Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 24 2013 - Matthew 15:29-16:12 – Give us this day our daily bread

Matthew 14 records Jesus feeding the five thousand from five small loaves and two fish. Matthew 15 records a similar feeding, now of four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish. In both accounts the background is similar: Jesus had sought to find a place where he could be alone with his disciples but the crowds had sought him out. They had come bringing their sick for healing. Jesus not only healed their various diseases, he also had compassion on them and fed them before sending them away. In both accounts it is emphasised that the crowd were fully satisfied; they ate their fill and there was food left over.

Jesus' actions with the crowd stand out in strong contrast with his conduct when tempted by the devil after his baptism. Jesus had been fasting for forty days in a desert place when the devil tempted him to turn stones into bread. Jesus would not use his miraculous powers for his own benefit but answered that God's people should live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. And this was how he continued to live; this was the food he had that the disciples failed to understand (John 4:32). But here, on two occasions he feeds the crowds in the "desert" place – the uninhabited countryside. Jesus will not use his powers for his own comfort, but he will use them to meet the needs of the crowds, for he has compassion on them. He heals their sicknesses and provides food to sustain them.

In his Gospel account, John tells us that the crowds saw a parallel between Jesus' feeding of them and the manna which the Israelites ate in the wilderness. And they were right to do so, for the God who had compassion upon their ancestors and provided for them in the desert is the one who now stands among them showing the same compassion. But they fail to see the depth of God's compassion for them. They would be satisfied with bread in their stomachs but Jesus has come to give himself for their healing.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came asking Jesus for a sign. Jesus refused to offer them yet another sign. They had seen the things he was doing and had heard the things he was teaching and that should have been sign enough if they only had eyes to see it (see 15:31). Yet he does tell them that they will witness one further sign, the sign of Jonah. By this, Jesus refers to his own death and resurrection. This is the ultimate sign and the ultimate display of his compassion. Jesus gave himself that we might live. He is the Word of God by which we live. His death has defeated death and his resurrection is the beginning of the life of the age to come.

Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee;
I will ever give to thee.

Father in heaven, give us this day our daily bread. Jesus, Lord of compassion, feed me and satisfy me with your goodness. Lord, open my eyes to see the needs of this crowded world. Give me your heart of compassion that, by the power of your Spirit and out of the abundance of your provision, I may minister freely to those who are hungry, those who are sick and to those in desert places who thirst for the water of life.

Jan 24 2019 - Genesis 29:13-35 – The trickster tricked

Jacob had arrived safely in Paddan Aram, to the house of Laban, his mother's brother. Immediately he seems to have fallen in love with Rachel, his uncle's beautiful younger daughter and offers to work for Laban for seven years in return for Rachel becoming his wife. Genesis touchingly recounts that, "Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her" (29:20).

But Jacob the trickster had met his match in uncle Laban. On his wedding night, when it has become dark, Laban arranges that weak-eyed Lear, Rachel's sister, is handed over to Jacob in his tent in place of Rachel, and Jacob sleeps with her. Genesis dramatically exclaims, "When morning came, there was Leah!" (29:25). We can readily imagine Jacob's dismay, horror and anger when he saw who was beside him in his bed. He went straight to Laban with the bitter accusation, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?" But Laban simply answers "It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the elder one" (29:26).

I wonder if Jacob the trickster thought about these telling words. He, the younger of Isaac's sons had sought through trickery to get the blessing that would rightly belong to the elder. Now, in accordance with custom, he is tricked into receiving the elder daughter as wife rather than the younger.

God had promised to be with Jacob, but this did not mean that everything would turn out just the way Jacob would have liked. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that heavenly Father disciplines his children so that we might share in his holiness (Hebrews 12:5-11). Jacob is being made to learn the price of trickery.

Laban requires Jacob to work another seven years as the bride price for Rachel, the young woman he loved – though Rachel is given to him after only a week. We are not told that these second seven years seemed like only a few days to Jacob.

On the contrary, these were years filled with trouble as Jacob had to contend with the rivalry between these two sisters, his two wives, rivalry provoked by Jacob's far greater love for Rachel than for Lear. Favouritism had brought trouble into Isaac's household, and now it is the cause of trouble and discord in the home of Jacob. These second seven years must have been hard years indeed.

Nevertheless, through all the trickery and deceit, God is at work to accomplish his purposes. God had promised to make a great nation of Abraham and Sarah's descendants but they had only one son, Isaac, and he only had two sons. Now Jacob, the one on whom this promise rests, begins to have children – many of them. He gains three sons through Leah in the verses we have read today but before many years are past he will have twelve sons, ten born to Leah and two to Rachel, not to mention several daughters. It is precisely through the trickery of Laban and the rivalry between Leah and Rachel that God is at work to fulfil his promises.

As you look back at your own life can you see times when you have made a mess of things and yet God has worked through your mess to bring blessing? We can thank God that he is not limited by our folly but remains steadfast and faithful in his purpose to bless us.

Father God, we thank you for the assurance that in all things you work for the good of those who love you. But we know that this does not excuse or justify our folly and our poor decisions. Lord we ask your forgiveness for the times we have not lived in the way that we should. Help us by your presence and your Spirit within us to live to please you. Make us the source of blessing to those around us.

Peter Misselbrook