Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 25 2013 - Luke 6:39-7:10 – Can the blind lead the blind?

Some years ago we were on holiday in the south of Cornwall in an area that was new to us. Our eldest daughter had come down to join us for part of the holiday. One day we took a trip out in two cars trying to find the coast road. We ended up down a lane that took us to the sea, but simply ended up on the beach rather than going along the coast. Nothing daunted, our daughter now decided that it was her turn to take charge. With a great cry of "I'll show you the way; follow me!" she set off in one of the cars leaving us to follow. After retracing our route back up to a junction she took us off down another lane. This one took us into a coastal village where we tried vainly to weave our way through the holiday crowds before realising that this too was a dead end and having to turn back. It's an incident that has become part of our family folk lore as we remind our daughter of her hasty words, "I'll show you the way; follow me!"

All of that was part of our holiday fun. How much more serious is such behaviour when we claim to be able to lead others safely through the maze of life. We need to be careful that we are not blind guides lest both we, and those following us, come to ruin.

How can we avoid such a fate? One way, of course, is never to seek to direct others. If they are lost and ask for help we could just tell them we've no idea of the way – they're on their own. But Jesus counsels a far better way. In the verse immediately following his warning concerning blind guides Jesus says, "The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher" (Luke 6:40). We must be careful not to claim too much for ourselves; we are not the master, we are only students. Nevertheless, if we learn well from the master we become like him. The more we learn from Jesus and the closer we follow him, the more we are able to act as guides to others. He is the way, but knowing him and following him, we too can become signposts to the path of life rather than leading others down dead-ends.

But secondly, to become a good teacher we need to be a good learners from other students of Christ. I was reading this morning of Apollos in Acts 18:24-28. He was a man with a passion to teach the Scriptures and had some knowledge of Jesus. Apollos spoke boldly in the synagogue in Ephesus but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak, they realised that there were significant gaps in his knowledge; “they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18 26). Apollos did not resent this tuition but rather welcomed it; he was a passionate teacher but he had a teachable spirit. It was this readiness to listen and learn that made him all the more useful in pursuing his passion of teaching others about Christ. If we would lead others well we need always to be ready to learn from others and never think that others must always listen to us.

Lord Jesus, help me to learn of you and to follow closely in your footsteps. Give me a teachable spirit not only when I study your Word on my own but also in listening to others as they share the things you have taught them. So may my words and actions direct others to follow you in the path that leads to life. Help me to know that I can only lead others in pathways with which I have become familiar.

Mar 25 2019 - Deuteronomy 7:1-26 – God's promise to drive out the nations

The Israelites were about to enter the land God had promised to give them. But this was not an empty land; it was inhabited by a range of peoples, seven of which, "seven nations larger and stronger than you", are mentioned by name. The Israelites are commanded to drive them out of the land and to destroy every mark that they had inhabited the land before Israel entered it.

This sounds all too much like genocide – the types of violent warfare against those not of one's own culture, tribe or religion that we have witnessed in our own lifetime and which have stained recent history. It is also a chapter which seems to find uncomfortable echoes in the history of the relationship between the Israelis and Palestinians over the last sixty years. If we fail to feel troubled when reading this chapter we have surely isolated the Bible's message from the realities of the world in which we live.

What are we to make of this chapter? It is with some hesitancy that I offer the following comments.

Firstly, it is clear that the nations currently in possession of the land were marked by sinful and idolatrous practices which were offensive to God. Many centuries earlier God had told Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in a country not their own but that he would come and rescue them and bring them back to this land God had promised Abraham. God would do this only when the "sin of the Amorites" had "reached its full strength" (Genesis 15:17). In other words, God would use the invading Israelites as agents of his judgment upon a sinful and rebellious people. As God had come down in judgment upon Egypt to free his people from captivity, so now he would act in judgment upon the Canaanites in order to give his people the land he had promised them.

God is concerned that his people will not be led into adopting any of the idolatrous practices of the nations they are about to dispossess. As the Old Testament story unfolds we shall see just how real this temptation was to the Israelites. So they are not to make alliances with the people of the land, nor to enter into marriages with them. They are to destroy their altars and sacred places and to burn their idols. This is not about racism or the maintenance of racial purity. Rahab from Jericho and Ruth the Moabite were later to marry into the family of Israel and to become ancestors of King David and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Foreigners were to be treated with kindness within Israel and those who wanted to number themselves with the people of God welcomed into his family. The concern was to maintain the distinctive character of the Israelites, "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession" (v.6).

Nor should we think that God favours the Israelites over all the other nations and turns a blind eye to their sins. He chose Abraham and his descendants that through them all nations might be blessed. But if they rebel against him and become like the nations whom they are about to dispossess, God will come against them in judgment and will send them into exile from the land that he is now giving them – they will suffer the same fate as the Canaanites. God's concern is to create for himself a people who will honour him.

There is much more that could be said in the light of the unease we feel when reading of the conquest of Canaan, but above all we need to apply these lessons to ourselves. God calls us also to be a holy people, a people devoted to Christ and his service; a people who do not allow ourselves to become conformed to the patterns of behaviour of the world around us (Romans 12:1-2). We need to be careful how we live.

Father God we thank you for the Lord Jesus who came to save us from our sins and rescue us from the wrath to come. By your Spirit, help us to follow him faithfully and joyfully. As you have blessed us beyond measure, help us to be a blessing to others that they too may be rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of your beloved Son.

Peter Misselbrook