Friday Evening, July 25, 2003
Central California Conference Camp Meeting
Isaiah 58 (Part One of Three)
DWIGHT NELSON: Hallelujah. Good evening everyone.
CONGREGATION: Good evening.
DWIGHT NELSON: Happy Sabbath to you.
CONGREGATION: Happy Sabbath.
DWIGHT NELSON: That’s a beautiful, beautiful hymn, isn’t it?
DWIGHT NELSON: It’s just a powerful hymn the way it was written, but I just learned that you have composed an extra stanza for this. Powerful stanza.
“My word hath taught us that thou hast a remnant,” -- not because there’ s some kind of exclusive better-than-the-rest people on earth -- Big misunderstanding, if that’s what we think the remnant is.
“Called and commissioned, thy truth to proclaim.” God simply has to have somebody that will embrace his passion, and, urgent appeal to this human race. Doesn’t make you or me any greater than any other child of the Father –
DWIGHT NELSON: -- but we’ve asked, we’ve been honored to have a part in that.
“The final conflict they face in thy power; through the great battle, great victory they gain.” They gain it through Calvary; isn’t that right?
DWIGHT NELSON: It’s through the cross. We don’t just engender this victory on our own; it’s all borrowed, entrusted – I love this theme – from a very very faithful father.
Well, it’s a joy to be able to spend these Sabbath hours with you.
I have a teaching I want to share with you tonight that is straight from the heart of our faithful Father. The teaching – we’re already praying, you and I, praying that will be clear -- If the teaching is clear, it will be – it will be compelling, in its clarity, that we must respond. There will be a response to this teaching, from our faithful, faithful Father.
So I want to get into the Word with you. Did you bring your Bible tonight?
DWIGHT NELSON: Isaiah chapter 58. We’re going to spend three sessions together, you and I, in this single passage. I want to pray with you in just a moment. Isaiah 58.
I think I want to pray with you right now, while you’re – we’re, we’re finding Isaiah 58 together, that the Lord will anoint this teaching, “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD.” So, Father, that’s why we’re here. We’ve been – we just sang our hearts out; “Great, great is your faithfulness.” We are so unfaithful, Father. Up one day, down the next, fickle; but you are faithful. And because you are, it is a joy to come to these Sabbath hours. We get to put the whole six days behind us, the world, for these fleeting moments, pushing it out. We’re humbly asking that the Spirit of Christ might, in this Sabbath sanctuary of time, come and commune with us. Our minds are open. The praise has lifted us up; the testimonies have stirred us to the quick; our minds are ready now. Teach us, we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Isaiah 58. This is a passage – I know that some of you are having to, phoo! blow the dust off of it. You know, when was the last time you were in Isaiah 58? Ancient, ancient passage. But you know what? This passage is still just as good as the day when God gave it. It’s still under warranty.
DWIGHT NELSON: Yup. It is!
I was flying out here – is Modesto in your area?
DWIGHT NELSON: I was flying out here to Modesto. Your conference president is a dear friend of mine, and his wife, and so I’ve known Jerry and Janet for years. He’s a lot older than he looks; I just want you to know that.
DWIGHT NELSON: I think he’s the one that made the quip about age. Well, anyway, we came out here to Modesto because they were having an NAD – well, maybe just a conference, a prayer conference, we were having a prayer conference here, and so – flew out of Chicago because I’m back at Andrews University, the Pioneer Memorial Church, and got on the plane there, in Chicago, and we’re going to fly to Sacramento and, you know, Chicago is a very busy airport, so the planes are all lined up, lined up. And the pilot came on the intercom system. He was a quite a – quite a colorful character, you know, mostly the pilots are just drab and gray and you just -- But this fellow, he just – he broke into conversation, and so he’s talking in the mike, back and forth, talking to the whole church – the whole cabin, rather. Should have been a church. But he’s talking, talking, talking, and then he said something. He said something that I have never heard a pilot say. I’m on my way out here to a prayer conference and the pilot – in fact it was so startling I grabbed my pen and I scribbled it down on that little ticket stub, because I heard the pilot say these words. He said, Ladies and gentlemen, you might take comfort in knowing that this plane and its engines are still under warranty.
DWIGHT NELSON: I thought, Man, I never heard a pilot say that! Oh my! You never ask that when you get on a plane, Are you still under warranty?
But you know, we’re taking the Word of God here, and Jesus Savior, pilot me – pilot – I’m sure that if Jesus could stand here in our presence tonight – He’s here through the Holy Spirit, but I’m sure this ancient – where we have to just brush the dust off, Isaiah 58, I am certain he would say, Brothers and sisters, you might take comfort in knowing that this book and this chapter are still under warranty.
DWIGHT NELSON: They’re under warranty. I say that because we’re going to wrestle, and this is not going to be an easy teaching. You’re going to struggle with it. I will struggle to try to give it in a way that will keep me out of the picture so that the Spirit can have full access to our minds.
Isaiah 58. We’re going there.
Open your Bible to Isaiah 58. Let me read Isaiah 58, verse 1: Shout it aloud. Do not hold back. Don’t you hold back now. Raise your voice like a what? like a trumpet. Raise your voice like a trumpet and declare to – to whom? my people. Don’t be mistaken as to whom this is addressed. Declare to my people and to the house of Jacob their sins.
Doesn’t that just bug you? I mean, anybody who knows anything about communication knows that you don’t start off – you don’t just start off picking on people. I mean, doesn’t it – doesn’t it bother you when somebody gets around you and starts kind of working on your foibles? On your failures? On your – on your faux pas? Just kind of – just kind of fingering you. I mean, have you ever ridden with a back-seat driver who happens to be sitting in the front seat?
DWIGHT NELSON: It just – it just bugs you. We, we, just – our human nature is, Don’t do that! We don’t like to be told we’re doing something wrong. And yet here this teaching begins, Shout it aloud. Do not – Do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the House of Jacob their sins, for – what, what’s up with this? For day after day they seek me out. They seem eager to know my way, as if they were – a remnant! As if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its god. They ask me for just decisions and they seem eager for God to come near them.
Verse 3. Why – here’s the people, the remnant -- Why have we fasted, they say, and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not noticed, God? God shoots back, fires back, Yet on the day of your fasting you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife and in striking each other with wicked fists. You can’t fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this – God still speaking – Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man or woman to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on a sackcloth and ashes, is that what you call a fast? a day acceptable to the Lord?
Verse 6. Is not this -- God says, I’m not through yet. Don’t you interrupt me. I’m not through. Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen? Boy, he’s got my attention now. So listen up, Boy! Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen? To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter? When you see the naked to clothe him and not turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear. Then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rearguard. Then – Then you will call and the Lord will answer you, a cry for help, and he will say, Here I am, Remnant. Hey, Remnant! Here I am. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noon day. The Lord will guide you always. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden – I love this – like a spring whose waters never fail. And your people – Remnant! Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins, and they will raise up the age-old foundations, and you will be called Repairer of the Breach, and Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Verse 13. If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking not a word, then – God says – you will find joy in the Lord. And I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken; Amen!
DWIGHT NELSON: Isaiah 58. That’s it.
Did you notice to whom this chapter’s addressed? Did you catch that? What does he say? In, in, in Verse 1. He calls them, my – what? My people. Now what kind of people is he talking about, though? My people.
Wait a minute! There’s such huge – there’s such huge clues you can’t miss it, because the chapter begins with a people – get this! with a people who believe in the cleansing of the sanctuary! The chapter begins with the Day of Atonement. Lift up your voice like a trumpet. That Hebrew word for trumpet is shofar. It’s the ram’s horn. And the trumpets were blown in the cycle of, of the children of Israel to announce the Day of Atonement. There was only one day in the, in the liturgical year for the – for the children of Israel that you had fasting on, only one day God called for fasting. Guess which day that was? The Day of At One-ment. So we know that Isaiah Chapter 58 is addressed – begins – people who believe in the cleansing of the sanctuary. Ever heard of that?
DWIGHT NELSON: The chapter also ends over here with the people who believe in the seventh-day Sabbath. Ever heard of that?
So we have a people, whoever this “my people” is, one thing is clear: They believe in the cleansing of the sanctuary; they believe in the Seventh-day Sabbath – two glorious bookends on that shelf of truth, but you know what the problem is, ladies and gentlemen? You and I have spent our life focusing on the bookends, and we have missed what’s in between the bookends.
You know -- what is up with that?
See, when you put bookends up, is it the bookends that are to be the focus? No. It’s what the bookends are holding together. We forgot. You see, maybe that’s – maybe, maybe that’s reason enough for us to return to this teaching in Isaiah 58.
Now look. We’re going to go to Isaiah 58. I’m going to tell you this, though. Before we get to Isaiah 58, I want to share with you three – count them – three stories, where God gets in our faces – he is red hot mad, he has – he has not lost his temper, so this is not divine – this is not a divine temper tantrum. He’s not lost his temper. The Bible, in fact, describes God – these in-your-face moments as God’s righteous indignation. Isn’t that right? His holy wrath. Oh-hoh-hoh! Three stories.
We’re going to take these stories. When God came down and became flesh. Three stories of Jesus. Three in-your-face stories. I wouldn’t -- I would not have wanted to have been there in any of these three. I want to share three.
Before we get to Isaiah 58, we’ve got to look at these three stories. And before we look at the three stories, two key words. That’s where the study guide comes in that you’re sitting on right now. Would you stand up, and right underneath you is an orange study guide that looks just like this. For this teaching tonight, tomorrow morning, tomorrow evening, you’re going to get study guides. You’re going to go home with this teaching written down so that you won’t have to rely only on your memory. I want to make sure everybody has this. If you do not have this study guide, hold your hand up right now, because we have ushers that are the top ushers in the Central California Conference, and they are jumping to their feet right now because they see your hand is up and they’re saying, Where can we find some extras of these? Okay, ushers, they’re – you’re way in the back. Ushers, come forward, because there are hands all through here. God bless you. Just – just – be patient. I can’t wait till you get that study guide. We’re going to – we’re going to move ahead, because there are two key words. You’re going to have to borrow a pen from your friend next door and you just have to borrow – use that same pen together, but let’s, let’s, let’s start moving on these two key words, because the two key words are the defining thread to understand these three in-your-face stories that are the defining thread to understand Isaiah 58. All right?
Two key words. Key Word No. 1. You see the word. Oh! We use the word. You’ve used the word before. Key Word No. 1. Ortho – how, what is it?
DWIGHT NELSON: Orthodoxy. Ortho means right, in Greek, doxa means opinion, and so would you write this in, please? What does Orthodoxy mean? Orthodoxy means “Right believing.” Believing. You know, people say, Are you orthodox? What are they – what are they talking about? They want to know, do you believe right? See? Ortho-Dox. So would you write in the word: Right-believing. Right-believing. Two words. Right-believing.
Now, there’s another word. We don’t use this word much at all. The second word, we don’t use it. It’s called “Orthopraxy.” Now I want to tell you about -- Ortho – ortho of course is “right.” The word – it means “right.” Praxis. If you went to the Greek New Testament tonight and you turned to the Book of Acts, the name of the Book of Acts is Praxis. It means “act.” The whole name is –
So. Orthopraxy means, “Right-behaving.” If, if orthodoxy is “right-believing,” orthopraxy is “right-behaving.” See? Two key words. In fact, if you want to – let’s go on with our study guide here. Orthodoxy is “knowing the truth.” Would you write that in? Orthodoxy is “knowing the truth,” and orthopraxy is “showing the truth.” That’s the distinction. You’ll get it. You’ll get it.
Knowing the truth; showing the truth. You see, maybe that’s our problem. Oh, I like this. Maybe that’s our problem as the remnant. We have the truth, and we know it. I gotta tell you. Is there anything more onerous than a smarty-pants?
DWIGHT NELSON: Did you have smarty-pants when you were growing up as a kid? You know who the smarty-pants are? I tell you what, when I went to college, there was this guy, he used to make me so mad. This guy, who was always always right! I was so mad because I wanted to be always right. Smarty-pants. Smarty-pants. Remember we used to say, “Have smarty-pants.” Shouldn’t say that.
Are we theological smarty-pants? See these people here, the remnant? Are we theological smarty-pants? We have the truth and we know it?
Oh, man! It reminds me of that quip of Mark Twain, speaking about people who are good in the worst sense of the word. Have the truth and know it. Are we ecclesiastical smarty-pants? You know, we’ve got the right church. That’s what ecclesiastic means, you know, church! Are we spiritual smarty-pants?
Smarty-pants aren’t fun to be around. Could that be our problem? Could that be what God is passionately crying out about here in Isaiah 58? Would you write this in, please. We have the truth, and we know it. We have the truth, and we know it. But do we live the truth; and, do we show it? See? Do we live it? Do we show it?
I’m going to take a little swig of this. [DRINKING WATER]. Soquel water. Some of the best in the world.
DWIGHT NELSON: My voice is getting a little horse. You know, adjusting to the time zone and trying to adjust to the acoustics in this building.
All right. So. Orthodoxy, orthopraxy.
Okay, let’s go to the three stories.
God comes down, incarnated into human flesh, all three stories about Jesus, and we’ll stick to one book, just the Gospel of St. Matthew. Open your Bible, please, to Matthew.
The first story would be Matthew, Chapter 21. You’ve got it right there in your study guide, so you won’t – you won’t get lost. Matthew, Chapter 21. All right. Three stories.
Oh, you know this story. You know this story well. Matthew Chapter 21. Pick it up in Verse – pick it up in Verse 12. Jesus entered the Temple. Okay. Boy. We’re talking about just – I think this is, this would be – this would be on Monday, so we’re talking about four days before his execution. This didn’t help. This didn’t help.
Jesus entered the Temple area -- You remember the story? Oh, you know the story. And he – and he drove out all who were buying and selling there. And he overturned the tables of the money-changers.
You know, I’ve just been up in San Francisco, spent three days with my brother Greg who’s now living in San Francisco, and we had a wonderful time together, and so we’re out walking on the streets of Downtown San Francisco where Greg has an apartment, and you know, there are homeless people in San Francisco, and they’ll be sitting there with a Starbucks paper cup, and they just put a few cup – a few coins in it, and I tell you what. Just a few coins, tinkling together, you get – it gets your ear yards away.
Can you imagine that moment when Jesus walked into that temple and realized, This place has become a bazaar, and he takes the – he takes the edge of that – of the money-changer’s table, just takes that edge with his strong carpenter arm, he just up-ends it, so that you have a thousand coins tinkling on the marble floor – talk about getting people’s attention instantly! That’s what he’s doing here. And in Verse 13 he cries out, It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.
And notice now this point. The blind and the lame came to him at the Temple. You know why they came now, because they have been kept out! Jesus has driven the leadership of the church out of the Temple, the very leaders who were forbidding the entrance of the disenfranchised, the marginalized and the alienated. He kept – they were being kept out, and now they come in. In fact, Desire of Ages, get this. Desire of Ages, Page 156-157, Many came who were too poor to purchase the humblest offering for the Lord -- these were the poor people -- too poor even to buy food with which to satisfy their own hunger. … The poor, the sick, the dying, made their vain plea for favor. Their suffering awakened no pity in the hearts of the priests.
The children – Now how do I know the children are here? Well, because, look at this: Verse 15. But when the chief priest and the teachers of the law saw these wonderful things that Jesus did, and the children shouting in the Temple area, Hosanna to the Son of David, the priests were indignant. Do you not hear what these children are saying? they asked him. Yes, Jesus replied, and haven’t you read: From the lips of children God has ordained praise?
It’s so easy to ignore the kids. I was reading the paper this summer. I think it’s from the Washington Post. Yeah, this is [David Brooder], you know, one of our – a well-known columnist for the Washington Post, David [Broder]. According to America’s Second Harvest – that’s an organization – according to America’s Second Harvest, the largest private feeding consortium in the country, okay, so they feed the poor. During Fiscal 2002, okay? That’s just this last one. Almost sixteen million children ate free or reduced-price lunches through the Federal School Lunch Program. However, barely one in ten – about one point eight million – participated daily in the summer food service program. Sixteen million kids are being fed by the government, but they don’t go to school in the summer. Does anybody ask the question, Who’s feeding those kids now?
The children. The church. The leaders of the remnant said, Get these kids out of here. They don’t belong in our midst. And Jesus says, What! You don’t understand that this is where the praise comes from. These young lips. It’s easy for us to forget the children, isn’t it? So beautiful. An opportunity for us to watch, Let the children come to me.
What’s going on in this story? You know why Jesus is so furious? You know why he’s in the – in our faces, as it were? Write it down. You see, what’s going on here with the, with the leadership of the church, Story No. 1 is about orthodoxy without orthopraxy. Isn’t that right? Yup. They had a truth. They have the day – write it in – they have the day of worship right, but they are wrong about the – write it in – way of worship. And Christ is furious at the remnant leaders. Furious. Because you’re – you have orthodoxy, but where is your orthopraxy? Three in-your-face stories.
In-your-face Story No. 2 is also in the Gospel of Matthew. Go back to the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus told this as – actually he told it as a story. Matthew, Chapter 7, verse 24. You know, I’m taking this coat off. Oh boy, I can’t. Is it clipped on here? Is it clipped onto my coat? Yeah. Oh, bad news. Well, I’ll have to take care of that. Move the clip. Hah, it’s a nice coat rack. Who thought of this? [Puts coat on top of microphone stand with four mikes]
DWIGHT NELSON: So colorful. They’re usually not that colorful. Very nice. All right. Yeah. So, okay, this is Matthew – this is Matthew 7. Don’t worry about all these wires. I’ve never seen more wires – But that’s just the way it is these days.
Matthew, Chapter 7. Jesus says – this is Verse 21. Take a look at this, Story No. 2, Verse 21. Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he – only she – who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven, because Jesus said, Look it, I want to tell you something about the end. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord. Oh! My! Did we not prophecy in your name? And in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me. I don’t recognize you.
You know what’s going on there, ladies and gentlemen? It’s the exact reverse of the first story. You have orthopraxy without orthodoxy. Write it in please. You have right-behavior without right-believing. These people are casting out demons and prophesying in the name of God, and they might have the right way of worship, but they don’t have the right day. They’re not doing the will of the Father. There’ll be many who come and say, I didn’t know we were supposed to obey you! Orthopraxy without orthodoxy.
They could – you, you, you’ve already written that the other way, but they are wrong about the day.
One more story, one more story to unlock Isaiah 58, here at the outset of our teaching, and this is also in Matthew. The last story on earth Jesus told. I tell you what. When a man – when, when a teacher reserves for the very end of class a point, you can be certain he spent the whole day leading to that point. This is the last story Jesus ever told. Matthew, Chapter 25. He’ll be dead -- This story was told [PAUSE] on Tuesday. He’ll be dead on Friday. Matthew 25. Oh, you know, this story, you know the story – what is this, Verse 31?
When the Son of Man comes, in his glory – the Son of Man comes, in his glory, and all the angels with him -- We’ll get it. [PAUSE] [Chuckles] I have to live with one of these every Sabbath at Pioneer and I know what it’s like. You do a little traveling and you hope that you won’t have to do it again when you’re traveling, but – just like home.
DWIGHT NELSON: Can’t get away. All right.
Verse 31. When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him – Second Coming – he will sit on the throne. And all the nations will be gathered. And, ladies and gentlemen, they’ll be divided into three camps or four camps? What’s the answer? Two! What are the camps represented by? One side, on the right, will be sheep, on the left will be goats. And he will say to those on the right, speaking of the sheep – I want you to catch this. He will say, Come – Verse 34 – you are blessed by my Father. Four – Verse 35, I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me, and then the righteous will answer and say, Lord, Lord, wait, hey, time out! Wait a minute! We never saw you. Might have been somebody else you -- you came to, but you never came to us. …
Yes you did. Four, Verse 40. I tell you the truth – the King’s speaking – Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me! I want you to get this straight. We’re going – it’s going to take us – it’s going to take us through the Sabbath to figure this one out. But in the final judgment – you can write this down – in the final judgment it will be orthopraxy over orthodoxy! [PAUSE]
Would you write that in, please? Orthopraxy over orthodoxy so that right behavior will supercede -- rise above -- right belief. Aw, Dwight, can’t be. Can’t be! It just can’t be. You, you, you’ve got to – God is going to ask us what we believe! Well, he might. But the final question will not be, What did you believe? The final question will be, How did you behave?
You don’t believe me, do you? You don’t believe me. Well, just because I knew you wouldn’t, I’ve got a part of a quotation here from Desire of Ages. I tell you what. I have brooded over these words, I’ve gone back over them, we’ll come back at them again tomorrow. Look at this. I never read this parable now without recalling these words. In fact, I have hand-written these words at the top of the page in Matthew 25. Let me just read the wider – I’ll tell you when your quotation – turn the – turn the study guide over. I’ll tell you when your line comes. Let me start it. There’s a sentence before.
Thus, Christ – okay, in this parable? Thus, Christ, on the Mount of Olives, pictured to his disciples the scene of the great judgment day, and he represented its decision as turning upon one point, not two, not three, not five, not twenty-seven – one point. One. And he represented his decision as turning on one point. Here comes your quotation now. When the nations are gathered before him, there will be but two classes – including the remnant – and their eternal destiny will be determined by what they have done or have neglected to do for him in the person of the poor and suffering. Wow! Did you catch that?
When your name comes up in the judgment, when my name comes up in the judgment – all right, Dwight. Next. Dwight! [PAUSE] The question that will be asked: Dwight, what did you believe while you were there? What did you believe -- No! The question to be asked will be, Dwight, How did you behave while you were there? Say, Ah, come on, Dwight, you’re saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s the Gospel. Of course you are. But if you’re saved by faith in the Lord Jesus, the life of the Lord Jesus better be seen in the heart of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Because if you don’t have it – Academic: was on his lips, never in his heart. Next! I didn’t know you, by the way. Next!
Am I making this up, ladies and gentlemen?
DWIGHT NELSON: Orthopraxy over orthodoxy – oh, come on, folks. Let’s not – let’s, let’s not get into a little nitpicking here. Of course really how can you separate orthodoxy and orthopraxy? How can you separate faith and works? It’s faith that works! Isn’t it? Of course.
Okay, now we go to Isaiah 58. We’ve been set up. God has set us up.
Three in-your-face stories, when God was on earth himself. And now we’re ready to understand what’s in between the bookends in Isaiah 58. Here we go.
Isaiah 58. This is the fourth story I want you to ponder – I’m going to read this story to you because it goes like this.
Once upon a time there was a chosen people called by God, “my people,” a people who believed they were the champions of orthodoxy. And so they repeated the prophecies and they recited the laws and they remembered his holy day, but they could not understand why God was not blessing them like he should, like he had promised. So these people, they went to God and they were both flustered and frustrated, or as our little girl [Chrissie], when she was young, she, she used to say, she said, Daddy, I am so fruzzerated. By the way, since I mentioned [Chrissie], in 1996, my first camp meeting here, she came up that aisle and gave her heart to Jesus. Sabbath morning. Right here. Soquel is very special to the Nelson tribe. Got to baptize her, not in the ocean, but in Lake Michigan that has waves.
They came to God and said, God, we are so fruzzerated with you. Why are you not blessing us? Look how passionate we are about you. We worship, we pray, we fast. God – we are the champions of your orthodoxy, but you still do not bless us. And behold, as the story goes, the Lord God in Heaven laughed and cried at the same time. For it was true. He had asked them to repeat his prophecies and recite his laws and remember his holy day. But from the very beginning he had always hoped that when they championed his orthodoxy they would also champion his orthopraxy.
For how can orthodoxy be without orthopraxy and how can orthopraxy be without orthodoxy. And so God laughed, and he wept, and was very angry, as heartbroken gods and lovers can be. God says, You worship me with your lips, but where am I in your life?
Oh God – look at Verse 3. Come on! This is the remnant. God! Why are we fasting? God, why are we so passionate – just take the word fasting out and say, God, we are so passionate. Why don’t you notice our passion? God says, You know what, you think that – you think your orthodoxy – you think your orthodoxy – in Verse 5 – is a passion that I’m looking for? God says, You want to prove – you want to prove that you are passionate for me? Then why don’t you let my passion be your passion? Do you want to know what my passion is? My passion is compassion. Compassion. You want my passion, then you have my compassion. You don’t have compassion for me. You have compassion for the people I have compassion for. Then, we’re like this. Only then.
Compassion for whom? Who’s God talking about here? Oh, look at this, Verse 6, isn’t this the kind of passion – Verse 6 -- that I have chosen – God speaking – to loose the chains of injustice, and untie the cords of the yoke and to set the oppressed free? Isn’t it to share your food with the hungry, Verse 7, isn’t it to provide the poor wanderer with shelter? When you see the naked to clothe him? Look at Verse 10. Is it to spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed? God says, Look, I love your orthodoxy, but oh, I am missing your orthopraxy. Would you write that in, please? I love your orthodoxy, but I am missing your orthopraxy. God says, I love you knowing the truth, but I need you showing the truth. And then write this in, because this is the whole evening, and the teachings – tonight’s teaching in one sentence. Here it is. You are poor champions. I know that you think the remnant are supposed to champion for me. You are poor champions until you champion the poor. That’s it! That’s what Isaiah 58 is all about. God says, I know you got this bookend right. Yay! Good! I know you have this bookend right. Yes, good. But what are you doin’ with what’s in between the bookends? You are poor champions until and unless you champion the poor.
Do you champion the poor?
I’m talking about you, sir. Ma’am? I’m talking about your church, back in your town, your city. Is your church known as the champion of the poor? or do you, like the leaders in Matthew 21 say, God, it’s – Please! There’s another church in town you can go to! But – Not ours. We’re middle-class! We’re middle-class! Can’t you tell, we all look alike in this church! That’s by design! If you don’t look like us, it’s because you don’t belong with us. There is another church in town for you!
Don’t you give me this little Harrumph look on your face. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
Jesus. The pre-incarnate Christ begging – begging his people to get it straight, get it right. You are poor champions until you champion the poor.
By the way, jot this down. James 1:27. James 1:27. Pure religion – you want pure religion and undefiled. It’s this: To visit the fatherless and the widows, the marginalized, the alienated, the disenfranchised. You spend your time with them. That’s the heart of pure religion. Isn’t that something?
You cannot miss it, folks. You cannot miss it. I don’t know how I went so long and missed the passion of God for this segment, the vast majority of the human race.
Oh, would you get it while we still have it on our minds? Want to prove your passion for me? God says, then demonstrate your compassion for them.
You see, this is what startled me, as I’ve been studying the Bible this year, 2003. Jerry’s right. I wrestle, and I ask the Holy Spirit, Teach me, from your Word! Here we are, Third Millennial Church. We are still here on earth. I love these themes, but choosing a theme doesn’t get you any closer to Heaven. You can just talk about the remnant until you’re blue in the face. You can specialize in the bookends. We will be here generation after generation after generation until we understand what’s between the bookends in Isaiah 58.
DWIGHT NELSON: Jesus said, I want to tell you when the Judgment comes, that’s all I’m asking. You thought I was asking – giving you a quiz on the bookends. I’m giving a quiz on what’s between the bookends.
So, we better get serious about this, ladies and gentlemen. This is a Bible teaching. This isn’t Dwight’s teaching. It isn’t the Adventist Church’s teaching. This is God’s teaching, in the Old and New Testament. In fact, I – I’ll tell you what has hit me. Would you jot this word? One of the – fill in the blank here. One of the stunning truths about God in Holy Scripture is, he lived day and night in solidarity – I love that word – solidarity – he lives with sol- -- in solidarity with the poor. Write in the word “solidarity.” I, I have been so amazed. And, and I’ve been reading.
I read two books by a New Zealander named [Viv Grigg]. Two books he wrote. I read them this year. Companion to the Poor and then the second book, Cry of the Urban Poor. I have been moved by the story of this man’s incarnational ministry. You know what he did? He went to Manila. Some of you are from the Philippines. He went to Manila – I’ve been to that great city. He went into the barrios. You know what I’m talking about? We’re – I’m talking about the cardboard and tin slums in the heart of Manila. He moved into one of those tin shacks and he took up residence there in the name of Jesus Christ. One day he sat down with a friend there in the – in the, in the slum heart. And he got his Bible out, he said, I got – I gotta write down every verse in the Bible that deals with the poor. Every verse I can find. And so he starts writing them down. By the time – and he put ‘em on little white cards so he could pray on them, meditate over them. By the time he was through, he had two hundred and forty-five different white cards of God’s passion for the poor, in the Bible.
I want to share just a few with you before I sit down. You have a – you have a sampling in the study guide, and I don’t have time to go through – through all of those. But I want to hit a couple of them. Four of them, as a matter of fact.
Job 29. Take a look at this. I mean, this is – this is ancient literature. Ellen White tells us that Moses wrote Job. We’re talking about the beginning, literature from the very beginning. Job 29. Take a look at this. Job 29, Verse 12. Job is speaking here. He’s talking about his life. Because, look it. Job said, Look, I rescued the poor who cried for help. I rescued the fatherless who had none to assist him. Verse 13. The man who was dying blessed me. I made the widow’s heart sing. Verse 15. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy. I took up – Verse 16 – I took up the case of the stranger. In this ancient piece of literature, it’s clear. This is the honorable way. This is the God way to live.
Go to the book of Proverbs. I want to hit just three of these in Proverbs. Proverbs 19:17. Listen to this, from the Today’s English Version. When you give to the poor it is like lending to the Lord, and the Lord will pay you back. Isn’t that something? When you give to the poor, you’re lending to God. You didn’t think God ever needed a loan, did you? He needs a loan. And God’ll pay you back, by the way. Oh, make sure you look that one up sometime.
Look at Proverbs 17, Verse 5. When you make fun of poor people, you insult the God who made them. When you’re driving by the migrant workers in your community, and you’re making some little quick cuttin’ joke about what they’re driving, about how they’re dressed, about how they live, you make a joke of it. What is this? When you make fun of poor people, you insult the God who made them. Be careful what you joke about. Be careful. Any ethnic joke is a stain on the character of God, when it comes from your Christian lips. What’s the problem with an ethnic joke? Are you saying that God has children that are different than you? Ppp!
Look at this. Proverbs 14, Verse 31. Take a look at it. You look this one up. Proverbs 14:31. You look the rest up some other time. Proverbs 14:31. I’ll look this up here. Proverbs 14:3- -- Oh boy. He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker. You know, once in awhile you’ll run into an Adventist landlord. You know what a landlord is? Someone who rents a piece of property to others. It is a crying shame, I suppose, to be a landlord who balances his estate, his checkbook, on the back of the poor tenants that she has. You know, it’s just a little extra income on the side. You keep ratcheting up that rent. Just jacking it up. What are you doing? You have no compassion at all? Are you saying your financial success is more important than their physical survival? He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. You want to honor God? Then be kind to the needy. They’re the homeless in your town. I saw them all over San Francisco. The migrants here in Central California; you’ve got ‘em. Be kind to the needy.
Ah, ladies and gentlemen, you can read the Bible. I’m telling you. If two hundred and forty-five references of God’s compassion for the poor – and God says, You have a compassion for me? Prove it, Dwight, prove it. Let me see your compassion for them. If I see your compassion for them, I’ll know you have a passion for me, and not a day before. Not a day before. Ebenezer Scrooge? Not a day before.
Without question, the Bible, from cover to cover, declares God’s solidarity with the poor, but I want to end with this, the most compelling proof of God’s community with poor people and his solidarity with the poor is the life of the incarnate God himself, who when he chose to be born on this earth was birthed in a box of cow feed, born in a manger. Born in a barn. Grew up in poverty. Became a young adult with nothing. I mean, one of his – one of his young followers went running up to him one day, Oh, Master, Master, Master! I want to follow you, how – where do I go? And Jesus said, You can’t go anywhere, because foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.
Now, some of you have some very nice somewheres to lay your head, back at home. That was not the life of Jesus. He had nothing. In fact, when they came to him, they said, Hey! Shall we pay taxes to Caesar? Jesus did not go like this. Okay. Okay, guys, let’s find out. I want to show you something, guys. Take a look at this. He, he didn’t do it. He couldn’t do it. He had nothing. So he said, Does anybody here have a coin? Anybody here have a coin? Give me a coin! He didn’t have a coin.
Give – give me that coin. Thank you, sir. Whose face is on here? That’s what he had to do. And when he came to die – talking about solidarity with the poor – if you need any more proof, this is it. When he came to die, they took his entire estate, the – the – the Probate Court took his estate. Do you know what his estate was at death? All he had was his underwear – his underwear, and an outer garment. And they divided up his underwear, and they said, We can’t divide this. We’ll have to gamble for it.
Ladies and gentlemen, the God of the universe, who gave us Isaiah 58, is like this with poor people. And if he says you – hey! Hey! Are you the remnant down there? You want to respond? Then my compassion must become your compassion. Or – or – you’re not coming home – ever.
How many want to go home to heaven?
CONGREGATION: [Raises hands]
DWIGHT NELSON: With that very hand, with that very hand, find the door knob of a poor person’s home, because the road to heaven goes past the door of the poor.
DWIGHT NELSON: Let us stand as we pray.
Oh God, what can we say? This teaching. This is, this is uncomfortable. We love to concentrate on the bookends, because believing the bookends doesn’t make a difference, not radically, in how we’ve grown accustomed to living as the Remnant of Central California. We love the bookends, because we can prove them without having to push away from our well-laden tables. Love those bookends. But oh God, tonight you have the audacity, through the mighty Spirit of Christ, to confront us with what is in between those bookends. And we’ve heard it. We heard you. We heard Isaiah 58. We know what you’re saying.
And so, Father, I’d like to pray for all of us right now, that the – that the hours that are left of this Sabbath, that you would help us to pray and seek your mind to know what you would have us to do.
They’re asking us to liquidate our lives, yet. What are we supposed to do then? We, we – we want orthodoxy, but we want orthopraxy. We want the right way to behave with your compassion, and so, dear Father, we’re going to ask this question of you. Teach us, over these next few hours. May the Spirit prompt us to pray this prayer. Oh, God. Teach me what to do with Isaiah 58, that I might reflect your compassion to my little world, because we do know now that the road to Heaven goes straight past the door of the poor.
[END, TRANSCRIPT OF SERMON