Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 22 2019 - Jeremiah 30 – Promise of restoration

Jeremiah is told to write the words God has given him in a book or scroll (v.2). We are so thankful for this command. There are many prophets who came before Jeremiah of whom we read in the pages of Scripture but have little record of the word God gave them. Jeremiah's message to the people of his day was written in a book that generations to come, including ourselves, might read it. The Lord's word through Jeremiah that the exile would last seventy years was read and known by Daniel who turned it into prayer that the Lord would now rescue his people and bring them back from exile. In the same way, the passage we have read today looks beyond the immediate prospect of judgment to the day when God will again come to save his people.

Jeremiah's message concerning God's judgment had been rejected by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, but the people had begun to recognise that Jeremiah was bringing them a message from the Lord. Many, no doubt, were beginning to fear the power of the nations that dominated their region – particularly the growing threat from Babylon. Were they really about to be invaded?

Verses 5-7 and 12-15 of this chapter, describe what will shortly happen to the people of Judah. They have an incurable wound – a wound which no-one is able to heal (vv.12-13). God will allow them to be invaded and there will be no allies to rush to their defence. And all of this is because of a deeper wound which has been beyond healing; the wound of their many sins and great guilt (vv.14,15). Though judgment will come in the form of invasion by a foreign power it will be the Lord who will strike them (v.14). Verses 4-7 describe the fearful suffering of that day. Strong men will cry out in fear, turning deadly pale and clutching their stomachs like a woman who is going into labour. "It will be a time of trouble for Jacob" declares the Lord. But even as the Lord declares his judgment, he also adds a word of hope by adding, "but he will be saved out of it" (v.7).

Verses 8-11 and 16-24 describe what God will do to save his people after he has visited them in judgment. The Lord will break the powers of the nations that enslave his people, as he broke the power of Egypt long ago (vv.8, 16, 23-24). The Lord will gather to himself the people he has scattered in exile. He will raise up a new king to reign over them who is spoken of here as "David their king" (v.9). Under his rule, God's people will "have peace and security, and no one will make [them] afraid" (v.10). Even in the midst of judgment, the Lord wants his people to know, "I am with you and will save you" (v.11). In that day the Lord will heal their incurable wound and restore them to health, remaking them to be the people God created them to be (v.17).

In the short term, beyond the years of exile, the city of Jerusalem will be "rebuilt on her ruins" (v.18). But, as we shall see, that return to Judah and Jerusalem will fall far short of the freedom from captivity which the Lord here promises his people. The power of Babylon will be succeeded by Persia; the power of Persia by Alexander the Great and the Greek empire; the power of Greece by Rome. Israel / Jacob would remain in captivity to foreign powers, in exile in its own land.

But God's promise will not fail. In the fulness of his time he would send his own Son into the world as his Messiah, as David's greater son who would be king over his people. Jesus will be the demonstration that God is with us and will save us. He alone is able to cure the incurable wound of our sin and to draw people from every nation out of their captivity and gather them to be his people – one flock under one shepherd. By his death, resurrection and living presence he will give peace and security to his people. He continually addresses us saying, "do not be afraid" (v.10).

Father God, we thank you for these prophetic scriptures that point us to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the great salvation that is ours in him. Continue your work in us by your Spirit to release us from our captivity to sin and to self. Lord Jesus, help us to hear your voice telling us not to be afraid and assuring us of the peace and security which is ours in you.

Aug 22 2013 - 1 Corinthians 14:20-40 – God making his presence felt

Some Christians at Corinth seem to have placed great value in forms of ecstatic speech, claiming that their ability to speak in what they perhaps claimed to be the tongues of angels was evidence of their superior spirituality to those who lacked such ability. Paul, in effect, tells them to stop being like infants who babble in words that they alone can understand; he urges them to grow up (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Paul then quotes from Isaiah 28:11,12, “With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” The context in Isaiah is a word from God about the northern kingdom of Israel just before its defeat by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The rulers in Samaria have been complaining that the prophet who has been bringing God’s message to them was treating them like children with his infantile words of judgment. It’s just ‘la la la,’ they mocked. God’s response is that, if they will not listen to simple instruction, he will send them off into exile. There they will have to listen to instruction in a foreign language they cannot understand. That truly will be to them like infantile babble, ‘la la la’.

Paul sums up the point he is making from this quotation by saying “Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers (14:22). Incomprehensible language was God’s judgment upon the Israelites for their failure to believe the words plainly declared to them by the prophets; it’s a sign for unbelievers. God’s word, declared in plain language is his gift to his believing people, designed to promote faith and to build them up in knowledge of him.

Having delivered this stinging rebuke, Paul does not forbid the exercise of tongues within the church; instead he insists that they be interpreted when not being used in private worship. Nevertheless, he argues that when the church meets together, prophecy is more beneficial than tongues since prophecy can be understood. God wants us to understand what he has to say to us and to respond in faith, thanksgiving and obedience.

Paul also encourages congregational participation when they meet together for worship, but he is concerned that it does not become a disorderly competition for the right to speak. Everything should be done in an orderly manner, designed to build up the faith and understanding of fellow Christians and to act as a witness to others that God is in this place and is addressing the hearts and lives of those present.

And surely this is our desire for the churches that we attend. We long that when we meet together there will be both abundant life and peaceful order. We long that God will speak in power into our lives, to continue his work in those who have already come to faith, transforming them the more into the likeness of Christ. And we long that God’s presence may be so very real, both in the proclaiming of his word and in every other aspect of our worship, that those who do not yet know him may be convicted of their sin and drawn to faith in Jesus Christ.

Lord, turn us away from childish things and from the desire to impress others. Give us ears to hear what you are saying to us and hearts that respond readily to all that you have said and done. Glorify your name among your people today and make your presence known and felt. And, as we meet together, may many be drawn to faith in the Lord Jesus that they too may rejoice with us that you are the living God who has rescued us from exile and brought us into the kingdom of your dear Son.

Peter Misselbrook