Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 10 2019 - Psalm 24 – The earth is the Lord's

Today's psalm begins by reminding us that the whole world and everything in it belongs to the Lord. He created it all and it is his; we should count nothing we possess as our own. God is therefore worthy of the worship and devotion of our hearts and of our lives.

But the question is then asked, "Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?" God is holy and righteous; how then can anyone stand in his presence?

This psalm gives us the beginning of an answer. The person who may come before God is, "The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god." This is all very well, but which of us can say we pass this test? We readily identify with the words of the general confession:

Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done …

How can we "receive blessing from the Lord"? In the words of a wonderful hymn by Thomas Binney:

There is a way for man to rise
  To that sublime abode;
An offering and a sacrifice,
A Holy Spirit’s energies,
  An Advocate with God.

The "offering and a sacrifice" that the hymn speaks of is that of the Lord Jesus; he offered himself as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. In him and through him all of our sins are forgiven and we are made fit to stand in the presence of the living God. Moreover, he is also risen from the dead and has entered heaven on our behalf. He is our Advocate with God and he intercedes for us.

The latter verses of this psalm have often been read in connection with the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus. He is the King of glory who has defeated sin and death. Imagine the welcome the risen Christ received when he returned to the courts of heaven:

Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The LORD strong and mighty,
    the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
    lift them up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.

Jesus is the one through whom and for whom all things were created; the earth is his and everything in it. He is the one who has redeemed us and has entered heaven on our behalf. It is through him that we also receive a ready welcome in the courts of heaven.

God of Jacob, we seek your face through the name and merits of your Son, Jesus Christ. He is the one with clean hands and a pure heart who has a right to stand in your presence. Coming in his name we are confident of our acceptance as we come before you in worship. Like Jacob of old, we lay hold of you in prayer and will not let you go until you bless us – and make us a blessing.

Mar 10 2013 - Mark 14:53-72 – Destroy this temple ...

Jesus has been brought for trial before the Jewish leaders. But even though some have been persuaded to concoct accusations against him, their testimony does not agree. In the end, Jesus' own words are used to condemn him.

One of the accusations against Jesus, recorded by Mark, was that he had said, "I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands" (Mark 14:58). He is accused of threatening to destroy the temple – the most holy of places to Judaism. But this false accusation was a garbled version of what Jesus had said when he had cleansed the temple and had been asked for a sign to demonstrate his authority to do such things; Jesus had replied, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days" (John 2:19).

Jesus was speaking not of the building in Jerusalem but of his own body. He is the temple of God. He is the "place" in which the living God has come to live among us. He is the place where that final atoning sacrifice is made for sin. He is the place of reconciliation with God. He is the one in whom we are able to offer acceptable worship to God. And he is all of this because this temple was destroyed and raised again in three days.

Jesus and his atoning sacrifice sweep away all of the signs and shadows of the Old Testament. He is the fulfilment of all that has gone before, the focus of all God’s purposes for his world. How sad that these Jewish leaders wanted to cling onto the sign while seeking to destroy the one to whom it pointed. How sad that some Christians seem to get excited about the prospects of the temple in Jerusalem being rebuilt – as if Christ had not died and been raised from the dead.

Through Jesus, we also become the temple of the living God: "You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honour. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God" (1 Peter 2:4-5). We who have come to trust in Jesus are the new temple that Jesus is raising up.

Because of Jesus, the dwelling place of God is not a temple of stone, or a church building or any other human construction. It is a people among whom God lives by his Spirit; a people who know that the risen Lord Jesus is with them. And we have been entrusted with the priestly task of interceding with God on behalf of his world, calling down God’s blessing upon the world and bringing the world to God. We have become the people through whom the world meets the living God!

At the beginning of the previous chapter we read that as the disciples came out of the temple, one of them said to Jesus, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mk 13:1). They were filled with wonder at the splendour of the temple. What do people say when they look at the shared lives of Christians? Do they see the glory of God’s presence among us?

Living God, the heaven of heavens cannot contain you, much less any house which we can make. And yet, in your condescension, you came to dwell among us in the man, Christ Jesus. How much more wonderful that you, the triune God, have stooped to live among us in the power of the risen Saviour and the person of your Spirit. May your glory be seen in this temple and may the world come to meet you through the witness of your holy people.

Peter Misselbrook