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 New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: “The Cask of Amontillado” (1847) by Edgar Allan Poe is the first proper grown up short story I can recall reading. I was thirteen and the story, for some reason, made me want to write stories. It is a chilling tale of revenge, all the more disturbing for the seemingly arbitrary and possibly petty nature of the hatred that drives the plot. The opening line is this: “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.” The narrator of this story (Montresor) is not particularly sympathetic. Other than the vague description of the “thousand injuries” Fortunato has supposedly inflicted upon him, the reader has no idea whether the poor victim actually deserves his fate or not. [Spoiler: Montresor lures Fortunato into the catacombs under his house and builds a brick wall around him, leaving him to die.] Montresor’s family crest contains the motto Nemo me impune lacessit which means, “No one provokes me with impunity.” So maybe this family is super trigger-happy. Perhaps they do this kind of thing all the time, with little provocation.
The style of the Bible can leave a similar impression about God. Many details are omitted; we usually come away from a text with more questions than answers—and sometimes these concern the character of God Himself. The evidence suggests that God is loving and loyal—to those who follow Him. Those who end up on His bad side? Things don’t seem to go so well for them. And as I’ve mentioned earlier in the week, revenge against people who are bad, people who deserve comeuppance is a satisfying thing which everyone enjoys—in principle. See, in books or in the movies, characters can be portrayed—and usually are—as thoroughly one-dimensional. This is particularly true of villains, who rarely have any traits that might prompt empathy. Real life is different. No one is editing what you see (unless you’re the one editing) and you often cannot avoid noticing that everyone—even your enemy—is strangely nuanced. More than once I have overcome my dislike of a person simply by seeing him interact with someone who loves him—a spouse, a child, a parent.
So these people in the unfavored “nations” who are trampled here—assuming that we will not be among them (funny how we tend to make that assumption, isn’t it?)—are probably people for whom we might have sympathy or empathy if we were to know them. God does know them, and He presumably also loves them, but this doesn’t stop Him from pouring “their blood on the ground” (Verse 6). It’s a question that has been asked a million times before and that I’m not sure will be resolved here on earth, but how do you merge the loving God and the vengeful God into a single cohesive figure you can trust?
Recalibrate: Is there any purpose in endlessly trying to solve the issue of the apparent dual nature of God? We have conflicting natures—why shouldn’t God?
Respond: Make a list of words that describe God and meditate on them.
Research: Investigate some of the ways other cultures and religions see their deities.
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.
Read Live Adventure below. If you have any balloons at your house, blow a few up for some balloon fun today. Do like Jenniffer suggests below and rub the balloon on your hair and your child’s hair. Look in the mirror to see what your hair does. Experiment by rubbing the balloon on other things to see if they have the same reaction. Power moves things. Let love be the power that moves you through your day.
Have you ever rubbed an inflated balloon in your hair? Find a balloon today and see if you can make your hair go wild. It is hilarious to watch your hair begin to stand up on end and stick out from your head! Ask a friend with long hair if you can spike their hair with a balloon. Static electricity happens most often when two objects rub up against each other, causing friction. The friction caused by the balloon and your hair makes for some hilarity. In a similar way, bumping into God—having our lives rubbing against God—can create friction. There are some things that may feel or look weird, but God’s power will lead us in a smart way, even to being saved.
“I was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed” (Isaiah 63:5a, NLT).
When my wife and I first moved to Sydney, we decided to go for a drive up to the surrounding mountain region to get a better look at our new hometown. We were driving her car and it was a bit of an older car that didn’t have a very reliable fuel gauge. As we started descending the mountain from our lovely day sightseeing, we noticed that the car was beginning to stop and start. It finally dawned on us that we were running out of gas. We pulled up Google Maps and tried to head for the closest gas station but we didn’t make it. With a pfft pfft splat, the car finally gave out on a side road just off the highway. The area was deserted and we had no idea where we were or how far we were from the gas station. After waiting for a while and trying to figure out what to do, out of nowhere a guy pulled over and asked if we needed help. Boy, was I glad to see him! He was a lifesaver that day; he drove us up the road to the closest gas station, helped us fill a jerry can with petrol and got us back on our way.
So whenever I see a car pulled over on the side of the road I always stop. Even if I’m running late, even if I have somewhere to be, I want to help because I know what it feels like to be in that situation. In the same way, Jesus wants us to reach out and help those who are oppressed and in need. Just as we have been saved by Jesus, we should be reaching out to others because He has rescued us.
“So my own arm brought me salvation.” Have you ever worked on a car? I am no mechanic, but I can get around an engine. I always change the oil in my wife’s Volvo, and last time I did so it was a huge pain. Not only are Volvos tricky to work on, but last time the nut that holds the oil in underneath the engine was wrenched on extremely tight! I pushed and I pulled, but this nut would not come off. My arms were just not strong enough to do it. So I had to pull out the big dogs. I went to my work bench, grabbed my impact wrench, and, after a few knocks, it came right off. Praise God for power tools! But what if I didn’t have power tools? What would I have done? Chances are I would have needed to call someone else, or take the car into a shop. I share this because as we look at Jesus, we see that His arm is strong enough to do anything. He doesn’t need anyone’s help, salvation, or strength. His alone is enough. Remember, He is mighty to save! And this is good news. Because Jesus brought salvation through His own strength, He gets to choose who He gives it to. Jesus has chosen to give salvation to all people. No one is excluded. Now the choice is ours—do we accept the gift or shrug it off?
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.