Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 19 2013 - Matthew 12:46-13:23 – The sower, the seed and the soil

The parable of the Sower is one of Jesus' best known parables. It's important to read it in context. Jesus had gone away from the houses to sit beside Lake Galilee. But he could not get away from the crowds who were soon thronging around him. So he got into a boat and addressed the crowds who stood on the shore. And this is the parable he told them.

A farmer scatters his seed, hoping for a good crop. Some seed fell along the compacted soil of the path and was snatched away by birds. Other seed fell on the thin soil of rocky ground. It sprang up, but when the sun beat upon the young rootless plants they withered away. Other seed fell among thorns. The thorns grew and smothered the growing seed. Nevertheless, there was seed that fell on good soil; seed which grew and bore the crop the farmer had worked for.

Jesus tells the parable to illustrate his own ministry. He tells the parable to the assembled crowd and challenges them, "Whoever has ears, let them hear" (Matthew 13:9). What will happen to the word he has spoken to them? Will it bear fruit in lives shaped by the message and power of the kingdom?

Jesus knows that many who hear him will not, in the end, follow him. For some, Jesus provides a form of entertainment – perhaps they have just followed the crowd to see what is going on. The message is snatched away before it even sinks in. For others, the first hint of opposition will result in them turning away; the message had fascinated them but it had not become rooted in their lives. Others, perhaps even with sadness and regret, will find that the demands of life and the pursuit of career will turn out to be more important and all-consuming. But there will be some who hear what Jesus is saying and who will build their lives upon the foundation of his words. These are his family (see 12:48-50); these will bear the fruit that Jesus is looking for.

This parable is generally applied to the act of preaching, particularly to the response to evangelistic preaching. But we each need to apply it to ourselves. For the past few years I have been in the habit of listening to the Daily Audio Bible, a podcast that takes me through the Bible in a year. I listen to it first thing in the morning as I make our wake-up cup of tea. But it is all too easy to have the words of Scripture playing in your ears without really listening to them; without them entering into the heart and bearing fruit. It is easy to be distracted, even to become busy with the preparations for the day and for the word to be snatched away. Having read or listened to the word, it is easy to forget it when the day gets under way with all its demands and pressures.

We who know and love God’s word need continually to challenge ourselves with the question of the extent to which our lives are actually shaped by the message of Jesus? I am the one who needs ears to hear the message of this parable; it's not just about how others respond to the word. In particular, does the word of God shape me in the crisis points of life, when the pressure is on and I tend to react instinctively and display the true character of my heart?

Father God, thank you for the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Spirit of God, till my soil and make me good ground that I may hear clearly what Jesus is saying to me today and respond readily and fully to his calling upon my life. Help me then to be a channel through which Jesus speaks to others.

Jan 19 2019 - Genesis 22:1-19 – God himself will provide a lamb

Abraham and Sarah now have the son and heir that God had promised to give them. But then God tested Abraham. He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and ... offer him ... as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you" (Genesis 22:2). Imagine the turmoil going through Abraham's mind. This was his only son for Ishmael had been sent away; this was his beloved son, the son that he and Sarah had longed for and looked for over many years. But more than that, this was the son in whom all the promises of God were invested. Without this child there would be no great nation, no possessing of the land, no blessing for all the nations of the earth. How would Abraham respond to this test?

We read that Abraham rose early in the morning to travel with Isaac to the place of sacrifice. He rose early! There seems to have been no hesitation; his trust in the Lord is absolute. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that he believed that, if he had to slay the child, God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). He had learnt by experience that nothing was too difficult for God and that nothing would prevent God fulfilling what he had promised. When Abraham takes leave of his servants he tells them, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you" (22:5). Abraham is confident that they will both return from the sacrifice. And when Isaac asks his father, "Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" (22:7), Abraham confidently responds, "God will provide for himself the lamb" (22:8).

Having arrived at the place appointed for sacrifice, Abraham prepared the altar and the wood and had raised his knife to kill his son when he is stopped by the angel of the Lord. Abraham's eyes were opened to see a ram caught by its horns in a nearby thicket. The ram is offered in sacrifice in the place of Isaac. The Lord did indeed provide a sacrificial lamb. Neither Abraham nor Isaac could ever forget this provision of God.

Now that Isaac has been spared – returned from death, the Lord repeats his promise concerning Isaac, pronouncing an oath in his own name and promising offspring to Isaac as numerous as the stars of heaven and sand on the seashore. His descendants will possess the land and through them all nations of the earth will be blessed (22:16-18).

This strange incident points us towards the Lord Jesus Christ (see John 8:56). He is God's Son, his only Son, his beloved Son. He is the heir, the one on whom all of the promises of God depend. But for our sake God did not spare his own Son (Romans 8:32). He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) – the lamb of God's provision. He is the one whom God has raised from the dead in order that he might bring blessing to all the nations of the earth.

None other Lamb, none other Name,
None other hope in heav’n or earth or sea,
None other hiding-place from guilt and shame,
  None beside Thee.

Father God, help me to understand the greatness of you love towards us in that you did not spare your own Son but gave him up for us all. Thank you that you raised him from the dead and crowned him with glory and honour. Thank you that in him we have become children of God – heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ to all the good things you have in store for your people.

Peter Misselbrook