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 2013 - 1 Corinthians 1:1-17 – Faithful God

We might imagine that the letter that we know as 1 Corinthians would have been written by Paul in a spirit of frustration and disappointment. Paul had spent more than 18 months ministering in Corinth, followed by the able ministry of Apollos. But now the church is marked by division and even false teaching. Nevertheless, Paul begins his letter with thanksgiving for the Christians in Corinth. He is thankful that God has reached out to them in grace and that the message he preached to them was confirmed by the presence and witness of the Spirit in their lives, equipping them with a variety of spiritual gifts.

And yet it’s the rich ministry that they had received and the spiritual gifts that had been given that seem to have become the source of so many of the problems in this church. They were divided over who had been the better preacher; they were divided over who had the superior gifts.

In the face of what must have been frustration and disappointment, Paul remained confident concerning these Christians. They eagerly looked forward to the day of Christ’s return and Paul writes that God “will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)

Paul is thankful for these perverse Christians at Corinth because God had been at work in their lives. They are Christians not of Paul’s making (nor are they the creation of Apollos); they are the work of God’s Spirit – he is the one who has called them into the family of Jesus. And God is faithful; he will not give up on them but will continue and complete the work he has begun until the day when they are presented blameless before Christ. In that day there will no longer be divisions among them. In that day they will be so overwhelmed with the glory of Christ their king that all rivalry between them will melt away. Paul’s confidence rests not on the quality of his own work, nor in the present character of the Corinthian Christians, but in the faithfulness of God.

We need the same confidence – and thankfulness – concerning the presence and work of the Triune God amongst his people today. We are very conscious of the divisions that fracture the church in our own day. We still divide over whom we consider to be the best leader or leaders within the church. We divide over our brands of Christianity, our differing emphases and spiritual giftings. We have much to learn – and much to unlearn. But God has not finished with us yet. His work is not complete until we stand united before him in glory, casting down before him the tawdry paper crowns we have made for ourselves.

We need this same confidence concerning those Christians who may frustrate and disappoint us. God has not finished with them yet. More importantly, we need to view ourselves in the same light, and to guard ourselves against the Corinthian spirit of spiritual superiority; God has a great deal more work to do in our own lives.

In all of these areas – the fractured nature of the universal church; the rivalries that mar the life of our own congregation; the glaring faults in other Christians; the faults we so easily gloss over in ourselves – our hope and confidence rests solely in the God who began a work in us and who will present us blameless in the day of Christ; it is all of grace – thank God.

Heavenly Father, forgive the ugly pride and arrogance that all too often mark the lives of your people and damage our witness in the world. Make us more like Christ and give us one mind and heart in him. Continue the work you have begun in us by your Spirit and make us the people we shall be when Christ appears.

Peter Misselbrook