Francis Bourdillon, 1864
"Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let your widows trust in Me."
The sick are often troubled with anxiety about those whom they must leave behind — when it shall please God to call them home.
The father of a family sees his wife and children round his sick-bed — and wonders how they will fare when he is gone. His labor has been their main support; already, during his illness, they have been without some of the comforts which they were used to while he could work for them — what will they do in time to come?
The sickly mother of a large family, feeling her strength decline day by day — has many an anxious thought for her children. Who will train them aright? Who will comfort them in trouble — and help them in difficulty? Who will do for them what she has always done for them — but can do so no longer? Who will be a mother to them, when she is no more?
Even when the sick person has been able to commit his soul in faith to his Redeemer and can humbly believe that he is forgiven and accepted in Christ — anxiety is still often felt about wife, children, husband. And this anxiety disturbs the peace of the soul and sometimes brings a cloud over a bright and well-founded hope.
This verse from the prophet Jeremiah exactly meets and answers all such anxious thoughts: "Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let your widows trust in Me." It is true, there is some difficulty about the words as originally spoken. It seems likely that these words were addressed to Israel. Edom was the enemy and persecutor of Israel — and was to be punished severely. While threatening the Edomites, God comforts the people of Israel. Let them not be afraid. Their enemies should not make an end of them entirely. Many women were made widows, many children were made fatherless — yet God would take care of the widow and the orphan. The meaning to us is plain. God speaks by these words to the dying believer — and bids him to trust wife and children to Him.
There are many other places in scripture in which comfort of the same kind is given. For instance, the Psalmist addresses God thus: "You are the helper of the fatherless." In another Psalm we read, "A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows — is God in His holy habitation." And again, "The Lord preserves the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow." So in the prophecy of Hosea we read, "In You the fatherless finds mercy."
In other places we find God's severe displeasure declared against any who would oppress the widow and the fatherless — and throughout Scripture we cannot fail to see God's special care for them. It was for a widow, that the miracle of the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil was wrought. It was a widow, whose only son Jesus restored to life at Nain. One of the first things we read of in the history of the Church after our Lord's ascension, is the provision made for the needs of widows — and this was the work of the apostles, who acted under inspiration of God.
We see plainly then from Scripture, that God has a special care for the widow and the fatherless. And have we not observed the same in our own experience? Have we not often seen how God raises up friends for the widow, and provides for the orphan? God does not change. The God of the Bible is our God still. What He there declares to be His gracious will regarding the widow and the fatherless — is His will still. What we read in His Word — we may also observe in His dealings. He is the God of the widow. In Him the fatherless finds mercy.
Let those who have committed their souls to their God and Father in Christ Jesus — also commit all their concerns to Him. He who can save your soul — can He not preserve your children? He who has shown you so great mercy as to bring you to peace in Christ — will He not also give you peace about all things? He has heard your prayer for your soul; He does hear your prayers continually, and every day as you lie on your bed, it is your greatest comfort to pray and to believe that He hears you. Pray for those whom you must soon leave — those most dependent on you — your nearest and dearest. Pray for them in faith. Commit them to God. In humble faith, place them under His protection — and in His hand.
He bids you to do so. He says, "Leave your fatherless children — I will preserve them alive; and let your widows trust in Me." You see, He claims the charge of them. He does not bid you cast in your mind, what earthly friend you can commit them to, or what means you can take beforehand for their good. Do all you can in this way. That is but right. But when you have done all in your power, or if you find that nothing whatever is in your power — then commit them to God Himself. "I will preserve them alive," He says; "let your widows trust in Me."
You cannot see what friends He will raise up for them, when you are gone; or what provision He will make for them. You cannot see. If you could, what room would there be for faith? And these words are addressed to faith.
Do not be anxious, then. Cast all your care upon God — for He cares for you. He has compassion upon you now in your anxiety for those so dear. He will extend the same pity toward them when you are gone. Trust them to Him — to His love, His wisdom, His power. Trust them fully to Him. He can do more for them — than ever you could have done. He will not fail them. Let no anxious fears for them disturb your mind.
"I know in whom I have believed," said the apostle, "and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." Be persuaded of the same promise for those who are dear to you. Commit your soul to His mercy in Christ Jesus — and commit wife, children, and all to Him also. Do not doubt His word.