Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 17 2019 - Isaiah 50 – Israel's sin and the Servant's obedience

In yesterday's reading we noted that many to whom Isaiah ministered seemed not to have believed the message of salvation that he was bringing them: they argued that God had forgotten them. In the opening verses of this chapter God rebukes this failure to look to him and trust in him. He challenges them asking, "Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away?" (v. 1). What evidence do they have that God has got rid of his people and wants nothing more to do with them? They may have played the adulteress by turning to idol-gods but God has not wiped his hands of them. He may have sent them away into captivity because of their sin, but he is equally able now to save them. He is the God who dried up the sea before them to rescue them from Egypt, he does not lack the strength to save them now (v. 2).

Verses 4-9 are the third of the Servant Songs. Unlike rebellious Israel, the Servant declares that he has an ear that is open to the instruction of the Lord and has been obedient to God's calling on his life (v. 5). Not only has he always listened to God, he has also spoken the words that the Lord has given him to say – words that sustain the weary (v. 4).

But this gentle healer (42:3), patient worker (49:4) and wise comforter (50:4) has faced brutal opposition:

I offered my back to those who beat me,
    my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. (v. 6).

The Servant is not turned aside from his task by such opposition, but sets his face like flint towards the completion of his work, confident that the Sovereign Lord will help him and that he will not be disgraced (v. 7). The Lord has not abandoned him and will at last vindicate him in the face of all his accusers (v. 8). He is confident that because the Sovereign Lord is his help, he will not be condemned (v. 9).

The closing verses of this chapter contrast two groups of people (vv. 10-11). On the one hand there are those who, though they may now be sitting in darkness, place their hope in the Lord and listen to the words of his Servant. They will experience his salvation. On the other hand there are those who try to come up with their own solution to the darkness, creating lights for themselves. They will face judgment rather than salvation.

This chapter tells us more about the Suffering Servant of the Lord and again points us to the Lord Jesus. He was perfectly obedient to the will of the Father, doing only what the Father had given him to do and saying only what the Father had sent him to say. Despite the gathering opposition to his ministry and the violence that lay before him, he "set his face like flint" towards Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). He suffered the cruel torments of false accusation, scourging and the cross without turning back but confident that the Lord his God would vindicate him. And he was raised from the dead not only as Suffering Servant but as Saviour of all who put their trust in him. And we who trust in him share in his victory over all the powers of darkness: "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus"; "We are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:1, 37).

Jesus is the one who has brought light to those who sit in darkness, hope to those who have been in despair. We want others to stop trying to dispel the darkness by making lights for themselves and to turn to and trust in him who is the light of the world.

Lord Jesus, we are filled with thankful wonder when we think of all that you were prepared to suffer for our salvation. Thank you that you did not turn back from the cross. Help us to tell others of the great salvation that is to be found in you alone that they too may be rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the light and blessings of your kingdom.

Oct 17 2013 - 1 Timothy 2:1-15 – God wants everyone to be saved

Paul's ministry had been driven by the conviction that "there is only one God and there is only one mediator between God and men. That mediator is the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for everyone" (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Since Jesus Christ died for everyone, it is clear that "God wants everyone to be saved" (2:4). This conviction had driven Paul through shipwrecks and beatings to take the good news concerning Jesus to the ends of the earth. Now he urges Timothy to remind the Christians at Ephesus to pray for everyone (2:1).

We need to have the same large vision of the plans and purposes of God that we may never give up praying for others; never give up witnessing to others; never give up on the hope that they too may be saved. Let's make our prayers, hopes and activity as wide as the grace and mercy of God in Christ.

One particular focus for prayer, says Paul, should be “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (2:2). Paul’s own missionary ministry had been facilitated by the Pax Romanum – the peace that had been imposed by the dominance of the Roman Empire. Paul was able to make use of Roman roads and sea travel on well-established trade routes because of the power of Rome. He was able to make himself understood across the Mediterranean world because the previous empire of Greece had left the legacy of a shared lingua franca. However much such empires might sometimes prove a threat to the people of God, Paul saw that, in the providence of God, they also offered enormous opportunities for the spread of the gospel. Paul urges that Christians pray that this peace might continue and that opportunities for the gospel might abound.

But Paul is also writing from prison; Jewish opposition to his preaching has landed him in Rome, waiting to be brought before Caesar. Paul is acutely aware that those in authority could decide to make life difficult for Christian believers. He urges that prayer should be made for them that they might recognise that the Christian faith is no threat to civil order and that Christians might be left to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

As I write these notes, many Christians are fleeing from Syria because of the war that has torn the country apart. Such tragic events underline the urgent need for prayer for those in authority, whether in Syria or in the international community. We need to pray for an end to hostilities and for lasting peace and security for all who live in that troubled country. We need to pray that Christians might be free to live at peace and to bring the peace of God to their neighbours. Pray for those in positions of power and authority knowing that no-one is beyond the reach of God's grace and transforming power.

And we who enjoy peace and security should receive these blessings with thanksgiving. But we should not value a quiet life as an end in itself; we should use the opportunity provided to make Christ known.

Father, we thank you that you are the living God, the creator of heaven and earth. We thank you that the Lord Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. We pray today for those in positions of power and authority that they may govern wisely and well and for the peace, blessing and flourishing of those whom they govern. We pray particularly for countries torn by war, where people live in an atmosphere of hatred and terror. Lord we long that your reign of peace may extend over all the earth. Have mercy O Lord upon our warring world and help your people always to be peacemakers for Jesus’ sake.

Peter Misselbrook