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Building on sand

Jesus splits the world in two.  But He does it by descending right into our midst. There He is, the son of Mary, an itinerant preacher with no qualifications and no fixed abode.  Surrounded by the poor, the meek and the persecuted, He holds forth with His distinctive northern accent.  Yet as He concludes His […]

Pearls before swine

The most precious of jewels and the filthiest of animals are combined into a single memorable phrase: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”  (Matthew 7:6) There are people who, at some point, […]

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

The beatitudes describe the life of the King and therefore the life of the kingdom.  They begin and end speaking of who the kingdom “belongs” to – the poor in spirit (v3) and the persecuted (v10).  And in between there seems to be a progression.  We might imagine a story going something like this: I […]

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted

What could be more nonsensical than this?  Or insensitive?  “Blessed are they that mourn”? In my Greek lexicons the word that invariably appears next to “Blessed” is “Happy”.  It’s a word denoting a prosperous and favourble condition.  Some dictionaries list “blissful” as a synonym!  So how on earth can Jesus call mourners “blessed”? Well it’s […]

Prisoners of hope

We have all met people who are prisoners of despair.  What we call depression could well be described in those terms: it is a helpless and hopeless condition with no prospect of release.  They don’t want to collapse in despair but they feel bound to do so.  Perhaps we have been in that waterless pit […]

For ever and ever

Given the suffering of this world, how can anyone believe in a good God or a happy ending? In Daniel 7, the prophet has a vision of the most terrible cruelty imaginable.  It was a “vision by night” that left him, in his own words, “grieved in my spirit… and the visions of my head […]

Daniel in the Lion's Den

The bible is all about dramatic reversals. Perhaps Mary said it best when she was told that the Mighty Christ would be born into her humble circumstances: “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath […]

Great is thy faithfulness

Much of the bible’s description of exile sounds at a distance. It happens to those people who deserved it for having committed those sins.  Lamentations feels very different.  Here the anonymous author (traditionally thought of as Jeremiah) lays bare the horror of Jerusalem’s destruction.  He describes the whole thing as a first person lament.  He […]

A drop in the bucket

A sense of proportion is priceless.  But it can be very elusive.  When things go wrong we speak of life getting on top of us.  Chips on both shoulders.  We can be weighed down with worry, drowning in troubles, outnumbered.  It’s us against the world.  And the world is winning. Isaiah knows how this feels.  […]

Spare the rod and spoil the child

This phrase is biblical in origin, but distilled through the poetry of Samuel Butler: “Love is a Boy, by Poets styl’d, Then Spare the Rod, and spill the Child.” In 1662 “spill” was an alternative spelling for “spoil.”  But it seems that Butler relied on a yet more ancient poet.  In 1377 William Langland wrote: […]