What’s calling for your attention? What’s demanding to be done and requiring your energy and focus?
We have emails to be answered, phone calls that need to be made, church events to plan, church functions to attend, dinner that must be made, groceries to grab in order to make the dinner, children to encourage, a spouse to love, and so on and so forth. But with all of these various good things pulling for our attention every day, it can be easy to forget about those who need care.
Throughout Scripture, we see God’s care for those in need, and it is also reflected in his character. As his redeemed image-bearers, God has given Christians a call to care as well.
It can seem more reverent to wonder at the majesty and holiness of God. God is worthy of all of our awe, and it is good to fear the Lord. But have you ever given much thought to how intimate God’s love and care is for people? And I don’t mean his care through salvation. We know that his ultimate display of love is through his sacrifice of his unique Son, Jesus. There’s no doubt about that. But as I read the beginning of Psalm 68, I’m reminded of one of God’s attributes: God is love.
God of Wonders
We get a glimpse of his holiness in the first two verses of Psalm 68, “God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate him shall flee before him! As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God!” (Psalm 68:1–2).
There is no one like our God, and no enemy could ever overtake him. Even those who hate him will flee and be driven away. The Lord our God is indeed a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29), but the righteous will be glad and exult before God. The righteous have nothing to fear (as in fearing his wrath) and are jubilant with joy (Psalm 68:3).
But I love how the Psalm turns from this view of God’s awesomeness to his deeply personal love for the weak and hurting. “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land” (Psalm 68:5-6).
Father of the Fatherless
God is a father to the fatherless. Orphans — abandoned or through death — can imagine their heavenly Father walking with them through life’s confusing and difficult circumstances as a father would. For the child like me who lost her father to illness, we can have conversation with our heavenly Father — those intimate ones that we would have had with our dads, knowing that our Father knows more and loves far more abundantly than our earthly father ever could.
Our practical love for those in need reflects the Father’s heart and is part of how we image our Creator God.
God is also a protector of the widow. The God-given role of the husband-protector is replaced for the widow by the one who can truly and fully protect. How kind of God to express protection to a scared and likely confused woman. The solitary and lonely are given a home: God himself. He cares even for prisoners, leading them from a destitute place to prosperity.
Before we sing in this Psalm about God’s love and care for those who are helpless, we are prompted, “Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the Lord; exult before him!” (Psalm 68:4). Why? Because God is truly an awesome God! He looks at the weak and sees us in our need, extends his mighty hand, and pours out his loving kindness on us. Knowing that we have the joy and honor as God’s image bearers to reflect aspects of him, I’m also reminded through this Psalm to pursue this type of love.
Pure and Undefiled Pursuit of God
There are several calls to care for those in need in the Scriptures, but perhaps the most recognizable comes from James. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
If we want to be doers of the word and not simply hearers, we’d do well to heed these words from James and our heavenly Father. There is a clear Christian call to care for and show mercy to others, specifically in this case to the orphan and widow. Our practical love for those in need reflects the Father’s heart and is part of how we image our Creator God. So, what are we to do with this challenge from James? Here are a few simple suggestions:
Pray: Ask the Lord to comfort those who are afflicted. God is a very present help in time of need — let’s pray that those who are weary sense his presence. Pray for the orphan to find a family.
Research and Investigate: Find out who in your church or neighborhood might need this type of compassionate care. Investigate your church ministries to see where you might get involved. Learn about area resources like crisis pregnancy centers.
Act: Serve a meal. Learn about foster care or adoption. Serve those who are caring for others, like adoptive and foster parents. Visit the sick or “solitary,” like our elderly brothers and sisters in retirement homes. Invite a widow into your home for a meal.
And in all of it, remember the gospel, that as we seek to serve others, we must not do so in order to feel morally right, satisfied, or acceptable before God and man. Let the gospel of grace motivate you to love your neighbor. Be free in your service knowing that it doesn’t earn you anything before our Father. It is by grace that you have been saved, by faith, and this is not your own doing but a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Seek to cultivate and express a heart of love for others, not as a means to show your righteousness, but as a way to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a dying world.