BEFORE YOU GATHER
- Familiarize yourself with this Group Discussion Guide
- If you missed it,CLICK HERE to watch the weekend sermon
- Read Isaiah 58:3-10
- Get a feel for the Book of Isaiah as a whole byWATCHING THIS VIDEO
- Sit in prayerful silence with God for a while, and ask the Holy Spirit if there is anything that he wants you to share during your group's time together.
ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL: UNFAMILIAR PASSIONS OF GOD
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The book of Isaiah contains some of the most intense images of God's justice and love found in the prophetic books. Isaiah wants his nation to be known as a people who create a just society and system for everyone, because this is one of the ways that people will know the one true God.
In the biblical story, God had chosen the nation of Israel as his own people and given them more revelatory light in order to keep his commands and represent him to the surrounding nations. Their great calling led to greater responsibility. But all throughout Isaiah, we see that they were oppressing the poor and crushing the needy. They were living self-indulgent lives built on the oppression of the poor and weak, while they hypocritically maintained the appearance of religion through hollow rituals. Their idolatry manifested itself in economic injustice, materialism, and religious hypocrisy, all things God finds especially disgusting. Society gets really bad when you don't live faithfully for the one true God.
But in many Western forms of modern Christianity, the term "justice" often gets labeled as a secular or liberal pursuit. We don't realize that justice was God's passion first, before the word was accosted by anyone else's political agenda. Regardless of how our world understands justice, followers of Jesus are called to get familiar with this unfamiliar passion of God's heart. God is a just God, and his justice is a large part of his plan to rescue and redeem a broken world that he loves. If we follow and love a just God, shouldn't our lives also be marked by a pursuit of biblical justice for all?
God is committed to justice and will not allow any arrogant, violent or evil nation to endure forever. However, while he defeats evil, he is also good and cares for the innocent. He will provide a refuge on the day of distress for anyone who humbles themselves before God, believes in God's justice and trusts that in God's time, he will bring down oppressors in every time and place.
God performs justice in his world because he's passionate about protecting and rescuing his world from evil. And sometimes, he loves us so much that he must purify us. Only then can he bring restoration where he removes evil forever and creates a New Jerusalem, where his faithful remnant from all nations can gather and flourish in peace, and he will live with them. Together, God's justice and love give the world future hope.
Read Luke 11:37-44 and Ask Yourself: How can religious people hide behind churchy language and behavior, and neglect to carry out God's justice for the people in their circle of influence? Did you realize that God's justice is not just an Old Testament theme, but it carries on into the ministry and heart of Jesus himself? What are your circles of influence where you can begin to ensure that others experience God's justice through your life?
Opening Prayer: (1-5 minutes)
In light of what God is saying through this week's message, here's some suggestions of how your group can invite God into your time together.
Pray for God's guidance as we grapple with a difficult topic. Pray that we would leave our preconceived notions behind. Pray to know God's heart on this subject. Pray for freedom from distractions.
Quick Connection: (5 minutes)
Haveeveryone take 30 seconds each to share a phrase or a moment from this weekend's message that is still resonating with them. You also have the option to say "Pass."
Large Group Discussion: (30 minutes)
This weekend's message came from Isaiah 58:3-10. If everyone has a Bible, let's go there together.
- Read James 1:27 which contrasts "real and genuine religion" with the "corruption of the world." What is God's notion of justice? How does that clash with our culture? Why was God angry with the Israelites in Isaiah 58?
- Read Isaiah 58:6-7. Justice goes beyond "freedom from oppression" and includes "freedom to thrive" – how does this expand your understanding of what justice does for people? In an environment where everyone can thrive, what does that look like?
- All humanity is created in the "Image of God" and are precious to Him. Also, we are all spiritually bankrupt and have no standing to judge others. In what ways can we engage in helping others and in the process, remember our intrinsic value as fellow image-bearers?
- We sometimes reduce our thinking about social justice to giving money, which certainly has its place in this discussion. However, in verse 10, Isaiah speaks the phrase "spend yourself," implying that this is a whole person endeavor, and that God expects much more of us. How can we engage person-to-person with the marginalized, and what other areas of our life need to be engaged so that we offer all that we are, and not just a part of ourselves?
- Do you feel like a spectator? If so, what is holding you back from getting off the bench and engaging? Do you have a desire to engage with the oppressors or the victims of injustice? What could that look like?
- What spoke to you from the video about John and employees of Pacific Medical? Are there any specific roles, areas, or situations in your life where you can bring God's justice and help people to thrive?
CLOSING PRAYER (5-15 minutes):
In light of what God is saying through this week's message, here's some suggestions of what your group could talk about with God in prayer.
Pray that God would give us a vision for the part we have to play in his justice. Pray that our whole lives would be engaged in service to the marginalized. Pray that our religious practice would be backed up by real obedience. Pray for opportunities to serve the marginalized. Pray for ideas for creating an environment of dignity that helps all people thrive.