Standing Against Injustice
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” — Desmond Tutu
Scripture is filled with God’s concern for the poor and the helpless. Proverbs 31:8-9 (TLB) says, “You should defend those who cannot help themselves. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” God even established laws for harvesting and social justice for Israel to insure that the poor and helpless would have provision and protection. The church in the New Testament regularly ministered to the poor among them as well as the orphan and the widow.
Christ followers should be distinguished by their care for the poor and their stand against injustice. We should stand fearless and proclaim hope to the hopeless. We should stand determined and bring hope to the poor and the powerless. A great example of this is found in the Old Testament Book of Jeremiah. It was a case of injustice that could have cost a prophet named Jeremiah his life had it not been for an Ethiopian court official who heard what had happened and quickly intervened to save his life. His name was Ebed-melech. He was a high-ranking African court official in Judah during the corrupt reign of King Zedekiah. Jeremiah was told by God to give an unpleasant and politically incorrect message to the King about the future destruction of Judah. It was intended to be a warning for the wickedness of Israel at that time and the judgment that was sure to come if they did not turn back to God. Four other officials of the King heard the message Jeremiah was giving to the people and reported it to the King. They told the King in Jeremiah 38: 4, “Sir, this man must die!”
Afraid of his own officials, this spineless King agreed to let Jeremiah’s enemies drop him in an empty cistern that had a thick layer of mud at the bottom. Jeremiah sank down into the mud left there to starve to death. Just when it seemed like he had no hope of survival, God stirred the heart of an unsung hero named Ebed-melech. He wasn’t even a Jew. He was a high-ranking African official in Zedekiah’s court who heard that Jeremiah was in the cistern and rushed from the palace to appeal to the King in an effort to save Jeremiah’s life. Ebed-melech risked his own career and perhaps his life as well to rescue Jeremiah from a muddy cistern and certain death. He took a stand against injustice.
This unsung Ethiopian represents a crowd of quiet heroes throughout the Bible who showed real courage and character. He made the most of his position and influence by using it to serve God. His response shows us a radical and almost reckless pursuit of justice. His boldness prodded the King to reverse his previous order to have Jeremiah killed. Then he personally led a group of men to rescue Jeremiah from the cistern.
God honored the risk that Ebed-melech took to save this prophet. Here’s the rest of the story. The next chapter records the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s warnings to the King. It was in the eleventh year of King Zedekiah’s reign that “the Babylonians broke through the wall, and the city fell.” (Jer. 39:2b) The King and all his officials were taken captive; Jerusalem was burned, including the palace, the Temple; and the city walls were torn down. Only a few survivors would remain. But because of Ebed-melech’s stand for justice in Jeremiah’s critical hour of need, God gave this promise to him through Jeremiah. It’s found in Jeremiah 39:16-18 and says,
“Say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: I will do to this city everything I have threatened. I will send disaster, not prosperity. You will see its destruction, but I will rescue you from those you fear so much. Because you trusted me, I will give you your life as a reward. I will rescue you and keep you safe. I, the Lord, have spoken!’”
If we are to stand determined to bring hope to the poor and powerless, we must consider the stewardship of our influence and affluence. Like Ebed-melech, you and I can take a stand for justice through our influence as well as through our affluence. We are here for a limited time, and we have limited resources but both can be used of God if we are willing to stand. The Bible says, “Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.” Isaiah 1:17 (MSG)
We can’t rescue everyone, but we can do our part. Consider the part God wants you to do. Then connect with other Christ followers who share that common vision. You will be amazed at what God can do through your availability and willingness to stand.