Thursday, August 22, 2019

Bless the Lord

     President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of Civil War.  The proclamation declared, "that all persons held as slaves, within the rebellious states are, and henceforward, shall be free."  At a Washington D.C. contraband slave camp, former slaves testified of what this monumental moment meant to them.  One former slave remembered the sale of his daughter, "Now, no more of that he said. They can't sell my wife and children anymore. Bless the Lord."

The most moving part of that ex slave's testimony were his last three words, "Bless the Lord."  What makes them so moving, so powerful, were the words spoken beforehand. His slave-owner master had sold his daughter.  Imagine that for a moment, if you can.   He had experienced his own child ripped out of his life.  Quite possibly he had seen his wife taken from him, as many male slaves had seen happen.  And also quite possibly, if the war had not been won by the North, he would have seen his other children sold away.  Like other slaves, he had probably been whipped for some infraction, overworked, underfed, disrespected, and treated no better than a piece of property.  Yet, amazingly he still could say, "Bless the Lord."

Even after suffering all those terrible things, he had kept his faith.  Even after experiencing such horrible, humiliating offences, he still had loving words of praise toward his God.  How was he able to do that?  Obviously, he believed in the God of the Bible.  The stories of the hardships of the Children of Israel in Egypt were very familiar to the oppressed of the American South.  I'm sure he also believed in a God who can see all things, and a God who was keenly aware of his, and his fellow slave's suffering, just as God had been for Israel.  "The Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them."  Exodus 3:7,8

So again, the question remains. How was this ex slave able to keep his faith, and beyond that, still have a heart of praise even after such a long wait for deliverance?  The answer is reflected in the lives of some prominent  Biblical figures, who also endured unfair and harsh treatment.  Like this man, they were able to separate who God is, and God's Character, from the evil actions of sinful man.  An unjustly enslaved Joseph proclaimed to his brothers, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, in order to bring about His purposes." Genesis 50:19,20
Suffering Job expressed the same sentiment, "The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, Blessed be the Name of the Lord." Job 1:21

Like those Bible personages, this former slave was able to patiently trust and wait on the Lord for God's strength, provision, and His ultimate intervention.  He knew, and believed that God was a good and gracious Father, no matter how the World or man treated him.  He waited patiently for God to answer his prayers, and would not let evil rob him of his praise back to God.  The gospel of Luke records a similar story.  A righteous man named Simeon sat daily at the entrance of the temple in Jerusalem, waiting for God to deliver Israel from the oppression of Rome.  Did you catch that?  He waited patiently, daily, for God's deliverance in a repressive situation.  And when the baby Jesus finally is brought to the temple by His parents, "He takes the child in his arms and begins to praise God." Luke 2:25-28

Did you notice Simeon does not complain to God  concerning all his past hurts, nor for the long wait, but he is moved to praise God instead. I think it is safe to say, that in this day and age, our children are not being sold away from us to become slaves in some far away household.  That type of pain I'm sure far exceeds any of the everyday minor complaints we argue with God about.  Where is your faith today?  Where is your Trust in Him?  When was the last time, in your times of trouble, that these words came forth from your mouth, "Bless the Lord!"?

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