Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 15 2013 - Luke 1:57-80 – The birth of John the Baptiser

The child born to Zechariah and Elizabeth was an answer to prayer. No doubt they had long asked for a child, though Zechariah’s disbelief seems to suggest he may have given up all hope. But he was offering incense in the temple when the angel told him that his wife was to have a child. The incense was a picture of the sweet prayers of God’s people ascending to him. And the offering of incense was accompanied by a praying crowd in the outer part of the temple. Many, no doubt, were praying that God would come again to redeem his people. God had heard the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and the prayers of his people Israel.

When at last her child is born, Elizabeth’s relatives want him named after his father, but she wants him to be called John, which means, ‘The Lord is gracious’. Zechariah still cannot speak, but he takes up a writing tablet and writes on it, "His name is John." At this Zechariah can speak once more and his first words expressed blessing to God.

What God had done for Elizabeth and Zechariah became the talk of their whole region as people asked one another “What then will this child be?” (Luke 1:66). But Zechariah has no doubts concerning this child’s future. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he pours out his praise to God in the form of a prophecy concerning this new-born baby. His song is full of the most wonderful imagery as it prophesies concerning John's ministry and of what God will do through the one for whom John is just the warm-up act.

Zechariah recognises that the birth of this child marks the beginning of a new work of God. God is now remembering his covenant with Abraham (1:72-73). Promises which had seemed long forgotten will now be fulfilled. This child will prepare the way for the Lord to come to the rescue of his people (1:76). God is about to restore the kingdom to his people; John will herald a new king like David who will deliver God's people from their enemies (1:69-71). As in the days of the Exodus of old, God has come to rescue his people from slavery so that they might serve him in holiness and without fear (1:74-75). Yes, God is about to do a new thing through this child – and through the child whom Mary is carrying. It will be a new dawn as the mercy and grace of God flood a dark world with the light of his presence (1:78-79). Those upon whom this light dawns will know the salvation of the Lord through the forgiveness of their sins (1:77).

I drive eastwards in the morning on my way to work. A few miles from my home, the road takes me up a steep hill which, at this time of year is gloomy, hidden from the sun. As I crest the top of the hill the rising sun hits me in the eyes and, as the road levels out, the world before me is bathed in light. It’s a dramatic experience and one that brings home these images from Scripture.

Today, as the sun rises around our suffering world, I pray that many may know the Sun of Righteousness shining upon them and that they may know his healing power. A new day has dawned. We continue to live in the dawn of that new day. We long for the time when the Day shall shine in all its brightness and fullness.

Our Father in heaven,
  may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come.
May your will be done on earth,
  as it is in heaven.

Mar 15 2019 - Numbers 13:1-2, 17-33 – The spies and their report

God had promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants. Famine had driven Jacob, his twelve sons and their families to Egypt where God had looked after them. But later they were enslaved by the Egyptians. So, after 400 years in Egypt, God had rescued his people from slavery and led them through the wilderness. Now, it seems, they are about to enter the land that God had promised to give them as an inheritance.

But before they enter the land, God tells Moses to send men from each of the tribes of Israel to go and explore Canaan and to bring back a report of what they find. They were to look at the land and assess how fertile it might be – was it capable of supporting the lives of this multitude of people. They were to look at the people who lived in the land and assess whether they would offer serious resistance to the Israelites coming in to possess the land.

What did they discover?

Maybe you have asked a family what their recent holiday was like and been confused by their responses. Perhaps the children tell you that they had a wonderful time; there were so many things to do and so many new friends to do it them with. Meanwhile the parents are telling you it was a nightmare; the hotel lacked the advertised facilities, the flights were delayed and the weather was just too hot and they got little sleep! How can people who have experienced the same holiday come back with such varied reports? Perhaps the truth was that they were looking for different things; they viewed their holiday from very different perspectives.

The same was true of the men who came back with their reports of the Promised Land. It was indeed a land "flowing with milk and honey", a fertile land which readily supported those who lived in it. Look at the size of the grapes it produces; it takes two men to carry a full bunch! But it was also a land inhabited by people who had lived there for many years and had built themselves fortified cities. Some of them seemed like giants and we were like grasshoppers in comparison.

The majority of the explorers had eyes only for the problems and told Moses that, despite its attractions, they could not possibly enter such a land and possess it. Then, one of the explorers named Caleb manages to get a word in; "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."

What had Caleb seen that the other explorers (with the exception of Joshua) had not? Despite his words, Caleb clearly had his eyes fixed not on the capability of the Israelites but on the promise of God. God who had promised them this land and who had rescued them from Egypt to bring them into this land would not fail them now. It is not because of their own abilities but because of the promise and presence of their God that they can "certainly do it."

The Apostle Paul tells the Christians in Corinth, "We live by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). Paul was not a physically strong man nor was he impressive in appearance. But because he always had in view the promises of God and was constantly aware of the presence of Christ, he managed to extend the kingdom of God around the Mediterranean world.

Father God, we pray that your promises and power may always loom large in our thoughts so that we are not quickly discouraged by the difficulties that we may face in following Christ. May your Spirit give us that same conviction that we have seen in the apostle Paul, "I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power" (Philippians 4:13, Living Bible).

Peter Misselbrook