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“Where God’s Finger Points!” Psalm 9: 17-18 Key verse(s): 18: “But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.”

With all the poverty in the world it is sometimes difficult to understand why God allows such suffering. It has been estimated that over 35% of all the people on earth today live in or near poverty conditions. That’s billions of people! In some countries like Tanzania in Africa and Peru in South America, the percentage is closer to 65% or higher. Every day literally hundreds of thousands die world-wide from lack of food, clean water and the diseases associated with poverty. How can God countenance such suffering? Is this part of his plan? Perhaps those who say that God created the world and then sat back to see what would happen are right. Could their be any other explanation for these things?

In May of 1942, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific, had a real problem. The world was at war and the war in the Pacific had not been going well. British forces in southeast Asia were on the run from a massive Japanese invasion force that had driven them from Burma and pushed them back into the mountains of India. The Japanese had secured their hold on China and in the course of just seven years had overrun a large portion of Asia including Micronesia where the American forces under MacArthur were staged. The American stronghold was the Philippine Islands. A Japanese landing force had already taken large portions of the islands having landed only days following the attack on Pearl Harbor a little over a year earlier and their superior forces were now closing in on the last Philippine foothold held by MacArthur and his forces, Corrigedor on the Bataan peninsula.

MacArthur had now been ordered by President Roosevelt to evacuate the Philippines leaving behind a force of about 100,000 American and Philippino soldiers under the command of U.S. General Jonathan Wainwright. As MacArthur boarded the P.T. boat that was to carry him to an awaiting aircraft, he looked behind to see what was left of his rag-tag army of destitute, poorly fed and beleaguered farmers and American soldiers. He knew in his heart that most of them would be captured and many killed within weeks. He wrote later that “the sight of those worn and marked faces will stay with me for the rest of my life.” Only weeks later Wainwright surrendered to Japanese General Homma and all of the Philippines fell into enemy hands. Tens of thousands of Philippino and American prisoners were shipped off to prison camps around the Japanese empire. By the end of the war, only one out of twenty would survive. The Japanese mistreated the Philippino natives harshly and many were killed or imprisoned. Food was scarce and shelter hard to find as the Japanese employed a “scorched earth” policy on the islands. When MacArthur landed in Darwin, Australia later that fateful day in May, 1942, this was on his mind. He knew how his beloved Philippines would be scourged and he knew how both soldier and citizen would suffer. As he debarked from the plane he walked over to the tarmac and a microphone that had been set up for an expected statement from the general. After a few brief remarks to the press, he turned his gaze northward to the islands he had fled and uttered these famous words, “I will return!”

MacArthur returned less than two years later. He kept his promise and the islands were liberated. Food and medicine once again flowed into the beleaguered islands. Although many had died, many more were saved because a nation and a general had kept their promises. The Philippino people had never been abandoned, only left to fend until the appointed time that their suffering would be relieved.

The Bible tells us that God will not forget the “needy” and the “afflicted.” It also tells us, however, that there will be a time when poverty and helplessness will plague this world. That little word “always” gives us the clue. He will “not always forget.” As did General MacArthur, God has a plan for relief of the suffering and the want. He will “return” to dispel hopelessness and reward faithfulness. Working His grace through an army of Christian soldiers, he will once again take back what has been overrun by our enemy, Satan. Those who refuse to help the poor and destitute, who subjugate them, use and abuse them, will be destroyed. Of that there can be no doubt for He has made that promise to us through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. As Jesus closed His eyes and uttered “It is finished!” with His last breath, there is no doubt that His last thoughts were with us and the fact that He would return again to redeem His people from the foe who oppresses them. When you and I hold out our hand to the fallen, open our hearts, homes and wallets to those who are hungry and sick, we work His will and push the invading forces of evil back into the abyss where they belong.

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