Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation (Psalm 68:5).  

The verse struck me as curious. How is the Lord a Father of the fatherless and a Protector of widows from His holy habitation? Rather, it sounds as if by being in His holy habitation (a likely reference to heaven) God was forfeiting His place as Father and Protector. After all, didn’t God come to earth to dwell (literally, tabernacle) among us? In Jesus, God drew near (John 1:14). How can God be a father and a protector from a distance?

Among the more inspiring and convicting efforts I know is that of the International Justice Mission (IJM), an organization that seeks to rescue the oppressed and bring justice to oppressors. To do their work, IJM workers must draw near to the factory where slaves suffer brutal toil and beatings, and to the brothel where preteen girls are raped for profit. They must confront the perpetrators of these crimes, and, frequently, the local governments, which are themselves complicit.

In his book Terrify No More, Gary Haugen, the director of IJM, submits that a threefold poverty accounts for inaction in the face of oppression: one of compassion, of purpose, and of hope. Poverty of compassion is, in short, a lack of love for the vulnerable and the oppressed. Poverty of purpose is the way we trifle away much of life, choosing the petty and irrelevant over the great purposes for which we have been fashioned by our Creator. Poverty of hope is the belief that, in the end, nothing really can ever be done about problems that appear, well, just too great. Because of this threefold poverty, evil persists. With apologies to Edmund Burke, evil triumphs when the Church does nothing.

In the end, abortion is an oppression which bears striking likeness to other forms of oppression and sexual exploitation. Women who are pregnant and left without support—particularly without the support of the men who fathered their children—are our widows. Their unborn children are our fatherless. In every act of abortion, the fatherless child is killed while the widow is sexually exploited. Legally. Over one million times each year. The problem is deep and it is vast.

So why is the Father of the fatherless and the Protector of the widow in His holy habitation?

We find out at the end of the psalm: “Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—He is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!” (Psalm 68:35). The One who reigns from His sanctuary is not distant from the vulnerable. Rather, He gives strength to His people, people who bear His name and reflect His character, who love what He loves and hate what He hates, people who know the purpose for which they were made, who are made strong in their weakness by His power at work within them. In short, the Lord from His sanctuary lifts His people out of the poverty of compassion, purpose, and hope. Whether by bringing the unwed mother into our homes, adopting a fatherless baby, bearing testimony concerning past involvement in abortion, making plain the good news that God forgives the sin of abortion, or whatever—God, as the Father of the fatherless and Protector of the widow, draws near to them through His people.

This week’s reflection has been written by Anglicans for Life’s Board Member, the Rev. Dr. W. Ross Blackburn. Rev. Blackburn is the Rector of Christ the King, an Anglican Fellowship in Boone, NC.