S40P3 – To raise a child: protection

Exodus 22:21-24

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not harm or oppress any widow or fatherless child. If you harm or oppress them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will most certainly hear their cry; and My wrath shall be kindled and burn; I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

God is a shepherd. One of the most critical responsibilities of a shepherd is keeping his flock safe. The threats to a herd of sheep in the wilderness are numerous, and one of the reasons for this is that sheep are not really able to protect themselves. They are very vulnerable prey even in large numbers. If a herd of sheep on its own is attacked by a wolf or a bear, the best chance of a sheep surviving is the hope that another sheep is attacked instead. Even together they are neither aggressive nor intimidating to any predator. It is no different with children. They are unable to defend themselves, and they are very vulnerable prey to the many predators out there. This is why God himself steps in to protect them and expects that we do the same.

Today’s scripture shows us God’s instructions to his people Israel after He delivered them from the hands of their oppressor. He is clear to instruct them that they are not to raise any hand against those who are defenseless, such as a child who lacks the protection of a father. If the Israelites were to do so, God himself would step in to defend the defenseless. It is a picture of compassion and care. It is a picture of what God desires us to be for those who cannot protect themselves. He is raising up an army with many functions. One of the functions of God’s army is to carry out his purposes in ensuring justice for the weak. Each one of us is held to this standard, that we would be the protective hand of God in the lives of those we know who are unable to protect themselves. It is for each of us to make sure the children in our lives are protected just like this.

It has been taught by many cultures over many years that raising a child is not the work of only the parents or the extended family. Raising a child is something that a community does. As brothers and sisters in the Lord, as members of the body of Christ, we are a single spiritual community. It is for all of us to make sure that children are protected in every way we are able to do so. Like the sheep who cannot defend themselves, children need protectors. Although God can step in and do this himself, He enlists our help and gives us the blessing of being able to do this work with him. Father, raise our awareness of what is happening in the lives of the children around us, and give us discernment to know when we must act as your protective hand in their lives.