Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 11 2019 - Amos 5:4-27; 9:11-15 – Judgment and hope

Today we have skipped to the end of the book of Amos, stopping only to hear God's words of judgment upon Israel found at the heart of Amos' message.

In Amos 5, God calls upon Israel to turn away from their idolatry practiced at Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba (5:5); God hates their empty religious festivals (5:21-23). God also hates the injustice and oppression that mark the lives of his people. They impose unjust taxes on the poor in order to subsidise the building of their own mansions and vineyards (5:11-12a). When the oppressed turn to the courts for redress, the wealthy make use of bribes to deprive the poor of justice (5:12b and 5:10). In the face of such behaviour the Lord says:

Let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream! (5:24)

(This verse became the battle cry of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in America.)

The Israelites have longed for the "day of the Lord" to arrive, thinking that it would mark God's judgment on their enemies and a time of unparalleled blessing for them as the people of God. But God warns them that the rapidly approaching day of the Lord will be one of judgment upon them:

That day will be darkness, not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear… (5:18-19)

But God does not delight in judgment, rather he pleads with his rebellious people saying, "Seek me and live" (5:4, cf. 5:6). He urges them:

Seek good, not evil, that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. (5:14-15)

But failure to respond to his plea will mean that they will be sent into exile beyond Damascus (5:27). And that is precisely the fate that befell the northern kingdom of Israel.

Judgment, however, is not God's final word. Amos concludes his prophetic book with a wonderful picture of the day when God will restore his people, uniting them under a new Davidic king (9:11-12). He will pour out his blessings again on the land so that it will yield such an abundant harvest that the reaper will not be able to gather it all in before it is time again to plough and to sow (9:13). And this renewed blessing will be one that will never be taken away.

God will not allow his saving purpose for the world to be shipwrecked by the disobedience and injustice of those whom he had made his own. The hope for a rebellious people lies in the promise of the Messiah. Jesus did not match many of the messianic expectations of his day but he is the one whom God sent to "restore David's fallen shelter" – he is David's greater son. In his life of perfect obedience to the Father he provides the model for human life as God intended it to be lived – a life of compassion and self-denying love. In his death he paid the penalty for the sins of his people. By his resurrection he is the firstfruits of the new creation – a new creation we also have begun to experience by the power of his Spirit. At his return he will make all things new; death and the curse shall be no more and the whole of creation shall be filled with the abundant blessings of God. We long for that day, a day when all darkness shall be banished in the light of God's presence and glory.

Father God, as we look for and long for the day of Christ's appearing, help us by your Spirit to work towards a world in which justice rolls on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream. So may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth at it is in heaven.

Jul 11 2013 - Acts 28:1-31 – The end of the story?

The ship that Paul and his companions had been travelling in was wrecked on the coast of Malta and all managed to get safely to shore. The estate of Publius, the chief Roman official on the island, was close by and Luke records, “He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days” (Acts 28:7). It is not clear who is included in the “us” – did Publius offer some sort of shelter and hospitality to all 275 from the ship? What we do know is that Publius’ father was very sick and that Paul laid his hands on him and healed him. Paul’s presence proved a blessing not only to his fellow travellers aboard the ship but also to those with whom he stayed.

Three months later they were able to sail on towards Rome in a ship whose captain had shown the good sense to overwinter in the island. The ship docked in Puteoli where Paul found some Christians with whom he stayed for a week. Christians have family in every city. Are we as eager to offer hospitality to fellow Christians as these brothers and sisters in Puteoli? Through such acts of hospitality we welcome God’s messengers – angels – into our homes and in doing so welcome God himself.

A few days later, Paul and his companions travelled on to Rome where they were again met and welcomed by fellow Christians. In Rome Paul was placed under house arrest. But that did not put an end to his preaching ministry: to both Jews and Gentiles he continued to preach fearlessly concerning the kingdom of God and to teach concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. His guards must have heard his preaching time and time again.

This was Paul’s passion, to speak about Jesus and to show from the Scriptures that he is the Christ, God’s promised Messiah, the King whom God has made Lord over all creation. Paul preached concerning the kingdom of God; its arrival in the Lord Jesus and the need for everyone to acknowledge his reign and to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

And that’s where Luke finishes the Book of Acts. We want to know what happened next. Was Paul executed after the two years of which Luke speaks or was he released for a while before being captured again? Luke does not tell us. He has finished his story. The Gospel has been brought to Rome, the heart of the Empire. From there it will go to the ends of the earth, but that’s another story.

In fact, that’s our story. Luke is signing off his book with the implicit invitation, even command, “Over to you.” If we are to continue the story we need to be driven by the same passion that drove Paul, a passion for Jesus the Christ which nothing and no-one can suppress?

Filled with compassion for all creation,
Jesus came into a world that was lost.
There was but one way that he could save us,
Only through suffering death on a cross.

God, you are waiting. Your heart is breaking
For all the people who live on the earth.
Stir us to action, filled with your passion
For all the people who live on the earth.

Noel & Tricia Richards

Lord God, stir us to action and fill us with the same passion that drove Paul on in his ministry – a passion which could not be extinguished by beatings, shipwreck and imprisonment. By your Spirit enlarge our vision for the work of the kingdom and give us the energy, drive and power to make Christ known. May the story of Jesus’ Kingdom continue to be written through us.

Peter Misselbrook