Focal Passage: Exodus 23:1-3, 6-9
In his book When a Nation Forgets God, Erwin Lutzer retells one Christian’s story of living in Hitler’s Germany during the Holocaust. The man wrote:
“We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it. … A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks. We … heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars! We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews en route to a death camp. Their screams tormented us.
“We knew the time the train was coming, and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church, we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more. … God forgive me; forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians yet did nothing to intervene.”
The LORD expected the Israelites in today’s text to passionately defend the defenseless and He expects no less of followers today. We may not be living during the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites or living during the Nazi Holocaust —but we certainly live during a time that injustice is the plight of many people. I think we know that already. We are perhaps just as guilty of singing our Christian hymns louder and louder until we reach the point that we no longer hear the screams of the oppressed. Do you agree? If so, how should you respond to the injustice others are suffering in today’s world?
All of your words should support justice for all (vv. 1-3). There are five utterances that Christ-followers should not make in supporting justice for all. 1) You must not spread a false report. You should never initiate untrue stories or give new life to gossip that others have started about the defenseless. 2) You should never join the wicked as a malicious witness. The picture here is the absurdity of one who belongs to God partnering with evil individuals to strengthen their case against the defenseless. 3) You must not follow a crowd in wrongdoing. Just because most people seem to be against the defenseless doesn’t mean it is right. 4) Do not give in to a perceived majority pressuring you to testify in a lawsuit in their attempt to pervert justice. 5) You are not allowed to show favoritism to anyone — not even to a poor person. Favoritism never supports justice. All of your words should support justice for all!
All of your works should support justice for all (vv. 6-8). Actions do speak at least as loud as words. To that end — you must not deny justice to the poor. Just as being poor does not merit favoritism (v. 3), neither should it be the grounds for denying justice. God is just and you should reflect His character through impartiality and justice for all — regardless of one’s socioeconomic standing. Truth is what matters. Therefore, stay far away from a false accusation designed to pervert justice. God judges our defense of the defenseless. Truth you see does not require payment. Therefore, you must not take a bribe which will only blind you temporarily to the truth that is otherwise clearly visible. All of your works should support justice for all!
Friend, you must be ready when injustice prevails. Injustice is all around you. You just need to stop singing long enough to hear the screams of the oppressed.
— Pressnell is senior pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church, Mount Carmel.