ODB: Witnesses

August 23, 2023

READ: Genesis 4:2–11 

Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Genesis 4:10

In his poem “The Witnesses,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) described a sunken slave ship. As he wrote of “skeletons in chains,” Longfellow mourned slavery’s countless nameless victims. The concluding stanza reads, “These are the woes of Slaves, / They glare from the abyss; / They cry from unknown graves, / We are the Witnesses!”

But who do these witnesses speak to? Isn’t such silent testimony futile?

There is a Witness who sees it all. When Cain murdered Abel, he pretended nothing had happened. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” he said dismissively to God. But God said, “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand” (Genesis 4:9–11).

Cain’s name lives on as a warning. “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother,” John the disciple cautioned (1 John 3:12). Abel’s name lives on too, but in a dramatically different way. “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did,” said the writer of Hebrews. “By faith Abel still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).

Abel still speaks! So do the bones of those long-forgotten slaves. We do well to remember all such victims, and to oppose oppression wherever we see it. God sees it all. His justice will triumph.

— Tim Gustafson

What situations of injustice and oppression do you know about? What might God be calling you to do today?

Dear Father, You’re the God who sees. Help me to see oppression when it happens and show me what I can do to counter it.

Source: Our Daily Bread