Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 20 2019 - Proverbs 1 – The beginning of wisdom

Solomon was given wisdom by God, practical wisdom, the wisdom that enables a person to live well. He shares something of this wisdom in the Book of Proverbs that we may gain "wisdom and instruction ... [and receive] instruction in prudent behaviour, doing what is right and just and fair" (vv. 2-3). And here is where all such wisdom begins, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge / wisdom" (v. 7, cf. 9:10).

What does it mean to "fear" the Lord? It is often said that such fear is not terror. The Christian is one who loves God for he has shown us boundless love and compassion in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such love casts out fear in the sense of terror or doubt. The person who trusts in Christ, knows that they have become a child of God, loved and accepted by him. The fear of the Lord therefore means "reverence", a proper respect for who God is as the mighty creator of the universe.

All of this is quite true, but it needs to be expressed with great care. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews who encourages us to "approach the throne of grace with confidence" (Hebrews 4:6) also reminds us that we need to worship God with reverence and awe for "our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28-29, quoting Deuteronomy 4:23-24).

As a recent book has demonstrated, we have a tendency to think that if love wins then judgment, wrath and punishment must be utterly extinguished; the fire has been put out. It is all too easy for us to distort the picture of God's love as if it is an infinite tolerance for the wayward behaviour of his children. In doing so, we lose sight of the righteousness and burning holiness of our God.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." A life lived to please God flows from an understanding that our God is the creator of the universe. The God who is "of purer eyes than to behold evil" is also our loving Father. Grace does not resolve this paradox, it underscores it.

If we are to live well in God's world we need large views of God's love and of his holiness; large views of his compassion and of his intolerance of sin.

How are we to gain the wisdom we need to live well? The first imperative is to listen – to pay attention to what God says through his word and by his Spirit and also to what godly women and men (v.  8) say to us as they seek to teach us the things of God. The word "listen" occurs four times in this chapter (at least in the NIV: vv. 5, 8, 24, 33). Similar instructions such as, pay attention (v. 24), accept (vv. 25, 30) are found in this chapter. It's frustrating when young children (and others) don't listen to instructions we are giving them. It is dangerous when we turn a deaf ear when God is speaking to us.

Secondly, we need to be careful who we listen to. The world is full of people who will want us to join them in their own foolish behaviour (vv. 10-19). The important thing is not to give in to the temptation to join them (v.10); not to go along with them (v. 15), for the path they are treading does not lead to life but to death (v. 18-19).

Father God, help me to understand more of your character; teach me to love you as much as I fear you and to fear you as much as I love you. Help me to hate sin as you hate sin and love holiness as you love holiness. Fill me with that wisdom which comes from above which is "pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." Help me by your Spirit always to walk in the path of life, the path mapped out in your word. And as Solomon taught his son what it means to have wisdom and to lead a life pleasing to you, help me to teach the generations to come concerning the beautiful life that wisdom calls us to live.

May 20 2013 - John 11:1-44 – The resurrection and the life

Mary and Martha and their brother, Lazarus, live in Bethany, a village just outside Jerusalem. Jesus was across the other side of the Jordan when word was sent to him that Lazarus had fallen ill. Jesus loved this family greatly, yet he waited two days before setting off for Bethany. Why?

This story is full of perplexities, yet one thing is clear right from the beginning, Jesus is in full control of the situation. The minute he hears of Lazarus' sickness he declares, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it" (John 11:4). Jesus seems to have deliberately delayed so that Lazarus' condition would get worse and so that he would die. Jesus wants to bring glory to his Father and to display his own glory by demonstrating that he has power even over death.

When Jesus arrives at Bethany, Martha is troubled. She knows that if Jesus had been there when Lazarus had fallen sick he would never have died. Nevertheless, she knows that death is not the end; he will be raised to life again in the last day when death at last gives up all its captives. But Jesus tells her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die”, and he challenges her, “Do you believe this?” Martha responds, “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” She believes that Jesus is the promised Messiah. He has come into the world to bring in that day of resurrection, the day when death shall be swallowed up in life.

Jesus is deeply moved and troubled by the death of Lazarus. He does not treat death as simply another fact of life. He views death as an enemy that has invaded God’s world, robbed Lazarus of life and brought grief to those who loved him. It is an evil that moved Jesus to angry tears.

But Jesus is not helpless in the face of death. He has only to call Lazarus from his tomb and the dead hear his voice and live. Lazarus, bound in his grave clothes, totters out to hear the further welcome words of command, “Set him free and let him go.”

Lazarus would die again. The final day of resurrection had not yet arrived, yet his resurrection from the grave, leaving behind an empty tomb, foreshadows a greater resurrection not many days hence. That resurrection would be accomplished by the same power, for as Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up again.” (10:18). With his death and resurrection the power of death will be broken once and for all – unlike Lazarus, he will not die again. He is the firstborn from the dead, the one who gives eternal life – resurrection life – to all who come to him.

Lazarus' resurrection also foreshadows that last great day when Jesus shall call to all who are in their graves, "Come out", and we shall rise. All who fall asleep in Jesus, await the day of general resurrection when at last death shall be swallowed up in victory.

Father God, thank you that the words of Jesus are not empty words, they have power to give life to the dead. Thank you that you have given us a living hope through Jesus' resurrection from the dead and the promise that we will enter into an inheritance that can never perish or fade. May your word fill me with joy and peace even in the face of death.

Peter Misselbrook