From the Heart of God
“God is love” — we know this because the Bible tells us ( see 1 John 4:8, 16). God himself declares his name in Exodus 34:6, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9) — and at the same time, we also see in the Bible that God is especially compassionate to the most vulnerable in human society, namely, widows and the fatherless
Psalm 146:9, “The Lord upholds the widow and the fatherless.” And we see this even in the law, in Exodus 22:22, where God says: “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.” Then in Deuteronomy 10:18 we see, “[The Lord] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow…”
Within the law, God made provisions for widows and orphans to be taken care of, and in fact, he says in Deuteronomy 27:19, “Cursed be anyone who perverts justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.” Psalm 68:5 tells us, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”
It really is amazing how many times widows are mentioned in the Old Testament, and then of course we see the same theme in the ministry of Jesus —
- Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their mistreatment of widows (Mark 12:19);
- Jesus praised the poor widow who in her poverty gave all she had (Mark 12:42–43);
- Jesus used the fervent prayers of a widow as the model for how we all should pray (Luke 18:3–5).
God indeed has a heart for the most vulnerable, and that includes widows — both in the first century, and still today — which I think is remarkable.
Of all of the changes in our modern world since the time of the Bible, still the most vulnerable in society are widows and orphans, and therefore it should not surprise us that God expects us to care for them. It should not surprise us that James says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27). It should not surprise us that Paul devotes so much attention to the care of widows in 1 Timothy 5, our sermon text this upcoming Sunday. There were widows in the church of Ephesus; God cares for widows; and so Chapter 5, verses 1–16 is what you get.
And I mention all this before Sunday because it’s easy to dismiss Chapter 5 as some kind of ancient culturally-conditioned, special situation. It might even seem a little odd to us. But actually, what Paul is talking about in 1 Timothy 5:9–16 flows from the very nature of God, who is full of compassion and mercy.