The Helper of the Fatherless
But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.
There is a general consensus among biblical scholars that Psalms 9 and 10, if not two parts of a whole, are at least related. Psalm 9 is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for God’s ultimate triumph over David’s enemies and all the forces of evil. Psalm 10 is a prayer of supplication, calling on God to exact retribution on those who oppress the weak and helpless. While the oppressors may have their way for a time, Psalm 10 ends with the confident assertion that God will avenge the harm and the hurt done by them. He will come to the aid of those who are oppressed and cannot help themselves.
Brae and her younger twin brothers were placed in foster homes with no explanation why. They were in day care one minute and in foster care the next. For four years, they went from one foster home to another, hoping all along that someone would eventually adopt them.
When Brae turned 14 years old, she realized that her brothers would never be adopted if she was in the picture because most adoptive parents don’t want older kids. So this brave little girl removed herself from consideration with the hope that her younger brothers would find a home. As a result, Brae was placed in a foster home and could only see her brothers for one hour each month over the next four years.
Meanwhile, Marti and Ron Dula wanted children. The Dulas reviewed the twin brothers’ file and moved quickly to adopt them. At 10 years of age, they were adopted after spending seven years in the foster care/adoption system. The boys were excited to be adopted. But they missed their sister. They told their new parents about her and they quickly realized that she had to be a very special girl to make that kind of sacrifice. The Dulas initiated adoption proceedings and Brae is now a part of the family, along with a fourth child that the Dula family has adopted (http://www.davethomasfoundationforadoption.org).
Today, there are literally thousands of Braes in orphanages and foster homes, both in the U.S. and abroad, waiting for someone to adopt them—to love them and care for them as their own.
- The plight of the fatherless.
- Orphan, originally meant “to be lonely” or “bereaved” (WS1).
- Word occurs 41 times in the Old Testament (WS2).
- Usually were unprotected and subject to oppression—subject of God’s special protection (WS3).
- War, famine and disease were causes for large numbers of orphans and widows (WS4).
- Could inherit property or learn skill as apprentice only if adopted (WS4).
- God is the helper of the fatherless.
- God is referred to as both God (Jehovah—YHWH) and Lord (El) in this Psalm.
- The name “Lord” refers to Him as:
- Self-Existent and Eternal (WS5)
- A God of grace (WS6)
- Unchangeable (WS6)
- Faithful in keeping His promises and His word (WS6)
- The name “God” refers to Him as strong and mighty, therefore to be feared (WS7 and WS8).
- What does the helper of the fatherless do?
- God will administer justice against the oppressors (CC3 and CC4).
- What is our responsibility toward the fatherless?
- Exercise caution not to mistreat them:
- Exod. 22:22-24
- Deut. 24:17-18
- Prov. 23:10
- Isa. 1:23-26
- Isa. 10:1-4
- Zech. 7:10
- Mal. 3:5
- Exercise opportunities to assist them:
- Deut. 14:28-29
- Deut. 24:19-22
- Job 29:12-13
- Job 31:16-23
- Ps. 82:3-4
- Isa. 1:17
- Jer. 7:6-7
- James 1:27
- Exercise caution not to mistreat them:
The number of children who are in need of adoption is unknown since no single organization is charged with the responsibility to gather the statistics. Though we do not know exactly how many await adoption, the number is certainly mind-numbing. Although not every family can adopt a child, there are many who can—and should. Christians, especially, should take seriously the exhortations of God to assist those who are some of the most vulnerable among us—children who are awaiting adoption.
What Can One Person Do?
- If possible, adopt a child into your family
- If adoption is not possible, become a foster parent.
- Volunteer in a Christian organization that provides adult mentoring for children who need a parental role model or look for similar opportunities in the church.
- Ask your church to start an adoption/foster care information group. The group would be charged with the responsibility to keep adoption and foster care options before the congregation. It would also provide church members with information on adoption and foster care processes.
Other Helpful Scriptures
Bible verses about Adoption:
Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; Esther 2:7; Job 29:12; Job 31:16-23; Psalm 10:18; Psalm 82:3-4; Psalm 146:9; Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 10:1-2; Jeremiah 49:11; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5; James 1:27
Word Studies (WS)
WS1 — Fatherless—“from an unused root meaning to be lonely; a bereaved person; an orphan.” [James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, n.d.)—Hebrew #3490]
WS2 — Fatherless—[The word] “occurs forty-one times. The orphan, generally associated with the sojourner and the widow, is the object of special concern. The quality of one’s devotion is measured by how one treats the widow and the orphan. Justice is especially due them (Deut. 24:17); if not, the curse of God comes on the congregation (Deut. 24:19) . . . A corrupt society extorts the sojourner, wrongs the orphan and the widow, and expresses contempt for father and mother (Ezekiel 22:7, cf. Isaiah 10:2) . . . Those who mistreat the orphan and the widow are paralleled with adulterers, sorcerers and perjurers in Malachi 3:5. But God himself provides for the basic needs of these unfortunates (Deut. 10:18) and is known as the ‘Father of the fatherless’ (Psalm 68:5 [H 6]). This fact is reflected in the laws that forbid picking up fallen sheaves, or regleaning the vine or the olive tree (Deut. 24:19ff.). Also they along with the Levites receive a portion of the tithes of the produce given every third year (Deut. 14:28f.).” [R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 418—Ref. #934a]
WS3 — Fatherless—“The fatherless are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, generally in association with the widow and the stranger, as typical instances of the unprotected and necessitous, who are, specially subject to oppression, and also to God’s special protection.” [D. Miall Edwards, “Fatherless” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Austin, TX: WORDSearch 5 Electronic version, WORDSearch Corp., 2004)]
WS4 — Fatherless— “Orphans, aliens and widows formed the three classes of powerless persons in ancient society. God took special care of these people because of their basic vulnerability, requiring that they not be oppressed and cursing those who did oppress with the threat of becoming orphans themselves. The frequency of war, famine and disease insured that there would always be a large number of orphans. Although they could contribute to the general work force, they would have had to be adopted for them to inherit property or to learn a skill as an apprentice” [Notes on Exodus 22:22-24, Bible Background Commentary (Austin, TX: WORDSearch 5 Electronic version, WORDSearch Corp., 2004)]
WS5 — “Lord”—“from Hebrew 1961 (hayah); (the) self-Existent or Eternal; Jehovah, Jewish national name of God: Jehovah, the Lord. Compare Hebrew 3050 (Yahh), Hebrew 3069.” [James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, n.d.)—Hebrew #3068]
WS6 — “Lord”—“It is especially in the name Jehovah (Yahweh) . . . that God reveals Himself as the God of grace. This name has always been regarded as His most sacred and most distinctive name. On the basis of Ex. 3:14 it may be said that the name is derived from the Hebrew verb ‘to be,’ and that it serves to designate the unchangeableness of God. It implies the immutability of divine being, but points more directly to the fact that God is unchangeable in His covenant relationship, that He is mindful of His promises and faithful in keeping His word.” [L. Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1933), 59]
WS7 — “God”—“shortened from Hebrew 352 (‘ayil); strength; as adjective mighty; especially the Almighty (but used also of any deity) :- God (god), × goodly, × great, idol, might (-y one), power, strong.” [James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, n.d.)—Hebrew #410]
WS8 — “God”—“There are certain names which direct attention to the fact that God is the high and exalted One, the transcendent God. ’El and ’Elohim stress the fact that He is strong and mighty, and therefore to be feared.” [L. Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1933), 59]
Commentary Citations (CC)
CC1 — “Though men act as if their conduct was not observed, yet thou art intimately acquainted with all they do. The workers of iniquity cannot hide themselves. The idea here is, that although God seemed not to notice the conduct of the wicked, and though the wicked acted as if he did not, yet that all this was seen by God, and that he would deal with men according to justice and truth.” [Albert Barnes, Psalms, Vol. I. Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1950), 95]
CC2 — “The fact is that, whatever might seem to be the case, God has seen what is going on and will continue to observe it. In reality, he is not at a distance, not concealed (v. 1), but merely biding his time.” [Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50. Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word Books, Publisher, 1983), 125]
CC3 — “‘To give anything into one’s hand’ is equivalent to, into his power . . . or into any one’s care . . . but here God gives (lays) the things which are not to be administered, but requited, into His own hand . . . He is observant of the afflictions of His saints, laying them up in His hand and preserving them there in order, in His own time, to restore them to His saints in joy, and to their enemies in punishment.” [Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, Vol. I (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959), 183]
CC4 — “Eventually God would act and the hand raised in hostility and power (v. 12) would exact requital. Thus the present action of the ‘hapless,’ and the former experience of the ‘orphan’ (both of whom symbolize the afflicted), would not be in vain.” [Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50. Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word Books, Publisher, 1983), 125]