Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 10 2019 - Isaiah 32:1-2; 35:1-10

Today we complete our first set of readings in Isaiah. We have looked at several of his prophecies which point forward to the day when God will send his Messiah – a king who will bring salvation to his people and blessing to all the world. Isaiah 32:1-2 describes what the reign of this king will be like. Many governments in this world are marked by corruption, injustice or just plain incompetence. The Messiah will reign in righteousness and those who have positions of leadership in his kingdom will exercise justice reflecting his own gracious rule.

Imagine what it is like to live in a hot, dry climate where winds often stir up sandstorms that make it difficult to see ahead or to move forwards. The Messiah and those who follow him will provide shelter from the wind and a place of refuge from the storm. They will be like life-giving streams of water in the desert and like a great standing rock that provides shade from the burning sun.

We who have come to trust in the Lord Jesus can readily identify with these pictures. Jesus is our refuge in whom we have come to take shelter. He is the one whose Spirit has supplied us with streams of living water. But these verses speak of how his people will then become the source of such blessings to others. Are we, the followers of the Lord Jesus, known as those to whom this weary storm-tossed world turns for refuge? How might we become such a people?

Isaiah 35:1-10 anticipates the latter part of Isaiah that we shall turn to later in the year. Isaiah has warned the people of Judah that if they continue in unfaithfulness then, like the northern kingdom of Israel, they too will be swept away into captivity. But God will not abandon them to captivity. After a period of chastening, he will return to them and will to save them.

And that is what is pictured in this chapter. God will appear in glory to rescue his people from captivity. He will lead them through the desert and back to the Promised Land – as he had done years before in the time of Moses and the Exodus. A highway will be created on which God will go before his people, bringing them back to Zion with celebration and singing.

As we read this chapter, we recognise that this prophecy finds its fulfilment in the coming of the Lord Jesus. His arrival was heralded by John the Baptist who was, "A voice … calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord'." (Matthew 3:3). He is the Lord, come to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, a voice to the dumb and to enable the lame to leap for joy like a deer. He came to give strength to trembling hands and courage to fearful hearts.  And he has created a way for us to return to the living God. He himself is that way; it has been opened to us through his atoning death and risen life. He calls us, his redeemed, to walk with him in the way of holiness until the day when we enter Zion with singing and everlasting joy will crown our heads.

Yes, Jesus fulfils this wonderful prophecy of Scripture and calls us to be strong and not to give in to fear. He who has redeemed us will protect us from all threats (35:9), and will bring us safe with him to glory. Furthermore, when he returns there will be perfect healing for his damaged creation. On that day we will have resurrection bodies made like his glorious body and the desert places of this world will burst into flower and abundant fertility. Eden will be restored.

Meanwhile we are called to walk with Christ in the way of holiness and, like John the Baptist, to call others to turn to the Lord in repentance and faith and to look with expectation to the day of his return, when all things shall be made new.

Father God, we thank you that you did not abandon us to the captivity of our sin and the prospect of death. Thank you that you came to us in the Lord Jesus to redeem us and to lead us back home to you. Fill us with joy and peace in believing and help us to follow Christ in the way of holiness and to call upon others to join our joyful procession on the king's highway to glory.

Aug 10 2013 - 1 Corinthians 6:1-20 – When rights can be wrong

There is something about the way we are made that causes us to react against injustice – it’s part of being made in the image of God. Such a reaction can drive us to campaign against injustice and corruption; to seek to create a better world and to bring freedom to those who are oppressed. But it can also become self-centred. We can become preoccupied with the real or imagined hurts others have done to us and determined to get justice for ourselves, or even revenge.

In the church at Corinth there appears to have been a dispute between two Christians. The one who believed that they had been wronged had taken the other to court. Paul says that such conduct brings the gospel into disrepute. “Why not rather be wronged?” he writes, “Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:7b). “You must be joking!” is our natural reaction. If I’ve been wronged or cheated I want to get it sorted out.

But think about it for a moment. “Why not rather be wronged?” Is it really so very important that we make sure we get what we deserve? Do we really want to take that attitude with God? Surely we glory in the fact that “he does not treat us as our sins deserve.” He has dealt with us in grace and in mercy and calls on us to treat others with the same generosity and grace.

Remember the parable that Jesus told of the two debtors? A servant of a certain king owed his master an unimaginable sum that he could not begin to repay – millions of pounds. The servant begged to be given more time to repay the debt, but his master had pity on him and freed him from it completely. That servant then went out and found a fellow servant who owed him about a third of a year’s wages – a significant sum, but nothing in comparison with what he had owed his king. He demanded immediate repayment from his fellow servant or he would have him thrown into prison. The story is shocking. We immediately see the injustice of the servant’s behaviour. But we have far more difficulty in applying it to ourselves. We have a tendency to go on demanding justice from others.

It is certainly good when wrongs can be righted and when a debt owed to us can be repaid. If we have a dispute with a Christian brother or sister it’s good if this can be resolved amicably with the help of other Christians. But if it cannot be resolved in such a fashion it’s better to suffer loss; better to be cheated of what you consider your rights than bring the gospel into disrepute – to deny the gospel of grace by insisting on your own rights.

And think for a moment which is the better: a world in which each individual is preoccupied with themselves and determined to get what they consider is due to them; or a world in which each is concerned to watch out for the needs of others, to protect them from exploitation and to ensure that they are provided for? In the first scenario there is only one person looking after me; in the second, there are many.

Paul reminds the Christians at Corinth that the day will come when they will judge the world – even judge angels. So let’s do what we can now to bring justice and blessing to others rather than being preoccupied with our own rights. To follow Jesus is to live for others and not for ourselves.

Heavenly Father, I am so glad that you have not treated me as my sins deserved but have loved me and given your Son for me when I was a rebel against you. Help me by your Spirit to follow Christ and to give myself to the care of others today.

Peter Misselbrook