Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 24 2019 - 1 Kings 19 – Elisha on the run & call of Elisha

At Elijah's command, the prophets of Baal had been put to death. Jezebel, having heard of all that happened on Mount Carmel was determined to kill Elijah. Elijah fled for his life. He travelled south, all the way from the northern kingdom of Israel to the southernmost point of the southern kingdom of Judah. There, at Beersheba, he left his servant and travelled on alone into the wilderness until he was exhausted. Lying down under the shade of a broom bush he asked the Lord to take his life.

But if Elijah has given up on his ministry, God has not given up on Elijah, nor is he ready to take him to glory. First he enables Elijah to recover his strength through sleep. Later, when he is woken by an angel, he is provided with food and water sufficient to continue his journey south until he comes to Mount Horeb, or Sinai, the mountain on which Moses had met with God and received the law. Elijah was convinced that God would meet with him there. But first he finds a cave and lies down to sleep.

The following morning Elijah hears the Lord speaking to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (v. 9). Elijah has no answer except to explain why he has fled for his life. The Lord tells Elijah to go out of the cave and stand on the mountainside for the presence of the Lord is about to pass by. Elijah may have remembered how Moses was hidden in a cleft of the rock on this mountain while the glory of God passed before him. Maybe he is hoping for a similar appearance of God.

All of a sudden a powerful wind blasted the mountain shattering rocks. This was followed by a powerful earthquake and then by fire. These surely were signs of God's presence just as the mountain had shaken and blazed when God had met with Moses? But no, the Lord was not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire. Then there was gentle whisper of a voice; this was the Lord, come to speak with Elijah.

Elijah must learn that God does not always come in the drama of earthquake and fire. Every day will not be like that day on Carmel when fire fell from heaven. Much of the time God is present without drama and fireworks; present in the gentle voice that speaks a word of challenge and encouragement into the heart of his fearful servant.

God's word addresses Elijah again with the question, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Elijah repeats his sorry story only to learn that he has things out of perspective. God is still at work among his people – there are 7,000 in Israel who are faithful to him. Moreover, God still has work for Elijah to do. The Lord gently tells Elijah to complete the work to which he has been called, which includes training up one who will succeed him as the Lord's prophet to Israel.

We often feel that we could serve God more effectively if he would only send the fireworks. We long for the buildings in which we meet for prayer to be shaken as they were in the book of Acts. But we need to realise that the work of the kingdom often proceeds quietly and without drama – like seed growing in a field or yeast causing dough to rise. God calls us to live faithfully by his word in the strength and encouragement of his Spirit.

Elijah's presence before God on this mountain, recalling the appearance of God to Moses on the same mountain, points forward to another mountain and another revelation of God's character. When Jesus took Peter, James and John up a mountain in Galilee he was transformed before them. They saw something of the glory of God displayed in the Lord Jesus. There Elijah and Moses appeared with Jesus, talking with him about the death he was soon to suffer in Jerusalem. God displays his glory not by the dramatic striking down his enemies but through the suffering of his servant on the cross. 

Creator God, your word is powerful and effective, demolishing strongholds. Show me more of your glory in the face of the Lord Jesus and help me to be faithful to your calling upon my life whatever the day may bring.

Jun 24 2013 - Acts 15:36-16:15 – Disagreement amongst friends

The last few verses of Acts 15 make distressing reading. Barnabas had been a great encourager of Paul: he had introduced Paul to the apostles in Jerusalem; he had dragged him out of wounded exile in Tarsus and thrust him into multi-cultural ministry; he had accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey. But now Paul and Barnabas have such a fierce argument that they must go their separate ways. It is a great tragedy.

It would be easy to take sides in this argument. Barnabas, ever the encourager, wants to take Mark with them again so that he may regain confidence in ministry. Barnabas will not give up on people – particularly those in whom he has recognised a gifting of the Spirit. Paul is focussed on the task before him. He is concerned for the churches to whom he ministered so briefly during his first missionary journey. He knows the difficulties these young Christians will be facing and is intent upon returning to them and encouraging them to go on with Christ. He seems to have been so single-minded in his mission that he simply will not risk taking along with him someone who had put his hand to the plough and then turned back.

It is a tragedy that these two good men, who had been such close friends, fell out in this way. They both had clear visions and good motives, but they had such differing views of Mark that they simply could not work together.

But God has a way of turning such tragedies to his own advantage. There are now two missionary teams going out from Antioch rather than one; Barnabas and Mark go one way, Paul and Silas go another. What’s more, Paul is soon to take on another young trainee in Timothy who will be a key helper to him in the years to come. None of this lessens the sadness of the breach between Paul and Barnabas, but it does demonstrate that God uses even our faults and failings to prosper the work of the kingdom – though this never excuses them.

And there is one pleasing footnote to this tragedy. Later, when Paul is in prison, he speaks with affection of Mark who has proved useful to him in his ministry (2 Timothy 4:11, see also Colossians 4:10 and, in another context, 1 Peter 5:13). The heart which Barnabas had for Mark and his painstaking encouragement of him bore fruit. And perhaps also Paul’s persistence with timid Timothy was also the fruit of his time learning from Barnabas.

When Christians fall out it is the cause of great sadness, but God works even such things  to further his own purposes.

Up to this point, Paul had been ministering in the area of Asia Minor, but now, having encouraged the churches among whom he had previously ministered, he is clearly directed by the Holy Spirit to cross over into Europe. First he is kept from travelling into Bithynia in the north of Asia Minor, then he receives a message in a dream to travel across to Macedonia and minister there. The gospel is on the move from Asia into Europe.

Lord God, thank you that you use even our faults and divisions for the furtherance of your kingdom. Nevertheless, help me always to maintain the unity that the Spirit has created by labouring to live at peace with my brothers and sisters in Christ. May I always grieve over the self-inflicted wounds in your body, the church. Keep me from anything that might give the opponents of your kingdom cause to point the finger and mock the Saviour. Above all, help us, the fellowship of your people, to display the transforming power of Christ and to make him known.

Peter Misselbrook