Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 21 2013 - Matthew 13:47-14:12 – Disciples of the kingdom

Jesus has been teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven / kingdom of God. Many of the things he says seem strange to his hearers – and strange still to us. The kingdom, he says is like a net that draws in fish of all kinds. When it is pulled up upon the shore, the good fish are placed in a container while those not fit for use are thrown away. In our simplistic view we may think of the kingdom as consisting only of saved souls. Jesus pictures it as a movement which will affect many. It's not just about souls; it's about transforming the world to be again what God created it to be. Many will be affected by the life of the kingdom; many will be drawn into its life – tasting the power of the age to come. Not all those so affected will truly be heirs of the kingdom.

This is a strange parable. It is not easy to work out exactly what it is saying to us. It would be easy simply to suggest that it means that not all who belong to our churches will be saved. That may be part of the picture, but I suspect that it is only part of it. Jesus' teaching on the kingdom is far wider than the church.

I find Jesus' words puzzling and a continual challenge. But when Jesus asks his disciples whether they understand what he is teaching them, they reply with a simple "Yes" (Matthew 13:51). I'm not sure that I'm altogether convinced by their reply – particularly as they seem to have retained the view, even after Christ's resurrection, that the kingdom would be established by might and raw power (see Acts 1:6).

Jesus goes on to say, "Every teacher of the law [scribe] who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old" (13:52). The scribe (or teacher of the law), was someone knowledgeable in the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus says that when someone like that becomes a disciple in the kingdom, they will see the Old Testament in a new way. They will not abandon all that they knew beforehand, but their understanding will be transformed; they will now see the old in the light of the new. More particularly, they will see the acts and promises of God that form the drama of the Old Testament as having their fulfilment and focus in Jesus the Christ.

There is much about Jesus' teaching concerning the kingdom that I still find puzzling; it stretches my understanding. But one thing is crystal clear; Jesus' teaching concerning the kingdom is a declaration that he is the king; this carpenter’s son from Nazareth is the promised Messiah who has come to create a people for his own possession. The kingdom can only be rightly understood in the light of Jesus – his teaching, the things he did as signs of the kingdom and particularly his cross and resurrection. The kingdom is all about Jesus, the king. The cross shows us what kind of king he is and what manner of kingdom he has come to establish.

King Jesus, help me to be a faithful disciple of the kingdom, to follow you and to be taught by you. Help me by your Spirit to rightly understand your word and to see that you are the focus and key to all the Scriptures. You have given me new life by your death and resurrection. Help me to live the life of your kingdom in the fellowship of your people and to draw others to you that they too may share in that life, now and in the age to come.

Jan 21 2019 - Genesis 24:1-27 – A wife for Isaac

God had promised Abraham that through his descendants all nations on earth would be blessed. Abraham had waited until he was 100 years old before his son Isaac was born to him. It had taken remarkable faith to continue believing God's promise. Now Isaac has become a young man and, before he dies, Abraham wants to see Isaac married. Only then can he depart in peace knowing that the promise of descendants and blessing can be left safely in God's hands.

Abraham does not want his son to marry a young woman from among the Canaanites around him for Abraham does not want Isaac to be enticed away into pagan worship. So he calls for his servant and instructs him to return to his own country and his own relatives to get a wife for Isaac. It was probably about 50 years since Abraham left the land of Paddan Aram, the region where Abram had parted from his brother Nahor after the death of his father Terah (see Genesis 12:4), yet he still refers to it as "my country" since his family lives there. The servant is to bring back a wife for Isaac: she is to be brought back to land of Canaan; Isaac is not to be taken to her. Again, Abraham's plans are shaped by the promise of God that he will give "this land", the land of Canaan, to his offspring.

How was Abraham's servant going to travel a distance of about 500 miles and then find relatives of Abraham from whom he had parted some 50 years earlier? The servant knew the approximate area from which his master, nevertheless, he knew that his task was all but impossible. But he also knew that nothing is too hard for the Lord, the God of Abraham (see Genesis 18:14). So, when he arrived at his destination he prayed that God would lead him to the young woman whom God would choose to be wife of Isaac.

The servant's prayer is addressed to the God of Abraham and pleads that God might be pleased to show his kindness to his master. Despite the many promises God had made to Abraham, the servant does not plead from a sense of entitlement but pleads on the basis of grace. Note also that his prayer is not vague and generic but specific and detailed. He wants to be certain that God has answered his prayer beyond any possibility of coincidence.

And God is pleased with such prayer; before the servant has even finished praying it is answered. Not only is it answered in exact detail but the beautiful unmarried girl turns out to be the granddaughter of Abraham's brother Nahor. There can be no doubt that God had heard and answered prayer. The servant responds in worship saying, "Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives" (Genesis 24:27).

And there we will leave the story, except to say that the young woman, Rebekah, returns with the servant to marry Isaac who loved her from first sight (Genesis 24:67).

God is seeking a beautiful bride for his Son, the one who is heir to all the promises of God. He has called us to be his servants in the task of recruiting his bride. The task demands prayer, specific and detailed prayer, and then it demands a willingness on our part to invite others to come and discover the blessings that are to be found in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Father God, we thank you for your purposes to bless people of every nation on earth through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray that you would lead us to those whom you would draw to him and that you would give us the boldness to invite them to come with us and discover the riches of your grace. We ask it in Jesus' name and that he might rejoice in his bride.

Peter Misselbrook