Category Archives: The Word of God

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

God’s body parts

Discussion Question

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

Background (Context)

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

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

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

The principle laid out (12-14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putting some flesh on the principle (27-31)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did we learn? (Meaning)

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

Now what? (Application)

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

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

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

2 Samuel 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.

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.