Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 15 2019 - Isaiah 48 – The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob

God declared he was about to overthrow the power of Babylon so that his people may be released from captivity and return home. But his people must not forget that their captivity was God's act of judgment for their unfaithfulness. They had often spoken the name of the Lord and used his name in making their oaths and promises, but they had failed to honour God's name (v. 1) – they were using it as if it were a magic charm. How often is that true of people around us today? They were boasting that they were citizens of the holy city and that they were protected by the God of Israel who had made his home among them. But they had forgotten the almighty power of the Lord their God (v. 2) – it is not always safe to live in the presence of such a God.

Their stubbornness and unfaithfulness had led to their captivity. The Lord had told them what would happen. He had warned them long ago through Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy that if they turned away from the Lord who had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and began to worship other gods and ignore God's laws they would lose their land and be sent away into captivity. Again and again the Lord warned them by his prophets that they were heading for judgment but they had been stiff-necked and had taken no notice. Their captivity should have come as no surprise (vv. 3-5).

Now the Lord is going to reveal something new to them (vv. 6b-8). He had been slow to execute his wrath against his people for he did not want to destroy them but only to discipline them (v. 9). His purpose in their exile and captivity was to refine them through the trouble they had brought on themselves – teaching them the cost of disobedience (v. 10).

The Lord has not punished his people as they deserved but displays his glory in showing compassion. So now the Lord demonstrates that he, the maker of heaven and earth, is in sovereign control of human history and will steer its course to ensure the blessing of his people; he will strike down the power of Babylon and set his people free (vv. 12-15).

An enigmatic new figure is introduced in verse 16, sent by the Lord and endowed with his Spirit. We shall hear more of this character in chapter 49 tomorrow. But this is the message he brings:

This is what the LORD says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
‘I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go. (v. 17)

The Lord is going to save his undeserving people from Babylon as he redeemed them from Egypt. He calls them to take advantage of the victory of Cyrus and to "Leave Babylon" (v.  20). Nor are they to leave quietly or secretly but with shouts of joy they are to proclaim what God has done for them "to the ends of the earth".

We also have been the recipients of God's undeserved mercy and salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter reminds Gentile Christians that we, like Israel of old have been chosen and redeemed by God. He writes:

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

We whom God has saved from captivity to sin and death should proclaim to the ends of the earth what God has done for us with shouts of joy. We want others to hear about it and to recognise that the God who has revealed himself in the Lord Jesus is the sovereign Creator and Redeemer. We want them also to discover the freedom and joy that can be found through trusting in him.

Father God, help us to declare your praises to the ends of the earth. May many more come to hear of and experience your saving goodness and join us in our song of praise.

Oct 15 2013 - 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18 – Faithfulness, love and perseverance

Paul asks the Christians at Thessalonica to pray for him and for his ministry. He wants the word of the Lord – the message of the Gospel – to run through the world and to touch the lives of many. He knows, however, that wherever the word is preached it also stirs up opposition; "not everyone has faith," says Paul (1 Thessalonians 3:2). "But," he immediately adds, "the Lord is faithful" (3:3). In a world where there are those who oppose the message of Christ and stir up difficultly for those who seek to make him known, the Lord himself is faithful. Jesus who said that all power in heaven and earth has been given to him promised also to be with his servants to the very end of the age. He is faithful to his word and will "strengthen and protect" those who belong to him.

Paul concludes this section with the words, "May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance" (3:5). This is the path Christ calls his people to tread. We are called to live in the love of God: to rejoice in his great love for us; to reflect his love in our behaviour towards one another and towards those who do not yet know him. We are called to follow Christ: to remember all that he has done for us; he persevered, he went on to the end; for our sake he endured the cross with all its shame. We also are called to persevere; to go on following him to the end. The Lord's faithfulness is to be reflected in a life of faith, a life of faithfulness, a life of discipleship, empowered not only by his example but his living presence in us and with us.

The apostle Paul reminds the Christians at Thessalonica that he not only taught them how to live as disciples of Christ, he left them an example in the way that he lived among them (3:7-9). He calls upon them to follow his example of applying themselves to mundane things such as their daily work so that they might provide for themselves, their families and for others – in short, that they might be model citizens. Christ does not call us to abandon the normal duties of human life in order to pursue a spiritual and unworldly way of living; he calls us to live well in this world as models of the way Christ transforms every aspect of life with his presence and power. The way we work, the way we care for and provide for our families, the way we live as good citizens in our communities – these all are aspects of our Christian witness. These also are ways in which our hearts are to be directed into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Each new day is an opportunity and challenge to live faithfully as a disciple of Christ in all that we say and do – to model the love of God and perseverance of Christ in the mundane issues of life.

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for thee:

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold:
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.

Lord Jesus, fill me with your Spirit and enable me to follow closely in your footsteps. Fill me with your love and keep me strong by your faithful presence and perseverance with me. Enable me so to work for you, in little things as well as great, that on the day of your appearing I may receive the commendation, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

Peter Misselbrook