10 If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength! 11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 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 everyone according to what they have done? (Prov. 24:10-12 NIV)
10 If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your strength!
11 Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 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 everyone according to what they have done?
At some point in our lives, we will face a time of distress. It can be a personal illness, the illness or death of a loved one. When tragedy strikes close to home, we are left with thoughts about how we would cope in similar circumstances. Our fear is that our faith might falter. Being a minister brings with the role the opportunity to be with people during difficult times. Over the years I have witnessed God give grace to people to enable them to cope. As we look on, we need grace to cope with looking on, or the grace to cope with the extent we are drawn in with those who are suffering. Trying to support someone is a different experience to going through the tragedy, no matter how much you are capable of identifying with those who are troubled. When the time comes for us to go through the trial ourselves, God provides what we need. Encouraging words from the Lord Jesus to Peter are, Jesus says, ‘Peter I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail.’ As we walk along the path of life we need to gain wisdom and knowledge from God’s word so that it is a resource to call upon when we are in need.
Those who are going towards death or slaughter are people who have been unjustly found guilty of a crime. The punishment could be a fine, imprisonment or the ultimate sanction, death.
The appropriate action is to stand up and defend those who are falsely accused. V12 deals with those who see the injustice and do nothing. They make the excuse that they didn’t know about it. People have been attacked in the high street in broad day light and bystanders have stood by unwilling to get involved. Perhaps they fear that they might get hurt, or fear that they might be arrested by the police and accused of being involved rather than one stepping in to prevent further injury. In today’s litigious society you can even be sued by the original attacker for causing injury to them. As I was looking at this verse I heard a series of interviews about how the indigenous people of Canada were by law taken from their families and put in schools, and how death rates of up to 40% are now being acknowledged through poor nutritional and health care. Mass graves of the bodies of indigenous children are being dug up. Many in government and the churches were aware of these crimes but the last school only closed in 1996. This is a case where many in society turned a collective blind eye to the injustice going on in their midst. God knows exactly what happened to every single child and God knows every abuser, and every member of society who stood by when this injustice was carried out. God will call every person to give an account for what they did and for what they didn’t do. It is easy to feel a sense of outrage about something so far from home. By condemning this injustice be careful that we are not guilty of virtue signalling, or worse feeling self-righteous that we weren’t involved. Many injustices can be taking place on our doorstop, and we don’t ask too many questions in case we find ourselves culpable. But perhaps not asking questions will one day cause us to need to give an account of that.
Lord help us to love justice and righteousness. Give us the courage to stand up for the oppressed and to oppose injustice, because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.