Monday, September 3, 2007

Cry of the Afflicted. . .

Exodus 22:21-23
Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. (22) Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. (23) If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;

The cry of the afflicted always catches the ear of God. In the above verse God is warning the Jews, that even though they are His chosen people, He also very much hears the cries, the prayers, of strangers, the Gentiles. If His chosen people torment and abuse strangers and they call out to Him, He will surely hear their cry. . .

My wife Jackie first noticed these passages. It is very interesting:

Genesis 18:20-21
And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; (21) I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.

God is responding to the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah, when He comes to investigate. What does that mean? Is He responding somehow to the voice of sin, similar to the blood of Able crying from the ground or is He responding to the voice of the victims of sin? A cry has come unto Him.

Genesis 19:13
For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.

The cry was not unto Baal or unto Ashteroth or Ra or some other God. It does not say that the cry necessarily came from believers. It says merely that the cry was 'unto Him', 'before His face'. . .Verse 19:13 says, "because the cry of them" 'Them' means people. God is responding to the anguish of people, not sinners, not somehow sin, but to the victims of sin. Sinners do not generally cry such that God will hear them until they come to repentance. There is no evidence of repentance in Sodom and Gomorrah:

Genesis 19:3-5
And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. (4) But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: (5) And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.

"the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter:" This is not an isolated case of sin. This is a way of life for the community, "all the people from every quarter." It can be assumed that what occurred on this night with the angels and Lot's house had occurred before. . . . probably many times before. . . . It was the bitter weeping of the abused strangers, the shrieks of the strangers who stumbled into that pit of sin that reached the ears of God. It was their cries to God that God sent the angels to investigate.

What is it about the afflicted that turns the ear of God? The afflicted have standing. In a court of law, to be able to bring a lawsuit before a judge you must be able to show in some manner that you have been harmed.

Some years ago, I remember reading about some nature conservancy group, maybe the Sierra Club or a similar group who brought suit against the Federal Government for making land use changes in a remote wilderness area. I cannot remember all the details, but the government was opening the area up for timber cutting or cattle grazing or mining or something similar to that and the group was suing the government to prevent those changes from taking place, but the lawsuit was thrown out. The group could not demonstrate how they had been harmed. The organization tried, but they could not find even a single member who had ever even walked through the area once, therefore they could not show how they had at all been harmed. Another way of saying that is, they had no legal standing and the case was thrown out.

God is a judge (Jehovah-Hashopet - Lord My Judge) and in a court only the afflicted have legal standing. . . The only right you have before a judge is if you are somehow personally affected. A party in a lawsuit cannot have only some theoretical injustice done to them. Again in our verse Exodus 22:23, God hears the cry of the afflicted. Do you pray merely against theoretical sin? or do you pray as one personally afflicted by the sin around you.

Is the pornography being sold at the corner Seven-Eleven merely a theoretical harm to you? Or it is a dagger in your heart? Is the taint of it abhorrent, this affront to God causing you anguish and afflicting you? Are the babies aborted daily in our land, merely a wrong among many others on a long list when you pray about it? Or is each tiny discarded life as a loss of a child of your own? . . . a holocaust in our very midst. . . Do you pray for a brother or sister who needs healing; only that it would be nice to see them healed to take away their pain and their fear and demonstrate the power of God? Or do you bind together with them, crying out as one also enduring and bearing the pain, afflicted along with our brother or sister?

This is not something that comes naturally or easily. We all tend to insulate ourselves from the world around us. This is a defense from being hurt. We grow thick skins. We learn this when we are very young, but that is not what we are called to do. We must battle this callousness, this hardness of our hearts. . .

Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Do we watch the anguish of Jesus as a passive watcher from amongst the crowd along the way? Saying to our selves 'how awful, that is a shame, something should be done. . .' removed, an observer of a theoretical wrong. Or do we pick up the burden along side him, place ourselves in danger with Him, experience the sweat, the pain, the blood, the tears, and personalize the cross. Do we carry it as our own? Jesus was afflicted if any man ever has been and we are called to join with him. He took our burden and carried it as His own. Now we are to join with Him. He was afflicted for our sakes. We need to take on the burdens of others as our own. Let our cry be a cry of the afflicted. Let us have standing before the throne. . .

Please help me soften my heart
and take the anguish of others as my own. . .
Let me not rest and be content in my own comfort,
but help me share the affliction and pain of others. . .
Dear Lord,
Let me share the burden of your cross. . .

Dave Stokely

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