Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 18 2013 - John 10:1-21 – The Good Shepherd

The depiction of the leaders of God’s people as unfaithful shepherds is not uncommon in the Old Testament prophets. Jeremiah accuses them of destroying and scattering God’s flock (Jeremiah 23:1-2). They are shepherds who have led the flock astray so that they have wandered off into desert places and become prey to attackers (Jeremiah 50:6). Ezekiel goes further in accusing the shepherds of Israel of slaughtering and feeding themselves on the flock (Ezekiel 34:1-10). In both of these prophetic pictures, the Lord declares that he will come to rescue and shepherd his own flock (Jeremiah 23:3; 50:19; Ezekiel 34:11-16).

No doubt Jesus had such passages in mind when, by way of contrast, he spoke of himself as the good shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. He is the one who leads the sheep into abundant pastures so that they enjoy life to the full (John 10:10). He is the Lord, come to rescue and shepherd his own flock.

Ironically, their life comes at the cost of his death. Jesus does not simply say that he is willing to lay down his life for the sheep, but that he will lay down his life for them. He has the power to lay it down – no one takes his life from him – and he has the power to take it up again. He is the good shepherd in his death – laying down his life for the sheep. He is the great shepherd by his resurrection life (Hebrews 13:20-21) – still leading, protecting and providing for the sheep (Psalm 23, cf. Isaiah 40:11), so that they will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

As the good shepherd, Jesus "calls his own sheep by name and leads them out" (10:3). He calls them by name; he knows each one, values each one, cares for each one. And they in turn know him; "he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice" (10:4). These words are more than incidentals of the illustration that Jesus is using, for he then goes on to speak plainly, saying, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father" (10:14).

To be a Christian is not merely to assent to a set of doctrines; it is to know and follow Christ. Even more precious, it is to know that we are known by him, owned by him and loved by him. It is to be drawn into the inner circle – the embrace – of the life of God.

What are the implications of Jesus' words for daily discipleship? First and foremost, we have the assurance that he does not call us to go anywhere where he does not go first; we are called always to follow, always to be with him. But secondly, it reminds us of our need to listen and to follow. We live in a world of a thousand clamouring voices; we need spiritual discernment to hear and discern the voice of Christ and to follow him (see the contrast in 10:4-5). It is in following his call that we find life in all its fullness (10:10).

Above the voices of the world around me,
my hopes and dreams, my cares and loves and fears,
the long-awaited call of Christ has found me,
the voice of Jesus echoes in my ears:
`I gave my life to break the cords that bind you,
I rose from death to set your spirit free;
turn from your sins and put the past behind you,
take up your cross and come and follow me.'

Lord Jesus, help me to hear your voice today and follow you closely. Restore my soul and lead me in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.

May 18 2019 - 1 Kings 3 – Solomon's wisdom

Solomon began his reign with the violent destruction of those who might threaten his power from within his kingdom. He then sought to ensure the security of his kingdom from foreign invasion through an alliance with the king of Egypt whose daughter he took as a wife. Solomon is behaving like a king of the nations.

Verse three of this chapter provides a strangely mixed verdict on this man: "Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places." It is easy for us to be critical of him – "How could he truly love the Lord and walk according to God's instructions while taking foreign wives who worshipped other gods and sacrificing at sites which all too often had been devoted to the worship of Baal?" – but we need to examine our own hearts and to ask if we had been given a position of power like that of Solomon, how might we have behaved?

Even though Solomon was worshipping at the high places, his worship seems to have been directed to the Lord. At Gibeon, where Solomon had offered extravagant sacrifices to the Lord, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." Be honest with yourself, what would you have asked for? What shaped Solomon's life was not so much his love as the Lord's love for him – Jedidiah.

Solomon is aware that he has been given responsibilities and tasks that exceed his own ability. He has been made king over the people of God and feels as ill equipped as a child. He has been entrusted with the work of building a temple fit for the Creator of heaven and earth. How will he manage to do these tasks well? He knows he is not able to do them in his own strength. So Solomon asks the Lord for wisdom – for God's presence and help in all he has to do.

The Lord was pleased with Solomon's request and grants him the wisdom he needed. But God also promised him riches and honour surpassing any other contemporary king. The wisdom and splendour of Solomon will become proverbial.

The incident with the two prostitutes shows the nature of the wisdom granted Solomon – wisdom to make good practical decisions; "All Israel ... held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice" (v. 28). Much of Solomon's wisdom will be recorded in the Book of Proverbs.

Solomon had wisdom to rule and to advise others, but seemed to have lacked the wisdom to govern his own life well. He allowed the world around him and its pattern of kingship to shape his own behaviour. He also left a bad legacy to his children.

We have a superior king. King Jesus is one whose wisdom surpasses that of Solomon (Luke 11:31); in him "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3). He was filled with the Spirit of God beyond all measure. He not only loved God his Father but was perfectly obedient to all that the Father had given him to do. He saved us from our sins and made us his own. He "has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). We are to be filled with his Spirit; given wisdom by and from him that will shape our lives to be like his beautiful life. This is the wonderful legacy which Jesus has for all his children.

Lord Jesus, you have the wisdom that makes fools of the wise of this world. By your Spirit, transform us by the renewing of our minds that we may think as you think, love as you love and do what you would have us do. May the world be in awe of you and be drawn to bow the knee to you and own you as their Lord and King. May our lives, filled with your Spirit and wisdom be used to attract others to you.

Peter Misselbrook