Scripture: Tonight’s message begins with the scripture Jeremiah 22:13 – 17
In this scripture the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah about Shallum, son of King Josiah.
13 “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness,
his upper rooms by injustice,
making his own people work for nothing,
not paying them for their labour.
14 He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace
with spacious upper rooms.’
So he makes large windows in it,
panels it with cedar
and decorates it in red.
15 “Does it make you a king
to have more and more cedar?
Did not your father have food and drink?
He did what was right and just,
so all went well with him.
16 He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?”
declares the Lord.
17 “But your eyes and your heart
are set only on dishonest gain,
on shedding innocent blood
and on oppression and extortion.”
King Josiah was a good father, and left a good example for his sons. Shallum chose not to follow the good example of his father. Many of the references in the scripture show how Shallum wanted the best of everything. Cedar was the most expensive of woods and the house had to be large with royal colours. He decorated from the pride in his heart not from the frame of his spirit.
Neither Shallum nor his brother Jehoiakim who also ruled, had deaths where people mourned them. Their father, on the other hand, was universally mourned by the people of Judah. If we look at verse 16 we see why King Josiah was mourned, because he defended the cause of the poor and needy and Jeremiah, speaking the words of the Lord, says “Is that not what it means to know me declares the Lord.”
If we move to the New Testament, to Acts 5, we see Ananias and Sapphira selling land and withholding money that was to go to the church to help those in need. They tried to hide their hearts from the Christians around them, but both fell down dead when the truth of their hearts was revealed. Their hearts were not right in the sight of God.
If you were to take a moment right now and put your heart in the hands of the Holy Spirit, what would its condition be? Would you be likely to fall down dead if the condition of your heart was revealed, would God declare that no one should mourn you?
If knowing God is to defend the cause of the poor and needy, where would your heart be positioned? Thinking back to last Sunday when we had Compassion here, was your heart moved into action? Did the presentation inspire you to give up that extra take away each week, or were you unmoved, uninspired and left with the same condition in your heart as when you arrived?
Compassion is just one way we can easily recognise an area where we can help the poor and needy. However, I’d like to challenge you tonight that in this day and age the poor and needy aren’t always easily visible, nor are they always so readily helped with goods or finances. These people that I’m going to talk about need your time and your ability to simply “hold space.”
When we “hold space” we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.
Think about when Jesus didn’t hurry to heal Lazarus and take away the sorrow of Martha and Mary. He was in effect, holding space. He didn’t rush to fix things in his own strength, or to try and control the situation or impact the outcome. The Jews also have a tradition called Sitting Shiva. After a death there is a 7 day mourning period. During this time you wear sackcloth and ashes and you don’t speak unless the mourner wants to speak. You essentially hold space for the mourner so that they can process their pain.
In order to hold space we need hearts like King Josiah, and not like his sons, Shallum & Jehoiakim, and not like Ananias and Sapphira. We need hearts like Jesus that can recognise great faith and a humble spirit, even when it doesn’t look like what we are used too. Think about Luke 7 when Jesus healed the Centurion’s servant. The Centurion was a gentile and Jesus healed his servant because the centurion asked and Christ responded with grace plus the Centurion had a humble spirit and faith, which the Jews attested too.
Brene Brown, in her upcoming book Braving the Wilderness, frames this experience – “An experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence. These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time.”
Who are these people, the new poor and needy that we need to become aware of and minister our hearts too, to hold space for and to reach out to? They are those living with mental health challenges and the young adults amongst us. You won’t find these individuals standing up and crying out for help, you can’t notice them sitting on street corners. Nor are you likely to have them reaching out to you for help. Our society, whilst ahead of some, still does not have mainstream acceptance for mental health challenges nor is it readily recognising that our youth have been left to raise themselves, in part due to single parent families and in part due to both parents working.
In order to recognise these people who need you to hold space for them, you first need to recognise the condition of your own heart. In Christian terms it would be that you have a testimony that you can share of how the Lord has brought you through or is bringing you through the healing of your heart. Please don’t ever think you have to have a fully healed heart to be able to represent the heart of Christ to anyone, because you don’t. Our very natures are fallen and it’s the light of God within us that will minister to other people.
Trust is built in relationships when people see you are consistent and there is no judgment. And the older you are the more you have to be aware of not being judgemental. When you are judgemental and have opinions about how someone should or could be doing something you walk a fine line of not letting the Lord be able to do His work, His way in someone’s life.
If we are to build His kingdom, we must build others up too. Begin with those immediately around you. Be they family or friends, or family and friends who know someone who’s heart is poor and stands in need of some love. Step out on a limb holding the hand of Christ and be prepared to be rewarded with a relationship that is never dull and will open doors you’ve not even imagined yet.
7 months ago I moved in with 4 young adults. 3 of them were my children and Nick was a bonus. For 2 months I shared a room with my daughter, giving us precious time together before she left for her life in Germany. The remainder of the time has been spent with Josh, Nic and Nick, and despite hesitation on their parts of having me live with them, it’s turned out really well for all of us.
Why hesitation on their parts? They hadn’t been living under a roof with an adult for some time, so their concerns were that I’d move upstairs and become a parent again. Much to their surprise I didn’t. This coming Friday they move out on their own, and with reflection we can all say it’s been good. There were times when I asked God what on earth did I do to get this assignment, but at the end of the day having a heart willing to listen to what each of them were struggling with, even when I’d worked all day, was dog tired, and sitting at my desk doing work for work the next day, being interrupted, and being willing to stop and listen because this moment will never come again, has built relationships that money can’t buy. And this is what you will do when you reach out and hold space for someone else. You will build a relationship that money cannot buy and be in a privileged position of trust where you can speak into someone else’s life.
In conclusion, the question now needs to be asked, are you ready to reach out and extend God’s love to someone who is poor and in need? 1 John 3:16 clarifies if your heart is positioned to love –
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
With Shallum being a clear example of what not to do in life, I’ve no doubt you’re ready to begin reaching out and extending God’s love to an individual poor and in need.