Comfort for the Oppressed
HAVE you noticed that throughout your lifetime certain words have been repeated over and over in the headlines? Are you tired of reading such words as war, crime, disaster, hunger, and suffering? One word, though, has been conspicuously absent from the news reports. Yet, it is a word representing something that mankind greatly needs. The word is “comfort.”
“To comfort” means “to give strength and hope to” and “to ease the grief or trouble of” someone. With all the turmoil the world has passed through in the 20th century, hope and an easing of grief are sorely needed. True, some of us today enjoy more creature comforts than our ancestors ever imagined possible. This is largely thanks to scientific progress. But science and technology have not comforted us in the sense of removing all the causes of suffering from mankind. What are these causes?
Many centuries ago the wise man Solomon spoke of one basic cause of suffering when he said: “Man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) Science and technology have not been able to change the tendency of man to want to dominate his fellowman. In the 20th century, this has led to oppressive dictatorships within countries and to horrendous wars between countries.
Since 1914 over one hundred million people have been killed as a result of war. Think of the human anguish that this figure represents—millions of mourning families in need of comfort. And wars lead to other kinds of suffering besides violent death. At the end of the second world war, there were more than 12 million refugees in Europe. In more recent years, over one and a half million fled the war zones in Southeast Asia. Warfare in the Balkans has forced more than two million to flee their homes—in many cases to escape “ethnic cleansing.”
Refugees surely need comfort, especially those who walk away from their homes with nothing more than the possessions they can carry, not knowing where to go or what the future holds for them and their families. Such people are among the most pitiful victims of oppression; they need comfort.
In more peaceful parts of the earth, millions live in virtual slavery to the world’s economic system. True, some have an abundance of material goods. The majority, though, face a daily struggle to make a living. Many are in search of decent housing. Increasing numbers are unemployed. “The world,” predicts an African newspaper, “is heading for an unprecedented employment crisis, with in excess of 1.3 billion more people chasing jobs by the year 2020.” Surely the economically oppressed need “strength and hope”—comfort.
In response to desperate circumstances, some turn to a life of crime. Of course, this only creates hardship for their victims, and high crime rates add to the sense of oppression. A recent headline in The Star, a newspaper of Johannesburg, South Africa, read: “A day in the life of ‘the most murderous country in the world.’” The article described a typical day in and around Johannesburg. On that one day, four people were murdered and eight had their motor vehicles hijacked. Seventeen burglaries were reported in one middle-class suburb. In addition, there were a number of armed robberies. According to the newspaper, the police described this as a “relatively quiet” day. Understandably, relatives of murder victims and those subjected to housebreaking and car hijacking feel sorely oppressed. They need assurance and hope—comfort.
In some lands, there are parents who sell their children into prostitution. One Asian country to which tourists stream on “sex tours” is reported to have two million prostitutes, many of whom were bought or kidnapped as children. Are any individuals more oppressed than these pitiful victims? Discussing this sordid trade, Time magazine reported on a 1991 conference of Southeast Asian women’s organizations. There, it was estimated that “30 million women had been sold worldwide since the mid-1970s.”
Of course, children do not have to be sold into prostitution to be victimized. A growing number are physically abused or even raped in their own homes by parents and relatives. Such children may carry emotional scars for a long time. Certainly, as tragic victims of oppression, they need comfort.
An Ancient Student of Oppression
King Solomon was appalled at the extent of human oppression. He wrote: “I myself returned that I might see all the acts of oppression that are being done under the sun, and, look! the tears of those being oppressed, but they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power, so that they had no comforter.”—Ecclesiastes 4:1.
If the wise king realized 3,000 years ago that the oppressed were in desperate need of a comforter, what would he say today? Nevertheless, Solomon knew that no imperfect human, himself included, could provide the comfort needed by mankind. Someone greater was needed to break the power of the oppressors. Is there such a person?
In the Bible, Psalm 72 speaks of a grand comforter for all people. The psalm was written by Solomon’s father, King David. Its superscription reads: “Regarding Solomon.” Evidently, it was written by aged King David respecting One who would inherit his throne. This One, according to the psalm, would bring permanent relief from oppression. “In his days the righteous one will sprout, and the abundance of peace until the moon is no more. And he will have subjects from sea to sea and . . . to the ends of the earth.”—Psalm 72:7, 8.
Likely, when David wrote these words, he was thinking of his son Solomon. But Solomon realized that it was beyond his power to serve mankind in the way described in the psalm. He could fulfill the words of the psalm only in a minor way and in behalf of the nation of Israel, not for the benefit of the whole earth. Evidently, this inspired prophetic psalm pointed to someone much greater than Solomon. Who was that? It could only be Jesus Christ.
When an angel announced Jesus’ birth, he said: “Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father.” (Luke 1:32) Moreover, Jesus referred to himself as “something more than Solomon.” (Luke 11:31) Since Jesus’ resurrection to God’s right hand, he has been in heaven, in the location from which he can fulfill the words of Psalm 72. Furthermore, he has received the power and authority from God to break the yoke of human oppressors. (Psalm 2:7-9; Daniel 2:44) So Jesus is the one to fulfill the words of Psalm 72.
Oppression Soon to End
What does this mean? It means that freedom from all forms of human oppression will soon be a reality. The unprecedented suffering and oppression witnessed during this 20th century were foretold by Jesus as part of the sign that would mark “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) Among other things, he foretold: “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” (Matthew 24:7) That feature of the prophecy began its fulfillment about the time that the first world war broke out in 1914. “Because of the increasing of lawlessness,” Jesus added, “the love of the greater number will cool off.” (Matthew 24:12) Lawlessness and lovelessness have produced a wicked and oppressive generation. Hence, the time must be near for Jesus Christ to intervene as earth’s new King. (Matthew 24:32-34) What will that mean for oppressed humans who have faith in Jesus Christ and who look to him as the divinely appointed Comforter of mankind?
For an answer to that question, let us read some additional words of Psalm 72 that are fulfilled in Christ Jesus: “He will deliver the poor one crying for help, also the afflicted one and whoever has no helper. He will feel sorry for the lowly one and the poor one, and the souls of the poor ones he will save. From oppression and from violence he will redeem their soul, and their blood will be precious in his eyes.” (Psalm 72:12-14) Thus God’s appointed King, Jesus Christ, will see to it that no one has to suffer because of oppression. He has the power to end all forms of injustice.
‘That sounds wonderful,’ someone might say, ‘but what about now? What comfort is there for those suffering right now?’ In fact, there does exist comfort for the oppressed. The following two articles in this magazine will show how millions are already experiencing comfort through cultivating a close relationship with the true God, Jehovah, and with his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Such a relationship can comfort us during these oppressive times and can lead a person to everlasting life free from oppression. Jesus said in prayer to God: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
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No human will oppress another in God’s new world