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Jeremiah 22:16

Reading the Writing on the Wall

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17 September 2014

This reflection was written by Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge International. It was originally published on September 15th, 2014 on the Micah Challenge International website here.


'He defended the cause of the poor and needy and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me? declares the Lord.'
Jeremiah 22:16


I couldn't take my eyes away from the wall. On it was a collage  of Bible verses which broadly represented how Compassion International viewed its amazing work with children. 

I was at Compassion's HQ in Colorado Spring for a speaking engagement and after the staff devotions I was wandering around the premises when I came to the wall.  The text which held my attention was Jeremiah 22:16, 'He defended the cause of the poor and needy and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me? declares the Lord.'

Two things amazed me as I stood before the wall, vaguely indifferent to anyone who came to be friendly: first, I had never seen this verse before and secondly, I was amazed that God should say that to speak up for others is to know God. 

It's just as amazing that so many of us still see speaking up for others as some kind of radical leftist political agenda: an alternative to worship rather than an expression of worship. And somehow, we have convinced ourselves that any kind of political advocacy is at variance with the Bible. 

But Moses would have been entirely at home with this idea.  After all, it was during worship at the burning bush that he was commissioned to speak up for the poor Hebrews under Pharaoh's regime (Exodus 3).  As David Beckman, President of Bread for the World puts it, 'God didn't send Moses to Pharaoh to take up an offering of canned goods' he actually sent him to deal with political oppression. And the same could be said for just about all the Old Testament prophets who spoke up for the poor and needy.

Admittedly, the social and political landscape of the New Testament provides a less robust picture of advocacy under the oppressive dictatorship which existed. But it's really hard to observe Jesus' response to the Jewish authorities - the political leaders of his day - and not conclude that he constantly championed the cause of the poor and marginalised.

Everything he said about the kingdom of God and even his miracles were acts of contemporary defiance. Indeed Jesus our advocate demonstrated his concern to deal with sin as much as human suffering. 

Speaking up for the poor is already in the manual. Let's ask God for the courage to practise it because we are learning what it means to know God.