Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 1 2019 - 1 Kings 8:22-53 – Solomon's prayer of dedication

Solomon knows that God does not actually live in the temple for he says, "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!" (1 Kings 8:27). The temple is a symbol of God's presence among his people; a powerful and necessary symbol until the one arrives in whom God really does dwell on earth.

In his prayer, Solomon begins with praise to God declaring that there is no other god like him (8:22). God has proved faithful to his word, "You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it – as it is today" (8:24). Solomon knows that the welfare of the people is dependent upon the faithfulness of God.

But God's people are often unfaithful. The temple with its sacrifices offers hope for people who frequently fail to live up to all that they should be. This is the theme of the refrain runs through Solomon's prayer, "When your people Israel ... have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication to you in/toward this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel." He concludes his prayer with the words, "May your eyes be open to your servant’s plea and to the plea of your people Israel, and may you listen to them whenever they cry out to you. For you singled them out from all the nations of the world to be your own inheritance, just as you declared through your servant Moses when you, Sovereign LORD, brought our ancestors out of Egypt" (8:52-53).

Solomon's prayer focusses on God's promises. He pleads that despite the failings of God's people and their undoubted future failings, God would be gracious to them and use them to fulfil his purpose of working through this people for the blessing of the entire world. His prayers are therefore not for the Israelites alone but also for people of other nations who will hear of God's "great name and … outstretched arm" (8:42) and come in prayer to the God of Israel. Indeed, Solomon prays that, "all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name" (8:43).

We also are a redeemed people; we have been rescued out of slavery to sin and have been brought into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have a faithful God who has promised good to us and who will not fail to do as he has promised. But we continually fall short of all that God has called us to be and do not love and serve him with all our heart and mind and strength.

The sacrifice of Christ is our only hope and continual resource. The sacrifice of the Saviour on the cross is to be the constant focus of our repentance and prayer. We do not depend on any sacred places or any other sacred person to whom we can look for cleansing; we look to Christ alone:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 2:1-2; 1:8-9)

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we have sinned in thought and word and deed, through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault. We are truly sorry and repent of all our sins. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ who died for us, forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may serve you in newness of life to the glory of your name. May we, for all our faults and failings, be a people through whom the whole world comes to know that you are the living God and that Christ is the atoning sacrifice for their sin.

Jun 1 2013 - John 20:1-31 – Seeing and believing

Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them on the evening of that first Easter day. He just could not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he saw it for himself. The following week, when Jesus again appeared to them, Thomas was present and immediately confessed, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus responds by saying, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who believe without seeing” (John 20:29).

It’s tempting to take this last phrase of the Lord Jesus as a definition of true faith – faith believes without evidence. This certainly is what many would affirm concerning our faith – Mark Twain famously quipped that faith is believing what you know is not true! But such a view of faith fails to pay attention to how John’s Gospel continues. Immediately after this pronouncement of blessing by Jesus upon those who have not seen yet believe, John adds his own comment to the effect that the risen Jesus appeared on other occasions among the disciples and performed signs among them that are not recorded in his book. Nevertheless, “These things are recorded in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through faith you may have eternal life in his name” (20:30-31). John does not expect us to believe without evidence. He records the things that the first disciples and eyewitnesses had seen and heard so that we, through their testimony, might believe in Jesus and share in his resurrection life.

But this is no bookish faith – like believing that Henry the eighth had six wives because we have done the necessary historical research (or at least read books by, or seen programmes written by, those who have done such research). Christian faith is not less than that kind of believing, but it is far more. It is a passionate conviction that Jesus is the Christ; he is the Saviour of the world and Lord of all. It is a passionate commitment to him.

That passionate commitment springs from the fact that we know him. When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene on that first resurrection morning she wanted to cling on to him so that he would never be taken away from her again. But Jesus tells her, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’" (20:17).

The relationship which Jesus, the Son, enjoyed with the Father from all eternity, has become an open relationship – one that we enjoy with him. By the presence and testimony of the Spirit we have intimations of this reality now; we shall know it in all its fullness hereafter.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples on the evening of that first Easter day, John records that he told them, “Just as the Father sent me, so I am now sending you.” Then he breathed on the disciples saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (20:21-22). They are to continue Jesus’ work, testifying to him and to his kingdom and calling people to repentance and faith. But they do not do this work alone, for the Spirit works in them, through them and with them. He also bears testimony to who Jesus is, what he has done and to his resurrection power and the arrival of his kingdom. It is the Spirit, not the disciples, who will bring people to faith.

And so it continues, generation after generation: word and Spirit together bear witness to Jesus, and the followers of Jesus continue his work as they bear testimony to him in word and through the power of transformed lives. We speak of what we know and we speak that others also may believe and know that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Risen Saviour, empower me by your Spirit to bear witness to you in word and in how I live. May my faith be more than mere words. May it be the fire of your Spirit within me, consuming me and energising me in the work of your kingdom.

Peter Misselbrook