Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 14 2013 - Matthew 10:1-23 – The lost sheep of Israel

In the previous chapter we read of how Jesus viewed the crowds as, "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (9:36). His response is to commission twelve of his followers who will be his special disciples. These he sends out to minister to these crowds – they are to go to "the lost sheep of Israel" (10:6). The choice of these twelve disciples or apostles is an indication that God is now at work to create a people who will be his own treasured possession as he had done before through the twelve children of Israel (sons of Jacob).They are to proclaim that "The kingdom of heaven has come near" and are to "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons" (10:7-8).

We are left with the inevitable question of the extent to which this ministry of the twelve can be seen as a model for contemporary mission. There are some obvious differences. Jesus' emphasis that the disciples are not to go to the Gentiles, or even to the Samaritans (10:5 and 23) is in stark contrast with his commission in the closing verses of Matthew's Gospel. This mission was to serve a very particular purpose; it was to announce to Israel that the kingdom they had longed for had now arrived.

The miracles the disciples performed were signs of the kingdom. But so too was to be their behaviour; they did not come as mighty rulers demanding obedience and submission. Paradoxically, they came in the form of those who were poor and weak even though they were proclaiming that the kingdom was coming in power. They came in the likeness of their master who had said "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" (8:20).

Clearly there are differences between this ministry of the twelve and the commission that the risen Christ has given his disciples. Nevertheless, Matthew records this mission not only as an interesting historical story, but for the benefit of his readers. We need to learn that the kingdom is not served through aggressive evangelism or dramatic confrontation. It is not advanced through the means used by the kingdom of this world – means such as clever and often deceitful marketing which seeks to manipulate others and use them for one’s own profit. But neither are disciples to be characterised by timidity. On the contrary, the kingdom is advanced through determined but humble and compassionate service of those to whom we are sent. We are to give freely to others what God has freely given to us.

The power of the Gospel is hidden power. It comes from the Spirit of the crucified and risen Saviour, the Spirit who transforms us into the likeness of the Lord Jesus. It is resurrection power that shall at last transform the world and make all things new. But to know this resurrection power is also to share in the sufferings of Christ (see Philippians 3:10). Jesus warns the disciples that they will suffer for the sake of his name as they follow him in the work of the Gospel. But the same Spirit that animated the Saviour will enable them to bear clear witness in his name.

Lord Jesus, I am so conscious that I live in a troubled world where many are confused and lack hope and direction. Fill me with your compassion for a lost world. Help me to bear faithful witness to you, both in the words that I speak and in the conduct of my life. Help me to give away what I have freely received. Keep me both from timidity and from a desire to control others. Fill me with your powerful, servant Spirit.

Jan 14 2019 - Genesis 12:1-20 – The call of Abram

The call of Abram is God's response to Babel. From all the scattered people of the earth, God calls one man into special relationship with him.

Abram is called to leave his country and his family to follow the call of God into an inheritance that he cannot yet see. Those who try to secure a future for themselves – like those at Babel – will lose it. Those who leave their own security to follow the call of God will receive an inheritance that can never be lost.

In addition to the promise of a land, God promises to make from Abram a great nation – a people who will be God's own possession. Secondly, he promises to make Abram's name great – Abram does not need to strive to make a name for himself. Thirdly, God promises not only to bless Abram but also to make him a blessing; in him all nations on earth shall be blessed. The history of scattering and of disunity will be reversed as God's promises and his saving power reach out to people of all nations and make of them one new people of God.

God's promises to Abraham are not only his response to Babel, they are his response to the sin that entered the world through Adam. Rebellion caused separation from God, but God's call of Abram anticipates a people who will at last live in fellowship with him. Rebellion brings exclusion from the Garden of God, but God promises Abram a land (the cosmos! Romans 4:13), in which he will enjoy all the blessings of God. The rebellion of one man (one couple), brings misery upon the whole human race, but the blessing of this one man will bring blessing to all nations.

So these promises of God shape the rest of the drama of Scripture.

Famine in the land of Canaan drove Abram and Sarai into Egypt. Afraid of the Egyptians, Abram passed off Sarai as his sister and Pharaoh, king of Egypt, took her into his palace, intending to make her one of his harem. But the Lord sent plagues on Pharaoh's household. Pharaoh learnt the hard way that Sarai was Abram's wife and was quick to expel this couple from his land.

Abram had been called to follow God and to trust that God would fulfil all the promises he had made him. Through him God planned to bring blessing to all peoples of the earth. But Abram's faithlessness brought God's judgment upon others rather than his blessing.

This picture is repeated time and time again through the pages of Scripture. God's purpose for Israel, the descendants of Abram, is that they should be a light to the nations – a people through whom all nations on earth shall be blessed. But Israel's unfaithfulness leads to God's name being blasphemed among the nations (Romans 2:24).

God will need to raise up another from within Israel who will be a light to the nations and who will bring God's salvation to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6). Only than shall it be said,

Where He displays his healing power
Death and the curse are known no more;
In him the tribes of Adam boast
more blessings than their father lost.

Lord God, in Christ you have made me an heir to the promises made to Abram. Help me always to trust in you and faithfully follow the Lord Jesus Christ, so that I may know your blessing and be a blessing to those whose lives I touch. Help me to keep your name holy; may it never be blasphemed because of the things I say and do.

Peter Misselbrook