Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 5 2013 - Acts 3:1-26 – Walking and leaping and praising God

What a wonderful story Luke tells in the healing of the lame man who begged at Gate Beautiful of the Temple. As he lay there one afternoon, begging as usual, Peter and John came to the Temple to pray. He asked them for money. They had none to give, but Peter had a far better gift for him. He commanded the man, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” and, taking him by the hand, Peter helped him up.

Well, I say he helped him up, but I don’t think that any human help was necessary. No sooner had Peter spoken his words than the man’s feet and ankles (and legs also) were given strength and he jumped up. Nor did he merely walk sedately into the Temple with Peter and John. No, he was walking and leaping and praising God. What a sight he must have been, making such a spectacle of himself on such hallowed ground – enough to wake the beadles!

What struck me particularly was the exuberance of this man’s response to all that Jesus had done for him. Not surprising really after all of these years lame, never having been able to walk or perhaps even stand unaided. He was healed instantly. And more than healed for he could immediately walk and leap – rather than having to begin a process of learning to walk as does a toddler. It’s no surprise that he used all of his new-found powers in such an extravagant way. It’s no wonder that as he walked and leaped he praised God with such uninhibited fervour. What is more to be wondered at is that we, whose lives have been touched by the Lord, are so inhibited in praise and in the exercise of the power of our new life. We fear the attention of the crowds. We avoid having to give an explanation of ourselves.

As the crowds gathered to see what was going on and, realised that this was the man who for years had been laid out helpless at the Temple gate, they were astonished. And this gives Peter the perfect opening for his second sermon recorded in Acts.

There is much that is remarkable about Peter’s sermon. But, in particular, he emphasises that the recent death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ are the focus of the whole of Scripture. Peter says that Moses told the people to listen to the prophets whom God would send them, and particularly to the One whom God would send. Peter adds, “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days” (Acts 3:24). You are living, says Peter, in the days when all that God promised beforehand is being fulfilled. What generations beforehand longed to see, you are now experiencing – “You are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers” (3:25). Indeed, God is now fulfilling the promise he made long ago to Abraham, “He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’”

Peter is declaring that Jesus is the one in whom the promises God made to Abraham find their fulfilment. Moses and all of the prophets pointed towards him. He is the fulfilment of all of the purposes of God. Peter concludes, “When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways” (3:26). He pleads that those who have witnessed this miracle in the powerful name of the Lord Jesus may turn to him in faith and find in him forgiveness of sins and eternal life. They are to live by him, for him and towards the coming of him whom, “Heaven must receive … until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets” (3:21).

Jesus Christ, you are the heart of the purposes of God, the centre and meaning of history. May you be the centre of my life and the power by which I live each day that you may give. May you enable me to be part of your purpose of bringing blessing to all peoples on earth.

Jun 5 2019 - 1 Kings 11:41-12:24 – Solomon's death and a divided kingdom

Jeroboam son of Nebat was one of king Solomon's officials, placed in charge of part of his labour force (1 Kings 11:26-28). One day, when Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah met him. The prophet said that because of the idolatry of the children of Israel, God was going give ten of the twelve tribes of Israel to Jeroboam to rule over. Only the tribe of Judah would be left to be ruled by Solomon's successor. This prophecy would be fulfilled only after Solomon's death.

Somehow, Solomon heard about this and tried to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam fled to Egypt and stayed there until Solomon's death. And that is where we pick up the story in today's reading.

After Solomon's death, his son Rehoboam travelled to Shechem where all Israel had gathered to see him anointed as king. But Jeroboam raced back from Egypt and become spokesman for "the whole assembly of Israel" in a confrontation with Rehoboam demanding, "Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you" (12:4). These words make it clear that the common people had suffered enough of the high levels of taxation and conscripted labour Solomon had imposed on them to support his extravagant lifestyle and impressive army. They seem willing to acknowledge Solomon's son as their king, but only if he does not demand as high a price from them as had his father.

Rehoboam askes for three days to consider their demands; days in which he consults his advisors.

The elders who had served Solomon during his lifetime had probably witnessed first-hand the growth of Solomon's court and of his army and the toll it had imposed on the people. They wisely advised Rehoboam, "If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favourable answer, they will always be your servants" (12:7). They were advising Rehoboam to return to God's model for the one who would be king over his people, the servant king. This was a model that had been exemplified for a while in king David, the shepherd king. (For David's humility, see 1 Chronicles 17:16-27.)

But this advice did not please Rehoboam who seems to have a high view of his own dignity and rights as a royal prince, soon to be king. So, having rejected the advice of the elders, Rehoboam turns to some of the young men who had grown up with him, probably in the privileged environment of Solomon's court. They advised Rehoboam to answer the people's demands by saying, "My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions" (12:10-11). And that's what Rehoboam did, provoking a revolt by all the tribes of Israel except Judah.

So the prophet's words were fulfilled. Jeroboam became king over the ten northern tribes, confusingly now known as Israel, and Rehoboam became king over the tribe of Judah in the south – and over the smaller tribe of Benjamin. Solomon had been famous for his wisdom, Rehoboam his son will be forever remembered by the people of God for his folly.

In David's greater son, the Lord Jesus Christ we have one who did not grasp on to his own dignity and position. He left his throne in glory to come into this world not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for sinners. And because he was glad to give himself for us, so we are now glad always to be his servants. His kingdom will know no end.

Father God, give us, by your Spirit, the wisdom not to think of ourselves more highly than we should, but to value others more highly than ourselves. Above all, fill us with love and devotion towards our Lord Jesus Christ, the Servant King. Help us always to follow him in the path of faithful obedience and service.

Peter Misselbrook