Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 10 2019 - Amos 3 – Israel's judgment

Yesterday we saw that Amos' words of judgment, having swept around the nations that surrounded Israel, came to focus on the southern kingdom of Judah and then the northern kingdom of Israel where Amos was ministering. Chapter three continues with more words of judgment against Israel.

Amos delivers the word of the Lord against "the whole family I brought up out of Egypt" (3:1). They must not think that because they are God's chosen people they will be safe from his judgment. On the contrary, God declares, "You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins" (3:2). God chose the Israelites to be a priestly people who would bring the knowledge, forgiveness and blessing of God to all peoples on earth (see Exodus 19:5-6). But they could only act as the mediators of God's blessings if they kept God's covenant and lived in obedience to him. Israel had failed to obey the Lord God who had saved them.

God has revealed his plans for judgment to his prophets (3:7). "The lion has roared – who will not fear? The Sovereign Lord has spoken – who can but prophesy?" (3:8). So Amos is proclaiming his message of warning. The judgment of God is about to fall on his people because of the way the wealthy oppress the poor and store up in their fortresses what they have looted (3:9-10). The lion is on the prowl and those who have accumulated treasure for themselves are about to lose it all:

As a shepherd rescues from the lion’s mouth
    only two leg bones or a piece of an ear,
so will the Israelites living in Samaria be rescued,
    with only the head of a bed
    and a piece of fabric from a couch…
I will tear down the winter house
    along with the summer house;
the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed
    and the mansions will be demolished,’
declares the LORD. (3:12, 15)

The idolatrous altars in Bethel will also be destroyed (3:14).

God has called us also to be a priestly people. The apostle Peter echoes the words of God to Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai when he says, "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9). We have been redeemed and chosen by God, not that we might be filled with pride and look down on others, but that we might tell them about the salvation of God. We are to mediate the saving goodness of God to a needy world.

Peter immediately follows these words with an exhortation for those whom God has redeemed to live godly lives: "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:12). We are to learn from Israel's failure and from God's judgment that we need to live in willing submission to God. Nor is this call to obedience confined to "religious exercises"; we are to ensure that we treat others with compassion and concern, rather than seeking our own advantage at their expense. Our treatment of others is to reflect the kindness, goodness and grace of God that we have received in Jesus Christ. Goodness is to be made visible in our lives.

Father God, we thank you for the wonder of our redemption through the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Help us always to remember that you have saved us that we might live to serve you and to minister your grace to all whose lives we touch. Help us to show the world something of your beautiful character today.

Jul 10 2013 - Acts 27:21-44 – Knowing God

Don’t you just hate it when, in the midst of trouble and disaster, someone stands up and says “I told you so!” In effect, that’s what Paul says after several days of storm at sea. The sailors have thrown the cargo overboard and every ounce of their skill was now directed to the saving their own lives – to the point that they had laboured on without food for several days. But, as we read at the end of yesterday’s passage, their hopes were fast fading even of saving themselves (see Acts 27:20). It’s at this point that Paul stood up and told them, “You should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss” (27:21).

If this had been all that Paul had to say, no doubt he would have been thrown overboard after the cargo. But Paul continues by telling them that God sent his angel to assure him that they will all be safe – only the ship will be lost.

After fourteen days of being driven before the storm, the ship carrying Paul and 275 other men came close to land. What a contrast there is now between the behaviour of the sailors and that of Paul. Some of the sailors, knowing the dangers involved in trying to get a large ship safely to an unknown shore in gale force winds, try to save their own lives by escaping in the small boat kept on the ship. Paul, knowing the God who made sea and wind and dry land, and who has guaranteed his safety and that of all on board, encourages them all to take food while they wait for daylight. Before them all, Paul thanked God for the food, broke it and began to eat, encouraging the others to do the same.

This meal in the face of the storm and of an unknown morning has echoes of a communion service. Sailors, soldiers and prisoners join Paul in eating bread together with thanksgiving and in hope. Perhaps they have begun to gain a glimpse not only of the faith of this strange prisoner but of the Saviour whom he served; the Saviour who gives life in the face of death. Can you imagine the testimony of these 270 or so men in the months and years that followed? After it was all over and they were safe, might they, as the sailors in the story of Jonah, have “greatly feared the Lord … and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him” (Jonah 1:16)?

As this chapter closes, we have one further testimony to the impression that Paul had made on his captors. When the ship is stuck on a sandbank not far from the shore, “The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan” (27:42-43). Paul’s integrity and trustworthy character saved not only his own life but the lives of all the other prisoners with him in the ship.

Knowing God enables us to have a quiet confidence in him in the face of troubles and to focus our concern on those around us rather than upon ourselves: “The people that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (Daniel 11:32).

Father God, increase my confidence in your daily care for me that I may not fear even when the earth shakes and mountains slip into the sea. May I rather be an encouragement and strength to those around me. May they also come to trust in you, their sovereign Creator and share in the blessings that come from Christ’s victory over death.

Peter Misselbrook