Practical compassion

God expects his people to act upon his words, not just believe them.

God expects his people to act upon his words, not just believe them.

Zechariah 7:8-11 – Then this message came to Zechariah from Yahweh: “This is what Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other. Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing.”

Judgment had been poured out on ancient Israel due to the fact that they had refused to listen to Yahweh. They had rejected the plain teaching of his Torah and instead had chosen to oppress and take advantage of those who could not defend themselves among their own people.

Yahweh had been very clear in his Torah about how they should have been treating the disadvantaged among their society:

  • Exodus 22:21-24 – “You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. You must not exploit a widow or an orphan. If you exploit them in any way and they cry out to me, then I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will blaze against you, and I will kill you with the sword. Then your wives will be widows and your children fatherless.”
  • Deuteronomy 24:14-15 – “Never take advantage of poor and destitute laborers, whether they are fellow Israelites or foreigners living in your towns. You must pay them their wages each day before sunset because they are poor and are counting on it. If you don’t, they might cry out to Yahweh against you, and it would be counted against you as sin.”

Their fathers had even taken an oath that they would act justly in all of these matters.

Deuteronomy 27:19 – “‘Cursed is anyone who denies justice to foreigners, orphans, or widows.’ And all the people will reply, ‘Amen.'”

Due to Israel’s unfaithfulness even to their own oath covenant, God systematically removed them from the land, first by the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. In effect, the Israelites had brought down wrath upon themselves by disobeying the Torah. If they would not follow the law from their hearts, then the curse of the law would fall upon them, and it did.

I’m not sure how much clearer God can make it that he expects his people to take care of those among them who cannot take care of themselves, those who are easily exploited and taken advantage of, those who may not be familiar with the culture. In effect, through these Torah commandments and the historical demonstration of consequence, Yahweh is illustrating how he expects his people to demonstrate compassion.

How can we express compassion with these people groups today? Rather than inventing some new program or agency to deal with these issues from afar, as we abide by the Torah of the heart, God desires we make these instructions personal to our experience and our lives. Who within your sphere of influence can benefit from this instruction: an aged woman who is a widow who can’t provide for herself, a child (or children) who have lost their parents, a foreigner who is struggling with the dominant culture and system?

Yeshua taught that practical compassion and mercy are the curative qualities that provide healing and preservation of righteousness.

Matthew 5:7, 13 – God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. … “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

This is how the eternal Torah of God continues to impact the lives of people today. When we not only believe the words that are written there, but we take them to heart and then personally act upon them in real ways, we open up the compassion of God to others, and the possibilities of expanding the Kingdom in the process.

James 1:22 – But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

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