Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 16 2019 - Exodus 6:28-7:24 – Water turned into blood

Moses and Aaron again went to see Pharaoh at God's bidding. Moses was 80 years old at the time and Aaron was 83; God does not do retirement.

Aaron threw his staff on the ground before Pharaoh and it became a snake. Pharaoh was not impressed. He summoned his wise men and sorcerers and told them to do the same. Somehow they managed to make their staffs turn into snakes, but Aaron's staff/snake swallowed up theirs. What Pharaoh had intended as a counter-demonstration of his power had become a demonstration that the Lord is mightier than the gods of Egypt.

But this is only the opening skirmish. The real battle now begins.

The following day Moses and Aaron are sent to meet Pharaoh as he goes out to the river. The Lord had told Moses the words Aaron is to say to Pharaoh: "The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert. But until now you have not listened. This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water" (7:16-18). Aaron raised his staff over the waters of the Nile and struck them. The water was changed into blood, the fish in the river died, the water stank and no-one could drink it.

The passage ends with a wonderful touch. The court sorcerers manage to find a little fresh water. Maybe they fetched it from the palace cisterns. Then they changed that also into blood by their own powers. That must really have impressed Pharaoh – they added to the plague rather than bringing relief. They had robbed Pharaoh of the remaining fresh water from which he and his family might have satisfied their thirst.

It should have been clear to Pharaoh from the outset that he is no match for the God of Moses and Aaron – Yahweh, the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who acts to fulfil his promises. But Pharaoh hardens his heart against the demands of God. He would find some way to get by; he would send out slaves to dig for water.

It is dangerous to harden one's heart against God and resist his purposes. Nor are such dangers confined to those who, like Pharaoh, do not know God. Jonah the prophet was well aware of the character of the God he served and yet sought to resist God's will and run away from God's call upon his life. His disobedience resulted in trouble for him and for those around him, though God was gracious in rescuing both him and them from disaster.

Have we sometimes hardened our hearts against the call of God upon our own lives? How is God speaking to you now through his word and by his Spirit? How are you responding?

Today, if only you would hear his voice,
‘Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah [the place of quarrelling],
    as you did that day at Massah [the place of testing] in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did. [Psalm 95:7b-9]

Almighty God, there is no power in all creation that can stand against your power, nor is anyone able to frustrate your purpose to bless those you have planned to save. Your power is gracious power and your grace is powerful grace. Keep me from having a heart that is hardened against you and your good purposes. Help me always to hear what you are saying to me and to respond quickly with a glad and willing heart.

Feb 16 2013 - Mark 1:29-2:12 – Healing

The passage that we have read this morning tells of Jesus healing the sick. The accounts are piled one on top of the other: the healing of Peter's mother-in-law in Capernaum draws the crowds who bring their sick and demon possessed to be healed. Jesus then leaves to take his message to other nearby villages, "preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons" (Mark 1:39). We are told of a leper being cleansed of his leprosy. Despite being told by Jesus to keep quiet about what had happened to him he, quite naturally, tells everyone he meets with the result that Jesus has to leave town to escape the crowds who are seeking him out.

Eventually Jesus returns to Capernaum and again the crowds gather to hear what he has to say. A paralysed man is brought by his friends to be cured by Jesus. Since they cannot get to the door of the house where he is speaking because of the crowds, they climb upon the roof, remove some of the roofing and lower their friend to Jesus. Jesus not only heals the man, he also declares that the man's sins are forgiven, scandalising the teachers of the law who were present, but filling the crowds with wonder as they declare, “We never saw anything like this!”

Healing is not incidental to Jesus' ministry. Even the most cursory reading of the gospels makes it clear that the healing ministry of Jesus was central to his mission. Nor is it simply a visual aid, as if his healing of physical ailments were simply to demonstrate that he can heal the soul. To be sure, Jesus here links the forgiveness of sins with his healing of the sick; his ability to heal is a demonstration that he has power to forgive. But that does not make healing secondary. Jesus came to heal the world; to heal it of all that has come into the world through sin; to heal the world of sickness, sin and even of death. This was why he had come; this was the substance of his preaching of the kingdom; this was the meaning of his death and resurrection; this is the hope we have in him.

Surely he took up our pain
   and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
   stricken by him, and afflicted.
But 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. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Jesus’ healing ministry was a sign of the kingdom – the age to come, breaking into this present age.

We have friends and relatives who are sick and suffering from various illnesses. We long that we could take them to Jesus as the friends of the paralysed man did in Capernaum. True, we can bring them to Jesus in prayer and there are times when we witness wonderful healing, but all too often we see little change. We long for the day when Jesus shall return; the day when sickness, suffering and death shall be no more. But this is no get-out clause. In the meantime we are called to bring healing to a broken world through the power and presence of the Lord Jesus – the healing of sins forgiven, broken relationships mended, suffering alleviated and broken lives made whole.

Lord Jesus, I long for the day when this broken world will be healed; I long for your kingdom to come in all its fullness. Help me to know your healing power, and by your risen presence within me, help me to bring your healing to those I meet today.

Peter Misselbrook