God’s Law Protects the Vulnerable
Gods specifically designed His Law to help those people in Israel’s towns and villages who, without such legislation, might be in danger of severe neglect.
The fatherless, widow, and alien were the deprived members of any local community, but they were the objects of God’s special love and care. He was father to the orphan, husband to the widow, and friend to the homeless. If the Lord cared about such weak people, nobody in Israel must allow them to be forgotten. Three fundamental human rights are treated here, their right to justice (17), clothing (17), and food (19–21).
First, from time to time, such people would naturally have cause to seek legal aid. There was always the danger that these disadvantaged community members could suffer at the hands of a corrupt judge. For example, on the death of a husband, a close relative might offer attractive bribes to a judge to gain material advantages, but all at the widow’s expense. Such behavior was an offense to God. He said that any form of bribery is strictly forbidden (16:19).
If there was a disobedient and dishonest judge in the community, children were in particular danger. Defenseless children (like aliens) were without proper legal status. Somebody must be their helper. The fatherless could not plead effectively for themselves. As a result, the Law firmly told Israel’s judges that they must deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice under no circumstances. Even if such disadvantaged people have money, life is still hard for them, so God is primarily concerned to see that they have a fair deal (10:18).
In today’s world
In contemporary society, many children are tragically exposed to danger. They are rapidly increasing numbers of these young people who are emotionally deprived, spiritually ignorant, and morally vulnerable. In the Book of Deuteronomy, we read how God’s people have a responsibility to respond to the challenge of this severe problem. With the tragic escalation of marriage breakdown, the emotional deprivation of children is inevitable. In years of crucial psychological formation, many of them are denied the right of support from both parents; an increasing number belong to one-parent families. The Christian church has the opportunity to provide for many hundreds of children the love, security, and practical support which they have lost through a broken marriage, and any initiatives to help such children would undoubtedly honor the intention of God’s word in these verses.
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