Series: The Lion and the Lamb
Message: The Love Paradox
Preacher: Tony Hunter
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 53 in the New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: As a brief detour, let’s spend a few minutes thinking about what the purpose of asking questions about God might be. Someone emailed me a couple of weeks ago to complain that my reflections raise questions that are not faith-affirming or comforting. I have heard others argue that one should never raise a question to which he or she does not already have the answer. In the interest of full disclosure, let me confess that my own philosophy is quite the opposite. I take what I suppose we will call the Socratic stance toward questions, with the understanding that they reveal the assumptions, attitudes, values, and beliefs that everyone brings to any topic under consideration. They lead to dialogue and are open-ended with no particular agenda except to complicate the issue, producing what political science professor Rob Reich calls “productive discomfort.” Bertrand Russell observes that “the net result is to substitute articulate hesitation for inarticulate certainty.” The teacher, or in this case the writer, is not an all-knowing sage with the authority to declare truth but one who is also going through a process of continual learning themselves.
My disposition, upbringing, and training have taught me to approach life in this way. Asking potentially unanswerable questions and thinking about things from as many angles as possible is fun and stimulating. My faith feels stronger after I’ve considered things that could shake it and have found it subtly changed but nonetheless intact. My assumption is that at least a portion of readers are like me and will enjoy the opportunity to ask questions and ponder difficult topics, but I accept that not all people enjoy shaking the foundation on which their lives are built. If this is you, that’s OK: just try to understand me as I try to understand you. We will both be better for it.
Here’s my question for today: The text reads “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer” and I simply wonder why that would be the case. Do not assume that the answer is built into the question, that I am attempting to lead you somewhere—perhaps to the conclusion that God is evil. I don’t believe that to be true—but nor do I understand some of the things the Bible writers reveal about God. I don’t understand why an all-powerful God who could construct the laws of the universe in any way He saw fit would insist that suffering—of anyone, His own son, a beetle, my ninth grade English teacher—has to be part of redemption or part of anything.
My father served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector in Project Whitecoat, a research study in biological warfare. He was used as a test subject for a vaccine for Eastern Equine Encephalitis just a couple of weeks before his wedding and became ill with a fever, aches and pains, etc. He feels no bitterness about this at all and insists it was an honor. He adds, “It was better than getting shot in Vietnam.” But why should those be your only options? I wonder, and that’s an easier question to answer—why the United States’s system of conscription is the way it is—than the question of why God’s system of redemption is the way it is.
Some of you will argue that this line of questioning is pointless, that I should simply accept that God knows best and has designed the world this way and move on with my life. Do some gentle calisthenics. Sing a few choruses of “Jesus Loves Me This I Know.” And I do move on with my life in the general daily acceptance of God’s love and grace. I go to work and take out the trash and make lasagna and admire the sunrise just like everybody else. I don’t stalk the streets scowling, fuming about the mysteries of the nature of God. But I do when I’m writing about the Old Testament.
Recalibrate: How do you feel about “productive discomfort” and “articulate hesitation”? What is the role of questioning in your faith journey?
Respond: Ask God for faith that does not fear honest inquiry.
Research: Read this brief article on Socratic teaching.
Remember: “But He was wounded for the wrong things we did. He was crushed for the evil things we did” (Isaiah 53:5, 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.
Does your child have a broken toy? With your little one, put the toy back together. Jesus took our brokenness to the Cross so we could be together with Him.
Today you are going to go on a special mission—you are going to try to find a way to help someone who really needs it by giving up something precious to you! Maybe you will give up time, or some of your allowance, or your favorite toy, but be very focused on seeing who needs help in a big way, and make that help happen! You may even be able to make it a surprise, but helping people isn’t always a secret. Jesus really helps us—He saves us!—and we can take time today to help others in big ways.
Yesterday I mentioned a little about what it means to be baptized and I hope you got the opportunity to ask someone about why they were baptized, but today have a read of Acts 8:26-40. Just from reading this chapter of Isaiah and having a chat with Philip about Jesus, the Ethiopian man wanted to be baptised. From reading Scripture and hearing about the life and death of Jesus He was ready to give His heart to God? If it can be that simple for him, what about you? Are you ready to accept what Jesus has done for you and give your heart to Him?
Have you ever seen sheep in their natural habitat? My father-in-law is a farmer in Iowa. He has dozens of sheep and let me tell you something—they are dumb! He told me a story one time about a sheep that got a bucket stuck on its head. As the sheep began to run around the field, suddenly all of the other sheep began to follow it. As he got out of his pickup truck, he was met with the sight of dozens of sheep following one sheep with a bucket on its head and no idea where it was going! The imagery of this story is fitting for us. Before we meet Jesus we are as blind as that sheep, running around without any idea where we are. And the saddest thing is that instead of looking for the right way, often we just follow others. We are the blind leading the blind. Our text says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” There is a right way. We don’t have to be blind. The way’s name is Jesus and He offers sight to the blind. All it takes to get sight is for us to admit that we are blind, lay down all control to Him, and allow Him to lead 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.