Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 9 2019 - Isaiah 25:6-26:9 – Praise the Lord

We have skipped over a number of chapters of Isaiah to land on this particular prophecy in chapters 25-26. You will remember that Isaiah has had much to say about Jerusalem and its central citadel, Mount Zion, on which the temple was built. Isaiah is scathing about the idolatry and hypocritical worship that has marked the people of God, even in Jerusalem. Their meaningless sacrifices have become a mere trampling of his courts (2:11-12). But Isaiah has also seen a vision of the glory of the Lord filling the temple and spilling out to fill the whole earth (6:1-4). He knows that God's purpose has been to bring blessing to all peoples on earth, starting with his chosen people. He has seen a vision of the day when all the world will stream up to Mount Zion to learn of the living God, worship him and walk in his ways (2:1-5). In that day, all war shall cease as enemies are reconciled with God and with each other. This forms the background to the passage we read today.

Think back to the finest banquet you have ever attended – perhaps it was a wedding celebration or a special birthday party. That was nothing compared to the feast which God is planning to spread out on Mount Zion; "A feast of the finest foods, a feast with vintage wines, a feast of seven courses, a feast lavish with gourmet desserts" (25:6, The Message). Nor will this be a feast reserved for his Jewish people; it will be for "all peoples". The celebration and rejoicing will be as widespread as had been the reign of death. Death's shroud has covered all nations, none has escaped its chilling and dusty embrace. But God will swallow up death for ever and wipe away the tears of mourning from every face. This will be a day of unalloyed celebration as the revellers declare:

Surely this is our God;
    we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him;
    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation. (25:9)

There could hardly be a greater contrast than that between Jerusalem as presently viewed by Isaiah – full of unfaithfulness and idolatry and destined for destruction – and the glorious city he sees in his vision. In that day it will be a strong city surrounded by walls and ramparts of salvation, a secure refuge for all who seek the God of Israel. Yet its gates will be open to admit all who are righteous in God's sight, all who are faithful to him.

Isaiah has a deep longing for God himself, and for that day when he will appear to put all things right (26:9). That will be a day of great celebration. Meanwhile, he rests in God's assurance:

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
Trust in the LORD for ever,
    for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal. (26:3-4)

We know that it is through the Lord Jesus that God has entered our world to put all things right. By his death and resurrection he has broken the power of death and ripped away "the shroud that enfolds all peoples." He has become the rock of our salvation and the fortress in whom we have found refuge. He is the one who is drawing to himself a people from all nations, made righteous through his atoning sacrifice. He is the one for whom the Father is preparing a marriage supper like no other in human history, the marriage supper of the lamb at which he will celebrate with his redeemed people and every tear will be wiped away. What a day that will be!

Living God, we long for that day when all things will be made new and when death and tears shall be no more. Fill us with your Spirit as a foretaste of the feast of good things that will be ours on that day. Help us never to tire of telling this dying world of the coming celebration and issuing invitations to the feast – that your banquet may be full.

Aug 9 2020 - Mark 14:53-72 – Destroy this temple ...

Jesus has been brought for trial before the Jewish leaders. But even though some have been persuaded to concoct accusations against him, their testimony does not agree. In the end, Jesus' own words are used to condemn him.

One of the accusations against Jesus, recorded by Mark, was that he had said, "I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands" (Mark 14:58). He is accused of threatening to destroy the temple – the most holy of places to Judaism. But this false accusation was a garbled version of what Jesus had said when he had cleansed the temple and had been asked for a sign to demonstrate his authority to do such things; Jesus had replied, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days" (John 2:19).

Jesus was speaking not of the building in Jerusalem but of his own body. He is the temple of God. He is the "place" in which the living God has come to live among us. He is the place where that final atoning sacrifice is made for sin. He is the place of reconciliation with God. He is the one in whom we are able to offer acceptable worship to God. And he is all of this because this temple was destroyed and raised again in three days.

Jesus and his atoning sacrifice sweep away all of the signs and shadows of the Old Testament. He is the fulfilment of all that has gone before, the focus of all God’s purposes for his world. How sad that these Jewish leaders wanted to cling onto the sign while seeking to destroy the one to whom it pointed. How sad that some Christians seem to get excited about the prospects of the temple in Jerusalem being rebuilt – as if Christ had not died and been raised from the dead.

Through Jesus, we also become the temple of the living God: "You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honour. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God" (1 Peter 2:4-5). We who have come to trust in Jesus are the new temple that Jesus is raising up.

Because of Jesus, the dwelling place of God is not a temple of stone, or a church building or any other human construction. It is a people among whom God lives by his Spirit; a people who know that the risen Lord Jesus is with them. And we have been entrusted with the priestly task of interceding with God on behalf of his world, calling down God’s blessing upon the world and bringing the world to God. We have become the people through whom the world meets the living God!

At the beginning of the previous chapter we read that as the disciples came out of the temple, one of them said to Jesus, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mk 13:1). They were filled with wonder at the splendour of the temple. What do people say when they look at the shared lives of Christians? Do they see the glory of God’s presence among us?

Living God, the heaven of heavens cannot contain you, much less any house which we can make. And yet, in your condescension, you came to dwell among us in the man, Christ Jesus. How much more wonderful that you, the triune God, have stooped to live among us in the power of the risen Saviour and the person of your Spirit. May your glory be seen in this temple and may the world come to meet you through the witness of your holy people.

Peter Misselbrook