“Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.” – Proverbs 23:10-11
When you visit a foreign country, standard advice is to try to blend in. How well you succeed will depend on the gap between you and the locals. But why bother blending in at all? Why not revel in your obnoxious, carefree tourism? It’s a matter of self-protection.
When you erupt into a new town taking selfies and laughing over ordinary things, you are declaring to the best and worst people alike: “I don’t know where I am or what to expect! I have the money of an adult, but the sophistication of a child.” That can invite some unwanted attention because you’re advertising your vulnerability.
This proverb warns against the temptation to take advantage of the weak simply because you have a better chance of getting away with it. This is a timeless strategy: the bully harasses the awkward outcast; the lion picks off the limping antelope.
No one pays attention to ancient landmarks, and fatherless families are just trying to get by, so these are easy marks. Your risks are lower when you attempt to scam the elderly or swindle the poor. But God says they’re not.
God pays special regard to life’s “losers.” God delights in taking up the role of public defender largely because no one else will. There’s less competition for who gets the credit. The defenseless exhaust their list of resources quickly, so they turn to God more readily. God likes that. He takes special pride in sheltering under his wing those whom the world casts off.
This proverb connects with another often repeated one: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov 1:7; 9:10; 10:27; 15:23; 19:23) Do you believe there’s a system of justice and judgment beyond what you see on earth? Do you believe there’s a judge jealously watching over the rights of the oppressed? This is the fear of the Lord.
If you fear the Lord, then when you’re tempted to pull one over on somebody because you can, you’ll remember who the Lord is, and the kind of relationship He has with those who appear helpless. Wisdom isn’t fancy. It’s just building better common sense based on your knowledge of God.
This proverb is more than a warning against exploitation. It’s an invitation. You too can have a strong defender and redeemer who will plead your cause. You too can sleep easy, knowing you have someone in a high position, who has access to all the resources, who can work all the levers of power for you. All you’ve got to do is count yourself among the weak who need Jesus’ help.
The moment we stop trying to defend ourselves, when we stop fretting over whether “you’re getting yours,” that’s when God steps in. And He does a better job taking care of you than you do. Jesus is eager to redeem those who ask for it.