Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 20 2013 - Mark 4:26-5:20 – Who is this?

The disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat when a sudden storm blew up. Waves were breaking over the side of the boat which was about to be swamped. Jesus, however, was asleep in the stern of the boat. When the disciples woke him up and, in their terror, accused Jesus of lack of care for their lives, Jesus "rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm" (Mark 4:39). I love the Greek here which says that there was "a great calm" – the silence of a storm that is no more and the threatening waves tamed to become the surface of a millpond. None of this, however, reduces the terror of the disciples; it merely gives it a new focus. Now it is Jesus' himself who terrifies them as they ask, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

And this remains the key question; "Who is this man?" He is the one through whom all things were first created. He is the one who first tamed the great deep and created the dry land. He is the one will make wars to cease and will bring peace to the world.

God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
   and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their surging.

The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the LORD has done,
   the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
   to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:1-3, 7-11)

Did the disciples think of this Psalm as they thought in wonder and terror of the power of the one who rebuked the storm and commanded peace? There, in the person of Jesus, the Lord Almighty was with them; the God of Jacob had come to be their refuge – their ever-present help in time of trouble.

Cnut was king of Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden. He was a man who possessed great power and authority not only over lands but over the sea. But, wishing to teach his nobles about the limits of human power, Cnut set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes; but the tide failed to stop. According to Henry of Huntingdon, a 12th century chronicler, Cnut leapt backwards and said "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws." He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again.

The storms of life can be the very occasions when we are brought to recognise the limits of our own power and our need of the Lord Jesus. How sad that the Gerasenes thought that they could manage their lives much better without him.

Lord Jesus, help me to recognise my own great need and your great power, that I may both be humbled yet also filled with a quiet confidence that comes from the knowledge that the living God is with me.

Feb 20 2019 - Exodus 10:1-29 – Locusts and darkness

The battle between the God of Abraham and Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is approaching its crisis. God is determined to demonstrate his power through this drawn out battle so that the whole of Egypt will acknowledge that the Lord is the living God (10:2). Once more Moses goes to speak with Pharaoh. If he will not let the Israelites go, the Lord will send a great plague of locusts to cover the land of Egypt and consume what is left of their crops. One commentator, noting the dramatic description of the locusts as "something neither your parents nor your ancestors have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now" (v.6), writes, "This locust swarm is not a mere nuisance, as the abundance of frogs was, or a painful inconvenience, as the swarm of flying insects was, but a life-endangering disaster that makes the starvation of the Egyptian people a terrible probability."

Moses' words bring the battle into Pharaoh's court. His officials have had enough and plead with him to let the Israelites go before the land is utterly ruined. But Pharaoh returns to his bargaining; the Israelite men may go into the desert to worship, but they must leave their families and possessions behind to guarantee their return. God however will not settle for half measures, his demand remains the same, "Let my people go."

Pharaoh responds angrily, "The Lord be with you – if I let you go, along with your women and children! Clearly you are bent on evil" (v10). His words make a clever and scornful play on God's name 'Yahweh', the one who is with his people. Pharaoh is saying, "If I were to let you go as you request that would indeed be proof that Yahweh is with you!" Unwittingly he speaks both truthfully and prophetically. Moses and Aaron are driven out of court.

So Egypt is filled with locusts that devour all that was left from the hail. The people of Egypt had experienced provision and blessing at the hands of an Israelite in the days of Joseph; now their opposition to the God of Israel has left them facing famine and death. Pharaoh calls for Moses, confesses that he has done wrong and pleads for the plague – 'this death' – to be removed. But when the locusts are gone he refuses to let the Israelites go.

The God of Israel is in control of the weather and the migration of insects. Nothing, great or small, is beyond his control. But it is not enough to catch a glimpse of his power or goodness and be moved for a moment with fear or love. God looks for the transformed heart and for lasting transformation of character – a work that can be accomplished only by his Spirit. How has God been at work to bring about that transformation in your own life?

The ninth plague brings a supernatural and total darkness over the land of Egypt for three days – though the Israelites, living in Goshen, continue to enjoy sunlight every day. The mighty Egyptian sun god, Amen-Ra, has no power against the God of Israel.

Pharaoh calls for Moses and tells him that all the people may go, men, women and children, but they must leave their livestock behind again to ensure their return. Moses replies that they must take their livestock with them since some will be required for an offering to the Lord. At this Pharaoh tells Moses to get out of his sight. If he appears before Pharaoh again he will be executed. Moses agrees. There will be no more negotiation. God's patience and forbearance has come to an end.

Almighty God, the gods of people's imagination are empty idols, but you are the creator of heaven and earth. The sun, moon and stars do your bidding. Nothing can withstand your power for all things were created by the power of your word. Thank you that you have shown us that it is your purpose to save; even your acts of judgment serve your saving purposes. We stand in awe of you.

Peter Misselbrook