Our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, was the Word become flesh, God incarnate, and being flesh and blood as we are, he carried in His body the same fleshly weaknesses (Heb 4:15). Anticipating His imminent death, He solicited the prayer support of His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, saying, “My Soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death; abide ye here, and watch with me.” (Matt 26:38). Luke tells us in his gospel, “And there appeared unto him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:43-44). The cup from which Christ was to drink proved to be beyond the human. It necessitated the supplications of the disciples and the aid of the angel; the strength added thereby was enlisted to triumph over the weaknesses of the flesh, in order to accomplish the work of salvation on the cross.
During the battle between Israel and the Amalekites at Rephidim, Moses instructed Joshua to lead the army while he, together with Aaron and Hur, ascended a hill to supplicate. When his hands were lifted up in prayer, Israel prevailed, but his physical strength could not sustain the weight of uplifted limbs indefinitely, so each time his hands were let down, Israel was let down and the enemy prevailed. His companions found him a stool of stone on which he sat, while they supported his limpid forelimbs on each side till dusk, by which time the Amalekites were all falling, lifeless on the ground (Exodus 17:8-13). Does this historic truth not teach us that the fatigued arms of Moses were upheld by Aaron and Hur when they threatened to come down and that without their support, Moses could neither have kept his hands steady nor persevered in the prayer that brought victory? The Bible alerts us, “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of the darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). Subtle attacks from our unseen foes may plunge us into spiritual weakness, indifference and degeneration. In such moments of weakness, the need for intercessory prayers becomes more evident; prayers by which implorations are made for increased faith and strength, not unlike the support rendered by Aaron and Hur to Moses, so that our hands which hand down and our feeble knees can be empowered against the adversary (Heb 12:12).
Elijah, a prophet of no meagre power, when fiercely pursued by Ahab’s wicked queen, Jezebel, who would not suffer him to live much longer, succumbed like the weakest of us, to gross impotence and asked for death. It was God who sent timely aid through an angel who brought him food and drink, and by virtue of these, the man of God journeyed forty days and nights towards Horeb, the Mount of God (1 Kings 19:1-8). This passage can serve as our guide as we tread the road heaven-bound, for our opponent is the devil, who like a roaring lion seeks to devour the devourable (1 Pet 5:8). Our Lord had warned Peter, “Satan asked to have you” (Luke 22:31) - a similitude of Jezebel’s pursuit of Elijah. Our earthly pilgrimage reflects the harsh situations of Elijah’s flight in the wild, thistled deserts, during which our hungry, thirsty souls, overwhelmed by weakness, often resign midway to spiritual slumber. In such a helpless condition, we await heavenly messengers from among our brethren, to awaken, support and comfort; to transfer our feebleness into physical and spiritual well-being, much needed for the journey towards our celestial destination.
We shift our discussion next, to one of the wealthiest men in the east, Job, whom the Bible declares to be perfect, upright and God-fearing, one who eschewed evil (Job 1:1-5). Through instiga¬tion of the devil, he suffered disasters claiming all his wealth and children within a day (Job 1:13-19). Compounding to his suffering, he was inflicted with bodily pain in the form of sores, from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, his skin broken, his flesh infested with worms. Such sorrow bade him to sit upon ashes all day, scrapping himself with a potsherd (Job 2:7-8,7:3). Such a pitiful, deplorable condition is beyond description, and the victim, writh¬ing under its oppression, inevitably cursed the day wherein he was born (Job 3:1-12). It ought to be deemed fortunate for Job that he had three or four caring friends who made appointment with one another, and came together from afar to bemoan his plight (Job 2:11-13). Their effort contributed, more or less, to Job’s stamina in sustaining the trial of his misfortunes, and after suffering to the fullness thereof, he received out of God’s bounty ten children and a double portion of wealth and cattle. We must not fail to mention that in answer to his affliction, Job received from all his brothers, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, words of comfort, apart from a piece of money and a ring of gold from each of them (Job 42:11) - a harvest of recompense for seeds of kindness he had previously sown, in instructing many, in strengthening the weak hands, in upholding the falling, in making firm the feeble knees (Job 4:3-4). Here is our lesson; we who render help and comfort shall also have times of woe, receiving in return the same kindness from others, for we have the Bible to teach us, “For man also knoweth not this time; as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, even so are the sons of man snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them” (Eccl 9:12). Paul’s remark does not differ, “When they are saying, ‘Peace and safety’ then suddenly destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape” (1 Thess 5:3). Job’s uncourted disaster is ordained an example and a testi¬mony to the truth of these Bible statements.
Tribulation and adversity, as they are usually not predictable, predispose no one to either the duty of bestowing, or the misfortune of needing help, but as the good Book says, “And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). Thus the teaching of the Scripture, “A friend loveth at all times; And a brother is born for adversity” (Prov 17:17). While the heathens are guided by the Confucian ethic of Universal Brotherhood which prompts them to care for those in need, Christians born of the same Spirit and united as brethren in the Lord should excel and surpass them in mutual care and concern, transcending even natural frater¬nity, to function concordantly as one Body (1 Cor 12:13-26). The Scripture rules, “But whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). Negligence towards the care of members of the same household amounts to denial of the faith and is worse than the sin of infidelity (1 Tim 5:8). It is not a rarity amongst brethren who are rich to have their mistaken notions about their own love and religiosity build a wall of complacency around themselves, while being in actuality hardhearted, tightfisted and uncharitable toward the poor. Of what use is it if they were to say to an impoverished brother or sister, “Peace be with you. Keep warm and be well-fed” without lending or surrendering part of their worldly goods to meet his insufficiencies? (Deut 15:7-8; Jas 2:14-17). God wants those who have to give to those who have not, not the have-nots to struggle to assist fellow have-nots; so the Bible says, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thy hand to do it” (Prov 3:27). Inspired by Christ’s teaching, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”, Paul undertook to hard labour in order to obtain means to help and support the weak (Acts 20:35).
Supporting the weak and giving to the poor are kindness unconditionally offered, without expectation of reward whatsoever, exuding from a loving heart, fashioned into conformity with that of Christ (Phil 2:5). Jesus Himself propounded this principle at length, “Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them; else ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. When therefore thou does alms, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward. But when thou does alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; that thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee” (Mt 6:1-4). We notice that reward, though not expected by the generous giver, nevertheless awaits him, which comes from the Father who sees in secret. The Bible tells us as a matter of fact that “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto Jehovah, And his good deed will he pay him again” (Prov 19:17). We have nothing to glory in our benevolence, for all charitable acts must stem candidly from love and sympathy - imbued in our human nature and decreed as our fundamental duties by God. Jesus taught, “For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20). If unbelievers are impelled by nature to perform good deeds, how much more should believers covet every opportunity to do good. thereby illuminating the world with light and glorifying the Lord’s name. Good deeds and alms-giving are sacrifices pleasing to God (Heb 13:16). May the Holy Spirit stir in our hearts that love which explodes in liberality, helping and supporting the weak with spontaneity, and at the same time enriching our lives with His bounteous grace..