Poor and Needy
Poor and Needy: Part 1
“But I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinks upon me.” Ps 40.7
“But I am poor and needy; make haste to me, O God.” Ps 70.5
“Bow down Your ear, O Lord; hear me, for I am poor and needy.” Ps 86.1
I have been struck by the phrase ‘poor and needy’, found in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms. It is a phrase peculiar to the King James Bible. David, the man after God’s own heart, thrice calls himself ‘poor and needy’ (Ps 40.17, 70.5 and 86.1). The phrase comes from a Hebrew word which means ‘poor, humble, afflicted, lowly, wretched’. The Hebrew word is aniy (afflicted), and is derived from the word anah (oppressed). Where the KJV uses ‘poor’, the NASB uses the word ‘afflicted’.
The term is used in two ways in the Bible. First, in a social context, as in Deut 15.11; 24.11; Job 24.4 & 14; Amos 4:1; 8.4 & 6; Ezekiel 16.49, 18.12 & 22.29 – where it refers to those who are poor and socially oppressed. But the term is used also in a spiritual sense, especially in the Psalms and the prophet Isaiah. For example, in the promise in Psalm 12.5, the Lord says, ‘For the oppression of the poor and the sighing of the needy, now I will arise and set him in the safety for which he yearns.’ We are reminded of how Israel was oppressed in Egypt, and how their groans went up to heaven. Exod 2. 23, 24. God heard their cries and delivered them in a mighty and marvellous way. I remember how, in my earliest trial, immediately after I was baptized, I read the Psalms, and this verse in Psalm 12.5 spoke clearly to me and greatly comforted me.
By nature we would not call ourselves ‘poor and needy’; we would rather be ‘rich and self-sufficient’. We feel we can stand by ourselves; we need nobody’s help. Modern psychology has given a big boost to the soul in man, and today’s distorted Christianity has produced a shallow, self-confident 'believer', who is a travesty of the humble Christian saint. Many are misled by 'pep-talk' pastors like Rick Warren or Robert Schuller, or the rich, flashy, charismatic ‘Prosperity Brigade’. The Lord Jesus Christ made it perfectly clear to His disciples that without Him they could do nothing, John 15.5.
The term ‘poor and needy’ means ‘humble and afflicted’. As a chosen vessel, the child of God goes through the discipline of affliction, injustice and oppression (Isaiah 48.10); only then does he realize that he is truly ‘poor and needy’. He finds that he is unable to stand by himself; and that he needs the Lord to ‘perform all things for him’ Psalm 57.2. This is what the prophets, David and Isaiah, spoke about. Through such troubles and tribulations, the ‘poor and needy’ (the one who is ‘humble and afflicted) becomes ‘meek and lowly’ like the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what God is seeking in us -- humility, a virtue that is impossible to attain except through deep and painful experiences of the Cross over the years.
In Psalm 72, which is a Messianic psalm, we read in verse 4 of how the Messiah will bring justice to the poor and
will deliver the children of the needy and will break in pieces the oppressor
(the wicked who have been oppressing them). The thought is continued again in verses 12-14 where it says ‘And precious shall be their blood in His sight.’ 72.14b. This is almost similar to the expression in Psalm 116.15 - ‘Precious in
the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.’ In other words, the poor and
needy are actually the saints of God, vessels chosen by Him to be
recipients of His grace and mercy. And only such (the humble and afflicted) can enter into His heavenly kingdom.
Isaiah speaks of comfort to the poor and needy’. To the saints of God, it is the Lord who is their source of strength in time of distress; their refuge from the storm (the blast of the ruthless and wicked who hate the children of God); and their shade from the heat. Isaiah 25.4. The Lord will fight for His oppressed children. In Isaiah 26.6 we are told that the feet of the 'poor and needy' shall tread down the proud and lofty city. In other words, the Lord will use humble and despised vessels to shame the proud. Or, as it says in Isa 33.23, the lame (the broken and broken-hearted) shall take the prey.
One of the most beautiful portions of comfort is Isaiah 41.17-19. When the poor and needy seek water and their tongues fail for thirst, I will not forsake them, says the Lord. I will open rivers for them in the heights, and pools in the wilderness. I will plant cedars and acacias and myrtles for them in the wilderness. What a great blessing the Lord will bring to His suffering saints!
As we can see from the Psalms and the prophet Isaiah, these are the outcasts, the broken-hearted, the despised (Psalm 147.2, 3). They are the ones who sincerely walk in the footsteps of Christ, bearing the shame and reproach of the cross. Most Christians do not really suffer; they enjoy a pleasant time here on earth. They refuse to carry the cross. But the 'poor and needy' are the remnant, the chosen ones of God; they cling to the cross in the face of all opposition, and are prepared to pay the price to be melted and moulded into the image of Christ.
In Ezekiel 16.49 we have a picture of Sodom. Sodom had pride, fullness of food and abundance of idleness. She cared not for the suffering poor, the oppressed ‘remnant’. Isn’t that a picture of America today? Those who stand for the truth, the true gospel of Jesus Christ are unknown, hidden ones. They are hated by their brethren, the superficial, carnal, easy-going Christians. Since they are 'uncompromisingly righteous', they evoke the disdain and hatred of those who prefer to compromise with sinners rather than confront sin.
To sum up, God loves the poor and needy, the humble and afflicted, the broken-hearted, the outcast, the weak, the despised, the oppressed. He cares for the widows and orphans and fatherless. This is true, both in the social context as well as in the spiritual. There are those crushed physically because of poverty and bondage, and there are those ‘broken in heart’ and ‘crushed in spirit’. Just as in society, the rich and powerful oppress the poor and weak; so too the ‘remnant’ are hated and despised by false (i.e. carnal and worldly) believers, just as the children of Israel were hated by the children of Lot who dwelt alongside them. If you don't know about the conspiracies of the Moabites and Ammonites, try reading the book of Nehemiah.
But what is God actually doing in making us ‘poor and needy’? He is breaking us down (the old things must pass away), so that we may be built up into His image (all things have become new).
To be frank, God does not care to be involved in earthly controversies between Communists and Capitalists, between Calvinists and Charismatics, between Conservatives and Liberals, or, for that matter, between ‘Glenn Beck and Barack Obama’. God is above all such foolish and petty disputes and distinctions. The only distinction in God’s eyes (now that Christ has come into the world) is the wide gulf that exists between Sinner and Saint. You are either one who is saved (a saint) or one who will be damned (a sinner). Salvation is the key. And salvation means: to be saved from the penalty of sin, then from the power of sin, and finally from the presence of sin itself.
Postscript: We began by quoting David from the Psalms. David was rejected by his own family. His father didn't care for him; his brothers despised him. He was hated by Saul; his greatest enemies were the Philistines. (Don't we have many Philistines among Christians today? When we follow the Lord, whether we like it or not, we will come into a great and continuous conflict with the children of Satan who have infiltrated into the churches (just as the Philistines infiltrated into Israel's promised land - Palestine). We will go through many afflictions; we will be cast out, despised, mocked and rejected. Having become identified with the Cross of Christ; we, the ‘humble and afflicted’, the ‘poor and needy’, are the true chosen saints of God in whom God delights as He prepares them spiritually for his heavenly kingdom..
© Pratonix/Roland Oliver
(There will be a second hub on the New Testament 'response' to being 'poor and needy'. In other words, this subject is being dealt with in two parts.)
This hub has to be read with Part 2 which is at http://hubpages.com/hub/Poor-and-Needy-The-New-Testament-Response