Who do you know who cannot speak for themselves? Perhaps an individual comes to mind who is mentally handicapped, clearly not able to make decisions for themselves which reflect safety for their well-being. Perhaps it is an elderly person who no longer is able to get around as the once did, with mental acuity not quite at the same level it once had been. Or maybe it is yourself!
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. (Proverbs 31:8-9)
Whenever scripture tells us something more than once, we really need to focus in to see what is being asked of us. Twice in our passage, we find the words to "speak up". We are called to give voice to those without a voice. It is much easier to just ignore the plight of the poor or the helpless, but God's instructions are quite clear. We are NOT to ignore them.
The poor - those who are lacking - there is a gap between where they are and some object of their need. They have fallen into a place of lack or want. As a result, they are in a position where they are neither comfortable, nor cared for. In this place of discomfort, God asks for us to be their voice - to ensure justice. We know individuals, and often "communities" of individuals, who just cannot make ends meet. The elderly widow who enjoys those roses in her garden who can no longer tend her yard herself. The single mother scraping up enough to purchase the back-to-school supplies requested by each of her children's teachers. We likely can meet some of their needs - we just have to acknowledge them!
The helpless - those who are unable to defend themselves or are unable to act without the assistance of another. Their plight is truly that of being without because they have not been drawn within. A less commonly understood meaning is that of being uncontrollable. The idea is of being so far out of control they stand in a place of needing help in order to bring life back into control again. We all know people like this. Life seems to have spun out of control and their ability to "fix" their "fix" is no longer within their reach. They need someone to re-center their focus and get them back on track. They need the voice of reason, counsel, and encouragement.
Both require someone to intervene - someone to walk alongside. Both require something they don't already possess. Both need - but have no means by which their need will be met.
There is a third group in this passage - those who are being crushed. Perhaps the crushing effects of life's decisions weighs them down - having made decisions which leave them enduring consequences too heavy to bear alone. Regardless of how they have come to feel as though they are being "crushed", the effect is the same - they just cannot bear up. They need the support of another to help them make it through and out from under their burden. The burden of another is made lighter only when we are willing to be the hands and feet of Christ. In service to them, we become the means by which their burden is made a little lighter.
Our instruction - be a "help meet". Meet them where they are at - something which may not be very comfortable for some of us. In fact, most of us simply don't appreciate having to leave our zone of comfort! We live in such a way so as to turn away from being a help (sometimes without even being conscious we are doing so). Sometimes we run away rather than embracing.
The instruction is clear - be the one to bring justice, to be their voice, to meet their need. Be the one to there to walk alongside. There is no avoiding it - we are called to actively make a difference in the lives of those who need redemption. What God tells us once - we are to do without hesitation. What he tells us multiple times - we are to embrace as a lifestyle!