Series: The Lion and the Lamb
Message: I Need a Hero
Preacher: Dany Hernandez
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 59:14-60:1 in The New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: My college roommate and I were backpacking in Europe and had just returned by sea from Greece to the port town of Brindisi, Italy, in July. As we strolled down the street, probably in search of food, a bathroom, or a shady spot to sit, two young men on a motorized scooter swept past us and pulled my roommate’s handbag from her shoulder. Initially stunned, we started to scream and shout and point at the scooter as it sped away but nobody seemed to care. We went to the police station and filed a report. No one there cared very much either. The police officer in charge actually shrugged. Aggrieved, furious, we set out to apprehend the culprits ourselves. Up and down the tiny cobblestone streets of the city we walked, focusing our search on the narrow alleys close to where we’d been when the bag was snatched. Laundry hung from clotheslines high above the ground on third and fourth floor apartment balconies. Children played soccer in the street. Residents stared at us from their porches with a mixed attitude of curiosity and indifference and we stared back like a pair of Clint Eastwoods, swaggering like gunslingers, scowling at everyone we met, certain that they were all complicit in this crime against us. A whole city of thieves!
There we were—truth stumbling in the streets in a place where honesty had been outlawed, to semi-quote Isaiah 59. It seemed a completely futile endeavor but it passed the time and gave us a sense of purpose and maybe even power. (We rarely had enough money to do anything touristy anyway.) The bag itself hadn’t contained anything of particular value; the biggest loss was of a bottle of medication that my roommate admitted she would be OK without for the few days we had left before our trip was over. Hours passed. The day grew hotter. The dusty streets began to look the same as they wound in and out of the city center. We were ready to give up, to go in search of a loaf of old bread or something we could afford for dinner, when we saw them. The same two guys riding together on a motorized scooter, stopped at a wide intersection near a tree-lined park. They were facing away from us so they were caught completely off guard by the attack, turning only at the last second, perhaps at the sound of feet pounding the pavement. I ran more slowly, not certain I really wanted to catch them, but my roommate went full tilt. The one on the back of the scooter stiffened when he saw her, his eyes suddenly wide, and he pounded his friend’s back to alert him to the threat. The driver gunned the engine just as my roommate grabbed the back of the rider’s shirt and pulled him off the scooter. It didn’t take him long to shake her off. He hopped back on and for the second time that day we watched the dastardly duo speed away, but we didn’t stop laughing about it for at least three days. I hope they thought twice before they snatched another woman’s purse!
Sometimes I wonder if the justice the Bible talks about isn’t of a softer variety than we usually think, more instructive and intended to offer a chance for revised behavior. When a parent carries out his or her “wrath” against disobedient children, the purpose is generally not to kill or destroy the children either physically or psychologically, but to train them to make better decisions. My roommate and I, in a stolen-video-camera-on-a-train incident less than a week later (also in Italy), were given the opportunity to punch and kick a handcuffed man, and we declined the offer. The fact that he was almost certainly being manhandled by the police was disturbing enough; we didn’t want that kind of revenge. Perhaps what God is really trying to give is a wake-up call, a chance for people to make better and healthier decisions.
Recalibrate: What is the purpose of God’s wrath? Is it to destroy or to redeem?
Respond: Pray for perspective and a forgiving spirit.
Research: Read “It’s Not Discipline, It’s a Teachable Moment” in the New York Times.
Remember: “I promise that my Spirit and my words that I give you will never leave you” (Isaiah 59:21, 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.
With your little one, go outside and check how far you can see in one direction. Talk about all that you can see while facing that way. Now turn the opposite direction and do the same thing. Remember that everyone will know that God is who He says He is when He returns. Thank God today that you know that He loves you and that you and your child are among His chosen ones. If you do not feel that you are, believe in your heart that He does not lie, and choose to live in the love that Jesus has for you.
Keep working on memorizing our Words to Remember for the week! “I promise that my Spirit and my words that I give you will never leave you” (Isaiah 59:21, ICB). Ask a friend or parent to play a board game with you today. Be sure everyone knows the rules of the game. While you play, ask everyone if you can change the rules without telling them why or what the new rules will be. Listen to their answers and ask them why they feel the way they do. When rules change, we can feel a number of emotions—confusion, worry, anger. God has given us some helpful ways to live (some people might call them rules) and He never changes the rules in the middle of the game without helping us understand why! God, who is always with us, wants to help us know how to be fair to Him and to each other. Justice begins with God and lives in us.
“The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed” (Isaiah 59:15b-16a, NLT). There are a lot of people in our world who need justice and people like you and me to intervene on their behalf. If you don’t know what “intervene” means, a simple way to describe it is standing between someone who needs a friend and loneliness.
A challenge for you today is to get out a piece of paper and write down five things that you can do by yourself or as a family to “intervene” for someone. Good luck! Here are some ideas to get you started: 1) Invite someone on your street for a meal; 2. Visit a senior citizen who may be lonely; 3). Give to charity or donate some clothing to those in need. (See this link and this one for ideas.) What else can you think of?
The other day I was talking with a man who hasn’t spoken to his father in more than 10 years. They live in the same city, go to many of the same stores, and carry the same last name. As I spoke to my friend, I could hear the pain in his voice. He wants to know his father and have a relationship with him, yet he doesn’t know how to do it. He asked, “Can you reach out to my father for me?” As I sat thinking about my friend later that day, something hit me. My friend’s situation isn’t unique; it is the story of all of us. We have all been separated from our Father in Heaven by sin. And instead of our Father pulling away from us, sin has caused us to pull away from Him. Now each of us lives in a broken relationship with God. Yet, as God looked down upon mankind thousands of years ago, He decided to take matters into His own hands. The text says, in Verse 16, that God brought salvation by His own arm. By God sending His Son Jesus into the world, God rolled up His sleeves and reached His hand down into hell. He has pulled each of us out of the grips of sin and shame. All we have to do is accept the right relationship He offers us.
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.