Category Archives: The Word of God

2 Samuel 7:1-17

A Promised Kingdom

Discussion Question

When you read the bible, what do you expect to get from it?

Background (Context)

2 Samuel Chapter 7 is a profoundly important chapter in the context of the whole bible. God, the creator of all things, chose the descendants of Abraham to experience his special grace. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, was renamed to Israel and his twelve children became the heads of the nation of Israel. Under Moses, Israel was rescued from slavery in Egypt and under Joshua they were lead into the promised land. They were expected to live there as the people of God in obedience to God’s word as written down by Moses. The book of Judges shows us that this was not going to happen without good leadership. 1 Samuel told the story of the introduction of a king to lead Israel. This king was to lead the nation under the law of God. David is the king that God chose to shepherd the people of Israel.

We’ve read of David being received by the people of Israel in 2 Samuel chapters 1 to 5. He conquered the major city of Jerusalem and took it to be the City of David. He brought the ark of God back, which had been taken by the Philistines, to a Tabernacle organised by David. We have arrived at a moment in the bible story where God’s people are in God’s land under God’s blessing and rule. Although there have been some subtle clues regarding David’s sin, the book has presented David very highly in the eyes of God and of the people. The nation is finally united under a king who is shepherding them in humility, gentleness and peace. This has either got to be the end of the bible story, or there is a twist about to take place.

Read 2 Samuel 7:1-17

After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

3 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

4 But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’

8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders h over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“ ‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ ”

17 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • It seems right to build God better quarters (1-3)
  • The LORD rejects this reasoning (4-16)
    • I have never asked for a house of cedar (4-7)
    • I will provide a name for you (8-9)
    • I will provide a place and rest for you (10-11)
    • I will establish a house for you forever (12-16)
  • Nathan reports all to David (17)

It seems right to build God better quarters (1-3)

“After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him…” We cannot understate the context of this statement. A great deal has lead up to this moment and we read here of the description of blessing from God. If Israel will be humble and walk in obedience before the LORD then this can be their ongoing experience.

“He said to Nathan the prophet…” The bible mentions Nathan a few times in passing but there is no great backstory to tell here. He was a well known prophet of David’s day and clearly part of David’s personal council. It is a grand sign that David had a man of God in his presence to assist in shepherding Israel. Nathan is the same prophet who rebukes David after the sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12).

“Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” You can imagine David standing on a balcony with Nathan the prophet, overlooking the city, breathing in the satisfaction of peace and order, and looking down to see that the ark of God is housed in a tent. It is likely to have been a beautiful tent as described in the book of Exodus – designed by God Himself. There was no disrespect intended by David by housing the ark in what was the Tabernacle. But David sees the problem of being so well housed himself (2 Samuel 5:11). It is a great gesture of love and respect to God.

“Nathan replied to the king, “…go ahead and do it…” It seems like a no-brainer. What a great idea. We have a prophet here giving David the OK so we may feel like this is good. And yet, we might remember that David had the plan to go and get the ark of God and bring it back but it didn’t go as well as he’d planned initially. He needed to learn humility. Nonetheless, Nathan says, do it! It seems like an obvious decision.

The LORD rejects this reasoning (4-16)

The response from God is plain: you don’t build me a house – I am the house builder and I will build you a house. There is a little play on words as both house and dynasty are related words. While David is talking about building with cedar, Yahweh is talking about establishing a kingdom for David that will never end. He stripped the kingdom from out of Saul but he will not do that for David. This word from the LORD to Nathaniel is often referred to as the Davidic Covenant.

I have never asked for a house of cedar (4-7)

“…the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying…” Hebrews 1:1 says that in the past God has spoken to our ancestors through the prophets in various ways. Our God is a God who speaks. This is a tremendous relief to us all! Without His words to this world we would be in the dark. Hebrews 1:2 says that it gets better because He has spoken to us now through His own Son. While God can still communicate in any way He chooses today, it is the norm for God to speak to the world today, via the people of God through the written word of God. This is not the space for a full exposition on ‘the Word of God’ but the beginning and end of this story speaks of the revelation from God to Nathan. God’s full revelation is found in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. No new word from God is needed.

“…my servant David…” Used here in Verse 5 and in Verse 8. The theme of God’s message is that He is the one building and establishing and David’s kingdom is a product of the sovereignty of God.

“Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?” God will have an upgrade from the Tabernacle to the Temple but not by David. It will be Solomon who builds the Temple. But the answer is not simply a “not yet” answer. He continues to make the point that He is not subject and dependant on David but the other way around. The familiar theme of Living God versus dumb idol appears again here. He is not a dumb idol that man needs to build and carry around, but he is the creator and redeemer.

“…I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt…I have moved with all the Israelites…I commanded [rulers] to shepherd my people…” Verses 5-7 highlight that Israel is only a people because God established them. He redeemed them, he dwelt with them, he established leaders over his people. The story of Israel out of Egypt is the gospel of the Old Testament. Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers give the context of this statement.

“…did I ever say…”Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”” God designed and prescribed to Israel what the Tabernacle ought to look like. He instructed Moses on how to make it and the people under Moses’ instruction built the tent-like Tabernacle. The people did exactly as God had described it and God blessed the people by ‘dwelling’ in that tent. David’s good desire to honour God with a cedar Temple is stopped by God because God has not ever asked for this. This taps into a major theme in the bible that we need to pay attention to: we do not design the way in which we worship and honour God but He describes how we are to approach and worship Him.

I will provide a name for you (8-9)

“I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.” This parallels what God said in Verse 6. Just as God brought Israel up out of Egypt, he brought David up from his small role as a shepherd of sheep and made him the king of Israel. God established Israel. God established David as the king of Israel. They are not David’s people but God’s people. While David has not sinned by suggesting that he build God a better house, God wants David to keep in clear mind who is the LORD Almighty and who is a shepherd boy made king.

“I have been with you…and I have cut off all your enemies…” David has been a legendary fighter but he has always maintained that it is Yahweh who continually delivered him from the enemy (2 Samuel 4:9; 5:19). This story began with the summary of peace over David’s kingdom from all his enemies and it will become a further promise in Verse 11.

“Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth.” The promises from God to David very much reflect the promise from God to Abram (Abraham). Firstly, that his name would be great. King David’s name is certainly great in the bible. His kingdom was legendary and the benchmark of all kings to follow.  

I will provide a place and rest for you (10-11)

“And I will provide a place for my people Israel…” The second promise also echoes the promises made to Abraham. The Promised Land is not only a present reality for David but continues to be part of the promise for the future of Israel. What we see in this Davidic Covenant is not a new covenant but the old one repeated and David’s ancestors being the ones through whom this promise is fulfilled – forever.

“Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did…” Israel, of course, has been in the Promised Land since the days of Joshua. In fact, there was a declaration in Joshua 21:45 that all of God’s promises had been fulfilled. But the enemy kept invading and tempting Israel to turn their back on Yahweh. Unlike previous leaders of Israel (the judges), David’s dynasty will see peace. Now, we begin to wonder how this will be fulfilled. Any reader of the bible knows that this does not happen. David’s son Solomon enjoys peace in his time but then the next generation and all who follow experience hostility. God’s promise to David is to be expected to occur firstly under David but then ultimately under Jesus who is the only king who can fulfill this promise. The word of Yahweh to Nathan continues to blend between an earthly fulfillment and an eternal one through Christ.

“…rest from your enemies.” Peace in Israel is a sign of God’s blessing upon them.

I will establish a house for you forever (11b-16)


“…the LORD himself will establish a house for you…” As already stated, David’s initiative to build a house for God is met with this reply: you are not the house builder for God, God is the house builder for David. The word house has a double meaning: wood or bricks as well as family or dynasty.

“When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors…” Death is still a problem that the bible hasn’t resolved yet. Even the promised king of God’s people will face it. Rest is promised however. We don’t get a full theology of the resurrection until after the ‘third day’ in the gospels. The idea of life after death was not printed in clear ink but Jesus was able to rebuke the Sadducees for their disbelief in the resurrection by using the Old Testament.

“…I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.” David need not worry about the future of his kingdom since God will continue to carry it and strengthen it. God’s promise turns immediately to David’s very next generation. It will be his son who builds the house.

“He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” God moves from the promise of making David’s name great to promising that David’s son will make a house for God’s name. His character and love and devotion will be on the Temple that Solomon builds (1 Kings 9). But the promise is obscure as we know that his throne does not last forever. The offspring of David does continue and his throne is recorded for generations but it isn’t until we see Jesus establish His eternal kingdom that we understand the twist to this story and the greatest promises of God fulfilled completely and without end in the Messiah. Jesus is the fulfilled King who is the suffering servant and king of the Jews. This ambiguity between Solomon and Jesus continues in Verse 14.

“I will be his father, and he will be my son.” God has not referred to David as His son. Solomon will be more than David’s son but will be treated by God as his own son. This is an extraordinary promise. When has such a promise been declared before! And yet we carry this very invitation through Christ. Only because of the blessings that God gives to us and not on any presumptuous attitude we might imagine. That is, we cannot presume that God is for us and yet he comes to us to call us his children. And this because he first provided us with the Son whom He loves.

“When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men…” The throne of David will go on but not without consequences. Future kings will be disciplined with the rod of other nations. Even the Messiah will receive the rod although that will not be for wrongs He has done but wrongs of others that He takes on himself.

“But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul…” Here is the key to understanding this promise at the basic level. While God regretted crowning Saul and removed the kingdom from him, God is vowing to keep it in the house of David forever.

“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” The promise again is for a dynasty that will never have God’s face turned away. So where is this promise now? It is established firmly in the life of Jesus Christ. He is the ‘forever king!’ He is the fulfillment of every promise that God has made.

Nathan reports all to David (17)

“…all the words of this entire revelation.” We’re reminded that this is God’s speech to a man of God and his responsibility is to speak every word just as it has been given. The Word of God has come to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. He commanded his disciples to go and tell the world everything that they have heard and seen and make disciples of all nations. We speak because God first spoke to us. We speak only what we have been given.

 

What did we learn? (Meaning)

God’s promises to Abraham (of a great name, a place and blessing) is reaffirmed under the kingdom of David. But God reminds David that the kingdom will forever be built by God and not by man. David will not build a house for God but God will build a house for David. Just as Israel is redeemed and blessed because of God’s grace to them, so too David’s house. The eternal kingdom of God is found in the Lord Jesus Christ who is God’s Son, who came to dwell with men, to place His name in our hearts and to bring us peace and rest. Jesus is the forever king.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The difference between good intentions and God’s plans. David had a great plan to honour God in this time of peace and rest. It seemed good to him and it seemed like a good idea to Nathan the prophet. But God’s revelation focused on how He is the kingdom builder. Sometimes churches get mistaken for charity providers. The idea is that churches are only good in society in as much as they support those in need. While charity work is wonderful, it is not the primary purpose of the church. Making disciples by retelling the gospel is the first point of a church. In making plans for your own life, how can you distinguish between a good thing and a God thing? What plans does God see for your life? Is it a life of riches without suffering?

Topic B: Jesus is the King who brings peace. Many people read the bible looking for the golden rules for life, or assurance that what we are doing is fine or at least on the right track but miss the big picture of the bible. The message is that it is all done in Christ. The forever king has been established and it’s not you or me – it’s Jesus. The bible does not give us clues to work out how to do life better but to find Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. So, it’s not we who build a kingdom for God but God who has already built the kingdom and welcomes us in.

Topic C: The entire revelation of God is in our hands. The prophet Nathan was given revelation from God specifically meant for David’s ears and which has made its way into the bible for our benefit. It makes up part of a whole story which we now have the beginning, middle and end. The revelation from God to this world is complete. The book is written and we have it in our hands. The joy of reading the bible is seeing how it all pieces together and draws us in to the end. The revelation of God to the world is that Jesus is King and one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is LORD.

Luke 22:24-38

The greatest serves

Discussion Question

What is the most responsibility that you have ever had to carry?

Background

The Passover meal had been arranged and Jesus redefined this grand traditional meal as a remembrance of his death. Judas had consented to betraying Jesus and Jesus announced that his betrayer was seated at the table with them all. The disciples all questioned among themselves which of them was going to betray Jesus.

Read Luke 22:24-38

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Exercising authority in this world (24-25)
  • Exercising authority in the Kingdom of God (26-30)
  • The promise of trials ahead (31-38)

Exercising authority in this world (24-25)

“A dispute also arose among them…” Luke places this account in a different location to Mark and Matthew (Mark 10:42-45 and Matthew 20:25-28). It is difficult to know for sure why that is and the conclusion can often come down to what the interpreter would like to conclude! Two things can be said for sure: 1) that Jesus really seems to have said words about the nature of authority in this world compared to the kingdom of God and 2) that the gospel writers inserted this lesson from Jesus where they saw them fitting in the narrative. Perhaps Jesus said the same thing twice. But neither is it a new thing for accounts in the bible to care more about the message than they do about the exact chronology of the events. It seems reasonable to argue that there were two events in the account of Jesus’ ministry which suited the lesson from Jesus to be included at that point. Mark and Matthew quoted Jesus at one point but Luke placed those words in response to a different event.

Whatever the case, this dispute gives Jesus an occasion to explain how they are not behaving like children of the Kingdom of God.

“…as to which of them was considered to be greatest.” It doesn’t sound like an adult conversation. As Luke has placed this apparently at the table of the last supper, it just sounds so strikingly wrong! If this conversation flows directly out of Verse 23, however, it may have gone from a denial of betraying Jesus into something like, “I would never do that because I am most loyal to Jesus!” etc. What sounds like an immature and ridiculous conversation could well have flowed out of something smaller.

“…kings of the Gentiles…” Gentiles being non-Jews, ie, kings of the world.

“…call themselves Benefactors.” The simple stated nature of rulers in the world is that they hold authority and yet call themselves a giver of money to others. Even tyrant kings may wear a badge of honour as though they are benefiting the people. There may be a contrast beginning here between rulers who give themselves a good name and the leaders in the kingdom who will have the kingdom confered on them (Verse 29).

Exercising authority in the Kingdom of God (26-30)

“…greatest… like the youngest…” Jesus turns all hierarchies upside down. What seems to be the order of things in this world must not be the model for how we behave in the kingdom of God. See Mark 9:35

“…who is greater, the one who is at the table…? But I am among you as one who serves.” Jesus’ point is about humility, not reorganising who is in charge. His point is also directed at the kingdom of God and how that operates. That said, humility in the workforce and the home is a powerful and godly virtue. Jesus has placed his disciples at the table and is serving them. A greater illustration is found in John’s gospel Chapter 13 Verses 12-17 when he washed the disciples feet. That event took place on this same night.

“You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” Given that he has not been arrested yet, Jesus must be referring to the many confrontations that he has had with the teachers of the law. This sentence links to the last in that he has not been a king who lords it over people but one who undergoes trials inflicted on him by those who should be serving him. And although many chose not to follow him and many walked away, these men have stood by him. They have trusted him and persevered. Jesus is about to describe their place in the kingdom of God and it has come after his commendation that they have done well. They have been faithful with little and now they will be promised much.

“And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me…” The Father assigned the kingdom to Jesus and he is now assigning them a kingdom. The next verses will expand on what that means but here let us just acknowledge the doctrine of election. The apostles have not got lucky or paid their way to rule. Jesus has placed them in this place of authority in the kingdom. This promise must first and foremost be to the apostles specifically. Note also that this is a present tense declaration.

“…so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom…” This is Jesus’ kingdom that he is describing – my table – my kingdom. But the disciples have been chosen and elected to sit and eat and drink at the king’s table. A place of honour. Jesus has reminded us that it is those who are great who sit at tables (Verse 27).

“…and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” See also Matthew 19:28 and Revelation 3:21. Whilst the apostles are given a special place in the kingdom of God – certainly to bear witness of the One sent from heaven whom they saw with their own eyes and walked with him – whilst they do have a special place in the kingdom, it seems that this promise of judging the twelve tribes is not confined to them alone. The promise to eat with Christ and to reign with him is passed on to all who respond to Christ’s calling. 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:9-10. The twelve tribes of Israel is to be understood eschatologically (in context of the way things end up). All who put their hope in the Son of God are the true Israel. Romans 9-11 cover this concept that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of promise, not of descent or special treatment of a particular nation. James 1:1 describes the scattered church of Christ as the twelve tribes in the dispersion.

The promise of trials ahead (31-38)

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.” Verses 31 and 32 are amongst my favourites in all the bible. Not merely that it begins with my name repeated for emphasis and so seems quite directed to me! But more than that, this verse and the next describe two amazing truths of the scriptures (and more). Here we see the subordination of Satan to God. Satan is free but on a leash. We see in the book of Job how Satan needs to report back to God and is only allowed to do to Job what God permits. A day will come when Satan will be sent to eternal punishment. But in God’s wisdom he is permitted to tempt and sift people like wheat. The faith of the elect will be tested. Simon and the others, with God’s permission, will be put to the test. Those who stand firm to the end will be victorious. This is called the perseverance of the saints and this is the first truth that helps to put temptation and trials into perspective. James 1:2-4. God is not permitting Satan this job for his own sadistic joy. It is a means to maturity. Satan has asked permission and God has presumably permitted it. Christianity is not a life choice for the faint-hearted. But…

“…I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Such a beautiful word from Jesus to Simon. The Son of God, the King of kings has prayed for this fisherman. Note that Jesus prays to God. Remember the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that although Jesus is God, he also prays to the Father who is God. The content of the prayer is that Simon’s faith may not fail. It is not that Simon will be excused from temptation or even that Simon will remain faultless but that his faith will not fail. Jesus knows that there will be a need for Simon to turn back. And that a repentant Simon is still equipped to strengthen others. Take heart at the comfort of these words. Those who have been elected for salvation (Verse 28), will have their faith tested which ultimately produces perseverance and maturity, and we have the Son of God praying for us (see also John 17) to ensure the preservation of the saints. It is the perseverance of the saints and the preservation of the saints which come out of these verses which I love.

“…I tell you Peter, before the rooster crows today…” I have often pondered why Jesus calls this man Simon at one point and Peter at the next. I can’t be sure but I have an inkling that Jesus talks to this man like he has two sides. Simon is the fisherman who is mortal and represents the person vulnerable to temptation. While Peter is the rock who is brave for the kingdom. Jesus tells this brave rock that he will fail before sunrise.

As Jesus knew the plans of Judas, He also sees how the night will unfold for Simon Peter.

“When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything? “Nothing” they answered.” He refers to the time they were all sent out on mission to proclaim the kingdom of God (Luke 9:1-6; 10:4). Back then they were sent with nothing and lacked nothing. It was not a miracle but they were provided for when people from Jewish towns welcomed them in to hear about the kingdom of God. They received some rejection but they returned from the mission praising God for all that they were able to do in Jesus’ name. The season has changed now and working for the kingdom is going to get harder.

“But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” People will be turning on the Son of Man and the nature of the mission is about to change. This is a warning passage. Satan has asked to shake them down and the people of their own villages can no longer be relied on for hospitality.

“It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’, …this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” Isaiah 53 was written about Jesus and Jesus knew that. The disciples wanted to know who was the greatest. Jesus teaches them that in the kingdom of God, there will be eating and judging but not in the next chapter. What will come next is persecution on the disciples and the King of the kingdom will be treated like a sinner. This must be fulfilled. Because it has been predetermined by God and He does not lie or change.

“See, Lord, here are two swords”…. “That’s enough!” he replied.” Later, the disciples will ask to use the sword and even strike the servant of the high priest but Jesus will rebuke them and heal the man. There are no accounts of sword wielding in the book of Acts.  The disciples have heard Jesus’ words and missed his point. They were being told a) that they will need to make provisions for themselves from now on and b) that he is about to be numbered with the transgressors! That is a big statement. In fulfilling scripture, Jesus will become the lowest. And their reply is “we have two swords boss!” Jesus reply to them seems to be a dismissal of the whole conversation or even a frustrated termination.

What did we learn?

Greatness in the kingdom of God is not fought for but bestowed on by election from the Son of God. As the King of the kingdom, he will demonstrate completely what the nature of the kingdom is: he will fulfill scripture and take on the position of a sinner. Being part of God’s kingdom is a road of trials and tests, as Jesus has demonstrated to his disciples and now they must walk the road of trials and tests. But Jesus preserves his people through prayer. Discipleship is a road hard to walk along, but we have every spiritual gift given to us and the hope of glory promised.

Now what?

Topic A: Humility as a mark of discipleship. Galatians 5:22-23 and James 3:17 list some of the fruit of the spirit which may well be summarised with the word ‘humility’. Philippians 2:3-11 describe the humility of Christ as the prime example of the humility that we ought to possess and cultivate. The nature of the kingdom of God is to put one another before ourselves. This is a true mark of godliness. How can you monitor your progress in this?

Topic B: Perseverance of the saints. All Christians are saints. When you have truly understood the grace of God in Christ and turned to Him in faith we can rest on the promises of God that a) he has called you into his kingdom and b) he promises to finish the work that he began in you (Ephesians 2:1-10). The journey is rough though. The world, the flesh and the devil will each do their darndest to knock you off the boat. James 1:5 says that if you lack wisdom on how to live in humility (James 3:13) then ask God for this wisdom that only he can give since it does not come from this world.

Topic C: Jesus is the fulfillment of Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 tells us that the Scriptures are all we need to find salvation in Christ and grow up mature in him. Jesus taught some disciples in Luke 24:25-27 that the Old Testament scriptures are filled with words concerning Jesus that had to be fulfilled. He is the missing piece that solves the great mystery of God. Ephesians 1:9-10 describe Jesus as the mystery of God finally revealed. We will never grow weary of learning more about him, to get to know him more, to understand him and even to participate in his sufferings so that somehow we shall be welcomed at his table in his kingdom to reign with him (Philippians 3:10-11). What grace that we do not deserve.

Luke 20:27-47

The Lord who lives

Discussion Question

What would you do if convinced that there was no resurrection?

Background

Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem and has been in conflict with the Jewish leaders. He hadn’t even reached the gates of the city before being approached by the religious leaders and questioned (Luke 19:39). And his first act on arriving, according to Luke, was to disrupt the corrupt behaviour in the Temple (Luke 19:45). In Chapter 20, the authority of Jesus was questioned but Jesus silenced the people wanting to trap him.

While the mouths of the teachers of Israel have been silenced (Luke 20:26), a sub-group within the Jewish leadership, known as the Sadducees, sought to prove themselves right before Jesus. Luke tells us in Verse 27 (see also Acts 23:8) that they do not believe in the resurrection from the dead – that is, that there is no afterlife. They also denied the existence of angels, and they adhered only to the Torah (meaning ‘the law’), being the first five books of the Bible (AKA the Pentateuch).

Read Luke 20:27-47

27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’d 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

41 Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? 42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms:

“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
43 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.” ’g

44 David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

What did you see?

Structure

  • The Sadducees raise a good question (27-33)
  • Jesus corrects the Sadducees (34-38)
  • Jesus teaches us to read (39-44)
  • Jesus warns us of the real issue here (45-47)

The Sadducees raise a good question (27-33)

“Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection…” See the Background above. Acts 23:6-10 gives us some insight into how firmly the Sadducees refuted the resurrection (of anybody) and how opposed the Pharisees were to this point of view. This story opens with an internal doctrinal dispute. We will see how this story shows Jesus interact with the dispute, not to take sides, but to show that both groups allow their passionate points of view to get in the way of just good reading of the Scriptures.

“…came to Jesus with a question.” We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Jesus was a person worth knowing. Even though he will be rejected by most of these leaders and crucified, he was not a nobody. Quite the contrary, he was a threat and person to investigate. The Pharisees and Sadducees had established credibility as “teachers of the law” etc. They were coming to Jesus with questions. If Jesus was just a weirdo, crazy want-to-be-messiah or prophet figure, then they could just ignore him and get on with the business of Jewish leadership. But Jesus had something to say and they knew it. It is apparent that they wanted either Jesus to support their point of view or say something that would discredit himself – either way they win – but Jesus shows himself to be impartial (Luke 20:21).

“Teacher”, they said…” See the last point on how they viewed Jesus! He was not obviously a crazy person or someone rambling some new cult. The people knew that he taught the things of God. He was a player.

“Moses wrote for us…” Remember that the Sadducees only regarded the writings of Moses as worth anything. Beautifully, Jesus will use the text of Moses to answer their question!

“…if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.” See Deut 25:5ff; Ruth 4:1-12. This was the duty of a brother-in-law in the Old Testament.  It can be hard in our Western culture of individuality to swallow a command like this. It might be hard in any culture. One narrative of the bible is the story of family, of first-borns, of inheritance and of duty to something greater than yourself. I don’t wish to justify the laws of Moses as if they each have a pragmatic reason lying behind them. The unmarried brother-in-law can carry on the name of his brother through that woman. This was the law, which had an out-clause which resulted in shame for the brother-in-law. But it was the law and the Sadducees see this as creating a great problem in the theology of the resurrection. This was their slam down argument for winning the dispute.

Application note: when division happens in the Christian church over doctrine, it is often because the greater picture of God’s grace is misunderstood or misapplied. The greatest unity in the church comes when we celebrate the absolute truths of the gospel and carry with us an epistemological humility (or remaining humble in our knowledge of things).

“…now there were seven brothers…finally the woman died too…at the resurrection whose wife will she be…?” The Sadducees lay out their argument. Sounds like 9 seasons of ‘Married without children!’ This lady either married into the wrong family or she should have her house checked for arsenic! Anyway, this is the scenario played out for Jesus to reflect on. Even though it is a very specific kind of scenario, it does play out as a legit question. We can find a similar type of question asked in relation to the gospel: “If you’re saying I can be forgiven for any sin then I’ll just keep sinning and Jesus will just forgive me! Brilliant! Makes no sense.” But Paul tackles that problem in Romans 6. And his answer is something similar to Jesus: you don’t really get the point if you’re asking that question.

Jesus corrects the Sadducees (34-38)

“Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage.” Jesus decides to respond to their question rather than push back (see his response to a previous challenge in Luke 20:3). The phrase ‘this age’ can mean this generation or people this side of the cross or people of the world or people who are not part of the kingdom of God or simply people on this side of death! As always, it is context that gives us the meaning. Surely Jesus is referring to people who are still alive. We may wonder what he means by ‘those who are considered worthy’, but it will become clear that Jesus is referring to those who enter eternal life. The first point of Jesus is to say that marriage is a thing for this age. Just because marriage happens here does not mean that it has the same meaning in the next life.

But, marriage is for this age. God created men and women to leave their parents and to come together as one (Gen 1-2), the scriptures uphold marriage as a beautiful thing (Song of Songs) and as a great image or illustration for God’s uniting himself to his people. Marriage is about two ‘differents’ being united under a promise to be one with a mutual love and other-person centredness. Although that is the picture, it is very much not like that in reality. Sin (introduced after the marriage covenant of Genesis 1 and 2), means that men and women together in marriage will live in conflict (Gen 3:16). As we’ve seen in previous studies in 1 Corinthians 7, the curse of sin and the cure which is Christ makes the age that we live in unique. We live in the age of Christian mission when the message of the Spirit (which is the gospel) is to go to all nations. This is our mission. To make disciples of all nations. We are not commanded to settle down and make homes here but to have kingdom minds. However, we still live in the age where people of this world marry and are given in marriage.

“But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage.” In the age to come, at the resurrection, there will be no more marriage. That seems to be the clear teaching of our LORD here. Who is worthy of eternal life? That answer is clearly given elsewhere (Matt 19:29; Hebrews 9:15; James 2:5; Rev 21:7). That list of New Testament promises regarding eternal life give us the two sided coin of grace and perseverance. We are saved by no merit of our own but on Christ’s merit but we are saved because we cling to him as our only hope. We have heard the true gospel and responded from truly understanding the grace of God.

“…and they can no longer die…” Jesus has answered their question but he’s not done with them yet. To his audience who do not believe in the resurrection nor in angels, Jesus wants them to listen further and learn.

“…for they are like the angels.” I can imagine Jesus looking them in the eyes and simply stating that angels are real. The God who created all things, including the angels, has no issues setting the record straight. Angels, it appears, do not die because they are not suffering under the curse of mankind. Of course, the rebellious angels will receive their punishment in full at the end of time.

“They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.” Will that be your title one day: child of the resurrection? A description of the children of the resurrection can be read in Revelation 21:1-8 and also 7:13-17. Surely none of the Sadducees who deny the resurrection can take part in it? Entrance into the kingdom of God, as a norm, requires knowledge and belief whenever and wherever it is made available.

“…even Moses showed that the dead rise…” Jesus has moved from stating facts that only he would know to pointing now to the scriptures that even the Sadducees accept and showing from the text that the resurrection is taught even by Moses.

“…for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’” Exodus 3:6. In this part of the story, Jesus begins to use the Scriptures in a very technical way. What do the words say? What do they mean? Now, I’ll confess that I would have read that account in Exodus a thousand times before it would dawn on me that God is talking about being the God of the living. He doesn’t say that he was their God but that he is their God.

“…for to him all are alive.” The context would suggest that ‘all’ refers to all who have been worthy to take part in the age to come.

Jesus teaches us to read (39-44)

“Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” This lot are pleased that Jesus set the Sadducees straight. But look out for the way that Luke transitions now into a lesson from Jesus to the teachers of the law on how to read the scriptures too.

“Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David?” The teaching of the Messiah was well established by the arrival of Jesus. Some texts that were likely key to the Jew’s understanding included, 2 Samuel 7; Ps 89; Isa 9:5-7; 11:1-10; Jer 23:5-8; 33:14-26; Micah 5:2; Ezek 34:23-24. The theme that crosses most of these is that God will raise someone up who will be a righteous king of the line of David, Jesse’s boy from Bethlehem. We can, from Jesus’ words, conclude that the teachers taught that the Messiah would be a son of David (descendant) and this is fair theology given the texts above.

“David himself declares in the Book of Psalms:” Now, this may be a boring point for some but there are commentators who question whether the Psalms of David (as they say in the title of the Psalms) mean that David wrote them or that they are rather Psalms for David. The language can work like that but Jesus happily tributes the penwork to David.

“David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” Psalm 110 describes a figure who David regards as his Lord being given the right handed seat to the Lord. That is, God is allowing this Lord of David’s to sit at his right hand. It seems that Jesus is drawing people’s attention to the idea that Psalm 110 is actually a Messianic Psalm. Who could be more important than the David, great King of Israel? This is a prophecy of Jesus, the descendant of David who is not just an ancestor but who is before David and Lord of him also. He is seated at the right hand of God until all enemies are subdued. 1 Corinthians 15 names the last enemy as death itself. Jesus wants the teachers of the Law to see what the scriptures actually say and to process it. The Messiah is someone greater than David, and who precedes David.

Jesus warns us of the real issue here (45-47)

“While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law.”” Jesus has been directly challenged by the teachers of the law, then challenged secretly by spies and then challenged by another party within the Jewish leadership and all of them have failed to trap, outsmart or trip Jesus in his ability to teach and know the word of God and the nature of the kingdom of God. Jesus concludes this whole chapter with a warning to watch out for such teachers who think, presume and act like they have all the answers and yet they are far from the kingdom themselves.

“They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at the banquets.” Nobody likes that guy. Some people, even me and you, can get misplaced in our need to be needed and our want to be wanted. One’s identity can get trapped inside a need to be important – to be called when a crisis happens, to be at the table when decisions are being made, and to be thanked whenever a function has gone well. No teacher of God’s word should get trapped in this. If a brilliant and well educated man or woman never writes a popular book, will they still not be known by God?

“They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.” Such a person is all show and no glow. In the right culture and setting they can dominate others like bullies. Big words baffle others and can make the simple believe that they are closer to God. They look and sound like the know the bible well. They speak confidently about their belief and can sound as though the rest of the world do not understand the bible like they do. They are needed in other people’s lives if they are to be right with God! They take money, time and power from others in the name of God.

“These men will be punished most severely.” Forgiveness is available to all but if someone maintains a boastful knowledge of God and yet has not grasped the grace of God then they will be punished for their sin and severely punished for destroying others in their ministry.

What did we learn?

Some people will stand firmly on doctrine that they believe is true because they have been raised to believe it and are just absolutley sure that their arguments from the scriptures are true. Divisions arise from such hard headedness. Jesus has confidence in the scriptures too which point to God’s Messiah preceding David and reigning at his right hand until death itself is killed and has called all who have saluted the Messiah to the resurrection. Eternal life is surer than death for those who turn to Christ.

Now what?

Topic A: What are you living for? This world is passing by. Jesus has taught us here that the resurrection is real, and that those who have inherited eternal life will be called children of the resurrection – never again to die. It is difficult to imagine what exactly it will all look like, feel like and be like. But there will come a day when the day will not end (so to speak). The burdens and troubles of this world will be no more. To quote a preacher I heard recently, “just 15 minutes ‘there’ and anything we are going through now will be forgotten.” Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Topic B: Do you stand for things you think are true or do you stand for truth? The art of reading the bible begins with surrendering our assumptions and being ready to listen to the words in the book. Noticing small things in the bible can open up great revelations. So, reading great chunks of the bible will give us the benefit of context and understanding the overarching story of the bible, while reading slowly and meditating on every word will help us to see the glorious details that the bible has to offer. It really has been written by a genius.

Topic C: Seeking good teachers to lead. Jesus does not condemn all teachers but those he described as proud, seeking glory here on earth and misleading others by their own lies. What we need are good leaders who watch their life and doctrine closely. Who teach people to read the bible well for themselves. Bible teachers who fixate on particular doctrines that subdue the glory of God displayed through the gospel make me nervous.  Teachers who spend more time pulling down other people’s theology rather than teaching what is true, that too makes me nervous. However, a church that is keen to raise up leaders for the gospel for the glory of God and without the leadership feeling threatened by upcoming leaders – that sounds like a healthy church obeying the great commission.