Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 7 2013 - Matthew 25:1-30 – The parable of the talents

Jesus is telling a series of parables which illustrate something of the kingdom (Matthew 25:1f, 14f). In the parable of the talents, three servants are entrusted with sums of money while their master is away on a journey. Two of the servants make good use of the money entrusted to them and have a profit to show their master on his return. They are commended as good and faithful servants. The third, buries his master's money in the ground so that it will not be lost. On his master's return he gives back what was entrusted to him. This servant is declared to be wicked and lazy and is thrown out "into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (25:30).

What is Jesus teaching through this parable? Some have read the parable as a charter for capitalism – a system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? It is difficult to justify such a reading in the context of Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom. Rather we should read it against the context of first century Judaism and the controversies between Jesus and the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They had been concerned to preserve the revelation given them by God through Moses. They had kept it safe by burying it in a mass of their own traditions – traditions intended to act as a hedge around the law and prevent it being violated. They were concerned that the law should be kept intact. The third servant's description of his master may even be designed to reflect their twisted view of God.

This preoccupation with preservation is condemned by Jesus. He had intended that his people should be a light to the nations; a people through whom the world might come to know the goodness and generosity of the God of Abraham. Preservation of what had been entrusted to them was a denial of their mission and an act of terrible unfaithfulness.

They had become like the Dead Sea. The living water of the Jordon flowed continually into that sea but found no outlet. The Sea became increasingly salty and dead as it held on to the water that was given to it rather than releasing it as refreshing streams into the surrounding desert.

And how is it with us? What have we understood of the character of our God? We have been entrusted with the gospel of the kingdom. Are we more concerned with preservation than propagation? Are we more concerned to preserve what has been delivered to us by careful theological definition and qualification than we are to live out the message and show and tell the kingdom to a needy world? The church is not to become the Gospel Preservation Society. Like the Manna given in the desert, when the gifts of God are preserved rather than used they become rotten and full of worms. The refreshing streams of God’s goodness and grace are not to be bottled up in our lives or contained safely within the walls of our churches, or kept safely wrapped up in the black leather of our Bibles; they are to flow out into the dry and thirsty land around us bringing life and healing.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace, mercy and forgiveness that flows to me from the Lord Jesus and his death and resurrection. By your Spirit, you flood my life with your light and peace and fill me with songs of joy. May this river of life flow from me today. Through me, may it touch the lives of others bringing healing and transformation that together we may praise you for your great love and goodness. For the sake of the world, help us to share the gospel rather than simply preserving it.

Feb 7 2019 - Genesis 45:1-46:7 – Jacob moves house

Joseph brought his brothers to feel and know something of the wrong they did to him all those years ago, yet his purpose is not to punish but to bless. Sending away his Egyptian servants, Joseph reveals who he is, speaking to his brothers in their own Hebrew language. In that moment they know he has understood all that they had previously spoken to one another in his presence.

Joseph assures his brothers, "It was not you who sent me here, but God" (45:8). God has been working out his own purposes through all that has happened. Joseph owes his power to the hand of God, and God has given him this power that he might bless rather than punish; "God sent me before you to preserve life" (45:5). God sent Joseph down into Egypt that he might be able to provide for the needs of his father's family during the period of famine. So he urges his brothers to go and bring father Jacob and his extended family to Egypt where Joseph will provide for them throughout the continuing years of famine.

Joseph demonstrates that he has learned the mind of God. He is able to see beyond personal hurts and circumstances to the hand of God which has been at work in his life not only for personal blessing but also that he might become a blessing to others. Joseph is not trapped in bitter resentment over past injustice; he is filled with a sense of the goodness of God and determined to play his part in God's plans to bless and prosper others through him. How about you?

With Pharaoh's blessing, Joseph provides his brothers with wagons to bring their families and all that they possess to Egypt. One nice touch comes with the focus on donkeys. When the brothers were invited to Joseph's house for lunch, they had feared it was a trap and that Joseph would enslave them and seize their donkeys (43:18). Now they are provided with "ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain" to take back to their father Jacob (45:23). What they feared to lose has been returned to them many times over.

As they leave Joseph tells them not to quarrel on the way (45:24). They must not relieve their feelings of guilt by blaming one another; they are to recognise that God has been working out his purposes to bless them – and that they are blessed.

Jacob cannot believe that Joseph is alive and a great ruler in Egypt until he sees the wagons and all the good things that the brothers have brought back. He also sees that they are blessed.

Jacob stops on the journey at Beersheba to offer sacrifices to the God who had promised to be with him and bless him. The narrative again uses his name 'Israel'; he is one who has wrestled with God and obtained blessing from God's hand. Here again God appeared again to him as he had appeared many years before when he had left his father's house to flee to Haran. The God of Abraham and Isaac is with him and will prosper his family in Egypt. They will become a great nation before they are brought back to the land God had promised them. Israel can rest assured that God is still with him and is at work to fulfil all that he has promised.

It is not always easy for us to recognise the hand of God at work in the varied circumstances of our lives. It would be so much easier if God himself appeared to us with words of encouragement and reassurance. We need to remember that God has come to be with us in the person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. All of God's promises are underwritten for us in his blood. We can be sure that if God has given his Son for us he will not fail to do for us all that he has promised.

Father, forgive me that I am often so self-preoccupied that I cannot see beyond my hurts to your larger purposes. Enlarge my vision and help me to see and know that it is your unshakable purpose to bless. You have revealed your goodness and abounding love for us in the Lord Jesus. Enable me to rejoice in your good purposes and to live well with those who accompany me on my journey.

Peter Misselbrook