Deuteronomy 10:12-19 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. 17 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. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Welcome, once again to orphan Sunday. Our aim this morning is to help you all see how the greatness of God relates to the orphan and what that means for you and me.
I gave a version of this message in 2011 when we were getting ready to adopt Gabi. I gave another version of it in 2015 just before Presley came to live with us. I’m not sure if that means I should be expecting God to do something else in our family, but I do know that in the seven years since I first preached on God’s heart and commission for orphan care our church has adopted and fostered more kids than it had in the previous 15 years (since the church began) combined. What a remarkable work of God in our midst.
As a means of acknowledging our desire for God to cause that trend continue and even increase, I mean to answer five questions today: 1) How great is our God? 2) How does our great God view orphans? 3) How does our great God charge us to view orphans? 4) Why does our great God view and call us to view orphans in these ways? 5) What, then, should we do?
The answer to these questions and the essence of this sermon is this: God is greatly great, all of His greatness is for the orphan, He has called his people to join Him in directing His greatness to the orphan, and all of this is ultimately meant to be a picture of the gospel to the world. Let’s pray that these things and their implications would become increasingly clear and compelling to us this morning. That is, let’s pray that real orphans would find real, additional help (physical and spiritual) as a result of our obedience to the word of God today.
HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD?
If we are to have any hope of caring well for orphans it will begin with truly knowing the greatness of God. But how great is our God? Grace, his greatness knows no end. To catch a glimpse of that, let’s turn to Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the bible. It was written by Moses. Deuteronomy means “second law”. It is a second giving of God’s law and a second explanation of the covenant God had made with his people. The book tells the story of the history of the Israelites under the leadership of Moses. It brings the reader right up to the doorstep of the death of Moses, the leadership of Joshua, and the entering of the Promised Land.
However, while those are the historical events covered in Deuteronomy, ultimately Deuteronomy is the story of the great greatness of God. In chapter one God’s greatness is seen in his promise to the Israelites to give them the Land of their enemies in such a way that they need not fear or despair even a little bit (20-21).
Chapter two recounts God’s greatness through his constant presence and perfect provision (7), as well as through the decisive victories he gave the Israelites over their enemies.
Deuteronomy 2:25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’
The decisive, humanly-impossible, and covenantly promised military victories continued for the Israelites in chapter three, entirely on account of the greatness of God. To this Moses cried out,
Deuteronomy 3:24 O Lord GOD, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours?
By chapter four the greatness of God is on full display!
Deuteronomy 4:32-39 “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. 36 Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. 37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, 39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.
Throughout the rest of chapters four and five God’s greatness is seen in the giving of the law, including the Ten Commandments. And in chapter six the greatness of God is seen in the greatest commandment, “The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
At the end of chapter six Moses recounts the single greatest act of God’s OT greatness,
Deuteronomy 6:21-23 We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23 And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers.
In chapter seven Moses reminded the Israelites of God’s greatness displayed in his choosing to faithfully save such a lowly people and to make them holy, treasured, prosperous, and loved (6-9).
Chapter eight speaks of the greatness of God in his kind warning concerning the temptations that would come with the prosperity previously unknown to the Israelites (11-20).
The greatness of God as a consuming fire (3) and as unrelentingly holy and merciful is found in chapter 9 (19).
From there God’s greatness is recounted in the further giving of the law (11-27), the Passover (16), the terms of the covenant and its renewal (28-30), the commissioning of Joshua (31), the song of Moses (32), and the death of Moses (33-34).
And right in the middle of all of that, in chapter 10 (our passage for this morning), we read again of God’s unimaginable greatness.
>Deuteronomy 10:12, 17 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it… 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God…
Truly, God is great beyond measure! But what does that have to do with Orphan Sunday? What does the greatness of God have to do with the fatherless? Indeed, how does our great God view orphans?
HOW DOES OUR GREAT GOD VIEW ORPHANS?
Growing up I remember the older kids making the younger kids sit in the less desirable seats on the bus, carry the equipment for the sports teams, throw the new golfers into the pond, stuff freshmen in their lockers, and otherwise use their power to take advantage of those who were weaker. We just saw that God has limitless power and is, therefore in position to completely take advantage of the weak. Is he any different than the kids I grew up with? How does God view the vulnerable?
That brings us to the title and main text of the sermon. Look again at 10:17-18, “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. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner…“.
Do you see it, Grace? Do you see the connection between God’s greatness and his view of the vulnerable? It is his greatness, and because of his greatness, that he cares for the weak and the lowly. God is great and all the greatness of God is for the orphan. He who commands the allegiance and awe of kings and rulers cares particularly for the poor and needy. He who is the God of gods and Lord of lords has a special concern for the sojourner (foreigner, immigrant, stranger), widow, and fatherless (orphan). He who is mighty and awesome, is impartial and just, and loves the society’s most vulnerable.
This is the consistent message of the bible from beginning to end. We read it together in Psalm 10.
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! 5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.
Psalm 146:9 The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
Please don’t miss the fact that the greatness and power of God is directed at defending the weak (especially the fatherless). God has a unique love and burden for those who know they cannot look out for and defend themselves; children without parents especially. Where others use their power and strength to take advantage of the vulnerable, God uses all of his execute justice and express love for the fatherless, the widow, and the sojourner.
HOW DOES OUR GREAT GOD CHARGE US TO VIEW ORPHANS?
Given how God feels about orphans, what does he call his people to regarding orphans? Once again, the testimony of the entire bible is clear, but let’s first look again at our passage for this morning.
As we already saw, when Deuteronomy was written, Moses and the people of God had been miraculously set free from Egyptian rule by the mighty hand of God, but had yet to enter the Promised Land. They had received the Ten Commandments, made the golden calf, and were teetering back and forth in their obedience and worship (between God and other gods). In this context Moses delivered the plea in 10:12-13, 16.
To understand God’s charge to his people concerning the orphan we need to follow the logic of this passage. Notice with me three things from the text:
First, Moses called the Israelites to stop teetering. He called them to fear, follow, love, serve, and obey God alone. “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?…Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn” (10:12-13, 16). Moses called the Israelites to declare their allegiance to the One True God and forsake all other gods.
Second, he called them to do this because of how great God is. Fear him, love him, and worship him above all things “For [because] the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God” (10:17). Because God is great, greater than all things, have no other gods before him, Moses said. Israel’s response to God was to be directly tied to God’s greatness.
Third, Israel’s view of and response to the vulnerable (including the fatherless) was to be directly tied to God’s greatness as well. If Israel was to forsake her idols and turn exclusively to God on account of his greatness, Moses taught that one of the primary ways that would show up in their lives would be through loving the weak.
17 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. [Serve God alone because he is great, and because he is great] 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. [You, all of you who have tasted and seen the greatness of God,] 19 Love the sojourner [the vulnerable]., therefore…
And there it is…Because God is God of gods and Lord of lords, because he is mighty and awesome, because of all this greatness, God executes justice and provides for the orphan and calls his people to do the same. Our great God calls us to have the same mind and heart toward the orphan as he does.
Just as there can be no mistaking the fact that God has a special concern for orphans, we simply cannot miss the fact that God has a special concern that his people would have special concern for orphans.
Exodus 22:22-24 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.
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.’
Isaiah 1:16-17 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
Jeremiah 22:3 Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
God in his greatness has a great love for the fatherless and he calls his people—those who have experienced the greatness of God—to have a great love for the fatherless as well.
There’s one more key aspect to our passage for this morning and that leads to our next question.
WHY DOES OUR GREAT GOD VIEW AND CALL US TO VIEW ORPHANS IN THESE WAYS?
Why does our great God view and call us to view orphans in these ways? We find the beginning of the bible’s answer to this question in v.19.
19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
The Israelites were called to remember their condition before God rescued them. “For you were sojourners in the land of Egypt”. That is, they were once helpless, hopeless, homeless, mistreated, oppressed, defenseless, slaves, just like orphans, widows, and sojourners. And then they were to respond by loving others in the same way God loved them. They were physically vulnerable themselves before God rescued them and they were, therefore, charged to respond by fighting to protect those who shared their vulnerability.
But here’s the key: This physical reality points to a much greater spiritual reality. God not only rescues those who are physically vulnerable from their physical vulnerabilities; more importantly and more greatly, God rescues the spiritually vulnerable from their spiritual vulnerabilities.
Let me try to say that another way. Chief among the physically vulnerable are the fatherless, the widow, and the sojourner. But these three terms describe a much deeper spiritual reality. All humanity apart from the grace of God in the cross of Christ is spiritually fatherless, widowed, and wandering. But the good news of Christianity is that in Jesus God offers to adopt, betroth, and rescue all who will trust in Him alone.
God cares for the orphan and calls his people to do the same, then, because orphan-care is a visible picture of the gospel. That is, when we see God’s heart for orphans and when we act in godly ways toward orphans we paint a picture with our lives of God’s great, saving love for us.
Why does God care for orphans and call his people to care for orphans? Once again, God does this because the unique vulnerability experienced by orphans (and widows and sojourners) is a physical representation of the great spiritual reality that we are all in. And orphan-care is a physical representation of the great spiritual rescue we have in Jesus. In that sense, then, orphan-care is right at the heart of the gospel. It is not merely about making a better life for a suffering child, it is about projecting God’s offer of eternal life to the whole world!
WHAT, THEN, SHOULD WE DO?
In conclusion, let’s get really practical. My aim in this sermon was to open your eyes to the reality that scripture does not allow us to be indifferent concerning the cause of the orphan. You and I, as adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, must care and fight for the hundreds of thousands of orphans around the globe. Not everyone who calls on the name of Jesus is called to adopt a child, but we are all called to engage in the battle for their lives and souls because God left us with examples and commands, and orphan-care as a powerful picture of the gospel.
The question, of course, is “where do we begin?”. I want to close my sermon by suggesting five simple places:
- Carve out a time each day to read God’s Word, pray, and worship him. The more you fall in love with God, the more you’ll care about the things God cares about—including and especially the fatherless and vulnerable.
- Evangelize. The more the gospel is able to take hold, the fewer orphans there will be—because the gospel produces godliness and godliness produces healthy homes and people with a heart to invite others into them.
- Talk to one of the many families at Grace Church who have adopted or are fostering. Hopefully we’ll be able to share our heart, describe the reality of the process, and answer any questions you might have. You may realize that adoption/fostering isn’t for you after the conversation, but at least you’ll better know how to pray and support those who do.
- Pray for and give lots of money to adopting couples, godly grant and adoption agencies, and those who are engaged in orphan care. Satanically, orphan care (domestically and internationally) costs lots of money and would be cost prohibitive for many without the generosity of others.
- Seriously consider becoming foster or adoptive parents. Obviously, the most direct way to care for an orphan is to bring them into your home.
All the greatness of God is for the orphan. All who have seen the greatness of God are called to join him in that holy ambition. All of this is because physical orphan-rescue provides a visible picture of the spiritual orphan-rescue that God offers in Jesus Christ. Look to God, therefore, in all his greatness. See how he directs that greatness toward the vulnerable and imitate him in it; knowing that insodoing you are painting a living picture of the gospel for the world.