Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 22 2019 - Numbers 27:12-23 – Joshua appointed as Moses' successor

Today we come to the last of our readings in the Book of Numbers and to the end of Moses' leadership of the Israelites.

You will remember that Moses had lost his temper with the Israelites who were complaining over a lack of water. Instead of speaking to a rock as God had commanded, he had struck it twice with the staff of God to obtain the water God promised to provide. The disobedience of the Israelites had resulted in them being unable to enter the Promised Land; all the adults who had been rescued from Egypt – with two exceptions – ended up dying in the desert. Because of Moses' disobedience, he also will die without entering the Promised Land, though he is permitted to look at the land from a nearby mountaintop.

There are many instances of notable servants of God who were honoured and commended by God but who, towards the end of their lives, fell away tragically. Remember Noah, Moses, David and Solomon. They stand as salutary lessons to us. They remind us of the need to go on running the race set before us and to finish well and finish strong.

It must have been a great disappointment to Moses on the borders of the Promised Land to be reminded of his rebellion and its cost. He was aware that, at least at that moment in the desert, he had failed to lead the people of God as he should. He had become like them in his anger with the Lord rather than setting them an example of unfailing obedience. So, as he faces his death, his great concern is that another leader might be found for the people of God. He wants someone who will be a faithful shepherd of the Israelites.

God tells Moses that Joshua, son of Nun is the man he has chosen to succeed Moses as leader of the Israelites. Joshua had been the leader of the Israelite army when they had defeated the Amalekites. He had also been Moses' assistant (Exodus 24:13), tutored in the task of leadership by Moses himself. Joshua was also one of the explorers of the Promised Land. He and Caleb were the only explorers who returned urging the Israelites to go in and possess the land; God had promised it to them and he would give it to them. Joshua seems to be the ideal successor to Moses.

But if Moses had failed in some areas of leadership, how could Joshua hope to live up to the task? It will only be by the help and enabling of the Spirit of God.

"Jesus" is the Greek version of the name "Joshua". Joshua, by God's help, did a good job leading the people of God. But we have a far greater Joshua. Jesus possesses the fulness of God's Spirit. He never rebelled against God but was always perfectly obedient to his heavenly Father, finishing the work entrusted to him by the Father and finishing well. In his earthly ministry he had compassion on the crowds because they were like "sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36, cf. Numbers 27:17). He came to seek and to save these lost sheep; he even laid down his life for them.

There is no-one else like Jesus. He alone is able to be a faithful shepherd over all whom the Father has entrusted to his care. He will not permit any of them to be snatched from his hand or to be lost but will bring them each one into the inheritance God has promised them. We shall not simply gaze at it from afar, we will enter it in triumph through Christ who has gone to prepare a place for us.

Father God, we thank you for the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the sheep. Left to ourselves we would soon stray away from you. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and, strengthened by your Spirit, to go on following and serving him. Use us to bring many others into the great flock of the people of God.

Mar 22 2013 - Luke 5:12-28 – We have seen remarkable things today

Jesus continued to perform remarkable miracles. A man with leprosy was cleansed and the news about what Jesus was doing spread around the area. Great crowds gathered seeking to be healed. Jesus tried to get away for quiet times of prayer, but he was not left undisturbed for long.

As he was teaching one day with a crowd around him listening, some friends brought a paralysed man for healing. Crowds filled the house where Jesus was teaching and gathered tight around the door; there was no way through. The friends of the paralysed man hauled him up onto the roof and, making a hole, lowered the paralysed man to the ground at Jesus feet. Jesus healed the man and sent him on his way carrying the mat. The mat that had previously carried him around was now triumphantly carried away by him.

Luke records the reaction of the crowds, both to this healing and to Jesus' demonstration that he had power to forgive sins; "Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, 'We have seen remarkable things today'" (Luke 5:26).

But the things Jesus was doing were not embraced as good news by all who gathered around him. Already the scribes and Pharisees were finding fault with Jesus. He seemed to claim to himself powers which belong to God alone and they were deeply shocked and offended by him.

Not that this stopped Jesus. The healing of the paralysed man is immediately followed in Luke by another equally remarkable miracle. The narrative continues, "After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. 'Follow me,' Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him" (5:27-28). Tax collectors were renowned for their love of money and could often make themselves relatively rich at the expense of those they fleeced. Yet, at a mere word, Levi/Matthew leaves his living to follow Jesus. Jesus' ability to transform the heart and to draw people to follow him is equally as remarkable as his ability to heal sickness. His call to Levi is quite as much a demonstration that he has the power to forgive sin and to give a new start to those who seem to be without hope – both to themselves and to others.

Jesus continues to touch and transform lives. But we can sometimes be suspicious and dismissive of the things which God is doing through the risen Saviour. The first Jewish Christians found it hard to understand that God had accepted Gentiles simply through faith in Christ; many wanted to impose Jewish customs on them before they would accept them.

I have just been reading a similar story concerning David Livingstone. It seems that, in conventional terms, he was not a very successful missionary. He had only one African convert, Sechele, the chief of the Bakwena tribe in what is now Botswana. But Livingstone soon wrote off his convert as a backslider because he would not abandon his secondary wives. Sechele pleaded with Livingstone, "Do not give me up because of this. I shall never give up Jesus. You and I will stand before him together." His pleas did not move Livingstone, but after he left, Sechele led church services for his own people. He taught them to read and the Bible became popular. Gradually the Bakwena became Christians. Sechele then travelled hundreds of miles as a missionary to other tribes and many more were drawn to Christ through his ministry.

We need eyes to see the remarkable things that God is doing in our day and to give him all the glory and the praise.

Father God, remove the misty spectacles of prejudice and party spirit from my eyes that I may see clearly what you are doing in the world and rejoice at every evidence of your grace. Lord Jesus, give me a greater measure of your Spirit and be pleased to do remarkable things in me and through me.

Peter Misselbrook