Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 27 2019 - Proverbs 18 – A strong tower

The church that we attend always includes one song for the children – a song with actions. One of the favourites begins "Blessed be the name of the Lord" and has a chorus, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and they are saved."  The chorus is taken directly from Proverbs where it stands in strong contrast with the verse that follows:

 The name of the LORD is a fortified tower;
   the righteous run to it and are safe.
 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city;
   they imagine it a wall too high to scale. (Proverbs 18:10-11)

Jesus was once asked by a rich young man what he should do to be saved. Jesus told him to sell what he had, give the money to the poor, and follow him. The rich man went away sad. Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved.

The problem is not with riches themselves – they are a gift from God. The problem lies in what we do with them and what they do to us. Like the fool in Jesus’ parable, riches may seduce us into a sense of self-sufficiency; whatever life throws at us we will be able to buy our way out of it. We imagine that our riches are our security; a wall around our world that nothing can penetrate. But riches cannot buy off disease or death, either in ourselves or in those we love.  Nor can money bring happiness or contentment; we were created for more than passing material pleasures.

It is the Lord himself who is a place of safety and security to all who seek refuge in him. This is a continual theme in the Psalms (see, for instance, Psalms 46:1-3; 59:16-17; 61:1-4). I am reminded also of the lovely words of Boaz to Ruth:

May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge. (Ruth 2:12)

God has become our refuge by providing us with a Saviour in the Lord Jesus. He is the one "under whose wings" we "have come to take refuge". He is our security and place of safety, no matter what may happen to us in life or in death.

But what are the practical implications of this contrast between seeking security in possessions and seeking security in Christ? How will these words shape the way we live and the decisions we make?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that we should not always be worrying about what we will eat or drink or what we will wear. "Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?" he says. God cares for the birds we see in our gardens and has clothed wild flowers with more splendour than that of Solomon. Surely we can trust God who is our heavenly Father to care for us.

This chapter is full of pithy sayings that call for careful consideration such as, "To answer before listening – that is folly and shame" (v. 13). We have all come across people like that and they can be infuriating. Or again, "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord." (v. 22). We shall pick up that theme in tomorrow's reading. It is well worth reading proverbs like these slowly and thinking carefully about the wisdom each contains and how our lives are to be shaped by such wisdom.

Father God, I echo the lovely words of the psalmist, "you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to … take refuge in the shelter of your wings." (Psalm 61:3-4) I have run to Christ for refuge; may he always be my help, my strength, my hope and my boast. May I encourage others also to find their refuge and salvation in him.

May 27 2013 - John 16:1-33 – Who's going to change the world?

Jesus tells the disciples that he is returning to the Father and will then send the Spirit to them. “When he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. Concerning sin because they have not believed in me. Concerning righteousness because I am going to the Father and they will no longer see me. Concerning judgment because the ruler of this world has been brought to judgment” (John 16:8-10). On the face of it, these words appear strange. Many have not believed in Jesus during his earthly ministry and now he is about to disappear from sight. If the world has remained unmoved while Jesus was around, why should it suddenly become convicted when he is absent?

Jesus is speaking of the things that are about to happen to him. “The world” has not believed in him; it has rejected him. This rejection is about to come to a head as he is seized by the Jewish leaders and handed over to the Romans to be crucified. They, both Jewish leaders and Roman power, did not believe in him. Nevertheless, Jesus’ death is his glorification: it is not his defeat but his triumph. It is the ruler of this world – and the powers of this world – that are brought to judgment at the cross. This is what is really going on and its reality is demonstrated by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, ascension into heaven and enthronement at the right hand of the Father. The powers of this world are broken.

All of this may seem unreal, just a tale that is told. But it is made real and visible through the work of the Spirit poured out from heaven. He is the one who convicts the world of these realities – that Jesus whom they rejected and crucified is both Lord and Christ. He convicts the world of its sin in rejecting Jesus and of Jesus’ righteousness since he has been owned by the Father. He convicts the world that the powers of this present world have been brought to judgment and that the world to come is arriving in power – Jesus Christ is Lord. Judgment day has passed for those who have come to trust in Christ and his death and resurrection.

I am writing these comments on Trinity Sunday. Yesterday we read that Jesus reveals the heart of God. In the verses we have read today we are reminded that all three persons of the Trinity share a common purpose. The Father planned our redemption and this plan was faithfully executed by the Son who laid down his life for his friends. The Spirit is intent upon ensuring that the death and resurrection of Christ are applied with transforming power to the lives of men and women, giving life to the dead.

The Spirit who does all of this is given to the disciples – given to us. He is at work in and through us to change the world’s view of itself and of Jesus; and in changing perception, changing reality, changing the world. As Rob Bell has said, “It is our time to discover the beautiful, dangerous, compelling idea that a group of people, surrendered to God and to each other, really can change the world.” We can because he can.

Living God renew and enlarge my vision of your saving purposes in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Transform me by the power of your Spirit and empower me to bear witness to your transforming power. Convict the world of its sin, Christ’s righteousness and of the judgment to come that has broken into the middle of human history.

Peter Misselbrook