One of the highlights of the Know More Orphans Intensive was hearing so much teaching and preaching centered around the gospel. In so many ways, the Intensive was not just about orphan care, adoption, and foster care, but about Christian living in view of the gospel. Emily and I were so grateful to hear from people like David McConnell and Rick Morton about how orphan care and family ministry flow from the gospel.
What follows will be a series of posts that unpack the things we learned from this conference about what the Bible teaches us about orphan care. There is a theme throughout the entire Bible of God’s heart for ministering to the poor and needy. While an entire book could be written on tracing this theme, the following verses illustrate this biblical theme:
God delights in ministering to the poor and needy.
This theme begins, just as the Bible begins, in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve had God as their Father and a perfect relationship with Him. But, through the serpent’s deception, the couple sinned against their Father, and experienced the consequences of their sin. They found themselves cast out from Eden, awaiting the day when the seed of the woman would crush the seed of the serpent.
Notice God’s first act after His pronouncement of the curses and consequences of their sins:
“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)
Grace. Adam and Eve had lost their home, estranged themselves from their Father, and had a painful life ahead of them due to sin. Yet, God didn’t leave them to work through these things on their own. He promised a Son who would undo the effects of the fall (Gen. 3:15) and also clothed them: a child promised for the future and clothing provided for the present.
This theme continues and evolves as the Old Testament story continues. God acts with love and grace towards His people, who are created in His image and likeness, just as Adam and Eve were. As such, He often commands them to reflect His caring nature by focusing on the most needy, vulnerable people in their midst: foreigners, widows, and orphans. In fact, when God judges Israel and sends His people into exile, He gives as a reason their failures to minister to these specific people. While space will not permit me to list all the references to this, the following verses give a broad overview of how this works in the Old Testament (emphasis mine):
- Exodus 22:21-23: “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.”
- Deuteronomy 10:17-20: “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.”
- Psalm 68:4-5: ” Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him! Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”
- Isaiah 1:16-17: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
- Jeremiah 5:27-29: “Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich; they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the LORD, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?”
God’s heart for His people in the Old Testament is that minister to the needy, the widow, and the orphan. This theme, like so many others, will continue into the New Testament. However, just like the Old Testament themes like the temple, the priesthood, the law, and the promised land, these themes evolve and expand in the New Testament.
Just as in the Old Testament, ministry to orphans remains an integral part of God’s plan for His people. But, this theme will expand, and His people will experience true, eternal adoption themselves in Christ. More on that in the next blog post.