“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families ...” (Psalms 68:5-6 NIV)
The gods that the ancient world worshipped were concerned with great people — the mighty and cunning, the swift and the gorgeous. The rest of humanity served as a backdrop — bit players, foils, inconsequential fodder for the grand plans of kings, generals, and deities.
Not so with the God of the Bible.
We see God’s strange interest in the people on the margins carved upon every page of Scripture. It was evident in Yahweh’s selection of a nation of slaves to be his special people. It echoed in his choice of sheep-tenders to be the first to hear news of the Incarnation.
But perhaps nowhere do we see this curious reality more clearly than in God’s passion for the orphan.
We may miss how odd it actually is because we live in a culture that is deeply shaped by Christian assumptions. Though it is often violated, to care for the weak and vulnerable remains a Western virtue. This generally wasn’t the case in the cultures that surrounded Jewish and early Christian communities. Like modern Social Darwinists, ancient societies typically saw weakness as unworthiness to live. As the Roman philosopher Seneca described Roman culture during Jesus’ time, “We drown children who at birth are weakly and abnormal.”
Consider then the marvel of a God who not only tolerates the feeble and lowly, but places special premium on defending and caring for them.
What a contrast. We see God, the most potent and self-sufficient Power imaginable, continually expressing profound concern for the least potent and self-sufficient — the orphan in distress. The Law describes, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow ...” (Deuteronomy 10:18 NIV). The Prophets echo the same truth: “For in you the fatherless find compassion” (Hosea 14:3b). And, again, in the psalms, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families ...” (Psalm 68:5-6).
As we grasp this outlandish, beautiful reality, we encounter the truth of God’s father heart. It pulses not only for the orphan, but for each of us as well. He pursued us when we were destitute and alone. He adopted us as his children. He invites us to call him “Abba” and to live as his daughters and sons.
Of course, we must not miss the fact that God calls his people to do the same. We are to live out “pure and faultless religion” by caring for the orphan and widow in their distress (James 1:27).
As we do this, we reveal God’s heart to the world. Whether by adoption or foster care or mentoring or supporting the local Church in care for orphans around the globe, we display that astonishing reality that the Great One cares passionately for the least. And in the process, we experience God’s heart more deeply ourselves as well — a peculiar, marvelous love for the orphan. A peculiar, marvelous love for us.
Talk About It
What does God’s consistent concern for the orphan tell you about his character?
What does it reveal about how he feels about you?
In what ways might you be able to reveal God’s peculiar, beautiful sense of priority to the world?