Category Archives: Maturity

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

God’s body parts

Discussion Question

Name three body parts that you could live without. What difference would it make to your life without those three?

Background (Context)

Division in the church has been a considerable theme in this whole book. There have been divisions over which leader is best, legal issues, freedom in Christ issues and selfish seclusions. In Chapter 11, Paul dealt with the disunity in the church manifested at the Lord’s Supper which was harmful and damaging to the church. There was a double meaning with regard to the Lord’s Supper because it refers to the body of Christ. This refers to Jesus’ literal body that was hung on the cross. It also referred to the bread that is an image of remembrance for his body. It is, as we shall see clearer here, also the church that has come together because of the sacrifice of Christ. His body has given life to the body which is the church. If the church is one body, there ought to be no such thing as division because, who would ever think that a body should be dismantled like that. A head needs a neck…

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • The principle laid out (12-14)
  • What this means for the ‘lesser’ parts (15-20)
  • What this means for the ‘greater’ parts (21-26)
  • Putting some flesh on the principle (27-31)

The principle laid out (12-14)

“Just as a body…so it is with Christ.” Verse 12 is simply put but holds the full weight of this passage. The end of the sentence points us to Christ. This is not simply instruction on how to relate to other people at church but about our relationship with Christ and His body. The principle of this passage is quite clear and simple and will not take much time to understand it. The outworking of this is a little trickier but the hardest part will really come down to who is this included in this passage! If we presume that all at church are part of Christ’s body then this becomes a message of church organisation and structure or something like that. If it refers only to the real body of Christ who are truly born again then how do we discern who is and who isn’t part of the body of Christ? It may then set a huge discussion in motion but hopefully we will come back again to understanding that the body of Christ is a creation of God the Father since it is the church of God that we are referring to. And Paul, in his entire letter has been addressing it to all the saints at Corinth – the church of God, sanctified in Christ and called to be holy. We will teach the principle to all at church and live it out and those who are not truly part of the body will be revealed eventually.

“For we were all baptised by one Spirit…all given the one Spirit to drink.” Using the power of context: Paul wrote in Verses 1-11 about the Spirit distributing gifts to believers and the primary gift is the truth to call Jesus Lord. We become members of the body of Christ as we declare Jesus as Lord by the Holy Spirit – we are baptised in this way. We drink as the Spirit has distributed to each one gifts. The theme of unity, or anti-division, is continued as Paul talks about Jew v Gentile and slave v free. The point of Verse 13 is the same as Verses 1-6. We come to Christ and are enriched in Christ by the work of the Spirit.

“Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” Here is the new angle that Paul wants to focus on. Being one in Spirit does not make us clones of one another. What we do and how we express our service and works for God will differ and yet will continue to be sourced by the One Spirit and for the good of the church. We then look at what it means to be a body (church) made up of different parts. In applying this text, we need to keep in mind the different layers of what church means. It needs to be applied at the level of the local church, at the level of partnering churches (the Anglican structure), and at the global or universal church (which is every representative body of the authentic Spirit of God). And yet, the primary application will be the local gathering.

What this means for the ‘lesser’ parts (15-20)

“Now if the foot should say…” Verses 15-17 are fairly straight forward. Paul has given a good illustration toward what he is saying. Those who feel themselves to be of less worth to the body should not think that they are not part of the body. These words are here to give courage to those who feel they have little importance to the body. You can live without feet. Many brave humans have demonstrated that. But this is not a lesson in what we could possibly get by without. It is about knowing that the body is the body – no matter how small. In fact, it is when a lesser thing is lost that the rest of the body needs to compensate for the loss! Paul will cover that later.

“…in fact God has placed the parts in the body…just as he wanted them to be.” Have you ever wished that you could speak like that person can? Or if you could play an instrument or sing like that person. Or if you could be as charismatic as that person! Here we are told that God has placed people in a church like instruments in an orchestra. Nobody seeks out to be the oboe player! But the many parts make up the glory of the whole and God Himself has orchestrated that. We’ll see that some of the parts do not even look good when you point them out. But we must thank God that they are all part of the body. If we were God, we would just make every Christian a well toned, beautiful, intelligent, well-off person. You know: Come to Christ and your life will look amazing like the person on the cover of this book! But, the church is about saved sinners who come together because of the great mercy of God.

“If they were all one part, where would the body be?” Paul’s logic is that a body, by definition, has parts. If it did not have parts then it would simply be an object: square, cube, eyeball, etc. The body has to have parts and if the parts are not present then there is no body. So, if you are at church, and engaged with the gospel, you are a part of the body. That is the perspective we all should have.

What this means for the ‘greater’ parts (21-26)

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’” Now we look at the perspective of those who seem to be more important at church. Their perspective is to be the same: don’t dismiss the other parts because it will damage the body that you are a part of.

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it…” It’s fun to think of all the parts of your human body and consider which parts are ‘less honorable’ or ‘unpresentable’. Which parts of the human body lacks honour? Perhaps the feet. Of course, there are parts of the body that we do our utmost to protect and guard and never flaunt around! And yet these parts are very special to us! If that has grabbed your imagination and raised your eyebrows, then good. Now consider the church. Are there parts that we should care for and protect and treat with utmost respect even though we may not place them out the front.

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” As the body of Christ we move through highs and lows together. When you cut your hand, the rest of your body is aware of it and compensates. It stops and treats the suffering part. It provides rest for that part while the rest of the body functions a little less vibrantly as it did before until that body part is healed or recovered. We ought to look for a connectedness in our church like this. Growth Groups are just one way of being connected so that we can care for one another. But make sure that your group is not just talking about theology but also listening and rejoicing and praying and lamenting over the things of life – especially as we grow in our maturity in the gospel together.

Division in the church should disappear when we see one another as part of the one body. But now Paul will put some specific details onto his initial principle.

Putting some flesh on the principle (27-31)

“Now you are the body of Christ…” We have been referring forward to this verse a little bit but it has finally come. We are the body of Christ. A great truth which says: you are not Anglican or Baptist. You are a member of Christ’s body.

“…and each one of you is part of it.” For those who are wondering who all this applies to, it is all who are reading and engaged with this text. If you are attending church then you are to react to this news that you are part of the body. We treat all as potential or actual members of the body of Christ. Those outside the church are highly unlikely to be members of that body since it is a very Christian response to actually attend church! Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car! BUT…garages are made for cars and churches are made for Christians. Churches are the number one location that people give their lives to Christ. There is no other comparison (I don’t mean that conversions only happen under the roof of a church building but that conversions 9/10 times happen as a result of someone being in contact and engaging at church. People don’t arrive at church generally saying, I’m saved and thought I’d come to church. Rather, they say, I’ve been thinking of getting back into church and then some time later give thanks that they did because it was there than they found Christ.

“And God has placed in the church…” Remember that God has made up our physical bodies exactly how he planned them to be with special parts and indispensable parts etc – God has placed parts in the church too.

“…first…apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then…” There does appear to be a hierarchy here of gifts which correspond to the parts of the body that seem to be of greater worth – yet they are not greater than the other parts of the body. They are key pieces of the body and the order of apostles, prophets and teachers seems interesting and significant. He ends Verse 30 with instructions to desire the greater gifts. So Paul, while maintaining unity and equality in the church as many parts of the whole, he is also drawing attention to some gifts as of higher value. Let me put it this way, when churches do not have these parts, the body really suffers. Miracles, healing, helping and guidance appear to sit on a second rung to apostles, prophets and teachers.

Teachers – This is the least controversial gift. Some people are capable of teaching. They are able to learn stuff in a way that they can then present to others to know for themselves. They are instructors. When applied to the church, teachers are trainers of the faith through the word of God. Is this the preacher? Preaching and teaching appear to be two separate and yet closely linked things (Matt 11:; Romans 2:21; 1 Tim 4:13; 5:17). Preaching is like exhorting which is to direct people strongly in a direction and yet teaching is more like instruction on scripture. Preaching would go hand in hand with teaching. Not simply knowledge of the scriptures but what to do about them.

Prophets – You may have a gut feeling about what a prophet does cause you imagine a wise old monkey sitting with a stick in its hand and when people come to enquire of the creature, they make strange markings on the wall and predict what the future will hold. But we will rather reflect on what the scriptures tell us about prophets. A prophet is someone who speaks the words of God. It might be helpful to look at the example of Aaron in Exodus 7:1. Moses was feeling incapable of doing what God had told him to do before Pharoah and the people of Israel. God then instructs that Moses will be like God to Pharoah and that Aaron will be your prophet. Aaron is not described as a prophet of God but a prophet of Moses. So that, what Moses intends to say, Aaron will speak the words. He will be like Moses, speaking the words of Moses. Now, sometimes, the Old Testament prophets would take a word from God to the people and it will contain aspects about the future. But by and large, they were expounding the words of God in relation to the promises of God in the past. Yes, they were announcing the words that God speaks. But the words were not a brand new message that contradicted anything that God had said previously. Two judgments are made concerning a prophet: 1) does it contradict what God has already said? 2) did what the prophet say was going to happen come to pass? If either of those are false then the prophet is a false prophet. While the scriptures were still open for addition in the New Testament times, it seems that the gift of prophecy was present and Paul even says to pursue it. Now that the scriptures are complete, it is a fair argument to have whether prophecy has ended, become less frequent, or does it continue under the banner of preaching the gospel to all nations. The word of God has come and His Spirit has been poured out to believers so that we can talk about the result of people believing or rejecting the gospel.

Apostles – The third (and first word) in the list has a double meaning. The word means sent one. And so, all of us who have heard the gospel and the call to go and make disciples are a type of apostle. Paul described himself as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ (sent by Christ 1Cor1:1). He pleaded that surely the church in Corinth recognised his apostleship because they are the proof or seal of this title (1 Cor 9:2). It is a word that can be used widely by someone who has been sent by someone else or by a church (Acts 15:22). But it also has a specific use when we talk about the Apostles of Christ. Paul and Peter and James and John and the other men (not Paul or Judas) who were Jesus’ twelve disciples. Their ministry establishes the first century church and gives us the final word of God in the scriptures. We teach that the scriptures closed with the death of these Apostles. Our church is built upon the Apostolic teaching which is the Word of God about Jesus Christ.

The gifts we ought to hold as key to the body of Christ is the apostoloc teaching, the word of God spoken and the teaching of this word to the whole body. It’s like the head is a significant part of the body because of the brain and the mouth which feeds the rest. It doesn’t change the lesson that the whole body is the body. It does teach that there are those roles that are incredibly necessary for the church to be the church.

“Are all…do all…Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.” Each part of the body will demonstrate different gifts, but as the body overall, there are greater gifts that we need the body to include. These are the gifts of the gospel being presented to the church through teaching the very word of God as handed to us by the apostles.

“And yet I will show you the most excellent way.” This sentence is the intro to the infamous Chapter 13! It almost wipes out everything that we have said because it points us to love. BUT, love without proper teaching soon becomes greed and lust. The most excellent way of love is best understood when the body is taught to understand it well. And then the body will all, every part, express and experience the great gift of love.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

Anyone in the church is to see themselves as part of a greater thing than themselves. Those who feel unhelpful and insignificant must understand the blessing that they are for being part of the body of Christ. Those who have significant parts to play must understand that they too are only placed there by the mercy and grace of God for the benefit of all who are there. The WOW gifts of healing and miracles are to be reoriented to lesser than the message of Jesus Christ who gave his body and blood for the life of the church of God.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The joy of being you. You are wonderfully and beautifully made. Like everybody at church, you have Christ to thank for your salvation and your knowledge of God and all His works. The Spirit that you have is the same Spirit that all the members of the church have. No more and no less. You are special because Christ died for you. And you are a member of the body of Christ. You may not be something else that you would love to be but that is a distracting thought away from the best thought that you have been made by God, saved by God and sealed by God with the Holy Spirit. What a blessing you are when you know and love that.

Topic B: The joy of knowing others like you. The body of Christ is made up of many parts that all do their part just as God has made them to be. We are all growing in Christ and being transformed, that is a work in progress that God has promised to complete. But look around at what God is doing in the lives of others at church. Praise God for the servants, the workers, the speakers, the encouragers, the prayers, the readers, the visitors and the faithful men and women who have held the gospel in this place for decades.

Topic C: Be keen for better things. A church that sits on the routine of rosters and meeting times will lose sight of the greater gifts. What we ought to eagerly desire is the word of God to feed us and grow us. If we are one body with many parts, then all of the parts can work together to ensure that what we love best is good spiritual food. And that food is the word of God spoken to us. Taught. Exhorted. Applied. At our church, we meet weekly in large public times to sing and to pray and to hear the bible read and taught. We meet mid-week in smaller groups to coach one another in life through Christ by reading the bible, teaching one another and caring for how we are each progressing in the faith. We also hope to commend and support everybody in a habit of good personal and family bible times. Just as an organism will eagerly desire food to survive, the body of Christ must eagerly desire to be fed by the word of God. That, after all, is how the body with all it’s parts learns to live together as one through love.

2 Samuel 8-9 (2 Chapters)

Victory, kindness and the king

Discussion Question

What does kindness mean to you? Can you tell a story about kindness?

Background (Context)

When David, King of all Israel, proposed to make a fine Temple for God, the prophet Nathan spoke God’s reply to David. God said that it has been and never will be the duty of any person to make God’s name great. It is God who builds David’s house and not the other way around. God promised David that there would be a king on the throne forever who will be known as God’s son. The Davidic covenant outlined in Chapter 7 is fulfilled, not by Solomon, but in Jesus – our Forever King!

So, David has peace in his palace with no further command from the LORD to build His Temple. Mephibosheth appears in Chapter 9 but we met him briefly in Chapter 4 Verse 4. He is the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul. David and Jonathan dearly loved each other despite the hatred from Saul’s household to David. When Saul and Jonathon were killed in battle, Mephibosheth, a 5 year old at the time, was carried off in haste, dropped and his legs permanently crippled.

Read 2 Samuel 8-9

Two chapters are included in this study. Brief notes will be offered for Chapter 8 and more information provided for Chapter 9.

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • The LORD gave David victory wherever he went (8:1-14)
    • Defeating enemies (1-6)
    • Great gains (7-14
  • The King’s Justice and Righteousness (8:15-9:13)
    • Beginning: The King’s Officials (8:15-18)
    • The Problem: The pursuit of kindness for Jonothan (9:1)
    • The Quest: Finding Mephibosheth (2-5)
    • The Resolution: Kindness assured (6-11)
    • The End: Kindness enjoyed (12-13)

The LORD gave David victory (1-14)

Defeating enemies (1-6)

“In the course of time…” This phrase need not mean, “after Chapter 7” but rather that what happened in Chapter 8 is a summary of the victories of David over the course of time.

“…Metheg Ammah…” I will not spend time naming and defining the place names in this section as I wish to focus on Chapter 9. We see, however, a description of David’s success in every direction.

“So the Moabites became subject to David and brought him tribute.” The method of this subjection sounds brutal and I will not try and smooth it out. See Judges 11:17 and Numbers 22-24 and Joshua 24:9 for a history of how the Moabites had expressed hostility to the Israelites. Also the prophecy against Moab in Numbers 24:17. “Rather than mounting our moral high horse and condemning David’s action, we should recognize that the righteousness and justice of God’s kingdom includes his judgment on all rebellion against him.” (John Woodhouse, 2 Samual “Preaching the Word” commentary, 2015). The outcome of David’s harsh act is that the Moabites who had persistently rejected God and His people were receiving judgement while a third received mercy and were left to submit. The tribute is an offering. It seems similar to the promise that one day every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:10).

“The LORD gave David victory wherever he went.” The kingdom of David is not built on the strength of men but on the promises of God. It was David’s hands and army that did the conquering but it was Yahweh (LORD) who gave him victory. The LORD was saving David from defeat. We can thank God that, in Christ, the victory is ours and it is no longer measured by peace and victory in a promised land but by the defeat over sin and death. Our greatest enemy has been defeated and thank God that in Christ we are given the victory.

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:55-58

 

Great gains (7-14)

“David took the gold shields that belonged to…” In victory, David took plunder.

…brought with him articles of silver, of gold and of bronze.” In reverent fear of David, some greeted him with gifts. The joy of the nations who loved that David is king. We see an example here of the nations coming to Israel, seeing it as a blessing to the world.

“King David dedicated these articles to the LORD…” This plunder was not placed in the king’s bank account but offered to the LORD. Perhaps later to be used for the house of the LORD when Solomon would build it.

“And David became famous…” 2 Samuel 7 contained the promise (Verse 9) that David’s name would be great. This echoed the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2.

“The LORD gave David victory wherever he went.” This repeated phrase that we saw in Verse 6 highlights the subject of this chapter. It was not the barbaric behaviour of an ancient man that is being praised which makes his name great (like Alexander or Ghengis Khan) but it is the salvation through the LORD that makes this king great. We look forward to a day when the name of the LORD will be praised because of his great mercy and humility. Philippians 2:9 speaks of Jesus being the name that is above every name.

The King’s Justice and Righteousness (8:15-9:13)

We now turn to a detailed story of David reaching out to show, not only kindness, but justice and righteousness to a son of Jonathon because David had promised to protect the house of Jonathon (1 Samuel 20:14-17). While Chapter 8 was a montage of events showing the king’s favour from God, Chapter 9 shows us an image of the king’s righteousness showing favour on another.

Beginning: The King’s Officials (8:15-18)

“David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.” Our story begins with this summary statement of David reigning and acting justly and rightly. The ‘just and right’ statement gives us a clue for what might follow. What did that look like, especially in the light of all that was written about him in Chapter 8! How was this king of Israel anything different to a bully in the Middle East?

“Joab…Jehoshaphat…Zadok…Ahimelek…Seraiah…Benaiah…” Verses 16-18 lists the key officials in David’s reign. These were the top ranking men. His kingdom was ordered and managed. Two things worth noting: Firstly Benaiah seems to be a mighty man put in charge of some loyal mighty men – perhaps bodyguards. See 2 Sam 15:18; 20:7; 1 Kings 1:38, 44). Secondly…

“…and David’s sons were priests.” It is hard to say whether this was a good thing or not. The priests were already listed in Verse 17. Reading that David’s sons were priests tells us firstly that David’s sons were active and ready for the house of David to be built and grow by the Sovereign Hand of God. But it also makes us readers a little nervous because when the duty of king and priest is blurred, such as Saul making the sacrifice because he could not wait any longer for Samuel, it can be a sign of arrogance. But we have also read of David making sacrifices when the Ark was being carried to Jerusalem. Of course, Jesus Christ is our King and Great High Priest in One. Worth pondering whether Verse 18 ends positively or with a hint of something else. We must remember the words on Verse 15 which describe David as acting righteously and justly.

The story begins next in the context of David reigning and doing what is right and just…

The Problem: The pursuit of kindness for Jonothan (9:1)

“…anyone still left of the house of Saul…” God had left the ‘house of Saul’ and the ‘house of David’ is where we know the promise of peace and rule will come forever. But David has always maintained a respect for the house of Saul as once the house that God had chosen.

“…to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” The friendship between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan, was unique. They loved each other like they loved themselves. They were kindred spirits who both worshiped Yahweh and knew that a kingdom can only be built with Yahweh in the lead. 1 Samuel 20 (esp. Verse 14-15) describes the pact between Jonathan and David. Prince, though he was, Jonathan surrendered his future crown to David. David pledged to keep the family of Jonathan safe.

The problem is posed as a question. Who is left of the house of Saul to honour Jonathan with? David intends to keep his word to his old friend who was killed in battle alongside his father, Saul.

The Quest: Finding Mephibosheth (2-5)

“They summoned [a servant of Saul’s household] to appear before David…” Ziba was Saul’s steward (see Verse 9). Even a servant of Saul’s household might be scared to be summoned before the rival king. The place to start investigating David’s question is with someone who had served the house of Saul.

“…is there no one still alive…to whom I can show God’s kindness?” David did not mention Jonathan but the whole household of Saul. This was the scope of David’s search and not limited to Jonathan exactly. Notice, though, that David intends to show the kindness of God. The kindness Jonathan had asked for (1 Samuel 20:14-15) was unfailing kindness (unending love) extended to his family and David has taken that as the house of Saul. The kindness that David wishes to extend is either like God’s in kind or it is more that God’s kindness will be shown and given through the hand of David the king. Either way it is a kindness that is characteristic of the kingdom of God. One that is on the basis of promise rather than on merit. It will be called grace.

“…a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” Ziba introduces Jonathan into the conversation. His son is lame. He is not the sort of person that the king would love to adopt into his kingdom. He will not be like one of the notable men of 8:15-18. He will be unable to function as a soldier or a priest. David is given a name to show kindness to and it is a name that will not be a profitable investment to the kingdom of David. We will see in Verse 6 that this son is named Mephibosheth and he became crippled at the age of 5 when he was carried from his house and dropped – at the time that Jonathan died in battle (2 Samuel 4:4).

“…David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.” The details of where he lived are repeated in Verses 4 and 5. 2 Samuel 17:27-29 help us to understand Lo Debar to be on the east side of the Jordan River, near Mahanaim where Saul’s house was based after Saul’s death (see chapter 3). Makir was perhaps a loyal servant of Saul and willing and able to look after a crippled child. Later, in Chapter 17, he will be loyal to David also when the kingdom is threatened by Absolom.

The King’s Quest to find kindness on the house of Saul has led him to a young man who needs protection. An innocent victim of violence and misfortune is about to come face to face with God’s King to receive a great kindness that he can never repay and is never asked to do so.

The Resolution: Kindness assured (6-11)

“When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honour.” If Ziba had been worried to stand before the king, how much more Mephibosheth. He may have heard the stories of the two rival houses and how Saul had mistreated David. Being only 5 when Jonathan died, he may not have heard about the generosity of the king. But I ponder too much. He is at the king’s mercy.

‘“Don’t be afraid,” Davide said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan.” The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ comes to us for the sake of Christ and not us. No people on the face of the earth have come to God with a privilege to be blessed. Rather, we come with the curse of sin upon us. But for the sake of Christ, we are brought into the presence of the Almighty with confidence. He no longer seeks revenge on us because His Son has taken all the wrath that we deserve. Grace comes to us by the promises made in the past and not by any gains or successes of our present. We, like Mephibosheth, come to God crippled and broken. Our King says to us, “Don’t be afraid, for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of Christ who redeemed you.”

“…all the land…and you will always eat at my table.” This gift comes in two magnificent stages. The first is about a future because, even after the King is dead, the land will belong to a descendant of Saul. But secondly, this man need never work the land for his own feed. He is being welcomed into the kingdom of David with full access to the king and the riches of his table. A half-measured kindness may have given Mephibosheth a block of land and a servant outside of David’s sight. But the kindness of this kingdom is all-inclusive and generous.

“…What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” The writer of this story points us to the right conclusion here. David is showing a generosity that this world does not show by default. David gets nothing out of this deal except to show that his kingdom demonstrates the kindness of God.

“Then the king summoned Ziba…Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.” David looked after Ziba also and allowed him to manage the land for Mephibosheth just as he had done perhaps previously as the steward of the king (see also 2 Samuel 16:1.

“So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.” This man has been adopted by the king with no birthright but equal share in the king’s good fortune.

The End: Kindness enjoyed (12-13)

“Mephibosheth had a young son…the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth…lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.” The only thing new in this concluding statement to the story is that Mephibosheth was blessed, as promised, in every way. He had a child who is named. The family of Ziba followed with their promise to serve him. He lived very close to the king and ate at his table. We are only reminded that he did never enter David’s infantry to give David anything from his own but that he came to David lame in both feet.

The story of Mephibosheth and Ziba is not over yet but it is done for now. They will reappear in Chapters 16 and 19 on either side of the betrayal of Absolem.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

David’s kingdom is defined as righteous and just, showing favour and mercy on the basis of promise but extending wrath and judgment on those who are against the kingdom. The gospel tells us that we are all enemies of God and yet he sent his son to die for us. The gospel tells us that we are all rebels to God and yet he extends his mercy and unending love – making us co-heirs with Christ. His kingdom is where the poor become rich and the idolaters are excluded.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Comparing the blood of Chapter 8 with the love of Chapter 9. The Anglican Prayer Book contains a prayer that is a mash-up of scripture: We are not worthy so much as to eat the crumbs that are under you table. But you are the same God whose nature is always show mercy. It is a prayer of humble access for us to come to the table of the LORD Jesus Christ and so to share in the Lord’s Supper. We do not deserve to be treated so well by our God. But it is his nature to show mercy, not because he must but because it is who he is. It is this merciful and kind nature of God that we need always remember when we are confronted with hostile passages such as Chapter 8. While God is kind and merciful, he is also right and just. Those who continually oppose him ought to fear him. Those who come to him with humility will receive his mercy. It is through the wrath of God poured out on His Son that we are able to come to his kingdom with confidence. It is for the sake of Christ that we are able to receive mercy.

Topic B: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. That is often the way that G.R.A.C.E is explained. We receive reward but it is not because we are anything. It is because Christ laid down his life. We may well say that we are ‘dead dogs’ before our God but His promise is to bless us. We may never feel like we deserve to be part of His kingdom. And yet, as Colossians 1:12 says, he has qualified us! Another 1:12 but in John this time (Jn 1:12) says that we can be called the children of God! Why? If we believe and put our trust in Him – the Son of God.

Topic C: Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. The gift of eternal life is our hope for the future. We may never enjoy a wealthy life this side of eternity (we do not preach a prosperity Gospel) but we have become God’s workmanship. What He is building in us all is a greater grasp of the nature of the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:22-23 list a set of virtues that ought to be grown in people of the Kingdom. 5th in the list is kindness. It is 2nd in the list that describe love in 1 Corinthians 13:4. The work of God in us must include a growing understanding and practice in kindness. With our mouths, be kind. With our actions, our rights, our wealth, be kind. Kindness is an attribute of love.

2 Samuel 7:18-29

The King’s King – or – The Prayer’s Prayer

Discussion Question

What does the bible say about prayer?

Background (Context)

David, God’s chosen King of Israel, has established his palace in Jerusalem and all of the enemies of Israel have been suppressed – Israel is at peace. This gave David a moment to contemplate what was left to do. The Ark of God had been returned to the people but, while David is housed in an impressive palace, the Ark of God is sitting in a tent.

Before David laid out a draft for a Temple, Nathan the prophet received word from the LORD that it is not for David to build a house for God but for God to build David’s house/dynasty. God reminded Nathan that everything to this day has been established by God and David was placed on the throne in the strength of the LORD. David is a part of God’s entire plans for this world. In Verse 17, Nathan brought all of these words to David and told him everything. We read now what David’s response is. What is left for him to do or say? He prays.

Read 2 Samuel 7:18-29

18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:

“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human!

20 “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

22 “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.

25 “And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established in your sight.

27 “Lord Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. 28 Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • David prays: Who am I? (18-19)
  • And what more can I say? (20-21)
  • Who is like you? (22-24)
  • Now do as you say (25-29)

David prays: Who am I? (18-19)

“Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said…” The beginning of this section is quite significant. David sits before the LORD and he speaks – he is a praying king. And his prayer is in direct response to him hearing the word of God from the mouth of Nathan. This context is very useful and teaches us the beginning of good prayer. Mature and growing prayer is on the basis of a true knowledge of God and His plans. Rather than prayer being a list of concerns and worries to bring before God, it is a response to God having already revealed Himself to us. Even when our prayers are about the worries of this world, we come to God because we know Him to be Sovereign and bigger than our worries. David went in perhaps means that he went into the Tabernacle as he it means to be before the LORD. The story had begun in Verse 1 with David settled in his palace (NIV) or lived in his house (ESV). The word for settled or lived also means sat. So, David was seated in his house but now he goes and sits in the house of God. The former conveys peace and being settled while the latter conveys humility and submission. When he was seated in his palace he spoke his plans to Nathan. Now he enters the house of God and speaks in response to God’s plans for him.

“Who am I, Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” His words contain humility. It may remind us of the words of Psalm 8 (what is man that you are mindful of them, or human beings that you care for them?) Or of Exodus 3:11 when Moses asks, who am I? God has brought David, a 7th in line shepherd boy, to be the King of Israel and of personal attention from the LORD Almighty. He was a nobody from a nobody family. But God has given him a kingdom. Not a bad question for all of us to ask of God when we pray! Who are we that we should be so blessed by God to receive eternal life!

“And as if this were not enough…” It’s not just that David has been so blessed but God has his sights on the future generations after David. God has promised to bless David’s family for generations (and forever!)

“…and this decree, Sovereign LORD, is for a mere human!” We are not heavenly creatures in the realms of heaven but short lived, mortal men – vapour! But God has given his word that this kingdom will stand forever.

Who am I? As we sit down to pray, we say, “Our Father in heaven Hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom Come…”

And what more can I say? (20-21)

“What more can David say to you?” Sometimes prayer can be like this too! What is there to say? God is God and He will do as He pleases. If He has said this, then He will do it!

“For you know your servant, Sovereign LORD.” The fourth time of seven that David refers to God as Sovereign LORD. He is using the Name (Yahweh) when he says LORD and underscoring the attribute of His ultimate control over all things. The Sovereign is the King who rules. He is David’s King – and King of all kings and gods and people everywhere and all time. The Almighty LORD brings out God’s strength but The Sovereign LORD brings out the power and trustworthiness of His word. Not only is God the Sovereign but David labels himself as the servant.

“For the sake of your word and according to your will…” When God makes promises, it is His own reputation at stake to keep it. He has desired to make David king and for his kingdom to reign forever. It is purely at the pleasure of God that this has happened.

“…you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.” It’s just as significant that God includes us in His plans as it is that He activates His plans. That is, how great is God that He saves. How amazing of God to tell us how He did it and what He plans to do next which is for our benefit! It’s incredible even that God has spoken to us let alone that He has saved us.

And what more can I say? “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” David has begun his prayer and it is all a statement of faith that God blessed him and promises to continue and who is David that he can say any more, change God’s mind, repay God or credit himself for any part of the blessings. Prayer is an act of submission to the God who is Sovereign over all things. If David is a mere servant before the Sovereign LORD then how much more of a servant are we?

Who is like you? (22-24)

“How great you are, Sovereign LORD!” David has moved from Who am I? to How great are you!!!

“There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.” This is a truly Christian theology – not that monotheism is unique to Christianity but the truth that there is only One true God is certainly a Christian theology. We do not believe in many gods. Neither do we believe that the One true God has revealed Himself in many ways to different people. There is only One God and He has revealed Himself to the human race through the nation of Israel and then through His own Son, Jesus Christ. Our belief in God does not come down to personal opinion but it lies upon the witnesses of the past. David’s belief that the one true God has been kind to David and Israel does not come down to myths and legends but on the history of the nation of Israel itself. Deuteronomy 10:21 – the generation of Moses saw the salvation of God with their own eyes – David’s generation have heard it with their own ears.

“And who is like your people Israel…you have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, LORD, have become their God.” Verses 23-24 outline the redemption story of Israel. Exodus is the gospel of the Old Testament. David is able to glorify in the Name of the LORD because He has shown a special kindness in making a people who were nothing to be the very people of God! (Deut 7:6; 10:15; 1 Sam 12:22). What a tremendously wonderful privilege to be called the people of God. Hosea and Romans teach us that it is not the physical children of Abraham that are the true Israel but everyone who is part of the promise of God are the true Israel. The nation of Israel were all blessed to be redeemed from slavery in Egypt to be in their own land and blessed under a king who served the living God. Christians have been redeemed from the penalty of sin and death to be able to call the God of all creation their Father.

How great you are! We must remember this at all times. How often do we get blindsided to want to create our own greatness when all along we have been made great because we belong to the living God! Remember all that God has done.

Now do as you say (25-29)

“And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made…” This is the essence of prayer! Father, you have said, now make it so. We don’t boss God around but we submit to the knowledge of all that he has promised. Has He said that He will never leave you or forsake you? (Deut 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5). We can remember that in our prayers. Has God told us that we have been justified and sanctified? (1 Corinthians 6:11) Or that we are now His holy people (1 Peter 2:9-10) We can thank God in our prayers that we are qualified to speak with Him because of Jesus. We are his humble servants but He has blessed us with everything in Christ. Genesis 4:26 recalls the moment when faithful men and women began to pray to God and they prayed that He would deal with sin as He had promised in Genesis 3:15. When we pray, we call on the LORD to fulfill His promises. The Psalmist often asks, ‘How long O LORD’ because he knows that God will deliver, he just wants to know when! “Do as you promised.”

“…so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, “The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!”” Of course we want to be saved and blessed because it is good for us! But we have come to learn that what is great for God is great for those who put their trust in Him. If God says He will save His people but then does not do it…or says that David’s throne will stand forever and yet does not do it…what does that say about God and His promises.

We may now ask, but where is David’s throne now! Has God abandoned His promise? Good question. The rest of the Old Testament is concerned with what God will do with His promised blessing when the people of God continue to turn their backs on Him. The nation is taken into exile and return from exile to find a kingdom that is a shadow of what used to be there in David’s day. The Old Testament is concerned with finding the kingdom that was promised to David. The answer is revealed in the New Testament as Jesus is a descendant of David and of Abraham. That the people in Jesus’ day were expecting a king like David is understandable. We find someone far more outstanding as we see Jesus, the King of the whole world.

Notice that David refers to God as The LORD Almighty now as he speaks of what God will do. He returns to Sovereign LORD in Verse 28 when he returns to focus on what God has promised. The LORD who promises is the LORD who does.

“So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.” I want to underscore again the nature of prayer, that we speak to God on the terms that He has spoken to us about. Prayer is faith speaking. God speaks, we listen, and we are then confident to come before God in prayer. This is the nature of grace because it is God who has first approached us. David began the prayer with ‘Who am I?’ He is now confident to pray to the LORD Almighty because God has shown grace in building a house for David. We are nobody. Yet in Christ we are children of God (John 1:12). We are unworthy and yet in Christ we are called saints! (1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 1:2, 12). Who are we to ask God anything? We are his people, called holy and qualified for the kingdom that he has prepared for us in Christ.

The prayer that David prays, on top of his affirmation so far, is found in Verse 29.

“Sovereign LORD, you are God!” True statement. Let’s never forget it. Not only in our theology but in our practice and prayers also.

“Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.” While God has made a covenant with Israel through Moses, he is establishing a new covenant in David. It does not overtake the previous covenant but enhances it. 2 Samuel 7 contains a Davidic covenant. A promise made to David that his kingdom will not fail. It has the backing of the Sovereign LORD Almighty.

“Now be pleased to bless…and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.” Remember that this is not how David begins his relationship with God, it is in response to God’s forward approach to David. Blessing is prayed for because blessing was promised. Your will be done!

What did we learn? (Meaning)

David is a servant of the great LORD Almighty. The LORD is king forever and yet He has chosen to bless the household of a shepherd boy. David demonstrates a good response to the promises of God. He acknowledges his humble submission and zero input to this agreement. And yet the promise from God gives David the courage to speak to God about it. As we’ve seen in the observations, the LORD’s prayer has a similar lesson for us. Our prayers are made because God has spoken to us first and given us the courage to sit at his feet and ask.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The privilege of prayer. One thing that helps us overcome the ‘hassle’ of praying is the lesson that it is a privilege that only those in Christ can know. We know God because He first knew us and revealed Himself to us through His Son. If we do not know Jesus then we do not know God in truth. A person can speak to the sky but without the relationship that has been established by God first, it is wishful thinking. Real prayer comes from the people of God who call on the name of the LORD to save and to deliver.

Topic B: Can we pray for a parking space? With the lesson that prayer is about calling on God to do as he has promised, has he ever promised us a parking space? I think not. But he has promised that if we ask for wisdom, we shall get it (James 1:5; 3:13-18). Said wisdom is about how we respond in every situation with the grace that only God can give: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. How many of those are necessary when we feel the urgent need for a parking spot! If we pray, then ask God to grow you through this need for a space. If a space comes up, thank the LORD but consider which is of greater worth, a parking space, or greater patience. The same principle applies for healing, cramming for an exam and safe travel. Our God is not a genie who takes all our requests and hands them out like a town council. He is our Redeemer who promises to finish the work that he began. Best practice is to run through the LORD’s prayer with out needs and come to God in submission and thankfulness.

Topic C: Can I be a Christian if I don’t pray? This passage doesn’t answer this question directly but builds on the principle that God has reached out His hand in salvation to us and we respond with praise and thanksgiving. We don’t respond by earning or repaying anything to God. David demonstrated that he was nobody and stands as a servant waiting on God to do what he has said. So, we must respond to God with praise and thanksgiving. Yes, we do good and love, these are acts that we do. But a life of no-prayer is not a life that has turned to God – responding to His grace. What a gift it is then, when our LORD gave us the Lord’s Prayer! When we do not know what to say to our God we can say that! As our courage grows, we can say more. As our knowledge of God grows, we can speak more.

“Show me a man who does not pray very much and I will tell you the real problem of that man. It is that he does not know God, he does not know God as his Father. That is the trouble. The problem is not that he is not  a moral man, or that he is not a good man. He can be highly moral, he may be very faithful in Christian church work, there may be nothing he is not prepared to do, but if he does not pray, I tell you that the essence of that man’s trouble is that he does not know God as his Father. For those who know God best are the ones who speak to him most of all.” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Likewise, a person who believes God to be Sovereign ought to treat Him as Sovereign.