Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 30 2019 - Joel 2:1-17 – Rend your heart

Joel again warns the people of the coming "day of the Lord". He is not talking about the final judgment when God holds the whole world to account, he is speaking of invasion by foreign powers that will sweep God's people into captivity and leave the country a "desolate waste" – just as clouds of locusts would leave the land dry and bare.

But Joel brings this warning not because he likes to bring bad news or delights in speaking of God's judgment; he brings this message to call the people to repentance:

‘Even now,’ declares the LORD,
    ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’
Rend your heart and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Who knows? He may turn and relent. (vv. 12-14)

The Lord does not delight in judgment. He could well have turned his back on us all and left us to face judgment and destruction, but he sent his own beloved Son into the world to endure that judgment in our place. Jesus told us that he is the one who shows us what God is truly like, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Jesus said, "I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world" (John 12:47). The living God created this world and made it for himself. He is "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love."

So God calls not only his rebellious people, but the whole world to turn to him in heartfelt repentance and faithful trust. God is not fooled by an outward show of religion and by outward demonstrations of sorrow over wrongdoing. Joel calls on the people to "Rend your heart and not your garments" (v.13). Jesus told us that the living God looks for people who will "worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth" (John 4:23). Our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, longs for us to be reconciled to him and to worship and serve him from a heart filled with love for him.

And this is God's longing not only for us but for the whole world. Joel calls for trumpets to be blown in Zion to summon the people back to God. We also are called to be heralds, blowing the gospel trumpet with a summons for all to hear the good news:

God was bringing the world back to himself through Christ. He did not hold people’s sins against them. God has trusted us with the message that people may be brought back to him. So we are Christ’s official messengers. It is as if God were making his appeal through us. Here is what Christ wants us to beg you to do. Come back to God! (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, New International Reader's Version)

Many around us would say that they do not believe in God, but in their inner being there is a conviction that life has some sort of purpose, they just cannot fathom what it is. We can tell them why they were created and open their eyes to see the world around them in a new light. Others might say that they believe that there is some supreme being or force behind the universe, but they do not know what that being or force is like. We can tell them of the Lord Jesus who shows us what God is like. Others have a distorted view of God as a great Victorian headmaster in the sky who watches to see when we are out of line so that he might come after us with thunderous judgment. They also need to come to Jesus Christ and learn of the loving compassion of our God. All manner of people need to hear the wonderful message of the gospel – God's good news for a lost world.

Father God, help us to worship you in Spirit and in truth – to worship you from a heart that has felt the fire of your love in the Lord Jesus. Help us then by your Spirit to tell others the good news of the gospel, and to do so with grace and love that mirrors that of the Lord Jesus.

Aug 30 2013 - 2 Corinthians 4:1-15 – Seen the light?

The gospel is all about the glory of Christ who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Saviour of the world. He is God manifest in the flesh, yet is also the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He is the Lamb of God and he is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is Emmanuel. He is Lord. This, and so much more, is the glory of Christ – the Christ who came to fulfil all that was promised in the Scriptures.

Yet many see nothing of this glory. To the Jews he was a charlatan and a danger to the people. To many of the sophisticates of the first century Mediterranean world the message of the incarnate God and risen Saviour was pure folly. To many today, Jesus remains a wise teacher, to be ranked along with Socrates and Confucius – a wise teacher who has been misunderstood and deified by his followers. But these have not seen what Paul had seen. On the Damascus road he saw the glory of Christ, and in a blinding flash he knew that he had been brought face-to-face with the Christ of God.

Paul’s experience was, of course, unique to him. Yet there is a sense, says Paul, in which it is the common experience of every Christian. In 1 Corinthians 4:6 Paul speaks in the plural, including the Christians in Corinth when he writes, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” This, says Paul, is what it means to be a Christian. A Christian is one who has seen the glory of Christ. A Christian is one who has been brought to see the glory of God in the face of Christ. This light which struck Paul to the ground on the Damascus road has dawned in the hearts of all who truly belong to Christ. We have seen the light. We have been brought face-to-face with God through Jesus Christ.

And all of this is not our own doing, any more than Paul came to the conviction that Jesus is the Christ by his own reasoning. We came to know God by his own creative act. It is the work of God who brought light out of darkness at the dawn of creation. He has brought us from darkness into light. It is the work of his Spirit. To be sure, our experiences vary widely one from another. Some may be able to name the day and hour – even the minute – when the light dawned. For others it was a prolonged process through which they were drawn to Christ. Some may not be able to remember a time when they did not know him. But for all of us who know him it is because God has graciously made himself known to us; he has shown us the glory of Christ and has brought us to bow before him and to own that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This was the confidence that undergirded Paul in his ministry; what God had done for him he could and would do for others. But Paul does not preach his own experience, he preaches Christ (4:5). Paul is aware of his own frailty, but he knows that in Christ he possesses an immense treasure (4:7), a treasure he is eager that others might also possess. So he tells them of Jesus Christ, crucified, raised from the dead and exalted as Lord. And as he does so, “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” shines into the hearts of many of his hearers. They too see the light.

Father God, you have filled these cracked pots with a glorious treasure – the treasures of your grace and glory in the Lord Jesus. May his glory shine out from our lives that others also may see the light and be drawn to him.

Peter Misselbrook