Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 22 2013 - Luke 21:1-28 – Not a hair of your head will perish

In Luke 21:12-18 Jesus says:

They will seize you and persecute you. They will … put you in prison, and you will be brought before … governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed … and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.

Among the several books I have on the go at the moment is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten-Boom. Corrie, her sister Betsie and their father were betrayed by a fellow Dutchman and imprisoned by the Germans for sheltering Jews and for dealing in stolen ration cards. Their 84-year-old father, Caspar, died after ten days in prison. Corrie and Betsie continued in prison and later were transferred to the concentration camp at Ravensbrook. During all of their imprisonment they suffered cruel and spiteful treatment. Yet Betsie always pitied the guards who treated them so cruelly, pitying them for the darkness that possessed their souls and praying that she and Corrie might be able to teach them to love rather than hate.

Jesus’ words seem to contain a strange contradiction. He says both that “they will put some of you to death” and, “But not a hair of your head will perish.” Betsie died in Ravensbrook but Corrie survived to tell their story. How is it true of Caspar and Betsie that not a hair of their heads will perish? It is true because even in death they are safe. Even though they die, they have won life. They will know the fullness of resurrection life while many of their tormentors will perish.

For at the heart of this paradox is the death of Jesus we have just celebrated at Easter. He was betrayed, tortured and subjected to the most cruel of deaths. Yet his dying marks the death of death, and his rising the beginning of resurrection life for all who trust in him. Because he died for us and is risen for us, we can trust him no matter what circumstances we face and no matter what others may do to us.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).

In a world marked by cruelty and hatred, we need to pray, as Betsie taught Corrie to pray, that the Lord would teach us not to hate but to love those who despise and mistreat us. Such love can transform a twisted world and bring a foretaste of the resurrection world to come.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love for me that has determined to embrace me as your child. Lord Jesus, thank you that you loved me and gave yourself for me and that you continue to intercede for me in glory. Spirit of the living God, thank you for your witness in my heart that I am not an orphan but a cherished member of the family of God. In the light of these things, help me to meet every situation I face with confidence and joy. Help me to pray and live gladly for others knowing that I can trust myself to your care.

Apr 22 2019 - 1 Samuel 3 – The call of Samuel

We are told that the word of the Lord was rare in the days of Eli. It seemed as if God had given up speaking to a people who would not listen to him. So when the Lord called to Samuel he did not realise who was speaking and ran to Eli, thinking it was the old priest who was calling to him. The narrative then takes on the character of a pantomime with Samuel dashing to and fro until Eli realised that it was the Lord calling to Samuel and told him to respond by saying, "Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:9).

The word of the Lord to Samuel echoes the word previously spoken to Eli by an unnamed prophet (2:27-36). God's judgment is about to fall on Eli's family in such a dramatic fashion that all Israel will hear of it and be startled. Samuel passed on the message to Eli only with great reluctance and when forced to do so. This word from God seemed dark and negative, but the Lord will have much more to say to Samuel in the days ahead and much more to do through him, for we read, "The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word" (vv. 19-21).

Samuel is the last of the judges, but, unlike most who had gone before him, he is no localised leader. The whole of Israel (from Dan in the North to Beersheba in the south) is united under his rule. So the nation is being prepared for the arrival of a king.

The Lord Jesus is not only our king and priest (as we saw in our last passage from Samuel), he is also our prophet. He is the one through whom God has most fully revealed his heart and mind. He is the Word made flesh. He is the one in whom all that God has previously said now finds its focus and its great 'Yes!' The writer of the letter to the Hebrews makes this point when he writes:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Jesus is continually addressing us through his word and by his Spirit. He calls us to hear his voice and to follow him. If we do not listen to his call to follow him, we may find that he ceases to speak to us; "How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation" (Hebrews 2:3). The word of the Lord will become rare in our hearing so that we soon cease to recognise his voice at all. "Deafness" towards God is surely inviting him to respond in judgment.

Father God, we thank you that you are not a God who remains silent. You have revealed yourself through your word and especially in the Lord Jesus Christ. You have shown us the glory of your grace rather than the severity of your judgment. And you continue to speak to us by your Spirit as he writes your word upon our hearts and prompts us to respond. Help us always to be ready to hear your voice. May we have the same spirit as young Samuel who said, "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening." Keep us from closing our ears to you. May we let nothing of what you have to say to us fall to the ground. Help us rather to proclaim the good news that we have heard to others that they also may hear and believe.

Peter Misselbrook