Sermon Sept. 27, 2015 “A Time to Speak Up” (Part Two)

 September 27, 2015                                                       

Series: “A Time to Keep Silent, a Time to Speak Up, and a Time to Suffer”

Today’s Message: “A Time to Speak Up” (Part Two)

Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

 

Last Sunday we looked at times when we should speak up:

Speak up to Praise the Lord

Speak up to Proclaim the Whole Gospel

Today we want to consider two other times to speak up:

Speak up to Defend the Weak Against Injustice  [Protection]

Speak up with Intercessory Prayer

 

I. Speak up to Defend the Weak Against Injustice

Let me ask you: Would you keep silent if you saw your loved one being threatened or abused by someone? Would you say nothing if you witnessed a disabled person being violently pushed and shoved, or observed a child being abducted into a stranger’s car? I hope not! I hope each of us would open our mouths and speak up to defend the other people, right?

That’s how God has created us- in His image- to care about the needs of the defenseless, the weak, and the needy, as He Himself cares, speaks up, and acts, on their behalf.

But what about those situations where you don’t see the abuse or violence with your own eyes? What do you do when you know such injustice is occurring, but it’s not happening to your family and you don’t see it happening in your yard? Can you ignore such injustice and oppression if you only know about it secondhand?

Undoubtedly there were many German Christians in WWII who knew that Jews and others were being sent to the slaughter in concentration camps, but did nothing about it.

For the last 42 years there have been many believers here who knew that 55 million unborn babies have been aborted in our nearby hospitals and clinics, and yet did nothing to stop it.

And now for the last three months, our nation’s highest court has decreed that God’s definition of marriage is null and void, thus opening the floodgates for the destruction of marriage and family in America; and the question is: “Will you speak up and address this evil?”

Consider the warning of Proverbs 24:10-12

“If you falter in time of trouble, how small is your strength!  Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.  If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”

 

Bottom Line: You can’t plead ignorance. The Lord holds you and me accountable for what we know and yet fail to act on. Or as James 4:17 puts it: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” This warning is reinforced in two proverbs:

    Proverbs 21:13 “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”

Proverbs 28:27 “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.”

In other words, you and I need to open our ears and HEAR the cries of the hurting. You and I need to open our eyes and SEE the needs of the poor. You and I need to OPEN our hearts and our homes and our savings accounts in order to minister to the weak and the defenseless.

Who does that include? On whose behalf are we to open our mouths?

 Prov. 31:8-9 commands us to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

  Let me ask you: who are those who can’t speak for themselves? [Unborn children; young children and some elderly who are infirmed; perhaps the deaf; the foreigner who doesn’t speak our language; the person who can’t get a fair hearing in a courtroom be himself.]

Who else are we to speak up for? The rights of the destitute, that is, those who are without security, without a safety net under them, with no means to obtain help. Also, the poor and needy; that is, the members of society who are not only downtrodden, but also who can’t afford to hire someone to be their advocate, their defenders, etc.

Let me also ask you: “How are we to go about speaking up for them and defending them? [In our e-mails, blogs, and prayerful protests; in our conversations, our letters to our representatives, and our careful voting; and, if need be, by putting our bodies between the attackers and the would-be victims.]

Now some might tell me that those commands are given to King Lemuel, by his mother, so they don’t apply to the ordinary believer.  But the Scripture is filled with God’s exhortations for all of his people to open their mouths, to defend the weak and to speak up against injustice:

   Isaiah 1:17 “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

    Psalm 82:3-4 “Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Then we have the example of Job, who spoke up for those who could not help themselves:

Job 29:12-17 “I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them. 13 The man who was dying blessed me; I made the widow’s heart sing. 14 I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban. 15 I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. 16 I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. 17 I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.”

God calls us to follow Job’s example here, as a rescuer, a helper, a guide and benefactor to those who are weak, handicapped, downtrodden, and victims of injustice and abuse!

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.”

Therefore, God calls us to speak up and defend the weak against injustice and oppression; to protect them and advocate for them, by Christ’s power and grace, until He Himself comes back as the Sovereign ruler and judge. This includes the persecuted church, the unborn, the elderly, the handicapped, the victims of abuse, and so many more. You can’t do it all… but all of us can do something! So who will you speak up for? How will you do it? Get started today…or continue to persevere in what you are already doing.

 

II. Speak up with Intercessory Prayer

Just as we saw last Sunday that speaking up had both a vertical dimension (praise to God) and a horizontal aspect (proclaiming the gospel to others), so too here, our speaking up has a man-focused dimension (defending the weak against injustice) and a God-focused aspect (intercessory prayer). Both aspects are crucial and are complementary.

One of the more intriguing passages about praying for others is found in Isaiah 62:6-7: “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.”

It’s the Lord speaking here, and He’s telling Isaiah that He will post watchmen or guards on the walls of His holy city, and these watchmen are never to be silent; they are to keep speaking day and night. They are to continually call on the LORD, not giving themselves any rest or breaks, and they are not to give the Lord any rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth!

Did you get that? God Himself raises up prayer warriors who are to ceaselessly continue in prayerful intercession to Him, calling on Him to make His glorious presence known throughout all the world, and not give the Lord a bit of rest, hounding Him in prayer, until He completes His work!

The Lord Himself raises up people who are committed to speaking up in persistent intercessory prayer to Him, and urges them not to stop pleading with Him, until He does what He promised He would do, for His own glory!

We could say that such prayer is to be: (1) God-Initiated, (2) Ceaseless, (3) Disciplined and Sustained; and (4) God-Glorifying.  Are you committed to such speaking up in prayer?

Does that kind of speaking up in intercessory prayer find some illustrations in the New Testament? Sure it does!

In Luke 11:5-13 Jesus tells the Chutzpah parable, the story of the friend who bangs on his neighbor’s door at midnight and asks for three loaves of bread to feed some unexpected guests; and if the neighbor gets up and gives him the bread, how much more should we be bold and persistent in our praying, asking our Heavenly Father for our daily bread! We all could use a little more chutzpah or audacity in our prayers!

Or how about the parable of the persistent widow of Luke 18:1-8, the woman who kept coming to the judge with her request for justice against her adversary. Jesus told that parable “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”

He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Here is a helpless widow, who has few, if any rights, coming before an unjust judge who neither fears God nor any person, let alone a poor widow who doesn’t have the money to bribe him! But this parable points us to the truth that we should always cry out to the Lord, especially when our situation looks hopeless, and trust in his faithfulness and goodness.  Jesus wants us to persevere – in prayer, and in faith – until He returns to earth.

Now some of us have been speaking up on behalf of the defenseless and needy for decades, without a clear answer… but Jesus tells us “Don’t give up!” For if a helpless widow received the justice she sought for, from a self-centered, ungodly judge, because she didn’t give up, HOW MUCH MORE will God’s own children receive the promises that we seek for, from our loving Heavenly Father, because we continued to speak up in persevering prayer to Him?

That persistent widow may remind you of another real-life widow, earlier in Luke’s gospel. Do you remember Anna? We read in Luke 2:36-38 that “There was also a prophetess, Anna… She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them [Joseph, Mary and Jesus] at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Anna was one of those “watchmen” that the Lord had raised up, to give Him no rest, until He brought about the redemption of Jerusalem, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ! (And so we come full circle from Isa. 62:6-7, in the prayers of Anna, a helpless widow, being answered in the coming of the Messiah, to God’s praise in the whole earth!

Is God calling you to be an Anna? Many of you are retired now, and you may have more time on your hands. Would you ask God to make you one of His watchman? A persistent widow in prayer? Would you ask the Lord to give you more Holy Spirit-inspired chutzpah in your intercessory prayers?

 

Individually: Let us cry out to God for those who are persecuted, for those who are downtrodden, for those who are weak and hurting

Corporately: I invite more of you to join us as we meet together for times of focused prayer: such as on Friday mornings at 7 AM; or Sunday evenings when we pray for one another or for the persecuted church

Summary: Lift up your voice on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves- both in a horizontal sense, with others in authority, and in a vertical sense, before the Lord Himself.

Do so with a sense of urgency, with persistence, and in faith.

Conclusion to “Speaking Up”

   Before we speak up – in praise, in proclamation, for protecting others, or in intercessory prayer – let’s remember what we learned two Sundays ago, that we first need to be silent (1) before the Lord and (2) good listeners with others. When we practice those two silences, then God can fill us with more grace and a deeper love for Himself and for others, and that’s the motivations we need, if we are going to speak the truth in love, both vertically to God, in praise and in prayer, and horizontally with others, in gospel proclamation and a defending protection for the weak.