Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 26 2019 - Psalm 65 – Praise awaits God in Zion

We have a truly wonderful God who is worthy of our praise. The opening phrase of this psalm, "Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion", suggests a people who are impatient to praise God, eager to start up in song as soon as God turns up to hear it. Are we always eager to praise God?

This psalm describes aspects of God's character that should fill us with thankfulness and praise.

Our God is a gracious God (vv. 1-4). He has forgiven all of our transgressions. The phrase in the opening half of verse 3, "When we were overwhelmed by sins…" suggests an awareness that our sin cannot easily be covered over, it threatens to destroy us. But God's grace is greater than our sin.

We know that our sins are forgiven because Jesus, God's own beloved Son, bore the penalty for them in our place when he was nailed to the cross. This truly is amazing grace:

My sin – oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! –
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Through the Lord Jesus Christ, God has chosen to bring us into his presence and welcome us as his children (v. 4). He has poured out upon us blessings beyond number: he has brought us into the family of his people; he has given us a hope that extends beyond this present life and into eternity; he has given us his Spirit that we might know his love and his presence with us day by day; he is ready to hear and answer our prayers (v. 2a). We are greatly loved and greatly blessed. Nor are these blessings for us alone. As Charles Wesley put it, "The arms of love that compass me, would all mankind embrace." The blessings we enjoy and the joyful praise we offer God in return should make us the envy of a watching world and draw others to our God (v. 2b).

Our God is a mighty God (vv. 5-8). He created the world by the power of his word. The mountains which seem unmovable and eternal were formed by him (v. 6). The seas were tamed by him when he separated sea and dry land. This same power is seen in the Lord Jesus when he stilled the storm that threatened to overwhelm the disciples on Lake Galilee; he also is the mighty God. The whole universe displays God's power (v. 8). All creation is called to worship him.

And just as God has shown his might in creation, so he has also shown his saving power when he rescued his people from slavery in Egypt through "awesome and righteous deeds" (v.5). He tamed the waters of the Red Sea and stilled the angry opposition of the nations (v. 7). In the same way, God displayed his power in our salvation by raising our Lord Jesus from the dead. Nothing can defeat his purpose to save and bless his people. He is "the hope of all the ends of the earth" (v. 5).

Our God is a generous God. Read verses 9-13 again and note how God's generosity is underlined in the descriptions of the land and its harvest. I particularly love the phrase "your carts overflow with abundance" (v. 11). It is God who provides us with an abundance of good things for us to enjoy. The whole of creation is spoken of as "clothed with gladness" (v. 12), and singing for joy (v. 13).

We are all too aware that as we in the West enjoy the abundance of God's provision, there are many who lack the food they need to survive – whether through war or through drought caused by our changing climate. This psalm challenges us to realise afresh that the bountiful provision of our God is not for our selfish enjoyment and hoarding but for sharing. God's generosity is to be reflected in our generous use of all he has given us so that it may be for the blessing of all.

Father God, open our eyes to your abundant goodness and generosity both in provision for our daily lives and in our salvation through the Lord Jesus. Help us to be generous with all that you have given us so that all the earth may be filled with awe at your wonders and songs of joy may ascend to you from one end of the earth to the other.

May 26 2013 - John 15:1-27 – The vine and the branches

One of the trees in our garden is a variegated Asa or Maple. It has beautifully shaped leaves with a darker green at the centre and the palest of green border, accentuating the shape. However, this tree has a serious flaw; it has a tendency to revert to the less attractive but more vigorous Maple from which it was developed. Every year it puts out a few shoots with non-variegated leaves. If left, these seem to grow more vigorously than all the others, spoiling the symmetry and beauty of the whole tree. Every year, as the leaves begin to form, I have the task of cutting back the offending shoots before they develop into branches and spoil the beauty of our tree. It’s a never-ending task.

We also are a species that is deeply flawed. We were created to bring glory to God and bear fruit in his kingdom. Yet there are ugly branches that shoot up in our lives which bear none of the fruit that God is looking for yet seem to have such vigour that they threaten to dominate our whole being – shoots of anger, greed, pride, lust, self-centredness... They need constantly to be pruned back – cut out at source – if they are not to dominate our lives and spoil all that God made us to be.

Jesus speaks of such things in John 15. He speaks of the pruning work of the Father who cuts out those branches that bear no fruit and cuts back the fruitful branches that they may be even more fruitful. The only way of bearing fruit is for Jesus and his word to live in us – showing ourselves to be his disciples and bringing glory to the Father.

Jesus tells us that the way of fruitfulness is for us to remain in him. What does this mean? I believe that Jesus is calling us to live in conscious fellowship with him. We cannot live the Christian life without him; we need constantly to draw on his strength and his power. He lived a life pleasing to the Father; he has the power to live such a life while we do not without him – without him we can do nothing (15:4,5). In a sense, our lives are to be lived as a continuous prayer. This does not mean we are to develop an unworldly spirituality. On the contrary, through living in dependence upon Christ we are to live well and usefully in this world, bearing fruit for the Father. Think how Jesus lived in this world – a life that brought blessing to those around him. We are to live like that as he lives in us and his life animates us like sap in the vine.

Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (15:15). Jesus calls us to intelligent discipleship. He has revealed the heart and purpose of God. God’s purpose is to redeem and transform all that he has made so that his will is done on earth as it is in heaven. He calls us to live the life of the kingdom now and to show the world the beauty of life as it was meant to be. He calls us to be like Christ and to live as witnesses to him (15:27).

Lord Jesus, help me to live close to you. Help me to cut out of my life anything that would drive you away from me. I know very well that without you I can do nothing but that I can do all that you call me to do as you live in me and fill me with your strength and resurrection life. Help me to live in communion with you moment-by-moment, day-by-day that I may bear much fruit and show that I am your disciple.

Peter Misselbrook