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Friday, November 2, 2012

.What is an Orphan.

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I received this email a few years ago when I first became really passionate about orphan care and adoption on my blog. I want to revisit it today, because I know there are still times when we are asked a question similar to this. I think that sometimes as Christians we argue over semantics in order to free us from feeling burdened to do something. I am going to extend grace here and believe that was not the intent of the question. I do not want to start an argument over "what is a true orphan" when there are so many children around our globe needing us to step up and fight for them rather than about them. Having said that, here is a portion of that email:

I've been confused by your referring to orphans, but then it seems they have a living mother. I'm assuming there's a culture thing I have no clue about there, so I was just wondering why they need to be in an orphanage if their parents are living.

First let me make this disclaimer; I am not a biblical scholar. I am not an expert in any field whatsoever. But God has been doing the biggest work in my life these past three years that He has done to date - outside of my salvation. I am beyond passionate about his plea in James 1:27.

Now that my eyes have been opened, I take this mandate very seriously. I take the Bible at it's word and believe that the Bible means what it says. Maybe when I get to heaven I will need to ask Jesus forgiveness for taking His mandate so literally. It is a risk I am willing to take. I am ashamed for the years that I just glanced over that verse (James 1:27) in the Bible. The whole time thinking that wasn't for me, that wasn't my calling. I thought it had nothing to do with me. I thought it was someone else's call, but now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt it is mine, and it is yours - if you are a true believer. Not adoption - necessarily - don't misunderstand me. But ALL believers have been called to carry out and respond to James 1:27. As of late, I have studied that verse inside and out, as well as other passages that have to do with orphans. (I do understand that James 1:27 is more than about orphans, and I am concerned about widows and keeping oneself unstained from the world. I believe in caring for orphans and widows a person will be unstained by the world. My husband has great thoughts on this, and perhaps we will hear from him later this month.)

The following is what I have learned about orphans from God's perspective.

From my understanding of the Bible, the Bible defines an orphan in its most simplistic form as fatherless.

Strong’s Concordance suggests bereaved, fatherless, and comfortless as ideas inherent in the word “orphans” or “fatherless.”

So if an orphan is "fatherless", what does the Bible say about them....and our role with them?

Here are just some passages that talk of the fatherless/orphan. I know that I missed a few as the Bible is overflowing with these.

Hosea 14:3 Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.

Psalm 68:5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

Psalm 10:14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.

Deuteronomy 10:18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.

Psalm 10:18 To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Exodus 22:24 And my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

Isaiah 10:1-3
Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
and the writers who keep writing oppression,
to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
What will you do on the day of punishment,
and in the ruin that will come from afar?
To whom will you flee for help,
and where will you leave your wealth?

Malachi 3:5 Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.

Jeremiah 5:28-29 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?"

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Deuteronomy 14:29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

Psalm 82:3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

Deuteronomy 24:17 You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge.

Proverbs 23:10 Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless,

Exodus 22:22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.

Zechariah 7:10 Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.

Jeremiah 22:3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
Job 29:12-13 Because I delivered the poor who cried for help,and the fatherless who had none to help him. The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.

Job 6:27 You would even cast lots over the fatherless, and bargain over your friend.

Ezekiel 22:7 Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; the sojourner suffers extortion in your midst; the fatherless and the widow are wronged in you.

Job 24:3 They drive away the donkey of the fatherless; they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.

Psalm 94:6 They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless;

Isaiah 1:23 Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them.

Deuteronomy 27:19 Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. And all the people shall say, 'Amen.

Lamentations 5:3 We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows.

This verse seems to sum up God's heart for the fatherless:

Psalm 10:14 But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.

After reading through these passages, and I hope you take the time to do so, it seems as though the quality of one’s devotion to God is measured by how one treats the widow and the orphan.

After researching what an orphan is, according to the Bible, and then many verses that talked about them, I came to two conclusions that I believe we as believers are commanded to obey when it comes to these fatherless:

1 We are to be extremely careful that we do not mistreat them.

2 We are to find opportunities to help them. (THIS is orphan-care.)

How that plays out in your life may look and feel very differently than how it plays out in mine, but that does not excuse either one of us to ignore what God has put before us. I believe this must play a role somehow and in someway in every single believer's life.

I really, really pray and hope that you can see my heart here. I believe my heart is just a very, very watered-down and mild reflection of God's. I truly believe God's heart is for orphans. I don't write all of this to be judgmental. I am only beginning to skim the surface when it comes to understanding my role in all of this myself. I just wish someone would have written to me or shared with me about this years ago. So I am hoping someone who reads this will be in that same boat.

(DISCLAIMER: Let me clearly state that I do not believe that God loves the orphans in Ethiopia best. I have simply lost my heart in Ethiopia, but I pray for believers to lose their heart for America's fatherless and Russia's and China's etc. Let's all just do our part in orphan care, wherever it is that God leads us, and let's stop judging where God leads someone else.)


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