Multiply Justice

For the foreigner, fatherless and widow

By Jeff Palmer

In Deuteronomy chapter 5, after the giving of the ten commandments (which most folks are familiar with), God through Moses gives an exposition of what it means to follow the commandments (chapter 6 and following to the end of the book). He expands the commandments out to practical living and tells Israel what it looks like for them to become His holy, set-apart community. There are rites and rituals, laws and commands, dos and don’ts, etc., given to help them, if they follow, to become the model community He desires for them.

It is interesting to note that these chapters are filled with social issues and responsibility. Not surprisingly they echo the “Shema” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) where loving the Lord your God with all your heart is paralleled with practically not only following His laws but loving your fellow Israelite. Jesus summed it up when asked the greatest commandment. He said, “Love God and love your neighbor.” (Matthew 22:37-40 paraphrased)

So, Deuteronomy 6 and following is a treatise on how to be a holy people set apart by and for God the Father. In short, Israel was to…

* Follow God with all their heart

* Obey his law and be obedient

* Honor God with their resources

* Treat fairly their neighbor

There is obviously much more in these chapters but there is a strange phrase that keeps poking its head up and it is…

“…for the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow.”

Loving God requires us to love others as ourselves and as He loves them. Moreover, we cannot miss the fact that God has a special place in His heart for those who are least able to help themselves. The foreigners were aliens, refugees if you will, living among the Israelites who generally had no citizenship, voice or influence. They were pretty much at the mercy of the Hebrews. The fatherless were the orphans who had no family or in some cases, no inheritance and thus no hope. They needed someone to care for them. And the widows were those who were in many cases left alone to fend for them selves and were at the mercy of the greater community.

God said when we remember these “least” of all in society, it brings about God’s blessing on the work of our hands (Deuteronomy 24:19). And we should remember them because we are what we are because of His blessings and nothing else (Deuteronomy 24:22). Furthermore, He commands us to care for these: the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow (Deuteronomy 24:22b).

Our devotion and worship of God is required and many of us are good at this (or at least attending a church service somewhere). But our care for those who can’t care for themselves is also just as important (according to God’s Word).

So, my question for today is…

“What have I done and what am I doing for the least of these: the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow?”

Jeff Palmer is executive director of Baptist Global Response. He blogs at Kingdom Communities.

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