Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 6 2013 - Luke 11:37-12:7 – Good looking Christians

In the closing verses of Luke 11, Jesus utters a series of woes against the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They like to put on a good outward show of piety while inwardly they are full of corruption. They are hypocrites, play-actors, those who pretend to be something they are not. Jesus challenges them saying, “You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?” (Luke 11:40). God is not satisfied with an outward show; he sees right into the heart.

Later, Jesus says to his disciples, "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" (12:1). This kind of behaviour is catching; it easily infects us.

It is natural for us to imitate the behaviour of others. God made us that way for good reasons; it’s one of the most important ways in which we learn. We imitate others from our earliest years. A baby learns to clap by watching us and imitating our clapping. Young children learn to speak by imitating the sounds we make. Later, our children learn to pray by hearing us pray. Behaviour is easily imitated. But as we grow up we can continue to behave in the way that is expected of us even when our heart is no longer in it. Our behaviour then becomes pretence. We can carry on attending church and even singing along with others long after we have ceased to worship.

There is an element of the hypocrite in all of us: we want to present our best face to those around us; there are things going on in our hearts and minds that we keep well-hidden and are glad that no-one else can see. We fear the moment when the mask may slip and we betray what we are truly like.

A while ago, Jimmy Savile was much in the news. His public face as a light hearted TV personality, eager to raise money for charity and to fix up opportunities for children had been shown up to be just that – a public face. Underneath there was a dark side of abuse and devotion to satisfying his own desires. His life turned out to be a sham. It has been a terrible illustration of Jesus’ words, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (12:2-3).

It’s good to go through the actions of Bible reading, prayer and church attendance, but outward conformity is not enough. God looks for more than imitated behaviour; he looks at the heart.

The Christian life begins with the knowledge that nothing is hidden from God; he knows us fully and intimately. We need not and cannot pretend with him. He loves and accepts us as we are; but he does not intend to leave us as we are. He cares about us too much for that; “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God… Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (12:6-7). His purpose is to transform us from the inside out; to give us a heart which is the reflection of his own heart. He who made the outside made the inside also. He does not want us simply to look the part; he wants us to be the people he created us to be.

Lord Jesus, I cannot act the part before you. You see right through me and know me as I really am. Show me my own heart and make me aware of those places where sin still skulks around within. Help me to root out all those things that displease you. Through your shed blood and risen power, make me clean from the inside. May my life shine with the beauty of your living presence for the glory of your name and the blessing of those whose lives I touch.

Apr 6 2019 - Judges 4:1-5:3 – Deborah, Barak and Jael

The Israelites had turned from the worship of the God of Abraham and had adopted gods of the Canaanites among whom they lived. Far from this securing their acceptance, they found that without the Lord they were suppressed by the Canaanites who probably feared the presence of these foreigners in their land as Pharaoh had feared their ancestors in Egypt. Like the Egyptians, the Canaanites had a well organised army with chariots and horses. The army of king Jabin included nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and was under the command of Sisera.

After twenty years of oppression, the Israelites cried out to the Lord for his help and he raised up a judge to lead them. The judge was a prophet called Deborah – Israel was to be led by a woman, chosen and equipped by God. At God's command, Deborah called upon Barak, a leader from the tribe of Naphtali, to gather together an army of ten thousand men from the northern tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun and to go out to fight against Sisera. Barak is given a promise from the Lord that Sisera, his army and his chariots will be delivered into the hands of Israel.

But Barak won't go unless Deborah goes with him; it's as if the word and promise of God are not enough for him; Deborah wants him to put himself in harm's way so, he would seem to argue, Deborah must go with him and share his fate. Deborah is ready to go with him but declares that because of his request, the honour of defeating Sisera will not be his; the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.

And that's what happens. Sisera went out to meet the army of Barak and was routed. As his men were being put to the sword, Sisera jumped from his chariot and fled on foot from the battlefield. He took refuge in the tent of Heber the Kenite since Heber was a friend of Jabin, the Canaanite king of Hazor whom Sisera served. Heber was evidently not at home, but Sisera was welcomed into the tent by his wife Jael who gave the exhausted man milk to drink and a blanket under which to rest. Soon he was asleep, at which point Jael took a tent peg and a stone for a mallet and drove the peg through Sisera's temple and into the ground below. Sisera was dead, killed at the hands of a woman.

In Israelite society, women were not expected to take a lead, but God raised up Deborah to lead Israel and uses a foreign woman to destroy the commander of the Canaanite army. Ironically, it is only Barak who gets a mention among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11:32, even though his faith appears rather wobbly in this account of him in Judges. But the clear lesson here is that God does things in his own way – in unexpected ways – to demonstrate his own power.

Do we have clear and fixed views about the way in which God has to work to establish his kingdom? Do we have fixed ideas about leadership among the people of God? God may confound our small opinions by working in ways we do not expect and by raising up leaders whom we would not have chosen. God is not limited by our small expectations, not will he confine himself to channels of our choosing. He acts as he pleases and always to bring glory to his own name. So are we ready to recognise those through whom God chooses to work and display his own grace and power in our own day – whoever they may be?

Sovereign God, shatter my rigid expectations. May your Spirit open my eyes to discern those in whom and through whom you choose to work for the establishment of your kingdom. Help me gladly to play my own subordinate part in your work, remembering always that "yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever."

Peter Misselbrook