Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 12 2013 - John 7:1-31 – His hour had not yet come

This first half of John 7 is full of tensions and drama. Jesus told his brothers that he would not go up to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, but later he does go up, arriving in the middle of the feast. John tells us that Jesus went up secretly, yet he is then found teaching openly in the Temple and drawing the attention of the Jewish authorities. John tells us that the people were amazed at Jesus' teaching since he had had no formal tuition, but the next minute Jesus is accusing them of trying to kill him. Everything seems to be in a muddle. Tensions are building but not quite coming to a head.

And in all of this there seems to be tension in the mind of Jesus himself. He appears to want to avoid confrontation but then seems to provoke it. These are tensions that find their final resolution in Gethsemane where Jesus longs to avoid the cross but yields himself to the will of his Father. Then Jesus will yield himself also to the will of the Jewish leaders. At the moment, his time has not yet come (John 7:6, 30), but his time is coming.

Our lives also are full of unresolved tensions. I find it rather ironical that the opening verses of Ecclesiastes 3 were turned into a pop song. The writer of that book was not celebrating the changing seasons of life but underlining the frustration of it all. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build” (3:1-3). Life appears to be full of contradictions: what is planted at one moment is rooted up in the next; what is built through the painful labour of many years may be torn down in a moment. No wonder the writer concludes, “What do workers gain from their toil?” (3:9).

The writer continues, “I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (3:10-11). The word translated here in the NIV as ‘eternity’ really means ‘the whole thing’. Beyond the confusion of changing times and moments we long to understand the big picture – to see God’s plan and purpose from beginning to end. And we long to see where we fit into it all and how the various seasons of our lives have played a part in the working out of God’s great purpose.

Jesus’ time was coming. He is the one at the centre of God’s purposes. His death and resurrection mark the end of a world characterised by vanity or frustration and the beginning of God’s new creation. And because of Christ, the time is coming for each one of us when all conflict and tension will cease and we shall live in a world marked by peace – a world of Shalom.

It's hard living in the "not yet" of this present world. But it is here that we are called to follow Jesus and live for him. And in it all, he walks with us and leads us, for he has walked this way before.

Father God, thank you that in the fullness of time you sent your Son into the world to redeem us from slavery and frustration and bring us into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Risen Lord Jesus, help me by your Spirit to live well in this present world with all its joys and sorrows, dreams, disappointments and regrets. Help me to live the life of the kingdom as I look forward to the day when your kingdom shall come in all its fullness.

May 12 2019 - Psalm 61:1-62:8 – I call as my heart grows faint

In Psalm 61 David cries out for God to help him. We are not given any information about the context of this psalm, but in the schedule of our readings it comes during David's flight from Jerusalem before the rebellion of his own son, Absalom. This may not have been when this psalm was written, but it fits nicely into this context.

David recognises that God has been very good over the years. God had protected him against his enemies and had been his refuge. David longs to dwell again in God's presence, in God's "tent", and to take shelter under his wings – these could be poetic expressions of his longing to be back in Jerusalem. David longs to be restored to God's favour.

But right now, David feels that he is far from God; he calls out in prayer to him "from the ends of the earth" as his "heart grows faint". He is aware of his own weakness and vulnerability and longs to know that he is surrounded by God's strength and protective might. He prays that he would be restored to his throne – that he might be able to reign over God's people for many years to come. If only God would hear and answer him then he "will ever sing in praise of your name and fulfil my vows day after day."

Psalm 62 does not tell us that all David's prayers have been answered but it does express a transition from desperate cries for help to peaceful trust. David has found that he can rest secure in God's care for him. There are still those who are intent on toppling him from his high position, his place of power, and David is content to acknowledge that he has no strength to prevent it; he is a "leaning wall" and "tottering fence" – these might have been scornful descriptions uttered by his enemies, but David is quite ready to adopt them. He knows that his security and hope lie not in himself but in God. David has found rest in God who is his mighty rock, his refuge and his salvation and this gives him the confidence that, "I shall never be shaken" (62:2).

David turns his experience of trusting God in difficult circumstances into testify to others, urging them also to seek God's face in prayer and discover that God is their refuge also (62:8).

Have you ever faced situations that threaten to overwhelm you? Maybe it is the loss of someone you loved and to whom you had looked for strength and support. Maybe it has been the loss of a job you enjoyed, which provided you with income, friendship and status. Maybe it has been the shattering of your hopes for something you believed that God was going to give you or do for you. Maybe you cried out to God in prayer looking for a resolution to the problems you were facing but nothing seemed to change. Have you ever discovered at such a time that God himself was your strength and refuge, your rock and your salvation? Have you ever found that, though outward circumstances may not immediately change, you have been enabled to rest in God knowing that he will never fail you?

We can trust God, even when everything else seems to be taken away from us, even when our prayers for help seem to go unanswered. He gave his Son for our salvation; he loves us and will never abandon us. We can rest in his care.

Father God, we thank you that we can trust you in all things. Help us to know that our safety and security lie neither in our outward circumstances, which can so easily change, nor in ourselves for we are all too aware of our own weakness, but in you and your unfailing goodness and great love for us. By the power of your Holy Spirit, strengthen our faith, help us to fix our eyes on the Lord Jesus and fill us with joy and peace in believing. Help us to encourage others through our testimony to your goodness and unfailing grace. 

Peter Misselbrook