Series: The Lion and the Lamb
Message: Gospel According to Isaiah
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Becky De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jenniffer Ogden
Live Beyond: Adrian Peterson
Live Purpose: Kyle Smith
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Isaiah 66 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: We can intuit from the first few verses of this chapter that God wants obedience more than the showy displays of religious fervor that we might be thinking will impress Him. He makes it clear: He cannot be impressed. No point trying. But while it’s easy enough to accept that what God wants is obedience, it gets to be a very difficult concept to put into practice. Obedient how? And to what? There are hundreds, thousands even, of Christian denominations and faith groups and each of them has different ideas of what obedience means. Within each of these groups, the individual members also further disagree with one another about what it means to live a righteous and obedient life.
Just recently, we have observed the Bible used both to support the construction of a wall on the southern U.S. border to keep migrants from Central America out and to decry a wall as an affront to Christ’s teachings while He was here on earth. Christians argue both ways: Most U.S. Christians are conservative politically but there is a vocal segment that would identify largely as liberal. Both sides use obedience to the teachings of Christ and the Bible to defend their positions. Both sides think the other beyond the pale.
Because we’re social creatures, we’re always trying to measure our beliefs, values, and practices in terms of how they relate to those of people we either like and admire and seek to emulate or people we dislike, disdain, and hope to be different from in every way possible. We sort ourselves into tribes according to our affiliations. Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, suggests that our gut instincts govern many of the stances we take. We then develop “logical” reasons to justify these. In his words, “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.”
What does this suggest about the way we think? Well, Haidt says that once we accept a particular narrative or way of looking at the world, at “truth,” we become unable to see other versions of morality. So we have to accept first of all that we are—all of us—at least partially blind. God made us and knows everything about us, so He certainly is aware of this fact. Perhaps it really is OK for each of us to make it a practice to talk to God, to study His Word, to ask earnestly for guidance, to accept it as it comes, and to give up trying to convince anyone else that we are right. We need to stop measuring ourselves against other people and develop an inner moral compass—the one placed inside each of us by God—that tells us how to live.
Recalibrate: How do you go about showing obedience to God in practice? How do the attitudes and practices of other people or groups affect your actions?
Respond: Pray for the courage to follow God’s voice.
Research: Read The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt.
Remember: “Look, the Lord is coming with fire. The Lord’s armies are coming with clouds of dust” (Isaiah 66:15, ICB).
Becky De Oliveira is a teacher, writer, editor, and graphic designer. She is working on a PhD in research methods at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Play a game of what can you hear and see. Listen for cars or airplanes. Hold your hands up to your ears or your eyes to signal if you saw it or heard it first. In our Words to Remember, Isaiah tells us that God will come with fire and His armies with clouds of dust. Let us always have eyes to see and ears to hear and hands to help love this world that God loves too.
Write a short skit or poem today about God and all of the things you love about Him. Remember, we are really looking at Isaiah and His dreams of God coming back this week, so be sure to include His coming to earth in your skit or poem. Share what you create with the adults in your life!
What comes to mind when you hear the word “worship?” Ask your mom and dad what things they think of too. Like many people, I think of music and singing. Lots of people spend a lot of time talking, discussing, and even arguing about music in church, but worship is so much more! Read Romans 12:1 and have a little discussion with your parents about what a “living sacrifice” is. With this in mind let’s look at Verse 3 of Isaiah 66.
Choose any Bible version you like and read this verse for yourself. What did you think? Did you expect to read “human sacrifice”—or what about sacrificing dogs or blessing idols? This verse compares what is acceptable worship with what is not acceptable worship. God Himself is saying that what He wants is good, acceptable, and authentic worship, but how you worship is not as important as why you worship. Do we worship to please ourselves or make ourselves feel good? Do we worship to look good in front of others? How do you think we can choose God’s ways instead of choosing our own ways? Remember, God isn’t looking for perfect worship—He wants authentic worship.
“Because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen;” (Isaiah 66:4). Are you a good listener? This is a question many people will ask you in your life. You know what is a better question though? How well can you determine what you listen to? We are always listening to something. My wife gets so angry because if I have my MacBook or iPad in front of me, there is no way I’m going to hear a word she says. The reason isn’t because I’m a bad listener; I just can’t hear two things at once. What are you listening to? What makes you stop dead in your tracks and listen wholeheartedly? I’m not asking about your music choice or favorite movie quote. I’m asking about that one thing that when you hear it silences all other sources of noise and sound. One of the greatest things I have ever learned is that there is always something or someone speaking to you. It may be your own voice, the voice of others, social media, friends, or enemies. It is just simply not possible to sit in silence. Our minds and hearts were designed to be in constant communion with Jesus, therefore the ears of our hearts are always open. The problem is that we have filled our lives with so much noise that we often miss the voice of Jesus. Have you ever looked back on your life and realized you missed what Jesus was telling you to do? What are some ways you can choose to listen to Jesus? What are some sounds in your life that may be competing with the voice of Jesus?
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development groups. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jenniffer Ogden serves as the children and family pastor at the Walla Walla University Church in College Place, Washington.
Adrian Peterson is the associate pastor at Burwood Adventist Community Church in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.
Kyle Smith is the associate pastor of youth and family ministries at New Haven Adventist Church in Overland Park, Kansas