Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 19 2019 - Exodus 9:1-35 – Livestock, boils and hail

The catalogue of plagues continues, and again God makes a clear distinction between the Egyptians and his own people. This time many of the farm animals in Egypt are struck dead, while none of the Israelites' animals is harmed. Pharaoh even sent messengers to the land of Goshen where the Israelites were living to see whether their cattle had been harmed. It could not have been more obvious to him that the God of the Israelites was able to protect and save his own; yet still he will not let them go. The smell of death hangs heavy in the air of Egypt as a warning of what is yet to come.

The next is a plague of boils – festering boils broke out on the inhabitants of Egypt and their remaining animals. Pharaoh summoned his sorcerers to see what they could do about it, but they could not come to him; they were suffering too much with their boils.

Before the next plague is visited on Pharaoh and the Egyptians, God sends him a word of warning:

"This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth" (9:13-16)

There are two important lessons in here. The first is that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is not eager to judge but is incredibly longsuffering. He is almost pleading with Pharaoh that he might release the Israelites from slavery before worse judgments are visited on him and his people. He is more concerned to break Pharaoh's stubborn will than to destroy him. Nevertheless, God is determined to save his people and will use all the power necessary to accomplish his purposes. And when the story of this great act of salvation spreads, the name and might of the Lord will be "proclaimed in all the earth". The story of this battle will be told down the ages and throughout the world, so that all might hear about the saving power of the living God.

And that is what has happened. Few do not know the story of the Exodus and the way in which God saved Israel from the oppressive power of Egypt. It has become the stuff of songs and hymns as well as the hope for many living under oppression. The Lord God is mighty to save.

But Pharaoh will not listen to the Lord's warning and so a terrible hailstorm is sent upon Egypt. But even here God shows mercy, he warns the Egyptians of the impending storm and tells them to bring their livestock as well as themselves into a place of safety before the storm hits them. Those who listened to God's warning ensured that their cattle and slaves were safely under cover. The storm destroyed the flax and barley harvest and caused severe damage to trees. It even brought Pharaoh to the point of recognising that he had sinned against the Lord. But his momentary conviction of sin was not reflected in a genuine and permanent change of heart; when the storm was over he again refused to let the Israelites go.

Mighty God, thank you that you are patient with us even when we are slow to respond to you. You do not treat us as our sins deserve. Give me, I pray, a true and continuous repentance; a heart that is quickly responsive to your word. Touch and transform the hearts of those who are still resisting your grace that your power and glory may be displayed in salvation rather than judgment.

Feb 19 2013 - Mark 3:31-4:25 – Family

Jesus' family had come looking for him – some of his family seemed to have feared for Jesus’ sanity (Mark 3:21) . When he was told of this, "he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.'" (3:34-35).

Who were those sitting in a circle around Jesus? They were his disciples; those who listened to him and learned from him. They were not perfect by any means, but they were seeking to follow Jesus and to serve him in the work of the kingdom. They were eager to respond to and have a part in all that God was doing in Jesus Christ. These, says Jesus, are my family; they belong to me and I belong to them.

Saul the Pharisee discovered the power of family while on his way to Damascus to seek out followers of Jesus and drag them in chains to Jerusalem. The risen Christ confronted him with the question, "Why are you persecuting me?" Jesus and his followers are one family; to persecute his followers is to persecute him. Later, when blind and helpless in Damascus, he was to discover that this family could be his family also when he was wonderfully addressed by Ananias; “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17). Saul must have treasured those costly words, “Brother Saul.”

Later, Paul the apostle speaks of the amazing privileges of belonging to the Christian family. He affirms that we are children of God – those who cry out to him “Abba, Father.” And if we are children, then we are also heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). We are family. Through Jesus, the creator and sustainer of the whole universe has embraced us in his love and claimed us to be his own.

Father God, I wonder how I managed to exist
Without the knowledge of your parenthood and your loving care
But now I am your son, I am adopted in your family
And I can never be alone
'Cause Father God, you're there beside me

I will sing your praises
I will sing your praises
I will sing your praises
For evermore

Being part of a family brings with it family traits and family likeness. My wife keeps pointing out ways in which I am increasingly becoming like my dad – I’m not sure she means it as a compliment! Our greatest longing should be to become more like Jesus; to bear the marks of family likeness with him. The light of God’s presence within us is not to be hidden under a basket or treasured within the privacy of moments of meditation; it is to shine from our lives so that others may recognise something of the beauty and character of the living God through us. They should be able to recognise that we have been with Jesus.

Father God, I recognise with wonder that I am not my own, I have been bought with a price. Lord Jesus, thank you that you were not ashamed to call us your brothers and sisters. Thank you for the immense privilege of having made me part of your family. Help me always to value my brothers and sisters as you value them. And help me by your Spirit to reflect your likeness in the way I act and react to those around me. May I be used of you to draw others into the embrace of your love and the fellowship of your family.

Peter Misselbrook