Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 22 2019 - Isaiah 54 – The glory of Zion

In looking at Isaiah 53 yesterday we said that the atoning work of the Suffering Servant will result in people from all nations being brought to know the living God and we quoted the Septuagint translation of part of Isaiah 53:11, "He will see the fruit of his suffering and will be satisfied". That theme is continued in today's reading.

Zion /Jerusalem is pictured as mother to the people of God. Jerusalem had been left desolate and all but uninhabited. She was like a childless woman. But that is now being brought to an end. The city will now rejoice in the abundance of her children as God brings his people back from captivity (54:1). This is the fruit of the labours of the Suffering Servant. Indeed, so abundant will her people now be that the city will no longer be able to contain them. They will spill out to occupy many desolate cities of other nations (v. 3). Zion must get ready to accommodate a great crowd:

Enlarge the place of your tent,
    stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back;
lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. (v. 2)

William Carey, the pioneer of the modern missionary movement, preached a famous sermon from Isaiah 54:2-3 in 1792 at a gathering of local ministers. He was urging them to enlarge their vision of God's saving purposes in the Lord Jesus Christ – urging them to realise that God's purpose was to save for himself a people from every nation on earth. The title of his sermon was, "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." William Carey went on to devote the rest of his life to missionary work in India and to translating the Scriptures into several of the languages of that great continent. He had grasped something of the immensity of Christ's saving work and understood that it called for a response from his people; they/we must work for the extension of Christ's kingdom. Do we share that vision?

Isaiah 54 continues with God's promises to his people, again picture in terms of Zion, their mother. She may have felt abandoned, even widowed, but she is now to know her Maker is her husband (v. 5). The Lord abandoned her to judgment for a short while but now, with compassion is restoring her (v. 7); "'With everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord your Redeemer" (v. 8). The Lord has determined never again to turn his back on his people:

'My unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,’
    says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (v. 10)

This is the fruit of the Servant's suffering. He has purchased a people for God; a people who will never be forsaken or abandoned. These will be a people who will, "be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace" (v. 13). The risen Saviour has poured out his Spirit upon his people to ensure that this promise is fulfilled; he has given us peace with God and continues to instruct us by his Spirit. The Servant has made us also "servants of the Lord" and no weapon forged against us will prevail (v. 17).

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us… [Nothing] in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 37, 39)

Father God, we thank you that in your great goodness, we are part of the fruit of the suffering of Christ, your Servant and beloved Son. Thank you for the promises we have in him and the assurance that nothing will now separate us from your love. Help us to learn of him and ourselves become your obedient servants through whom your kingdom is extended until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your glory as the waters cover the sea. Help us to attempt great things for you.

Oct 22 2020 - Hebrews 13:1-25 – Concluding words of encouragement

There is so much that can be said from the verses we have read this morning. They begin with an exhortation to love one another. Christians should show the world that they do not follow a historical figure but a living and present Lord. Something of his life should shine through our lives, particularly in the way we treat one another. The love of God in Christ is to be made visible in us and through us.

And that love is to be shown not only to those whom we know – to our friends. "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers,” we are told, “for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2). We probably do not often show hospitality to strangers, though some may be involved in soup runs or meals for the homeless. I'm sure that it's never crossed our minds that in showing such hospitality we might be ministering to angels. Nevertheless, our author reminds us that such things have happened – thinking probably of Abraham providing a meal for the three visitors in Genesis 18 or even Lot providing lodgings for the two who went on to Sodom (Genesis 19). The same may not be likely to happen to you or to me, but we may act as 'angels', messengers and servants of God to those in need.

Further exhortations follow, urging us to live in ways shaped by the call of the gospel and not by the patterns of this world: be faithful in marriage; don’t let the pursuit of money take over your life but be content with what you have. In all things remember that the Lord Jesus is with you and will never forsake you. He is the same yesterday and today and for ever. You need not be afraid. Remember these things.

But we cannot leave our readings in Hebrews without a few words on the wonderful doxology with which it almost closes; "Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (13:20-21). Yesterday we read that "our God is a consuming fire" (12:29), yet he is also "the God of peace". He has made peace with us through the death and resurrection of "our Lord Jesus". His blood, shed for our forgiveness, is the "blood of the eternal covenant"; it has brought us into fellowship with God and bound us to him for all eternity. And now Jesus has been raised from the dead as the "great Shepherd of the sheep"; the one who cares for his flock and who has said that no one shall pluck them from his hand. This God – holy Father, Shepherd Son and powerful Spirit – is now at work in us; restoring us to be the people he always designed us to be, equipping us for the work of his kingdom. All of this will bring him praise and glory through all eternity.

What God has done for us, and is still doing for us and in us, fills us with wonder and shapes our lives that we might live to his praise and draw others to him.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip us with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Peter Misselbrook