Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 21 2019 - Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – The Suffering Servant

How can the cup of God's wrath be removed from his people? They were sent into exile because of their disobedience. Is that disobedience simply to be forgotten so that they may be restored to God's favour? The answer to these questions is given in this, the last and most wonderful of the four Servant Songs in Isaiah.

Israel was accustomed to the idea of an animal being sacrificed for the sin of the people, but here God speaks of one who is his Servant (52:13) who has been raised up to bear the judgment his people deserved:

He was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

The judgment of God has fallen on him so that God's people may be forgiven, healed and restored. It was the Lord's will to crush him and make him "an offering for sin" (53:10) so that the guilt and shame of his people might be swept away.

It is difficult for us to imagine what these wonderful words meant to the Israelites facing return from exile. They must have seemed deeply mysterious even though they offered the comfort and confidence that their sin had been dealt with. For us, standing on the other side of Jesus' coming into the world and of his death and resurrection, they speak clearly and prophetically of him. He is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself not merely the sin of Israel, but the sin of the whole world (see the wonderful words concerning the Servant in Isaiah 49:6). He is the one who suffered cruel mistreatment at the hands of others without lashing out in protest. He suffered the judgment of a holy God against sin for our sake. "The punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed" (53:5). He is the one who prayed that his persecutors might be forgiven and who still makes "intercession for the transgressors" (53:12).

The atoning work of the Suffering Servant will result in people from all nations being brought to know the living God (52:15). "He will see the fruit of his suffering and will be satisfied" (Septuagint translation of 53:11).

From every nation we shall be gathered,
Millions redeemed shall be Jesus' reward.
Then he will turn and say to his Father:
'Truly my suffering was worth it all!'

The Suffering Servant has been "highly exalted" (52:13), and one day every knee will bow to him and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Lord God, help us to see more clearly the dreadful offensiveness of sin that it demanded the sacrificial death of your beloved Son. Help us also to see more clearly the greatness of his love who gave himself for us. Help us to know that through his resurrection he has forever conquered sin and death and gained salvation for all who come to him. Help me to know that there is always more grace in Christ than there is sin in us. Holy Spirit, fill us with wisdom and courage to tell others the good news concerning the Lord Jesus that they also may find forgiveness, freedom and eternal life in him.

Oct 21 2013 - 1 Timothy 6:1-21 – Pursuing the right goals

What do you most desire in life? It's easy to list some noble goals, but what is it that shapes your decisions and fills your dreams?

Paul warns against making the acquisition of worldly wealth our goal in life: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). We live in an acquisitive society, and it's easy for us to become shaped by that society and, perhaps even unthinkingly, adopt its values, particularly the incessant desire for more.

Paul encourages Timothy to live by a very different set of goals: “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (6:11-12). Paul challenges us to ask ourselves, “What am I fleeing from, and what goals am I pursuing?”

But Paul is not a kill-joy who wants us to live a life of self-denying asceticism. The key, as so often, is contentment: “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (6:7-8). Such contentment is to be accompanied by genuine enjoyment of all that God has given us (6:17). There’s nothing wrong with being rich if it is money legitimately gained and if it does not captivate our soul. But, as well as enjoying the abundance of good things God has given us, we are to be generous in sharing it with others, particularly those in need (6:18). This is the way to “take hold of the life that is truly life” (6:19).

In his book, Money, Sex and power; The challenge to the Disciplined Life, Richard Foster writes, “The Christian is given the high calling of using mammon without serving mammon. We are using mammon when we allow God to determine our economic decisions. We are serving mammon when we allow mammon to determine our economic decisions. We simply must decide who is going to make our decisions – God or mammon.

“Do we buy a particular home on the basis of the call of God, or because of the availability of money? Do we buy a new car because we can afford it, or because God instructed us to buy a new car? If money determines what we do or do not do, then money is our boss. If God determines what we do or do not do then God is our boss. My money might say to me, ‘You have enough to buy that,’ but my God might say to me, ‘I don’t want you to have it.’ Now, who am I to obey?”

We need continually to question our own motivations; to examine the things that captivate our hearts and to question honestly the goals that shape our daily lives.

Creator God, we give you thanks for all that you give us day by day. We receive your gifts as evidence of your love for us. May you gifts never become our idols. Help us rather to use all that we possess for your glory and for the blessing of others. May we be wholehearted, single-hearted, in our devotion to you and to the life of discipleship and witness to which you have called us.

Peter Misselbrook