Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 28 2019 - Proverbs 31:10-31 – A wife of noble character

Five years ago I was in hospital for twelve weeks with serious heart problems; I needed a replacement heart valve and a pacemaker. During that time my wife visited me every day, except on the day I was recovering from open heart surgery – and even then she rang the hospital to check on me. She did all of this while continuing to work as a midwife. During my stay in hospital we celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary. I arranged for our daughter to put together something for me to give my wife as an expression of my thankfulness to God and to her for the 41 years we had been together. It consists of a photograph of us both on our wedding day along with some verses from the passage we read this morning, namely:

A wife of noble character … is worth far more than rubies… Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. (Proverbs 31:10, 29)

The book of Proverbs begins with Solomon's advice to his son. Much of it may seem to reflect a distinctly male perspective on life and even rather negative views of women as Solomon warns his son of the danger of being seduced into unhelpful relationships. Perhaps Solomon, with his 700 wives and 300 concubines, is speaking from experience. But here is a very different picture of a wife of noble character, a provider for her family and a blessing to her husband who values her greatly.

The picture is that of a wealthy woman, one who buys vineyards and looks after her servants (see vv. 16 and 15). We may therefore be tempted think that what is written here is of little relevance to ourselves and to the society in which we live. I would argue quite the contrary. We may live in different circumstances, but the portrait painted in these verses is all too relevant to the life of the contemporary wife and mother.

Notice how busy this woman is. She has her own work to do, work that is essential in providing for the needs of her household: "She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks" (v.17). She is so busy in her work that she sometimes has to start early in the morning to ensure that the family is looked after (v. 15). She is busy also in making clothes and bedding for the family (v. 22) – even spinning to make the thread which will be woven to make the cloth (v. 19). In contemporary terms, we might say that she is always knitting and sewing for her children, her grandchildren and to make gifts for others (v. 20). Her husband and her children love her and honour her for all she does (vv. 11, 28). She is even praised by the men of the community as they sit and gossip in the city gate (v. 31).

Many women today have to juggle paid work with care for home and family. We need to honour them and let them know how much we value them. Indeed, husbands and wives, parents and children need to value and cherish one another. There are immense pressures on family life today. We need to ensure that the bonds of love – practical loving help and support for one other – are stronger than the pressures that seek to break families apart. And this applies not just to those in families; the entire Christian community is to value and support the lives of families.

But the most important quality that preserves and encourages family life is knowledge of and devotion to the living God; "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" (v.30). Through the Lord Jesus Christ we have been welcomed as members of God's family; we are loved and valued by him. His love for us is a model for our love and practical care of one another. We need to value one another as members of God's family and express our appreciation of one another.

Lord God, I thank you for my family, for those who have cared for me down the years and who care for me still. Thank you most of all that you have welcomed me into your own family and shown me the depth of your love in the Lord Jesus. Show me how I can care for members of my family and of the family of your people in a manner that reflects your great love and care for me.

May 28 2013 - John 17:1-26 – That the world may know...

John 17 records Jesus’ wonderful prayer for his disciples. This perhaps has the better right to be called the Lord’s Prayer. The model prayer recorded in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 was a prayer for disciples to pray; this is the Lord’s own prayer for himself and his disciples.

The prayer falls broadly into three parts. In the first part, verses 1-5, Jesus prays for himself. He is on the eve of his crucifixion and prays that just as he has brought glory to the Father by obedience to all that the Father gave him to do, so now the Father will glorify him. Jesus looks beyond the cross with its agony and shame to his resurrection and return to the Father.

But even in the middle of this section, Jesus’ focus is also upon his disciples. Jesus thanks the Father for giving him authority over all the world, an authority that he will use to give eternal life to all who come to him. He continues, “And this is eternal life: that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (17:3). God is glorified, his purposes are fulfilled, as people come to know him through the Lord Jesus Christ and live under his rule. It is for this that we were made. Jesus brings glory to the Father in restoring creation to it’s designed purpose.

Secondly, Jesus prays for his disciples – for the eleven who were with him (17:6-19). He is about to return to the Father and will no longer be with them in the same way as he has been. He prays that they will be protected from the evil one. He has spoken to them the words given to him from the Father. He prays that they will now be sanctified by this word of truth – set apart by it for holy purpose. He prays that it might animate their lives and make them single-minded in continuing his mission to the world (see v.18) – that they might now speak the words that he has given them.

Lastly, he prays for all who will believe through their testimony – he prays for us (17:20-26). Jesus prays that all who come to believe in him may be one so that the world may believe that he was sent by the Father. The one flock will bear witness to the one Shepherd.

The unity of Jesus’ disciples is a reflection of the unity between Jesus and his Father. Jesus and the Father are one in heart and mind and purpose for they have a shared life; they live in each other. Jesus prays that his followers may live in close communion with him. As with the picture of the vine and the branches (John 15), his disciples are to live in him and he in them. In this way, they participate in the very life of God (see 17:22-23). And by participating in the life of God, they/we participate in the purpose of God.

It is as the life of Jesus, and love of God seen in Jesus, shape the life of his followers (17:26) that they become visibly different from the world in which they live. They become one people in the sense that they stand out from the world around them, recognisable by the world (see 13.35). Their lives become a witness to the world concerning the person, mission and glory of Jesus.

This prayer is often referred to as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. Ascended to the right hand of the Father he continues to intercede for his people, praying that they will be faithful to his mission and that through their shared life and witness all the world might come to know him.

Lord Jesus, forgive us that we, your people, are so often divided and preoccupied with fighting among ourselves. Help us to have a shared vision of your purposes for this world. You gave your life for the mending of this world; help us to give ourselves to its healing as we proclaim that you are Lord. May the world come to know you.

Peter Misselbrook