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In her booklet Sharing God’s Heart for the Poor, Dr. Amy Sherman writes two brief articles about James 1:27. I blogged the first one in a post entitled “Visiting Orphans: A Ministry That Imparts Life.” Here is her second article:

sharing_gods_heartThe word “visit” in Scripture is connected with the idea of rescue and redemption. In some translations, *Exodus 3:7 is translated as God saying that He has “visited” His people Israel in Egypt and took note of their suffering. And this is immediately followed by God’s statement, “So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” So here we have a connection between the visitation of God and His plans to deliver the Jews from slavery. Here, visiting involves rescue and deliverance.

In Luke 1:67-79, the father of John the Baptist, Zechariah, exults in a prophetic word that foretells the coming of Jesus the Messiah. In verse 68, he says, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, for He has visited His people to redeem them.” Again, we see the connection between visiting and deliverance, visiting and redemption. The idea is raised again later in Zechariah’s song, in verse 78:

The Dayspring from on high shall visit us to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

The incarnate God came to visit us in the form of Jesus, the God-Man. Jesus came and He shined on people living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to rescue them from that darkness and to redeem them from the clutches of sin and death. And the Scripture tells us, the Church, that WE are the body of Christ; now WE are the hands and feet of Christ. And so we need to be Christians who visit those widows and orphans who live in darkness and in the shadow of death.

We are to bring the light of Christ to little children who live in inner-city hell holes, hearing gunfire every night.

We are to rescue widows in Third World countries who are surrounded by dark paganism, by teaching them truth and economically empowering them.

We are to support the efforts of Christian groups like International Justice Mission that rescue runaway children from hidden hovels where they are forced into prostitution.

Visiting is about more than bringing a plate of cookies to the nursing home. It’s a radical, exciting, even dangerous mission of bringing Jesus the Redeemer near to the hurting who live “in darkness and the shadow of death.”

Dr. Sherman then closes with these further thoughts:

1) Consider reading Good News About Injustice by Gary Haugen, President of International Justice Mission (InterVarsity Press, 1998). This Christian ministry sends teams of professionals into various countries to rescue children sold into debt-slavery or prostitution. Their stories are often shocking and distressing; it can be very painful and uncomfortable to reflect on the activities that go on “in darkness and the shadow of death.” But shielding ourselves from these harsh realities is unworthy of those who claim Christ’s name and mission, for He was not afraid to go into dark corners. And, since Haugen’s book depicts the many successes the mission has had in confronting and overcoming such evils, you will be inspired as well as sobered by what you learn.

2) Visiting means going there. Do you know where to find the impoverished families of your community? Have you even been in the more dangerous parts of your city? Consider taking a tour of “the other side of the tracks” with a Christian ministry working among the poor in your city. Getting exposes to these neighborhoods is the first step in becoming a true visitor.

Reprinted by permission of the author from Sharing God’s Heart for the Poor: Meditations for Worship, Prayer, and Service by Amy L. Sherman. To purchase copies ($3), please call 434-293-5656 or contact

*Though the Greek translation of Exodus 3:17 does not use the same Greek word for “visit” that James uses in James 1:27, Amy’s point still stands. The same Greek word for “visit” is used in Exodus 4:31.

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