Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 3 2013 - Luke 10:13-37 – Compassion

It is difficult to choose which verse or theme to comment on this morning – so I shall take two.

When the 70/72 return from their mission, they are full of excitement at what they have accomplished saying, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name" (Luke 10:17). Jesus reflects their excitement when he affirms that they have been instrumental in defeating Satan's stranglehold on God's world and unseating him from his position of power. When Jesus says, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (10:18) I believe that he is saying that their ministry anticipates the day when he will be utterly unseated and destroyed. Similarly, when Jesus adds, "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy" (10:19) he is surely echoing the promise of Genesis 3:15 – the promise that the ancient Deceiver will be crushed.

These are heady words and must have added to the disciples' excitement – they were now in the business of destroying Satan's kingdom. But Jesus then adds, "However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (10:20). Jesus knows that there will be days when demons do not seem to flee before them; days when opposition may grow rather than be crushed; days when they will face persecution and even death. But there are some things that can never change and can never be taken away from them. They are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and he has guaranteed them a place with him in his glorious kingdom. It is this hope that must sustain them – and us – in the difficult days, as well as in the days when Satan seems to flee before us. It is this that must be our joy.

But secondly, I cannot pass over the parable of "The Good Samaritan" without comment. Jesus is responding to one of the Jewish legal experts who asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life. The man knows that he is to love God and to love his neighbour, but he wants a clearer definition of his neighbour – he does not want to squander his love on the wrong person. Jesus tells the parable of a man (ethnic origin unknown) who is set upon by robbers and left for dead on the Jericho road. A priest going along the road passes by on the other side; so also does a Levite. A Samaritan passing by sees the man and has compassion on him. He takes him to an inn where he looks after him and ensures his recovery. This man demonstrates what it means to be a neighbour – and demonstrates the character and conduct Jesus calls us to display when he concludes, "Go and do likewise" (10:37).

The difference between the travellers on the Jericho road is that the priest and the Levite were concerned primarily for themselves. The Samaritan, however, had compassion on the man left naked, beaten and half dead (I do think "compassion" is a far better word than "pity"). He was deeply moved with concern for the man (just as we read that Jesus was moved with compassion for the crowds). It was a compassion that moved him to act and to rescue the man at his own trouble and expense.

Jesus calls us to follow him. He calls us to have a heart of compassion for those in need; a heart that reflects the compassion that brought him from glory to seek and to save the lost. He calls us to be more concerned about others than we are for ourselves. It's all too easy to suffer compassion fatigue and to return to self-preoccupation or even self-pity. We need our compassion to be continually renewed through knowing and living closely with the one who gave himself for us.

Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

Lord Jesus, teach me what it means to follow you; and help me to follow truly, closely, constantly and joyfully.

Apr 3 2019 - Joshua 23:1-16 – Joshua's farewell

Yesterday we saw that the disobedience and deceit of one family resulted in the inability of Israel's army to defeat the inhabitants of the land. When that disobedience was dealt with and the Israelites listened to the Lord, they were able to capture the city of Ai (Joshua 8). They had to learn that it was not by their own power that the land would be theirs but only by God's power, by his presence with his people and by his gift.

The following chapters of Joshua almost give the impression that all of the inhabitants of Canaan were quickly defeated. Joshua 11:23 states, "Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions." Chapter 12 summarises how Moses defeated the Canaanite kings who lived on the east of the Jordan and Joshua defeated those who lived on the west. Chapters 13 to 22 then describe how the land was divided between the various tribes of Israel.

But we should not forget Moses' words to the Israelites, recorded in Deuteronomy 7:22, "The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you." Joshua may have won notable battles against the kings of Canaan and may have made detailed plans for the partition of the land, but full possession would take many more years of struggle – as we shall see in the books of Judges and Kings. Victories have been won, but God's kingdom had not yet been established in the earth.

Now we near the end of the book and come to Joshua's farewell. He knows that, like Moses before him, he is "about to go the way of all the earth" (23:14). Joshua reminds the elders and leaders of Israel that it was the Lord who gave this land into their hands and it would be the Lord who would enable the various tribes to take possession of what is promised them (23:2-5). If they are to enter into their inheritance they will need to be obedient to God's word, given them through Moses (v. 6). They need to be a people distinctively different from the peoples living around them and to be wholly and exclusively devoted to the Lord: "be very careful to love the Lord your God" (23:11).

In love God chose Abraham and promised to bless him and make him the source of blessing to all nations. Driving the other nations out of the land may not seem much of a blessing. But the Israelites are warned that if they become like the nations whose lands they are possessing, they too will be driven from God's land (23:15-16). There is no favouritism with God; he had chosen Israel that they might model what it means to be a people who know and serve God, to be blessed and be a blessing. Those numbering themselves with the God of Israel, whatever their background and nationality, will share in that blessing. Those turning their back on God, whatever their pedigree, will have no part in his kingdom.

Jesus, our greater Joshua, has won the definitive battle over the kingdom of this world. He calls us to live by every word that has come from his mouth: to love him, to listen to him and to follow him. He calls us to live lives distinctively different from those around us; not to be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world but to be transformed as our minds are renewed by his life-giving Spirit. He pours out his blessing on an obedient people that we might be the means of bringing his blessing to others. We are to be engaged in a takeover of this, God's world, not with sword, firearms or violence but with the conquering power of suffering love. Only in this way shall we possess the inheritance that God has promised his people. This is the means by which the kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ.

Father God, it is our daily prayer that your kingdom may come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Help us then to live as children of the kingdom and as ambassadors for the kingdom so that its boundaries may be extended and its glories increased until the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

Peter Misselbrook