependence on God. And, in some cases, the Lord would bring visible healing and restoration. It’s true. Finally I’m reminded of this passage:
2 Corinthians 12: 8 (The apostle Paul writes) Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
Lord I’ll be honest I don’t like being weak. I want to be strong. I want to be able to handle things in my own power. Or perhaps get a little help from you, but mostly take care of it myself. Yet that isn’t the invitation you offer here. Instead of me being strong, you prefer I acknowledge my weakness so to that YOUR strength may shine through. Change my heart, O Lord, to make peace with weakness. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.