Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 15 2013 - Matthew 10:24-11:6 – Are you the one?

Jesus tells his disciples to be bold in preaching the good news of the kingdom; they are to go and shout it from the housetops. But at the same time he warns them that their message will stir up opposition. There has been, and will be, opposition to Jesus and there will be opposition to those who follow him and serve him; the servant must not expect better treatment than his master.

As if to illustrate this point, the focus now turns to John the Baptist who has been imprisoned for his preaching of righteousness. John is perplexed and sends some of his followers to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Matthew 11:3). John had prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah. He had called the whole nation to get themselves ready for what God was about to do and he had pointed his own disciples to Jesus and encouraged them to follow him. But now he was in prison and with little hope of being released. If Jesus was truly the Messiah, come to establish his kingdom, why was Herod still in power? Why were the prisoners not released?

Jesus does not give a detailed answer to John. He simply sends the messengers away with the instruction, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me" (11:4-6). Jesus had not come to establish the kind of kingdom people had been expecting – or even the kingdom that John had been hoping for. He had not come to take on Herod on his own terms but to undermine the whole system of self-assertive power. Jesus wants John to recognise that he came not to crush but to heal. He will bring healing and transformation to a broken world by taking the world's brokenness upon himself.

And he sends his disciples out as recruits in his mission to heal the world, telling them that they too will be wounded healers. They may even be wounded by those who are closest to them, those whom they love. The kingdom will be established through the pain and power of the cross – a cross his followers must also bear (10:38).

Those who would follow Jesus and be agents of the kingdom are not promised a peaceful life (10:34). But they are assured that they are loved and valued by their Father in heaven; he takes note when a sparrow falls to the ground and they are of far more value to him than a sparrow – the very hairs on their heads are numbered. And just as they have been ready to speak to others about Jesus, so Jesus promises that he will speak up on their behalf before his Father. None of those who respond to and follow the Saviour will fail to receive a reward from his hand.

Lord Jesus, I fear the scorn and disapproval of others and I do all that I can to avoid being hurt. Help me to care far more for the deep hurts and brokenness of others than for my own comfort. Your Spirit has whispered words of love into my heart and assured me that I am a child of God.  You have shown me that every blessing I possess streams from your cross. Help me to proclaim from the housetops the good news of your love and mercy.

Jan 15 2019 - Genesis 15:1-21 – The covenant and its guarantor

Abram's nephew, Lot, had settled in the city of Sodom. But four kings with their armies had made war on Sodom and Gomorrah and had taken its inhabitants captive, including Lot and his family. Abram had raised a private army and rescued Lot. In doing so, he also recovered all the people and goods of the king of Sodom and returned them to him. Though the king of Sodom pressed Abram to take a reward from him, Abram would not do so (Genesis 14).

In response to this, the Lord appeared to Abram and told him, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Genesis 15:1). God himself is Abraham’s inheritance.

But Abram cannot resist asking about the heir whom God has promised him. Must he be content with Eliezer his servant being his heir? No, says the Lord, you will have a son of your own. God tells Abram to look up at the night sky; his heirs will be as numerous as the stars in the heavens and will possess this land where Abram is now living as a stranger.

Abram, we are told, believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. The righteous person is the one who trusts in God and in the promises he has made – even against the odds.

Nevertheless, Abram asks “How can I be sure?” (15:8). His question gives rise to an extraordinary demonstration of God’s commitment to do what he has promised.

Abram is told to bring a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove and a pigeon. He is to cut each of the first three animals in half, arranging the halves opposite each other in a line along the ground. As the sun went down, Abram fell into a deep sleep in which the Lord appeared to him in a vision. The Lord said, “Know for certain that your descendants … will come back here.” The covenant promise of descendants and land is repeated.

Then, in the darkness of nightfall, Abram sees a smoking brazier and flaming torch passing between the severed halves of the animals. This is the Lord – think of the pillar of fire and smoke which would later be the symbol of his presence with the Israelites in the wilderness. By this strange symbolism the Lord made a covenant with Abram (15:18), assuring him that his descendants would inherit the land.

Walking between the halves of severed animals was a recognised means of making a solemn promise in the ancient world. The person making the promise was saying, “If I fail to do what I have promised, may what has been done to the animals be done to me.” God assured Abraham of the certainty of his promises by underwriting them with his own life.

We who are heirs of the New Covenant know that all of the promises of God are sealed to us through the broken body and shed blood of God’s Son. They are promises which have been secured for us at the cost of the shed blood of God himself – see this extraordinary affirmation in Acts 20:28).

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Heavenly Father, you are a covenant making and covenant keeping God. You have promised to bless us and have underwritten your promises with the life of your own Son. Help us never to doubt you but to believe what you have said. Help us to know for certain that you alone are our very great reward and that you will surely bring us into the inheritance that belongs to all who trust in Jesus Christ.

Peter Misselbrook