Category Archives: Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:1-34

Resurrection hope

Discussion Question

What would change for you if you knew you were going to receive a billion dollars in 15 years from now?

Background (Context)

The topic of spiritual gifts has been discussed by Paul since Chapter 12 and concluded in Chapter 14 with the reminder that the word of God did not originate from them nor is it singularly aimed at them. Prophecy is desired above all gifts for the church to understand the mind of God in the present age in anticipating the age to come. This is where Paul picks up in Chapter 15 – looking toward the future.

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-34

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • The well established message of the gospel (1-11)
    • The priority of the gospel (1-2)
    • The content of the gospel (3-5)
    • The witnesses to the gospel (6-8)
    • The unworthy witness (9-11)
  • The historic resurrection of Christ is key (12-19)
  • The order of God and of the end (20-34)
    • The firstfruit of the resurrection (20-23)
    • Then comes the end (24-26)
    • The order of God (27-28)
  • What’s the point if death’s the end? (29-34)

We have so much text to deal with here and some deep theological issues to grapple with. I will endeavour to speak to only the things that are hardest!

The well established message of the gospel (1-11)

The priority of the gospel (1-2)

“…remind you…I preached…you received…you stand…you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached…” These verses are simple enough to understand and the lesson is important. Paul preached for a good reason – so that the hearer might be saved. He urges the Corinthians to stand in that same message and not move. The urgency of the gospel is that it is the only way of salvation. This whole chapter stems from these simple words that belief in the gospel is essential – otherwise our faith is in vain. Paul will expand on everything that he has said in these short verses.

“…are being saved…” This is a curious expression. It taps into the idea of the now but not yet – meaning that salvation has come now through Christ and all who believe are saved, but the full reality of salvation is still yet to come. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and these opening verses in Chapter 15 urge the reader to stay with the gospel or else they will not be saved. This speaks into the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. It may imply sanctification but the context of the chapter leads the meaning toward hope for the future as Paul focuses on the topic of the resurrection.

The content of the gospel (3-5)

“For I delivered to you of first importance…” Recall Paul’s words in Chapter 2:2 ‘I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” What he lists next as the content of his message has been considered by scholars to be a record of the earliest creed – a concise statement of faith that is being transmitted as the core of what the early church believed.

“…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…” The first point to be made is that Christ/Messiah died for our sins. He did not die as an example of love and/or suffering only. His death was for our sins. It is the promised One of God who died. 

“…he was buried…” So as to be sure that he truly died.

“…he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” The two emphasised points in the creed is that Jesus died (and then buried) and that he rose (and seen by many). Both are marked with the words, ‘in accordance with the scriptures’. This is not to say that these things happened according to a particular piece of Scripture but that the whole of the Scriptures were pointing to this conclusion. His death accords with the sacrifice of the OT and his resurrection accords with the hope of restoration as described in the OT. See Luke 18:31-33 and Luke 24:44-47 on Jesus aligning the events of his ministry with that of the Scriptures. Of course, there are also moments in the OT that draw very real pointers to the death and resurrection of Jesus such as Isaiah 53:5-6, 11-12 but I commend the reading of the Bible to you as one unfolding story which makes sense when it is concluded in Christ.

Note that the message of the gospel is not primarily the story of those who are saved but the story of Christ. That he died, was buried and rose and that our hope rests on the genuineness of His story over ours. The NT teaches us to find ourselves ‘in Christ’ and that we die because He died. What is paramount and of first importance to us is not our own experience of salvation but the knowledge of salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Cephas” is Peter in Aramaic and means rock.

The witnesses to the gospel (6-8)

“…appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive…” This is a key verse for the historicity of the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ made such a powerful impact on the people in the first century that on one day, 3000 Jews came to believe that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 2). It was after the resurrection that the Christian church arose. Christ’s resurrection was the proof of His ministry and declaration that He was not only sent by God but the One that God had been promising would come. His death suggested his weakness but the resurrection proved his authority and genuineness. The encounter of Jesus with this large crowd of 500 people is not recorded other than here. The risen Christ remained among us for 40 days before his ascension (Acts 1:1-3). These witnesses were able to testify to the resurrection to the readers at Corinth.

“…Cephas….James…to me also…” Three key elders in the church alongside all of the Apostles also mentioned in Verse 7. Peter and Paul were central to the story in Acts as the gospel began in Jerusalem and spread out from there (Acts 1:8) and James, the brother of Jesus, lead the expanded leadership of followers beyond the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 15). That is, Peter was head of the 12, Paul the leader in world mission and James the head of the first century church. This is a very short and simplification of things and I do not wish to say anything further than reason why these three names in particular are listed in our current passage. The faith stemming from the resurrection is the faith central to the Christian church from day one.

The unworthy witness (9-11)

“Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” The message preached and believed is the important thing. Who preached it and who believed is secondary. The letter opened with a similar argument: forget who belongs to Cephas or Apollos or Paul or even Christ – the gospel preached is of Christ died and raised again. Despite Paul’s shaky beginnings, it is the message that he now preaches that matters. And it ought to matter to us too. The quality of the church comes down to the centrality of the gospel – preached and believed.

The historic resurrection of Christ is key (12-19)

The argument in Verses 12-19 are a response to those who claim that there is no resurrection from the dead. Paul’s response to that is to conclude that a) then Christ did not raise b) our preaching is useless because the central message is about Christ died and raised, c) your faith is empty and worthless, d) we are misrepresenting God as One who did the raising, e) you are still in your sins because Christ did not conquer sin and death, f) there is no hope for those who have died before us, g) and if faith in Christ is only beneficial before the grave then this is a really pathetic faith. The resurrection of Christ is crucial to all that we believe. If our belief is in a mystical resurrection or an ideological resurrection or anything other than a bodily resurrection then our hope is gone.

“…we are of all people most to be pitied.” We have the words of eternal life. Without that, we have nothing. And to many outside the church who do not believe in the resurrection through Christ will likely pity us. If the resurrection is fake news then we ought to be at the beach sipping latte’s on a Sunday morning.

The order of God and of the end (20-28)

The firstfruit of the resurrection (20-23)

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…” Paul believes this to be fact. Stated as much already in the opening Verses of this passage. Here put succinctly that the resurrection is a fact. Christ was raised. He was passive in this action. These are the little details that create a bigger picture of the work of the Trinity in salvation. See Romans 8:11.

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” The logic here is not a universal salvation logic but that through one man came sin and through one man is the source and fountain of salvation. Paul describes Jesus as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. His is the initial resurrection and a model of the rest to come. Christ was raised first and is the risen LORD seated on the throne right now. Next will be raised all who have died in Christ (and those who believed God in the past (not just believed in God but had the faith of the righteous). Then all who belong to him. Compare 1 Thess 4:13-18.

Then comes the end (24-26)

“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” The sequence of events in Verses 24-26 are not actually a sequence but a comparison between now and later. Paul begins with “then the end will come…” and mentions the reign of Christ until his enemies are defeated but a careful read ought to reveal that when the end comes, he will hand the kingdom over to God the Father who gave Him the name that is above all names to begin with. Jesus must reign until his enemy is defeated and then the end will come. His reign is right now. Death has been defeated and a day will come when death itself will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:14). So Paul is not describing any millennial position here (for those who understand) but that the next thing to happen in God’s plans for this creation is for death to be destroyed and the kingdom handed back to the Father.

The order of God (27-28)

I have nothing to add to what seems to be a clear statement of fact in Verses 27-28. It is an adventure to pick up clues throughout all of Scripture with regard to the relationship inside the Trinity. If anybody is to use this Verse as an argument against Jesus being God, then further reading on the Trinity is recommended.

What’s the point if death is the end? (29-34)

“…what will those do who are baptized for the dead?” Now this is an interesting verse if ever I’ve seen one! Let me tell you what I believe this means by stepping you through my investigation into this…

  1. That verse looks odd because it immediately doesn’t fit my theology.
  2. Either my theology is wrong and we ought to be baptising people on behalf of the dead OR there is something else happening – something I’m missing.
  3. I wonder if Paul is referring to something that the Corinthians are doing and rather than correct them, he is using their practice (right or wrong) to continue to defend the resurrection.
  4. BUT I almost never need to lean on background information (cultural practices and such) in order to understand a tricky passage. What is it that we need to use? Context!
  5. Context will definitely come in handy but I still can’t get around the simple reading of this verse that seems to tell me that people are being baptised on behalf of the dead. I will go to a commentary for some help with the original language…
  6. Brian Rosner and Roy Ciampa, in their 2012 commentary show convincingly that the word ‘for’ can definitely be translated ‘on account of’. This changes the purpose of the baptism – not for the dead but because of the dead. That is, why do you get baptised on the basis of the faith of those who are now dead?! This is worth exploring and seeing how it fits in the CONTEXT of the rest of the section.
  7. “If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on account of them? And…why do we endagner ourselves…if the dead are not raised” (emphasis added using Verses 29-32 to see this in it’s context).

So, that is the process I went through to untangle this passage. I did need a commentary to help me at this point and it gave me the confidence with the author’s thorough investigation in the use of the Greek to suggest an alternate reading and then I checked that new reading against the context of the section and it fits very, very well.

Paul has been arguing that if the resurrection is not true then our faith is empty and useless. Verses 29 to 32 are the nail in the coffin of this argument. If death is the end, then why are we bothering to be baptised ourselves and why would we endure the hardships of evangelism? Let’s just eat and drink and sleep in on Sundays cause death is the end!

“…wild beasts in Ephesus…” Paul is using this language to speak of the push back he received there against the gospel but it was worth it for the sake of those who were baptised in the end. It is worth it because the resurrection is real.

“Do not be misled…come back to your senses…there are some who are ignorant of God…” The final two Verses make a good segway to the second half of the Chapter where we’ll pick up next week. There are clearly some people speaking into the hearers in Corinth saying that there is no resurrection and Paul reports that this is corrupting their faith resulting in sin. Perhaps it is these people who are saying: “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Paul says, let’s preach Christ crucified and make disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit since the resurrection means that we will all be raised up in glory at the last.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The hope that we have which drives all that we do is for the resurrection. If there is nothing after death, then our faith is stupid. If there is a resurrection then we must pay close attention to the gospel of Jesus Christ, that he died for our sins, and raised up in glory. If we trust in him then we shall be raised up with him. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the pinnacle of our faith. It points us back to the historic and researchable evidence of Christ and it points us forward to eternal life. And it shapes our present to persevere and fight the good fight of faith.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The historic resurrection. Paul says that if Jesus did not rise from the dead then our faith is pointless. So, when we live in an age that even doubts the moon landing (don’t get me started), how can we be so confident that Jesus rose from the dead. Surely we should wonder if this is just an incredible myth that found traction and we’re all fools for continuing to believe it! Well, here are a few thoughts in this very short space. 1) Jesus did die. This is true beyond the gospel narratives. If there is to be a resurrection ‘legend’ then his death must also be concrete. Otherwise any news of seeing Jesus could be discredited by the claim that he didn’t die to begin with. 2) The report that he rose from the dead would be a very extreme lie, easily refuted. This is known as the ‘criterion of embarrassment’. Why would our church thrive on such a ridiculous claim? Furthermore, the gospel accounts speak with such credibility because they use women as their first witnesses. If it was a made up story, it would not have been women as the primary source unless that’s exactly what happened. 3) Paul and Peter and James all claim to have seen the risen Jesus. Now, that’s not the proof. The weight of their report is not in what they said but in the life and ministry that they were willing to die for. Like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:30-32 – why go through all that if the resurrection was not real? Paul was not relying on secondary evidence but on his own eyes seeing the risen Lord. 4) The shape of the Jewish church did not change on the basis of Jesus’ death but on the basis of His resurrection. There were others who claimed to be the Messiah or someone of importance that came and went, so what made Jesus different? If it were just his teachings then his crucifixion showed that all who followed him fled at such persecution. But the speeches in Acts show that it is the resurrection that gave the apostles the confidence that this was all for real and worth giving your life to.

Topic B: Dealing with difficult Verses. Look back to the explanation of Verse 29 and discuss the good approach to understanding the bible when things are hard. Things NOT to do: 1) write difficult things off as cultural or impossible to know because we don’t know the culture. 2) Ask Google. 3) write off difficult things just because it seems odd or silly. We must humble ourselves under the word of God and not treat the word of God as something that we have the right to sit in judgment over. 4) Import whatever we feel to be right and force the text to agree with us.

Topic C: Looking forward to the resurrection. Paul says that His faith means something only because of the resurrection. He says that he goes on endangering his life because of the resurrection. So, it follows that we ought to have a faith that is strong if we hold fast to the hope of the resurrection and that we are willing to live sacrificially because of the resurrection hope. We can lose everything that we have and know that we will be eternally rich. We can risk friendships if it might mean that people hear the gospel and turn to Christ and live. We can learn the lesson of perseverance and thankfulness even through pain and suffering because we believe in the resurrection. What would you do differently if you knew that in a year from now, you would be living your eternal life with Christ in heaven?

2 Samuel 15:1-16:14 The King betrayed

Discussion Question

As we observe the powers of this world gain strength (politically, commercially, wealth etc), how does it affect your commitment to Jesus?

Background (Context)

David taught us much about the kingdom of God which looks for faith rather than beauty. It looks for faithfulness rather than force. Then David’s sin with Bathsheba happened in Chapter 11 and we’ve watched the wonder of David’s partnership with God digress to a limping image of inaction.

Chapter 15 is different. Absalom becomes a background character after his initial acts of political spin and we will watch David portray something of the kingdom of God again.

Mephibosheth appears again in the story along with Ziba, his carer. The former was a grandson of Saul who was lame in both feet but was blessed by David, eating at his table.

We have learned back in Chapter 3 that Hebron was an important spiritual place for Israel. Another piece of background info is the description of Absalom in Chapter 14 as a beautiful man without blemish, with amazing hair and that the people loved him. He had ordered the death of his older brother, Amnon. Now, it seems, Absalom is the next in line to be king. At the end of Chapter 14, we read of Absalom and David being reconciled.

Read 2 Samuel 15-16:14

Read 2 Samuel 15 online here

Read 2 Samuel 16:1-14 online here

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • Absalom’s political campaign (1-12)
  • The King walks the streets of Jerusalem (13-37)
  • The King’s hope (16:1-14)

Absalom’s political campaign (1-12)

“If only I were appointed judge in the land!” Absalom is a politician. A man who orchestrates devotion from the people. His play is to win the backing of Israel so that they will love him more than David. He builds his own entourage. He greets people at the gate and spins the truth to sound like the king has no time for his people. Except that we only read a chapter ago that David listened to a woman from a southern town in great detail. Lastly, Absalom recalls back to the days of the judges when there was action to resolve issues – neglecting the fact that the people of Israel wanted to end the days of the judges and move forward to having a king like the other nations. Absalom was playing a political game to weaken his father’s kingdom and make people feel like they needed him.

“…so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.” Not only did he undermine his father’s kingdom and offer much to the people of Israel (more than he could really deliver) – but he showed much charisma. None of this ‘bow down and worship’ nonsense! No need to show honour and submission before this ‘man of the people’. Forget what you have known about the old days and welcome in a new age of Absalom!

“…Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD.” His third move is to hint to the king that he is a reformed man of God. The story he gives the king about an oath does not seem credible. Nothing so far hints that this is a real story and the chapter will unfold to show that this is a big scheme to evoke spontaneous allegiance to Absalom as king. But we can imagine that the king’s heart is softened by this gesture of authentic worship. He gives the appearance of godliness.

“The king said to him, ‘Go in peace.’” That will be the last thing that David says to his son. Absalom wishes no peace on his father’s house. Absalom will force David to escape the palace and become a fugitive again like the days of King Saul.

“…as soon as you hear the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” This town, as we saw back in Chapter 2, was a spiritually significant one to Israel. Abraham had lived there and received promises from God there. David was sent there to be anointed king over Judah. It is the perfect location from Absalom to orchestrate a coup. Make no mistake. Everything is being choreographed by Absalom. The people are being manipulated to forget that they anointed David as their king and that David had won many battles for the people. The people of God will be mislead by the clever actions of Absalom.

“While Absalom was offering sacrifices…the conspiracy gained strength…” How can one give honour to God and at the same time spin lies throughout the land. Absalom cannot be trusted. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings…Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.” James 3:9-10. Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of religion that offers something to God but comes out of a man with hatred in his heart (Matthew 15:1-19 esp, Verse 8-9).

The King walks the streets of Jerusalem (13-37)

“We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin us and put the city to the sword.” David’s escape was not about saving his own skin but for the protection of the city and his people.

“The king set out, with his entire household following him…” Watch and listen for the imagery of this story now. David has been betrayed and is leaving the city and his faithful ones of his household will all follow him. The story has created an enemy of the kingdom – someone who everyone is easily trusting – but a small few who are named as the household of David. They will walk with him out of the city. Let’s keep listening for more clues about who this will remind us of (hint: it’s Jesus).

“…he left ten concubines to take care of the palace.” The fact that he had concubines is not good but it is not new information to us (see Chapter 5). Leaving them behind will end badly for them in Chapter 16) But it seems that David had ideas that he would return to the city again and he left them there. How they took care of the palace is unclear – but the palace was not left totally empty.

“…they halted at the edge of the city. All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and the Pelethites; and al the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.” King David was God’s King. The Messiah. The ancestors of Abraham were being manipulated to follow a false and lying betrayer while the entourage of the Messiah consisted of people from surrounding nations as well as some of the King’s own. They are the true Israel.

“Ittai [the Gittite] replied to the king, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.’” This is the true statement of a believer. We do not follow who looks to be winning but we follow the true king.

Verse 23: “The whole countryside wept aloud as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the wilderness.” Before you read my words, go and re-read Verse 23 and see what you can see…. The king, the Messiah, the chosen one of God has been betrayed by a smooth talking conspirator and he is walking away from Jerusalem, the city of God. This is a sad, sad day. The Kidron Valley lies between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. The reputation of this valley will increase in the Old Testament with the place that you throw unholy things (1 Ki 2:37; 2 Ki 23:12; 2 Ch 15:16; 29:16; 30:14; Jer 31:40). The only reference to it in the New Testament is in John 18:1. Jesus will one day walk the same road that David walked on this day. He too will be the rejected Messiah. Jesus will take on the place of the unholy and represent the sinners as he goes to the Mount of Olives. The final piece of sorrow is in the King leading the faithful back into the wilderness. They were leaving the promised land that God had blessed them with and headed back to the place of testing. No home. No Jerusalem. But they had the King.

“If I find favour in the LORD’s eyes, he will bring me back…” David is once again putting his faith in the LORD to deliver him, as we loved seeing him do in the past. He is no longer the inactive and passive, stand back and do nothing, kind of king. He is now the Messiah who lays down his life in the hope that God will raise him up again! Yes, I am reading the resurrection out of this. The point of the ark staying in Jerusalem instead of staying with the king is about David’s submission to God. David will be restored as King as God intends him when David is returned to Jerusalem – brought back to God’s presence. It is not God who is being expelled from the city, but David is willing to go and will wait for God’s reply. Meanwhile, he walks through the valley.

“But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot.” We see a king as vulnerable as a king can be. Weeping. Barefoot. Head lowered and hidden. At the point that Jesus went to the cross, we see his weakness too. Weeping and weak but allowing his betrayers to get what they want and putting his faith in God.

“…David prayed…” He prayed on the Mount of Olives. The prayer concern was not for the death of his son but for his council to be foolishness. He wanted the schemes of the evil one to be confused. The answer to the prayer occurred, in part, before he reached the end of his ‘prayer-walk’. He met Hushai who would become the confusing council in the house of Absalom. God’s prayers often do get answered quickly. And when they are answered, they are often as practical as that. Our partnership with God in prayer is exactly that: partnership. We pray for our concerns and that our concerns would match God’s concerns and that our actions will go hand in hand with God’s responses. We talk to God. We trust God. We walk with God. We do not simply take things into our own hands, nor do we pray and then leave it solely with Him. Our walk with God is a partnership, with him always in the lead.

“So Hushai, David’s confidant, arrived at Jerusalem as Absalom was entering the city.” The end of Chapter 15 highlights how narrowly David escaped the city before Absalom arrived. David had reached the summit of the Mount of Olives and, by the time Hushai descended back to Jerusalem, Absalom was arriving. David would be out of site of the city and on his way, but just in time. This is the reverse image of Jesus entering Jerusalem in Luke as he got to the summit and saw Jerusalem in his view – then he wept.

The King’s hope (16:1-14)

The king’s hope is that God will find favour in the LORD’s eyes and be brought back to see his dwelling place again (15:25). This hope is shown in the next two episodes with Ziba (1-4) and with Shimei (5-14).

“The king asked Ziba, ‘Why have you brought these?’” Ziba was the steward of Saul who was then given charge over Saul’s property on behalf of Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth (Shebby). What we read in Verses 1-4 is a contrived story that makes Ziba look amazing and Shebby look bad. It maps a bit with Absalom’s lies to get the country behind him instead of David. Both Ziba and David seem to believe that the kingdom still belongs to David. What Ziba wants is for the deeds to his master Saul’s property. The support for this is found later when we hear from Shebby that Ziba had tricked him (2 Samuel 19:24-30).

“As he cursed, Shimei said, ‘Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul…” Shimei does not stop cursing David. We must understand that he starts and then does not let up. His accusation against David is about bloodshed and so, this man has concluded that because of the many deaths David has made in battle (see the second half of 1 Samuel) that God has caught up on this. He is unlikely referring to Uriah since he mentions all the blood shed in Saul’s household. So, here is a man who has seen the king exiled and believes it is right in the eyes of the LORD. We may say that this man cannot fathom God’s will also including times of suffering and misfortune for His greater good. Shimei will ask for forgiveness in Chapter 19 when David is restored by God.

“Then Abishai…said to the king, ‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?’” Abishai’s method of dealing with this (verbal and physical attacks) is to slay the man down. David took off the head of Goliath for mocking the people of God and therefore God. Why not the same approach with this ‘dead dog’ (that language ought to remind us of Goliath). But David’s response is to maintain that God will do what is right with David. Abishai will have some dejavu in Chapter 19.

“If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’” David does have reason to feel that God has taken the kingdom away from him and needs this time of exile. Not only did he have Uriah put to death (a deed that God has forgiven and dealt with) but he watched as his eldest sons commited adultery and then murder. How is even David to know if this man is not a prophet, speaking the very message of God? He then explains himself well in Verses 11-12. Note particulary David’s hope that God will restore his covenant blessing – a promise that David’s throne would go on forever.

“The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself.” The walk to the destination, the fords in the wilderness (15:28), was made more exhausting by fact that Shimei son of Gera was throwing stones and dirt out over the head of David and all around him. Those who followed David had to endure what David endured. If he is cursed, then they would be too. No student is better than their teacher or servant better than their master. When they finally arrived, David refreshed himself. He had arrived and was only to wait now. Will David’s hope to be restored by God come to fruition. The kingdom is in God’s hands.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The chosen one of Israel has been rejected by the descendants of Abraham who have been mislead by a want-to-be king. Although Absalom has the appearance of godliness, he wishes to fool everyone to submitting to him and giving him the kingdom that does not yet belong to him. David’s exile is one that foreshadows the exile of the Messiah to the cross. He walks the same path through the valley and the motive is both the same and also enlightening – the Messiah commits his hands into God’s will for the outcome. He goes out for the benefit of his followers. But his followers all share in the same suffering. David is back.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Moving forward while leaving it to God. David prayed and then acted on solving his own prayer. David also hear the warnings about Absalom and retreated in wisdom, all the while trusting in God for the outcome. His walk with God is exactly that: a walk. He does not walk alone and he does not sit still in faith. He uses both his leg muscles and his faith muscles. I’ll pass on here four things I saw recently as healthy coping practices of the godly. 1) work together with God as partner. 2) Do what you can and put the rest in God’s hand. 3) Look to God for strength, support and guidance. 4) Ask others for prayer. These four interweave and overlap in practice but I see David demonstrating all of these as he walked through the valley, praying and making wise decisions as he went – all the while knowing that God has got this.

Topic B: Beware of those who appear to have God’s interests at heart. Absalom and Ziba both gave the appearance of generosity and kindness and a heart for God, while always they were just working out an inheritance for themselves that was not theirs to have (at least not yet). Read 2 Timothy 3:1-9. How do you compare this description with Absalom? How can we watch for people like this and how should we respond? 

Topic C: Praise God for Jesus’ darkest hour. We must not forget what this passage ultimately points us to: the suffering servant who did not treat his divinity as something to be godless with. He humbled himself to the place of a convicted human and suffered death on the cross for our sake. He gave over his future into the Father’s hands. The link between Jesus’ walk and David’s walk is made clear in John 18:1-14 and there is a similar echo in the words of Jesus who told Peter to put his sword away. He did not go to the cross to save himself but to save us. He is the King that we need and our walk with Him, through the toughest of times, is worth it knowing that He is the King that God pulled out of the grave (Romans 8:11; Galatians 1:1).

2 Samuel 12

A Forgiven King

Discussion Question

What has the grace of God taught you?

Background (Context)

A familiar pattern in the Bible is unfolding again in the book of 2 Samual. God gives and establishes something great, but the sinfulness of humanity puts a huge question mark over whether God can really succeed. Israel is in the promised land with a good king who loved God and leaned on God for wisdom and understanding. Yet, even David acted out in shameful sin. Will sin ever be taken out of the picture in God’s plans!?

God had made a great promise to David in Chapter 7. That his kingdom would never end. But he also promised that when the king does wrong, God will punish him with harm inflicted by human hands.

David sinned in Chapter 12. He did more than take fruit from a tree but the same principle applies. He saw something that was not his and he was lead to believe that he must have it. Then he tried to cover up his sin so that nobody would be any wiser. He would save face before all of Israel and still be the good king that everybody believed him to be. There was no mention of God in chapter 11 until the very end when we read: “But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.”

Read 2 Samuel 7:18-29

12 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

15 After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.

18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”

19 David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.

“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”

20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.

21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”

22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him; 25 and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.  

26 Meanwhile Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel. 27 Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, “I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. 28 Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me.”

29 So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it. 30 David took the crown from their king’s head, and it was placed on his own head. It weighed a talent of gold, and it was set with precious stones. David took a great quantity of plunder from the city 31 and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labor with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brickmaking. David did this to all the Ammonite towns. Then he and his entire army returned to Jerusalem.

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • Nathan tells a story (1-6)
  • What the LORD said to the murderer (7-10)
  • What the LORD said to the adulterer (11-14)
  • The death of the child (15-23)
  • The birth of Solomon (24-25)
  • Another victory story for David (26-31)

Nathan tells a story (1-6)

“The LORD sent Nathan to David…” This is an act of grace! We finished Chapter 11 hearing that what David did displeased the LORD and the next thing we read is that God reaches out to David. God does not abandon his relationship with David. Like a Father to a son, he does not discard David but approaches him. Discipline is not abandonment. We don’t know much about Nathan except for the few stories that he is in but that he was a good prophet to king David. One of David’s sons is even named Nathan! David had approached Nathan for advice in Chapter 7 when he wanted to do something for God. Nathan is now used by God to send a message to the king.

“When he came to him, he said, “There were two men…” How does Nathan approach the king of Israel to tell him that the king has sinned. How does one rebuke a king? You tell him a story! The power of a story is illustrated in these verses as David is drawn to announce his own guilt. It’s not until Verse 7 that we hear the words that the LORD had given to Nathan to speak. Whether the story of the two men was a creation of Nathan or a message from God, we can only imagine. Perhaps Nathan was taking the announcement of sin from God and wrapping it in a story so that David would hear it. The fact is that the whole bible is a story given to us so that we can come to admit that we are not better than Adam or Eve or David and that we all need a Saviour.

“David burned with anger against the man…because [the man] did such a thing and had no pity.” Nathan has lead David to the right conclusion. David has become outraged against a fictional character and is ready to be told that this is exactly what David has done. He acted selfishly, destroying the lives of others and, in the end, showed no pity. Remember his words to Joab in 2 Sam 11:25. Casualties were just par for the course.

“As surely as the LORD lives…” Christians are stereotypically accused of being hypocrites. Well, we are. We quickly judge others but forget that we are guilty of the same or perhaps worse. David declares guilt upon a man in the name of the LORD. As readers of this story we see right through David and want him to see the error of his ways and to change.

What the LORD said to the murdering adulterer (7-14)

“You are the man!” Nathan is now able to deliver the full blow of the powerful, confronting, condemning words of the LORD to David who is able to hear them and be ashamed.

“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says…” For the first time in this story, we hear exactly what the LORD wishes David to hear. It is not simply a story left for David to interpret but the blunt truth that he has sinned in an amazing way and it’s time to be served. Note that He is described as the God of Israel which, I’m sure David would understand, is a higher rank to king of Israel. Nathan is not outranking David, he is simply passing on the message he was ordered to give. Preachers and Christians do not have higher authority in themselves but stand charged to deliver news from the Creator of all mankind.

“I anointed you…I delivered you…I gave…I gave…I would have given you even more.” The first point from God to David is that He has given so much to David and would have even kept on giving. I can recall the scenario in the garden of Eden that everything on the planet was given to Adam and Eve and who knows what the potential for the future held to a couple who would love God and love one another. But they took the one thing that was not theirs to take. How important it is to cultivate thanksgiving into our daily routine! Coveting, envy and greed have no place in our lives – but they are there aren’t they?

“Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes?” When we sin, we don’t simply do something wrong, but we despise the One who gives us life and words to live by. We do what is evil to the LORD and therefore show contempt for Him. Sin is always relational because it is against the LORD that we always sin.

“You struck down Uriah…with the sword…therefore, the sword will never depart from your house.” David’s first crime dealt with is the crime of murder. He organised for another man to be killed for self gain. The consequences to David will be that he will no longer look forward to retirement from the sword. This is not prescriptive of how God deals with our sin in this life but descriptive of how he dealt with David. We are able to listen in on this incident and see how our God acted justly in responding to David’s guilt. The eye for an eye principle is being followed in spirit if not literally. It is true that Deuteronomy 22:22 says clearly what should happen to David, but God is dealing particularly with David – the king of Israel. We’ll hold our breath for now and listen to the rest of the discipline being placed on David’s house.

“…and took his wife…took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.” The second crime dealt with is the crime of adultery. In David’s case, he really took Uriah’s wife completely. But it began by taking her for one night as if Uriah did not exist. God was prepared to keep on giving to David but David felt a need to take something that was not his.

“Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you.” God had promised David that his kingdom would never end. Because of this promise, the penalty would not be the removal of David’s kingdom. But that didn’t mean that his household would be an oasis. God’s promise was to chastise the kings of David’s kingdom like a Father disciplines a son. The promise suggested that this would start with Solomon but it did not need to wait until then. David will be the first king of God’s kingdom to live through the consequences of sin. This account of David’s fall very much resembles that of Adam and Eve. They did not die on the spot, as the penalty implied, but received mercy to live the rest of their lives (and still die) but looking daily at the consequences of their sin – even for one of their own children to kill another. David will watch the calamity on his household and know that he had deserved it.

“You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.” See 2 Samuel 16:22.

“Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”” After David’s righteous outburst against the rich man in Nathan’s story, he now only says, I have sinned against the LORD. No excuses. No elaborating or placing the blame. This is a response that we want so many of our friends and family to make. Yet it is most common for people to blame their circumstances, or even God (the woman you put here!) David says exactly the right amount of words: I have sinned against the LORD. It’s similar to the words that Jesus would put into the mouth of the prodigal son in his parable about forgiveness. We are not victims of our circumstances. We are sinners who need to confess that in our heart and before God.

“Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” Why doesn’t David need to die? Because the LORD has taken away his sin. This is the tremendous gospel of this account. The sin is not swept under the carpet. The consequences have already been explained and we are yet to meditate on the death of the child born. But the promise from the LORD to David is that his kingdom will never be torn away from him (2 Samuel 7:15) as it had been to Saul (1 Samuel 15:23). The grace of God is based on his promises and not on our merit or deserving. David did not deserve to receive such mercy. But his sin has been dealt with by the LORD. David does say more on his confession or reflections in Psalm 51 (also Psalm 32).

“But because…you have shown utter contempt for the LORD, the son born to you will die.” See earlier comments regarding sin being always about contempt for or despising the LORD. David did not only commit the sins but he then covered them up and called them of no matter. I will reserve more on the death of the child for the next section.

The death of the child (15-23)

“…the LORD struck the child…” We will not take from this that all children who become ill and die are a result of someone else’s sin. The Pharisees had this same error in Jesus’ time and were corrected for it (John 9). Just as Joab said to Abishai, “The LORD will do what is good in his sight.” The story in Chapter 12 does not teach us to have no care for a dying child since we look at the grieving of David who knew full well why it was happening. It does not tell us that we ought to expect such harsh treatment from God as a result of our sin either because this is a unique story about the unique character of king David. The message is that David’s sin caused trauma in the household. It will be tempting for a Bible reader to be confused about the mercy of God when this innocent child is punished, but the LORD gives and the LORD takes away – blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21). On the flipside, we might remember that the gift of children is not something we must presume upon either (1 Samuel 1-2).

“The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up…but he refused…he would not eat…the child died…David’s attendants were afraid to tell him…” The sorrow of David and his pertitioning of God through pleading and fasting, night and day, seemed like a mystery to his attendants and elders. They saw it purely as grief and despair when in fact it was an endeavour to change the mind of the LORD. When the child died after 7 days of illness, the attendants feared that David would be even worse! If he grieved so much while the child was alive, how much more once the child is dead. While David is the guilty one in this story being chastised by God, he is able to teach us something at this point. His actions are not out of despair but out of faith that God is good and hears. While the child was still alive, then there was hope.

“He may do something desperate.” They may have feared that David would kill himself or someone else! Who knows. They feared what David had already been found guilty of doing: desperately taking a man’s wife and then killing the man. Now, this repentant man gives us a glimpse into the heart of a servant of God. We readers need to know that the sin of David has been dealt with. David’s actions while lamenting and pleading were the actions of someone who serves the living God.

“…he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped…” This father worshiped God after the death of his son. To worship is to praise God for who he is. In all of life, the LORD is to be praised. David did not hold a grudge against the LORD since the LORD had done exactly as he said He would do. It is one thing to question: what are you doing, LORD? Quite another to question: what right do you have?

“Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” What a profound little gem in the Old Testament about the afterlife. David is amongst the living who cannot bring back the dead. That is a fool’s desperation. The attendants of David worried that he might do something desperate (Verse 18) but David had a rational mind toward death. The gem here is that David talks about going to his son. David will one day die and he states here that he will one day go to him. This could mean anything from “I will return to the dust like that child” through to “I will join him in heaven one day.” What he means will depend on the rest of scripture to interpret (reveal the meaning). Jesus, the true forever King, taught his disciples that he would one day see them in the kingdom of God where there are many rooms. Death, however, is a one way door. We all go through it and none of us return to advise on what happens on the other side. But we know Jesus who has returned. Our knowledge and hope for the future is not based on wishful thinking or theology born out of desperation, but on the sound report from the risen Son of God. For now, David is resolved that it is goodbye to his son until eternity.

The birth of Solomon (24-25)

“Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba…” She has been identified as Uriah’s wife for most of the past two chapters in order to underscore the sin of David who had taken another man’s wife. Now that Uriah is dead and God has dealt with the sin, she is now recorded by name and as David’s wife. It will not be forgotten forever since she is not remembered in Matthew 1 as Bathsheba but as Uriah’s wife. Our world is marred by the repercussions of sin everywhere.

“…they named him Solomon.” 2 Samuel informs us that Solomon was the second son born to David by Bathsheba. His name means ‘peace’ which points forward to what will happen in Israel under his reign rather than a reflection on the circumstances of his birth. See 1 Chronicles 22:9.

“The LORD…sent word…to name him Jedidiah.” This name means loved by the LORD. He will be known by the world as Solomon the peace bringer but the LORD will know him as loved. See Nehemiah 13:26. No earthly king can bring peace. But the love that God first shows to us through the LORD Jesus Christ, that is our only peace.

Another victory story for David (26-31)

It is sad how the narrative of 2 Samuel 11 and 12 effects the reading of the rest of David’s story. Before this, we were hearing of the great humility and dependence on God that David displayed. Now, in these final verses, we read of a king who does not sound different at all. He claimed victory where one of his commanders had done the work and he turned his captives into slaves. The changed atmosphere is striking when you compare Chapters 11 and 12 with what we read in the shortened account of 1 Chronicles 20:1-3.

 

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The LORD our God will not let sin go unattended. And yet He keeps His promises. This means that all who call on the name of the LORD will be saved! Our salvation is based on the promises of God through Christ and not by our own merits. Our world is under the curse of sin. The story of Genesis 3 recounts this and the house of David illustrates this for us now. The forgiveness of sins and the hope of the resurrection are contained in a story about David. The message of the gospel is packaged for us in the story of David’s salvation (just as David’s rebuke was packaged in the form of a sheep farmer story).

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Packaging our message. One NIV translation titles chapter 12: “Nathan Rebukes David”. But who is it that rebukes David? It is God’s word that David is rebuked by when Nathan says, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says…’ But the rebuke from God comes through the mouth of Nathan and is packaged in a story. It is packaged in a relationship already trusted by David. Nathan has permission to speak to David but it is the word of God that Nathan speaks. We can error in two ways here. We can firstly express our own distaste and disgust with people without regard to what the Bible actually says on a matter. Secondly, we can blurt out the message of God into an audience not ready to hear what they desperately need to hear. But the word of God, the truth and hope of the gospel, when packaged in a relationship and the right timing can be more effective on the hearer. Proverbs 15:23, 25:11. Nathan was right but so was his method of communication.

Topic B: The gospel is not fair. David was outraged at the wicked rich man who killed a poor man’s sheep. We too may be outraged to see how low David fell and yet his kingdom was not removed from him nor was his life. Even more so that a child was killed instead of David. Have you ever considered how unfair the gospel is? We all deserve to be excluded from God’s kingdom forever because of our contempt for the One who made us. And yet it is Jesus who dies instead of us. He was more innocent than that child of Bathsheba who died in his mortal sin. If we do not have a solid doctrine of sin then we will not have a solid doctrine of grace either. It is not fair that we despise the work of God and yet are allowed to enter His eternal rest. But it is through the wounds of Jesus that we are healed. It is for our transgressions that he was punished. The gospel is not fair.

Topic C: Good grief. David lost his child. It is a horrible story and it is difficult to shine a light on David after this. We are taught, however, some real truths about the curse of sin and how to proceed with faith. While the child was ill but still alive, David pleaded with the LORD to change his mind. David prayed with all his effort. He was not lost in despair but directed his hope to the living God. Once the child died, David ceased his petition but continued his relationship with God. He worshipped the LORD. He did not disrespect God for doing good in His sight. He also spoke of eternal hope. The reality of sin in this world is that we cannot bring people back. They are gone. But, in faith and hope, we shall see them again. David held to the promises of God, the faithfulness of God and the mercies of God. The curse of sin is real. Death is real. But God is always God. David rose and comforted Bathsheba. The pain may be present but the LORD who brings comfort to all who mourn – He is to be praised. Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.