Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 16 2013 - Matthew 11:7-30 – I will give you rest

We saw yesterday that the children of the Kingdom are not promised a peaceful life. But we are promised rest – rest for our souls.

The words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 are well known and well loved: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." The pressures of this world leave us feeling "harassed and helpless" (9:36), "weary and burdened". The promise of rest is like the promise of water to a traveller in a dry and thirsty land. Eagerly we come to Jesus for the rest he can give us.

But the promise of Jesus is paradoxical. Jesus says that we enjoy the rest he has to give when we take his yoke upon us. The yoke is a picture of burdensome work. The yoke is laid upon the ox that it may pull the plough. The yoke is not a symbol of rest but of hard labour. More than that, Jesus invites his disciples to take his yoke upon them; to join him in the work that his Father has called him to do. And Jesus yoke becomes his cross; this is the wood that he shoulders to the place of execution. The invitation to share Jesus' yoke hardly seems to be a promise of rest. Can it really be said that this yoke is easy and this burden is light?

Part of the answer to this question comes from a realisation that we do not bear this yoke alone. Often a pair of oxen would be yoked together in the work of ploughing. A young ox would be yoked to an older animal that was well used to labouring under the hand of its master. In this way the novice would learn from the experienced animal. Perhaps this is the image used by Jesus. He invites us to take his yoke upon us, not that he might shift it from his shoulders but that we might join him in his work. Yoked to him we labour with him and learn from him and never bear the burden on our own. And, in the paradox of the kingdom, it is in labouring with Christ in the work the Father has given him to do that we find our rest.

Kingdom rest is not inactivity. It is the rest and refreshment that comes from sticking close to the Good Shepherd and following him in path he treads before us.

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
   for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

With him, the labour of the Kingdom becomes rest and the birth pangs of the Kingdom become our joy. This is something that many cannot understand, but the children the kingdom of this gentle Saviour can testify that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Lord Jesus, you have revealed to us the father-heart of God. I have heard your call to come to you and find rest for my soul. Gladly I come. Bind me close to you that I may never leave your side. Place your yoke upon me and teach me to work alongside you in the field of the kingdom. May this be my daily delight.

Jan 16 2019 - Genesis 18:1-5, 16-33 – Abraham pleads for Sodom

The opening verses of today's passage tell us that the Lord appeared to Abraham. Abraham did not at first know that it was the Lord who had come to meet with him. As far as he was concerned it was three men who approached his tent. Abraham invited them to stay for a meal. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews may have this incident in mind when he says, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2).

But back to these three "men": Who were they? Two of them were angels as it made plain by the opening verse of Genesis 19. The third was the Lord himself appearing to Abraham in human form, talking with him and promising that Sarah will bear a son to Abraham in about a year's time.

As the three "men" rose to leave, Abraham walked with them. The two angels went on to the city of Sodom but the Lord remained with Abraham to tell him of his plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness.

Abraham pleads with God that Sodom might not be destroyed by God's judgment. No doubt he was concerned for Lot, his nephew, and for Lot's family but he seemed also to have a more general concern for the city and its many inhabitants. Abraham is aware that the one he is addressing is the righteous judge of all the earth (v.25), and that he is as unworthy of the Lord's attention as dust and ashes (v.27), nevertheless he is bold in his prayer and persistently pleads God's mercy. Nor should we think that Abraham is twisting the arm of God. God is the one who revealed his plans of judgment to Abraham just as he had revealed his plans to bless him and many others through him. God is pleased to listen to Abraham's prayer and does respond to him in Anger. Abraham desires that the blessing he has received from God may extend to the rebellious world that surrounds him.

Note the contrast in these verses: The wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah cry out to God for judgment (v.20), but Abraham cries out to God for mercy and will not easily take no for an answer.

God has revealed his plans to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. He has not merely revealed his purpose to bless us; he has blessed us "with every spiritual blessing in Christ." But God has also made plain to us that he will not for ever turn a blind eye to the wickedness that spoils his creation. The day will come when Christ the Saviour shall return to judge the world in righteousness.

How do we respond to God's revealed purposes? Are we content to rejoice in the blessings that God has promised to us his people while letting the rest of the world suffer judgment? Surely we need to be as bold as Abraham in pleading for the salvation of our rebellious world. We need, as it were, to give God no rest but to plead that the blessings he has poured out on us might flood the entire world. And then we need to give legs to our prayers by telling others about our wonderful Saviour and the blessings to be found in him. That's what the apostle Paul did. In 1 Timothy 2:1-6 he writes, "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people… This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people."

Lord God, judge of all the earth, we are so thankful that you have provided a Saviour for us in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you so much for the blessings you have poured out upon us in him. May we never forget that Jesus is the Saviour of the world. May our prayers for this world and our presence in it bring many others to know the Saviour. Make us like Abraham and like Paul, bold both in prayer and in our witness to Christ.

Peter Misselbrook