Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 6 2019 - Isaiah 6 – Isaiah's commission

In Isaiah 1:1 the prophet tells us that he ministered during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. In this chapter we learn that it was in the year that King Ussiah died that the Lord appeared to Isaiah and commissioned him to be his prophet.

These verses underline the contrast between human kings and the Lord God. Human kings may reign for a while and persuade others to acknowledge their glory, but they are soon swept away by death and nothing remains of them but dust. The living God reigns in glory for all eternity.

It seems likely that Isaiah was worshiping God in the temple when he was transported into a vision in which he, "saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple" (v.1). The temple was thought to be the house of God, though Solomon had declared that even the heaven of heavens was too small to contain the living God, much less this temple that he had built for him. In this vision it is only the edge of God's robe that fills the temple.

God, high and lifted up, is surrounded by heavenly creatures, seraphim ("shining ones"), "each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying" (v.2). Even these heavenly creatures dare not look directly upon the glory of God. Veiling their faces they cry out to one another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory" (v.3). In Isaiah's vision, the temple is filled with the glory of God and with smoke as on the day when it was first dedicated by Solomon. But the Seraphim's cry tells us that, if we only had eyes to see it, all of creation is aglow with the glory of God.

Isaiah is filled with wonder but also with terror. His "eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty", the one before whom Seraphim hide their faces. Before a thrice holy God, Isaiah is overwhelmed with a sense of his own sin and unworthiness. In particular, he feels himself to be unworthy to tell others about the living God because he is a man of unclean lips (v.5). But one of the seraphim took a live coal off the altar and touched it to his mouth saying, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for" (v.7). The sacrifice on the altar has atoned for his sin and its fiery cleansing applied to the lips of the prophet has equipped him to speak on behalf of God. Now, when God asks who he can send with his word, Isaiah responds, "Here am I. Send me!" (v.8).

The commission given by the Lord to Isaiah is an unenviable one. He is told to go and proclaim God's word to a people who will be deaf to what he is saying and blind to the visions he brings before them. They will refuse to believe God's word (vv.9-10). Isaiah will have to keep up this fruitless task until God comes in judgment upon the land and its cities are left in ruins (vv.11-12). But even in the midst of destruction, God will leave a hope for the future. The theme of the stump (v.13), which will again spring into life will be picked up in chapter 11.

Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9-11 to explain why so many failed to understand the message he preached. They enjoyed his parables – his stories – but they could not grasp what he was teaching them (Matthew 13:14-15). The same is true sometimes when we seek to tell people of all that God has done for us in Christ – especially when we speak of him as the perfect sacrifice for sin and the only way in which we can be cleansed of our sin and be made fit to stand in the presence of a holy God.

Triune and thrice holy God, give us a fresh vision of your glory that will make us fall before you, aware of our own sin. But give us also a deep awareness that the blood of the Lord Jesus cleanses us of all our sin and frees us from all condemnation. By your Spirit, equip us to serve you and to tell others of your glory, love and grace.

Aug 6 2020 - Mark 13:14-37 – My words will never pass away

In the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded by Matthew, Jesus says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Matthew 5:17-18). In this, Jesus echoes the words of Isaiah, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands for ever" (Isaiah 40:6-8). God does not change his mind. He never has to come up with a Plan B. What he has purposed and promised in his word will come to pass. You can bet your life upon it.

But in the passage we have been reading today, Jesus says the same thing concerning his own words! Jesus says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Mark 13:31). He gives the same weight and certainty to his own words as he gives to the words spoken by God. No wonder Jesus angered the Jewish leaders. They accused him of blasphemy because he, a man, made himself equal with God. They were right in their accusation – except in the suggestion that such a claim involved blasphemy on Jesus' part. Jesus is the one in whom all that was spoken beforehand finds its fulfilment. He is the word incarnate. He is the one through whom God will establish his kingdom – through whom his word and promise are becoming flesh.

C S Lewis wrote concerning Jesus, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman, or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity). 

How do you respond to the words of Jesus?

And more than that, how do we present the claims of Jesus to others? Jesus will not allow those who hear him to sit on the fence; they must either own him as Lord or reject him. Do we present the claims of Christ with a clarity and force which provokes and demands a response – or are we perhaps afraid that we also might suffer rejection if we do? The hope of Christ’s coming should prompt us to be always active in the Master’s business; always about the work of the kingdom.

Lord Jesus, I am amazed at your teaching, and especially at all that you said about yourself; “No-one else ever spoke like this.” Give me ears to hear what you are saying and an eagerness to pass on all that you have taught me. Through the power and presence of your Spirit within me, may others come to hear your voice through my stumbling words. May they come to see who you are and to own you as Saviour, Messiah and Lord.

Peter Misselbrook