Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 28 2013 - Luke 8:4-21 – Perseverance

In Luke's account of the parable of the sower Jesus says that the seed that falls into good soil and produces a good crop "stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop" (Luke 8:15).

Perseverance may not be a popular virtue in these days of fast food and instant results. I get annoyed waiting for my computer to boot up and be ready to use. I get impatient waiting for a kettle to boil. I don't like waiting in queues. But many precious things are produced only with time. The pearl takes time to grow in an oyster. Nor does the Christ-like life appear overnight; it's the result of years of listening, learning and following the Master. It's the result of spiritual formation and layer upon layer of character formation.

I have tried to play a variety of musical instruments in my lifetime. The piano I found too challenging as it required you to read and play several notes at the same time. That seemed to me quite ridiculous. I then tried the clarinet for a while before having a go at the saxophone. I made some progress on these instruments but never gained any real skill. I was not prepared to devote the time to them that they demanded. Now I deeply regret it and envy those who seem able to make music effortlessly for their own pleasure and to the delight of those who hear them. Their effortless skill is the result of many many hours of serious training – and they retain their skill only by continued practice.

In his book, Virtue Reborn, Tom Wright retells the story of Captain Sullenberger’s crash landing of an Airbus A320 on the Hudson River on January 15th 2009. It was a remarkable piece of flying at a moment of great danger and immense responsibility. Tom Wright’s point is that Captain Sullenberger was able to make good decisions quickly and under great pressure because of a lifetime of training and experience. These had forged habits and character that enabled him to respond well under pressure and to act promptly and appropriately in a way that led to the preserving of all the lives in his charge.

The Christian life is never effortless – it always requires perseverance. But years of learning from the Lord Jesus and practicing the life of the kingdom build character and develop habits of godliness which make the life of faithful discipleship “second nature”. This depth of good soil is evident in a fruitful life – a life that continues to bear fruit for the kingdom even in adverse conditions. But the call to perseverance reminds us that we can never relax our guard and deceive ourselves into thinking that we have arrived. We need to go on learning and following and practicing the life of faith if we are to act and react well amid the pressures of our daily lives.

But what will enable us to keep going and not give up – as I did with the piano, clarinet and saxophone? In 1 Corinthians 13:7, Paul writes that “love … always perseveres.” It’s no hardship to keep company with one whom we love. Christ’s great love for us draws out our love for him, a love that will keep us following him and bearing fruit for him.

Lord Jesus, you have loved me with an everlasting love, a love that does not give up on me even when I grow cold. Stir up the fire of my love for you that I may keep on following and serving. Tune my heart that I may play my part in the orchestra of your people, sounding out the great symphony of the kingdom to the delight and blessing of others.

Mar 28 2019 - Joshua 2:1-24 – Rahab and the spies

Forty years earlier, Joshua had been one of twelve men sent to spy out the land which God had promised his people. Now Joshua sends two spies across the river Jordan to spy out the land and particularly the city of Jericho. This spying expedition is not to discover whether the land is all that God had promised – that had been established forty years earlier – but to prepare for the battle ahead. What would they encounter as they crossed the river and approached the city?

When the two men arrived in Jericho they, "entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there" (v.1). No doubt they reasoned that two strange men entering the house of a prostitute would not attract any especial attention. But somehow, whether from their clothes or their voices, these men were recognised to be Israelites and the news was quickly passed to the king of Jericho.

The king's messengers were sent to Rahab demanding the Israelites be produced. Rahab, perhaps hearing the approach of the messengers, hid the men under a pile of flax laid out to dry on her flat roof. She then sent the messengers off by telling them that the men had already left before the city gate was locked; they should hurry off in pursuit if they are to catch them.

Now we learn why Rahab showed such kindness towards the spies. The fame of the Israelites had gone before them. The people of Canaan, or at least of Jericho, have heard of the way these people miraculously crossed the Red Sea when they left Egypt and had heard of the victories they gained in battle against the kings of the Amorites on the other side of the Jordan. The people of Jericho and its surrounding lands are afraid that they will be next. Rahab is convinced that Yahweh, the God of the Israelites "is God in heaven above and on the earth below" (v.11). Rahab is convinced that this mighty God will give the land to the Israelites – they will not be able to withstand his power.

Rahab may not have been alone in drawing these conclusions, but while others may be preparing for a battle, she is ready to submit to Yahweh, the God of heaven and earth. She wants her and her family to be numbered among the people of Israel.

It is easy to suppose that Rahab's request for mercy when the Israelites invade was a simple concern for self-preservation, but subsequent events suggest that it was more than that. Rahab is recorded among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 (v. 31) and is referred to as "righteous" by James (James 2:25). She married an Israelite called Salmon and together they bore a son called Boaz who appears a key figure and godly man in the Book of Ruth. So she became an ancestor of King David and of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). In this chapter of Joshua we witness the awakening faith of Rahab marking the beginning of her notable history among the people of God.

The spies promise that Rahab and her family will be spared, asking only that she says nothing of all this to the other inhabitants of Jericho and that she hangs a red cord in the window of her house to ensure that it is easily identified and spared when the Israelites invade the land. Rahab's house was built into the city wall and the spies were let down from a window and so escaped the city. The spies returned to Joshua with the news, "The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us" (v.24).

Father God, we recognise that you are the living God, the only God, maker of heaven and earth and of everything in them. Gladly we trust in you and in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We rejoice to be numbered among your people. Help us to spread the news of your mighty saving work and so encourage others to come and join your people.

Peter Misselbrook