Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 6 2019 - Genesis 44:1-34 – Joseph tests his brothers

Joseph sent the brothers away with their sacks full of grain, their money in each of their sacks and one of his special silver cups in Benjamin's sack.

The men had not gone far before the steward came racing after them accusing them of stealing a silver cup from Joseph. They all protest their innocence saying that if the cup is found with any of them, that person should die and the rest of them will become servants to the Egyptian lord. A search soon discovers the cup in Benjamin's sack. The brothers are distraught and tear their clothes. All now return to plead with the Egyptian official.

Judah took it upon himself to be their spokesman. He was the one who had sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites and he is now convinced that all that is now happening is punishment from God because of what he and his brothers did to Joseph (see 44:16). He knows how the loss of Joseph affected father Jacob; the loss also of Benjamin would be more than he could bear. So Judah, who had failed to listen to the pleas of Joseph when he sold him into slavery, pleads that Benjamin should be spared from becoming a slave in Egypt. Judah offers himself in Benjamin's place.

There are times when circumstances remind us of wrongs we have done in the past of which we are ashamed. Such reminders are helpful if they humble us and bring us to fresh repentance before God, seeking his forgiveness.

Judah offered himself in place of Benjamin who, it seemed, had defrauded Joseph of his sacred cup. There is no doubt about our sins. We have defrauded God of the glory due to him and have stolen that glory for ourselves. Our sins, if they were listed, would be almost beyond counting. But Judah's offspring, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, offered himself in our place. He suffered the penalty that our sins deserved so that we might be set free. So every memory of our sins needs to drive us not only to repentance but also and supremely to our triumphant Saviour whose risen power frees us from slavery to sin and death. We need to run to him with our thanksgiving and praise.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea;
A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me...

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Saviour died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the just, is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me...

One with himself, I cannot die;
My soul is purchased by his blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Saviour and my God.

Gracious Father, thank you that when you remind me of the guilt of my sins, you also show me afresh the wonder of your salvation. Thank you that the Lion of the tribe of Judah is also the Lamb who was slain for us that all our guilt and shame might be washed away and that we might be brought rejoicing to our Father's house.

Feb 6 2013 - Matthew 24:29-51 – The faithful and wise servant

Let me return for a moment to the theme of yesterday’s notes. In this chapter Jesus is answering a double question raised by the disciples, “When will the Temple be destroyed?” and “What will be the signs of Jesus’ return and the end of the age?” In the minds of the disciples these were one question and in Jesus answer it is not easy to separate the two themes.

Nevertheless, Jesus is concerned both to give his followers clear signs of when the former is about to occur so that they might ‘flee to the mountains’ and escape destruction, while warning them against the folly of seeking to predict the latter. The parable of the fig tree may be intended as part of the warning concerning the fall of Jerusalem with its conclusion, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24:34), while the reminder concerning the days of Noah – beginning with the words “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (v. 36) – is a warning concerning the return of Christ.

The chapter concludes with a parable Jesus told concerning two servants. Each is put in charge of his master's household while the master is away. The first is a faithful and wise servant who takes good care of the household in his master's absence and is duly rewarded on the master's return. The second is a wicked servant who mistreats his fellow servants and uses his master's food and drink to live it up with his friends. When the master returns unexpectedly, the wickedness of the servant is discovered and he is punished severely. This is one of a series of parables that Jesus tells, all of which teach the necessity of being ready for the coming of the Lord.

There is some discussion about the original context and meaning of these parables. We, quite naturally, read them as exhortations to be ready for the return of Christ; we need to be about the Master's business so that we may not be ashamed when he appears. Some, however, have argued that when Jesus told these parables he was not speaking of his second coming but his first. They are parables concerning Israel's unreadiness for the coming of the Lord – "Suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple... But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?" (Malachi 3:1-2).

Whatever the original context and lesson of these parables, they spoke to Matthew's readers as they speak to us of the need to be ready for the return of our Lord. As we noticed yesterday, Jesus said that the gospel of the kingdom must be preached throughout the whole world (24:12). Matthew ends his gospel with Jesus' commission to his disciples to make disciples of the nations (28:18-20). All authority belongs to him, and with that authority he has entrusted us with his kingdom project. We have work to do and need to be about the Master’s business. The unreadiness of Israel at the coming of the Messiah acts as an additional prompt to us to be faithful and active in the work that the Master has entrusted to us: "You ... must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (24:44).

Lord Jesus, I find it easy to get preoccupied in the busyness of daily life and to lose my zeal for the work of the kingdom. Stir me up by your Spirit to pray for the day of your coming. Keep me from becoming too comfortable with this present age and its passing fashions. Rather, may I continually long for and work towards the day when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

Peter Misselbrook