Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 10 2013 - Luke 13:22-14:6 – Pressing on to Jerusalem

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. Some Pharisees, thinking perhaps that Jesus would make trouble for them in Jerusalem, tried to turn him back by telling him that Herod was out to kill him. But Jesus will not be dissuaded from his course of action; he is intent on the goal set before him (Luke 13:32). So he tells them, "I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!"

Jesus is fully aware of all that awaits him in Jerusalem, but he will not turn back. This was why he was sent into the world; this is the work that the Father had sent him to accomplish and he will see it through to the end. He will let nothing deflect him from the path marked out for him.

And Jesus calls us to follow him. This is not the work of a moment; it is to be the preoccupation of a lifetime. We too are to have our eyes fixed upon a goal and to refuse to let anything deflect us from it:

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

It’s easy to grow weary or to lose heart. We take our eyes off Jesus and fix them on others around us. We turn around to see how others are doing and we begin to question how they are running. That’s how a race is lost.

When some asked Jesus, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” he answered them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Luke 13:24). In other words, our primary concern must be with our own Christian life. We need to ensure that we go on following Jesus, following him closely in the path that leads to life.

This is not to say that the Christian life is basically selfish. Not at all. Jesus would not allow himself to be turned aside from Jerusalem because he was determined to endure the cross for us, with all its pain and shame. It is only as we follow him closely and faithfully that we are useful to others and able to lead them in the path of life.

But what of the question “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” Having told us to take care of our own discipleship, Jesus says, “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last” (13:29-30). There will be a great number there at the last day, gathered from every part of the world all worshiping God and praising the Lord Jesus who gave himself for us.

But there will be surprises on that day. Jesus is doubtless addressing the Jewish leaders when he says some whom they expect to have exalted places at the feast will find themselves at the back of the crowd while some whom they never expected to be there will have prominent places as displays of God’s saving grace. Nevertheless, his words challenge our own prejudices and warn us against passing quick judgments on others.

Lord Jesus, you would not turn aside from the course set out for you by your Father. Enable me to follow you and not turn back. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on you that I may not grow weary and lose heart.

Apr 10 2019 - Judges 13 – The birth of Samson

The Philistines were a seafaring people who migrated from Greece to the coastal area of the Promised Land after the time of the conquest. They do not seem to have oppressed the Israelites as the Midianites had done, at least, not during this period of Israel's history. Rather, they seemed to have been willing to live alongside them and intermarry with them. The danger for Israel was that the Philistines might dominate the land and that Israel might become assimilated into Philistine culture. With Samson, the fight back against the Philistine invasion begins.

The angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of Manoah, a woman who had been unable to have children. He promised her that she would give birth to a son who would be a special child; he is to be a Nazirite, one whose life was to be entirely devoted to God. Two of the marks of a Nazirite were abstinence from alcohol and leaving one's hair uncut. Samson's mother was therefore to abstain from alcohol while pregnant with this child – his body will not be touched by alcohol even in the womb. God plans to make this child the one who will begin to save Israel from the hands of the Philistines. 

As she recounted to her husband what had happened to her she described her visitor as "a man of God" whom she said looked like an angel. Manoah found it difficult to believe what his wife was telling him; he needed to hear it for himself. So he prayed that the "man" would visit them again. And that's just what happened. When Manoah asked the angel to tell him how the child was to be brought up, the answer he receives is, "Your wife must do all that I have told her." In other words, all that they need to know has already been told his them. The angel's words seem almost a rebuke, "Why did you not believe what your wife said to you?"

When Manoah sacrificed a young goat and some grain to the Lord in the presence of the "man of God", "the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame." Manoah now realised that this "man" had been none other than "the angel of the Lord" – the Lord himself appearing in human form. Manoah is terrified and cries out to his wife, "We are doomed to die! … We have seen God!" His wife, in effect, tells him not to be so silly, God would not have revealed these things to them just to kill them.

There seems to be nothing very special or promising about this couple from the tribe of Dan. But God plans to use them to be the parents a child who will become the champion of his people in their conflict with the Philistines. We read that from the moment this child, Samson, was born, the Spirit of the Lord was at work in him, preparing him for his life's work.

This chapter provides us with quite a build-up to the story of this a child of promise, but how will Samson live up to the calling of God upon his life? We shall soon discover in the following chapters.

We are probably all too aware that there is nothing very special about us. Nevertheless, we have a special Saviour who is the child of promise, the Lord God himself who came among us in human form. He did not come to destroy us but to bring us promises from God and to bless us. God has chosen us not because of any qualities in us but in order that he might display his grace and mercy in making us his own and in using us in his service. He has given us his Spirit to enable us to hear and respond to his call upon our lives – that we might be dedicated to God's service.

Father God, we stand amazed at your goodness and mercy. We thank you for your Son, our Saviour, in whom all your promises are given the "Yes" and "Amen". We thank you that he who came to live among us has ascended into heaven and is at your right hand interceding for us. We thank you for your Holy Spirit who has shown us the glory of Christ and led us to faith in him. Help us by that same Spirit always to be obedient to your call upon our lives.

Peter Misselbrook