Series: The Lion and the Lamb
Message: God's Weird Work
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 63:1-6 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Revenge, vengeance—these are deeply satisfying topics. I mentioned revenge speeches from three films yesterday—The Princess Bride, Gladiator, and Taken. A few more of my favorite stories—both books and films—are based on the concept of revenge. The Count of Monte Cristo. Unforgiven. True Grit. Gladiator. Nutshell. Memento. Munich. The Shawshank Redemption. You can no doubt think of many others.
The first on my list—The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) by Alexandre Dumas—is among my favorites. If I should end up on that eternally-promised-but-never-delivered desert island, it will be there, weighing down my backpack (my copy has 1,065 pages). Long story short: the book is about a young man with everything in the world to hope for—a beautiful fiancée, a promising career, a happy future—who is sent to a dungeon at the infamous Chateau d’If for a crime he didn’t commit based on the testimony and actions of several individuals who find it convenient to get him out of the way. Spoiler alert: After many years and a daring escape, he re-styles himself as a fabulously wealthy count and begins to methodically exact his revenge on those who wronged him. “How did I escape” he asks. “With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? [Referring to the aforementioned revenge] With pleasure.”
As the “count,” Dantes initially sees himself as the executor of a divine mission. He says:
I, who have also been betrayed, assassinated and cast into a tomb, I have emerged from that tomb by the grace of God and I owe it to God to take my revenge. He has sent me for that purpose. Here I am.
Of course later on, well into the particulars of his revenge, he has reason to feel differently. After one brutal consequence, he “felt he had passed beyond the bounds of vengeance, and that he could no longer say: ‘God is for and with me.’”
As much as many of us enjoy tales of revenge, and may even fantasize about how we’d like to pay back those who have harmed us (if only verbally), Christians generally hold to the belief that restraint is the correct approach, that vengeance is not ours to take, and that in the end, no matter how justified we may feel, revenge will end up destroying us as much it might destroy our enemies. It would seem logical to assume that this text is not one on which to model our own behavior.
Except for the issue of “help.” The Message (MSG) paraphrase has the speaker saying, “I looked around for someone to help—no one. I couldn’t believe it—not one volunteer. So I went ahead and did it myself, fed and fueled by my rage” (Verses 3-6). Who was supposed to help the speaker exact his revenge? Is this passage literal or figurative? If we accept the premise that it is supposed to tell us something—to offer some sort of instruction—what might that instruction be?
Recalibrate: Does God ever send us on missions of revenge? Do we ever owe it to God to take revenge or to help Him do so?
Respond: Pray for discernment in all things.
Research: Read The Count of Monte Cristo.
Remember: “I have the power to save you” (Isaiah 63:1, 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 Hide and Seek with your little one today. Take turns hiding from and seeking each other. Use your child’s toys and hide them around the room and then go find them together. Talk about how you want to find all the toys and don’t stop until you do. When Isaiah writes, “I have the power to save you,” know that God not only has the power to save you, but He wants to save you. This is what His heart wants.
God is powerful. God can help our attitudes when we are having a bad day. He can help us be kind to the people who are mean to us. He can change our bad thoughts and help us think good thoughts. Like wind lifting a kite, God can lift us up—OK, maybe not into the air just like a kite!—and help raise our minds and hearts. Today, make a kite using the instructions in this simple link, and go fly it all the time remembering how powerful God is!
When I was in seventh grade, we were practicing for our end of year concert. If you have ever been in this situation before, you know it can be booorrrrringggg! There are so many acts and you have to wait your turn before you can rehearse your performance. This particular day I was being teased. I’m not even really sure what it was about but it pushed me over the edge! So bam!—I punched the guy teasing me right in the nose, and straight away blood started pouring out everywhere. Needless to say, I was marched off to the principal’s office. I will never forget what the principal said to me that day: “Adrian I know he deserved it, but it isn’t your job to teach him a lesson.”
Is there something that really gets under your skin? Something that makes you angry? Makes you want to lash out and get revenge? This week, Jesus wants to remind us that setting things right and taking vengeance is not our job. It is His job, and one day He will be the one to have the last say.
After the warrior Jesus is asked about who He is, He replies by saying, “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” In this response Jesus makes two claims about Himself. First, He says He is righteous. This means that He is in a right relationship with God. There is no beef between them, and He is without fault or sin. This is a huge statement! No human other than Jesus has ever been able to make this statement. Jesus coming in from battle like this just continues to prove how much of a boss Jesus is. The second thing Jesus says is that He is “mighty to save.” One of my favorite bands is Hillsong. They have a song called “Mighty to Save.” You should stop reading and listen to it really quick! Did you listen to it? OK, great! Isn’t this an awesome description of Jesus? I used the word “awesome” intentionally because this image of Christ should inspire awe in us! Jesus is mighty. Yet He doesn’t stop with mightiness. He is mighty to save! Jesus can and will save. What does this mean? It means Jesus will save you from any and all things. From bullying? Yes. From fear? Yes. From anxiety? Absolutely. But more importantly, Jesus saves us all from sin. How have you experienced the mighty saving power of Jesus in your life? If you look for Him, you will notice that He has been with you all along!
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.