Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 20 2019 - Jeremiah 25:1-27 – Seventy years of captivity

Jeremiah had begun his ministry in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah. At that time the threatening power to the north was that of Assyria. Now, some 23 years later during the reign of Jehoiakim, the even more powerful empire of the Babylonians had defeated the Assyrians and the Egyptians. Babylon, with its king Nebuchadnezzar, was now the threatening power to the north. Over all of these 23 years of his ministry, Jeremiah had warned the people that God would come in judgment upon them for their unfaithfulness, unless they genuinely turned back to the Lord in repentance. But the people had not listened (vv.1-3). So now Jeremiah tells the people:

Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: "Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon … and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years." (vv.8-11).

What a terrible message of judgment. But again, beyond judgment there is also a message of hope. After these 70 years of exile God will come to rescue his people. The Lord "will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt… They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands" (vv.12,14). The mighty Babylonian empire will in its turn fall to another power – to that of the Medes and Persians. Then the captive Israelites will begin to return to their own land.

The Lord used Nebuchadnezzar, his unwitting servant, to bring his judgment on the whole of the known world of his day: "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.’" (vv.15-16). The following verses list these nations, some of which we cannot identify: Egypt, Uz, Philistia, Edom, Moab, Amon, Tyre and Sidon, Dedan, Tema, Buz, Arabia, Zimri, Elam and Media. The Lord, the God of Israel, is God over all the earth and will bring all nations and people to account.

We know that the whole world is still in rebellion against God to its own hurt and destruction. But Jesus came into this world to redeem and save it. There in the Garden of Gethsemane he faced the torment that lay before him and prayed that, if it were possible, this cup might be taken from him. But, in accordance with the Father's will, he was ready to take "this cup filled with the wine of [a holy God's] wrath" against sin and to drain it on our behalf.

O Christ, what burdens bow’d Thy head! Our load was laid on thee;
Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead, Didst bear all ill for me.
A victim led; Thy blood was shed; Now there’s no load for me.

Death and the curse were in our cup, O Christ, ’twas full for thee!
But thou hast drained the last dark drop – ’Tis empty now for me.
That bitter cup – love drank it up; Now blessings’ draught for me.

Lord Jesus, we cannot fully understand the agonies you bore there at Calvary: not just the physical agonies of crucifixion, but the agony of spirit as you took our sins upon yourself and felt the rejection and wrath of God. Thank you that you fully drained that cup for us and we are now freed from condemnation and embraced by your love. Help us by your Spirit to tell a condemned world of the way in which they too may be reconciled to God.

Aug 20 2013 - 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13 – The call of unfailing love

What can one say about 1 Corinthians 13? I wonder what the argumentative and fiercely competitive Corinthians made of Paul’s words. Compare his description of them in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 with what he says here:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (vv. 4-7)

This, says Paul, is the shape of Christian maturity. This is the foundation and fashion of the world to come. This is the love of God that has appeared in Jesus Christ. This is the character that the Spirit of God is seeking to form in us. This is what it means to be a truly spiritual person. This is the calling of God upon our lives.

These words are truly awesome. They fill me with joy at the beautiful picture of God’s purpose for our lives. They fill me with shame at the recollection of just how much and how often I fall short of all that I should be. These are words that demand to be committed to memory, written upon the heart and, most of all, to be lived out in daily life. It’s a calling with which my flesh cannot comply. All too often I am impatient and concerned to have my own way. I can be envious of others and so pleased when others speak well of me. I have learned to hide my anger well, but it can flare and burn inside and smoulder on for days or even years. I do not find it easy to forget the wrongs I believe that I have suffered. I need forgiveness, and I need transformation. The Spirit of the risen Saviour can alone fill me with the love of Jesus and make me like him.

And this makes what Paul has to say next even more wonderful:

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away… For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (vv 8,12).

Love never fails. God’s love never fails, neither does he give up on us. He has begun a work in us by his Spirit of transforming us into the likeness of his Son, the Man of Love, and he will not leave it half done. He will not allow our stubbornness, our weakness, our sin to defeat his purpose: love never fails. He will continue to love us and work in us and for us until we stand with Christ in glory and see him face to face and know as we are known.

And he calls us to show that sort of love towards others; a love that never gives up on them but seeks always to work for their good and for their blessing and which prays unceasingly for them. This, says Paul to the argumentative and competitive Corinthians, is God’s calling for you in Christ. It is his calling also for us.

Lord, help me never to forget these words. Through your love I am redeemed. You are patient with me, always kind towards me and keep no record of my wrongs – wonderful words! You do not give up on me but persevere with me despite my failings and slowness to learn. You are wonderful to me. Help me to live a life shaped by such love. Make me more like Jesus, more like the person I shall be when he appears. Help me to show this same unfailing love towards others that they too may be drawn into the saving embrace of your love.

Peter Misselbrook