Not Revulsed by Pain

I remember attending the display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto featuring exhibits from the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was a fascinating weaving tour through a special auditorium showing scale models of Qumran and the caves and of the Jerusalem Temple at the time of Jesus. There were ample charts and video windows and finally a series of showcase counters with the assembled scroll portions showing a number of scriptures from our Bible and some apocryphal readings.

I have to say that I was impressed with even the apocryphal texts (ones which didn't get included in the 150 Psalms, the Pentateuch, the prophet Isaiah, the prophet Daniel and other books of our Bible canon). They had the same feel of a God who would not look away awkwardly from suffering, but rather had a monumental plan to right oppression, abuse, neglect and gnawing lack or loneliness. Take for example Barkhi Nafshi 4Q434, discovered in cave 4 in 1952. This one leapt out at me:

"1. Bless, O my soul, the Lord, all his wonderful deeds forever. And blessed be his name, for he has saved the life of the poor. And
2. the needy he has not despised and he has not overlooked the hardship of the oppressed.
He has kept his eyes on the weak, and paid attention to the cry of orphans for help.
He has inclined his ears to
3. their cry, and because of his abundant mercies, has shown favour to the meek.
He has opened their eyes to see his ways, and inclined their ear[s]
4. to his teaching. he has circumcised their hearts' foreskin, and delivered them for the sake of his kindness and has set their feet firm on the path. In their many hardships he did not forsake them
5. and did not deliver them into the hands of violent men nor did he judge them with the wicked; his anger was not enkindled against them nor did he destroy them."

Do we not see the spirit of Psalm 103, Psalm 41, Job 31, Matthew 25 and James 1 in these words? Our God is eager to undertake. His Son and Spirit, the same. There is no contempt for the weakness or the unsightliness, or the mistakes made along the way. Only a big, burning desire to make things right, and to see the agenda furthered by those who name His Name in truth and in loyalty.

It takes supernatural grace to get beyond the ugliness, vulnerability and groanings of the unclean, unwell, unfed, unhappy or untaught. There must be no mixed motives, no duplicity of heart. Simply the love call of a loving God urging us to love the unlovely as He would love them in unadulterated compassion. This takes prayers of identification. This takes the Spirit. It will result in fruits meet for repentance (Matthew 3:8).

Believers, for too long we have been heard to say, "The government oughta have a program!" It is time for us to fully realize, before Jesus returns, "The Church oughta have a program". Your little bit and mine, rendered in His wonderful name.

(Picture Orphan Child by Zain Bhikha)

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