Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 4 2019 - Psalm 99 – The Lord sits enthroned on the cherubim

Some of the claims made by the Jewish people seem quite arrogant. They believed that the Ark of the Covenant, surmounted by cherubim, was (symbolically speaking), the throne of God – "he sits enthroned between the cherubim" (v.2, see also 1 Samuel 4:4; 6:2, Isaiah 37:16 et al.). Since the Ark was housed within the temple on Mount Zion (in Jerusalem), they claimed that the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, reigned in Zion and that all the world should tremble before him and come to worship him. They never consider the Lord their God a local deity.

But here is the problem; they proclaim that the Lord is a mighty King who loves justice (v.4) and is holy (v.5), but they know that they, his people, have often rebelled against God's rule and are not worthy to come before God and "worship at his footstool".

This psalm remembers that Moses, Aaron and Samuel, as leaders of God's people, interceded with God for them (v.6). Moses interceded with God for the rebellious Israelites and turned away God's wrath. Aaron had offered sacrifices on behalf of God's people to atone for their transgressions. Samuel through prayer was told by God whom he should anoint as king over Israel. Israel's king, unlike the kings of the nations, should "love justice" and "establish equity", reflecting the heart and character of God himself. Saul, Israel's first king, failed and God told Samuel to anoint another man to be king, a man after God's own heart. That man was King David.

It was only through the intercession of these leaders, that the rebellious Israelites were able to approach a holy God: "Lord our God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds" (v.8).

All of these great leaders of God's people point us forward to the Lord Jesus Christ. He came into this world to show us that it is not enough to try to live by God's law; God requires the undivided devotion of heart, mind and Spirit. "The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." "Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given." (John 1:17,14,16.)

Aaron ministered sacrifices but Jesus came to offer himself as a living sacrifice for us. Jesus went to the cross for us, suffering the penalty of our sin in our place. Through his shed blood we have gained the forgiveness of sins.

Samuel anointed kings, both of whom failed to live up to what God called them to be – even David. But Jesus is God's anointed king, he is the messiah. He is the exact reflection of God's heart and reigns in righteousness and justice. He has reconciled a rebellious people to a holy God.

And Jesus is now our great high priest in the heavens who never ceases to intercede for us. Moses, Aaron and Samuel were all removed by death. But Jesus reigns for ever at the right hand of the Father and his intercession will never be brought to an end by death.

As the writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us, having such a Great High Priest, "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). In the words of this psalm, it is only through Jesus that we are able to "Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool" (v.5).

Father, we know that there is no-one like the Lord Jesus. He is King over all the earth and every knee should bow to him. Help us by your Spirit to present the claims of your word with grace and sensitivity rather than arrogance. Help us to be used of you to draw others to faith in the Lord Jesus, the only hope for rebels and sinners. Help us to join Jesus our Lord in interceding for your world. 

Aug 4 2020 - Mark 12:18-37 – When the dead rise

The Jewish leaders are intent on finding a way to condemn Jesus. They decide that they will try to trap him with his own words. First of all the Pharisees and Herodians have a go. They tried to trick him with a question about paying taxes to Caesar. It’s a question designed either to lose him credibility among the crowds who hate the Roman occupation of their land, or to get him into fatal trouble with the Roman authorities. But Jesus sees through their flattery and deceit; he produces a response which is as memorable as it is full of wisdom. His answer silences his questioners and rescues him from condemnation by the crowd and by Rome.

Now it is the turn of the Sadducees to try their hand at tripping him up. They tell Jesus a story about seven brothers who, each in turn, have the same woman as their wife. “At the resurrection whose wife will she be?” they ask him (Mark 12:22). The Sadducees did not believe in any form of afterlife and, in their arrogance, they believe their story shows that any notion of life beyond this world is absurd and that those who believe such things are simply naive.

But Jesus is not to be confounded by their fables. He replies, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven…” (12:24-25).

Jesus rebukes the ignorance of the Sadducees, but his reply leaves us (or at least me), with so many more questions. I understand that there will be no more need for reproduction in the resurrection – there will be people enough in the life to come. But will we no longer have a special relationship with those who have been our family here below? My dad who died a few years ago was looking forward to being reunited with my mum who had died three years earlier. Does Jesus’ answer suggest that such desires are misplaced sentimentality? In the resurrection, will the one who is currently my wife mean no more to me then than the next woman? And in what sense will we be like the angels? I find this very confusing.

I can hazard a guess at an answer to some of these questions. I might suggest that my wife will mean no less to me in the resurrection than she does now but that others will mean far more in that day – that we shall truly be conscious of being one family through the Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, many questions remain – particularly on us being like the angels! I’m sure that it does not mean that we shall be dressed in white, have wings and play harps!

It is salutary to realise that some or our questions just have to remain unresolved for the present. It was said of Jesus during his earthly ministry that he did all things well. We can trust him to do the same for the age to come. We cannot fully imagine what it will be like – how shall the wolf lie down with the lamb and the leopard with a young kid? I’m sure that there are going to be plenty of surprises and delights in the age of resurrection. But of one thing I’m also absolutely sure, there will be no disappointments.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you have given me a living hope through your resurrection from the dead. I know that death is not the end and that I will share in your resurrection life. I can only begin to understand what this means, but I do know that it will be unutterable glory. I gladly trust you for all that’s to come.

Peter Misselbrook