Archives for December 2017

Father God wants to show His new just order

Leading up to Sunday, December 31: Part 5 out of 5

Friday, December 29: And the Good News is…

God is for us, and not against us, and He wants a new kind of world order where people relate to Him freely and willingly. He wants to show His justice to the nations of the world, so that the righteousness that is sown springs up and grows everywhere.

The response can only be praise – everything and everybody released into unfettered praise of the One who is so good. Creation cannot help but respond to this new way of living with excitement, His hills, trees, creatures of every kind – and those made in His own image especially.

The prophets announced that, after a long and troubled history of God’s entreaty and man’s independence, this new order would come. This was God’s purpose. All Jews knew this, even if they didn’t necessarily know about it in detail. Yet the first announcement of the human birth of God’s own Son, the breaking in of God’s kingdom to our world, was made to the most ordinary people imaginable. Shepherds, who lived with their sheep much of the time, were of low social standing. Yet God sent angels to make the announcement to them first. They did as they were shown and made the discovery first.

What does this say to us? In our world, we gain standing through hard work and privilege comes to certain people whose background or achievements give them particular merit.

The kingdom of God shakes all of this up. Merit is conferred by God by His grace, not earned distinction, and more grace is often given to those the world considers undeserving. So angels appear in the light of glory to shepherds, not religious leaders. Who is going to listen? Who is going to respond? Who will convey the good news simply and clearly to others? God needs people who are not proud and preoccupied and privilege-minded – so He finds some shepherds.

The Good News is good and it is for all – but our attitude of heart makes a big difference to how we receive it. That is a choice we have, and the less we have in ourselves, the easier it is to be available to God.

Adopted as God’s children with full rights

The Living Word for the week leading up to Sunday, December 31: Part 4 of 5

Thursday, Dec 28: Galatians 4:4-7

The teaching that explains we have the status of being God’s children and rights of adoption

4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.

  • “Sent” or better “sent forth” (NASB). The verb is ‘exapesteilen’ which is related to the word for apostle, which has the meaning for sending on a mission.
  • Born of a woman – probably referencing Isaiah 7:14, the verse that speaks of the young woman conceiving a child and calling Him Immanuel. Also emphasising that Jesus was born as fully man (while also remaining fully God).
  • “Subject to the law” is more literally “born under Law”. The relevance of this is in the next verse and freedom from the Law.

5 God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children.

  • This drills down deeply into the whole nature of the relationship with God, and how in Jesus it changes. Under the Old Covenant it was the somewhat distant legal relationship of covenant protection and provision, some unconditional but some requiring adherence to the requirements of the covenant. The new relationship in Jesus is a release from those requirements of the Law into a joyous and personal kind of belonging to the Father. It is a shift from religion to relationship; from being a follower of God to a friendship with God through Jesus. Nothing could be more different.

6 And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”

  • God sent: (1) His Son, (2) freedom from slavery, (3) adoption as His children and (4) the Spirit of Jesus to reveal and remind us of this new relationship.
  • “Abba” is sometimes rendered as “Daddy”, which isn’t quite right, but this is a relaxed expression of familiarity. “Abba, Father” is the expression Jesus Himself used when He was facing up to the ordeal He knew was coming Mark 14:36. To address Almighty God as “Loving Father” is quite a shift.

7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His Child, God has made you His heir.

  • NASB: “Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” This brings out what inclusive language can disguise. In the first century world, and Roman law and culture especially, adopted sons were given exactly the same rights as biological sons; all the rights of inheritance were theirs. Those rights applied to sons rather than daughters in that culture. Once we have understood the point about God conferring on us the inheritance of adopted sonship, we can own this in an inclusive way.

Application

This is the ‘status update’ to end all status updates! There is a huge difference between being a slave with duties and obligations, and a son or daughter with privileges. Who lives in a way which is more pleasing to God, a bond servant who dares not disobey, or the son or daughter of noble upbringing, who is an honoured family representative?

The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of the Son and the Father, helps us grasp how we have found ourselves by grace in this awesome relationship, and reminds us to relate, not in the way of those from below the stairs, but those who are part of the drawing room circle.

Discussion starter

When we come to God in prayer with a particular need in mind, how does being a free, adopted, privileged son change the way we pray?

The shepherds’ encounter with angels leads them to the Lord

The Living Word for the week leading up to Sunday, December 31: Part 3 of 5

Wednesday, December 27: Luke 2:15-21

Shepherds, following an encounter with angels, leave their sheep and head for Bethlehem where they find a stable with a newborn baby and tell everyone what it is they have been told

15  When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

  • There is a sense of “Come on!” urgency here which is difficult to translate.
  • The angels had communicated the message, but the shepherds correctly saw the Lord as the source of the revelation.
  • 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.
  • The shepherds would have known where all the animal stables were, to check them until they found one with a newborn baby. Bethlehem was quite compact.

17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.

  • The shepherds told everyone “about the thing spoken” (or word – rhema) by the angel.

18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.

  • “All who heard it wondered”, NASB. A thread running through Luke’s gospel is wondering at the mysteries of what Jesus said and did. A faith built on fundamental certainties is healthy, but much cannot be simply understood but is revealed with faith playing a part – in Bible terms, a mystery.
  • “Mary… Thought about them often” – no mention of what Joseph thought, but Matthew tells Joseph’s side of the story. Luke is concerned to tell Mary’s story, most probably a story he had heard from Mary herself.

20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.

  • One translation captures the moment with “full of praise for the news they had heard and the sight that had confirmed it.”
  • Glorifying and praising God is a theme of Luke’s gospel in particular.

It was just as the angel had told them.

21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.

  • The name Jesus (Greek Iesous) is the equivalent of Yeshua or Yehoshua which means “Yahweh (or the Lord) saves”.

Application

Why did the message of Christ’s birth first come to such unlikely people as shepherds, when there were others well versed in the Scriptures concerning the Messiah? And why was he born in the unlikely place of Bethlehem?

The two are connected. Christ’s birth in Bethlehem – also known by the old name of Ephrathah – was foretold by Micah, Micah 5:2-5. “One who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” was to arise from “Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah”. It was where Ruth met Boaz, and the place where David was born and grew up. The prophecy seems clear enough to us; it does not, however, make mention of the Messiah specifically. Micah, like Amos, was from a Judean village and not of the perceived stature of one from a priestly family like Jeremiah or Ezekiel or familiar with the royal court like Isaiah. Bethlehem was in the hill country of Judea, 10 miles south from Jerusalem and a greater distance in terms of the culture gap between Jerusalem and a provincial, unsophisticated village.

The people of the time who were expecting a Messiah were, perhaps proudly, not looking outside Jerusalem. God does ‘unlikely’ things in unlikely places, with unlikely people, and His choices frequently challenge the choices of men, as in His unlikely choice of David, when He sent Samuel to Bethlehem hundreds of years beforehand, 1 Sam. 16:8-13.

Discussion starter

3. Why was the angel’s proclamation made to ordinary shepherds? (Think about how Jesus’ proclamations and teaching were received later by the more educated and supposedly knowledgeable groups.)

Everything released into praise at the Lord’s entrance

The Living Word for the week leading up to Sunday, December 31: Part 2 of 5

Tuesday, December 26: Psalm 148

A psalm which invites praise from a wide category of land, weather, trees and creatures. This is put in parallel with people of different stations in life and ages.

1-2 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens! Praise Him from the skies! Praise Him, all His angels! Praise him, all the armies of heaven!

  • Angel armies of heaven perhaps giving a lead to the praise party

3-4 Praise Him, sun and moon! Praise him, all you twinkling stars! Praise Him, skies above! Praise Him, vapours high above the clouds!

5-6  Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for He issued His command, and they came into being. He set them in place forever and ever. His decree will never be revoked.

The Lord commanded, and they were made.

  • Sun, moon and stars – Genesis 1:14-19. The sense of this psalm is that He set them in place, for His praise.
  • The created order is a stable order because of the Lord’s word, or decree: “For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” Psalm 33:9

7-8 Praise the Lord from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, fire and hail, snow and clouds, wind and weather that obey him,

9-10  mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all livestock, small scurrying animals and birds,

11-12 kings of the earth and all people, rulers and judges of the earth, young men and young women, old men and children.

  • All creatures should praise God according to their natures, as they were created to do – which makes the point that mankind, all people in their diversity, are made for the praise of the Creator, Psalm 103:22.

13 Let them all praise the name of the Lord. For His name is very great; His glory towers over the earth and heaven!

  • The praise that comes from everything listed should result in the praise of all mankind – that is God’s intention and the way creation is designed to work.

14 He has made His people strong, honouring His faithful ones – the people of Israel who are close to Him. Praise the Lord!

  • “Made His people strong” – literally, “He has raised up a horn for His people, praise for all His saints” See Psalm 75:4 “I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast’, and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn…” The horn is a symbol of power or a king Daniel 7:24; 8:20; to lift it up (or exalt it) is to make a statement about power, and attitudes that accompany a power play; on the other hand, God promises to lift up the horn of the faithful, as here, or to be our horn of salvation Psalm 18:2.

Application

With the birth of Jesus a new world order begins to break in. It is an event of such magnitude that spontaneous praise is the only response – and it is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see everything formed or created joining in tjhe praise.

The psalm works its way towards the people made in God’s image. Their praise of Him is classless and levelling of generational and other social boundaries – all are submitted to Him in exalting Him. And so He, in turn, lifts up and empowers those who are close to Him, those who are faithful through the tests of life. It is a season where Mary comes into close focus. God has raised up a horn for her and for Joseph and for ordinary but faithful people everywhere as all eyes are on the young family in the poverty of the stable, receiving unkempt visitors from the sheep fields around who were the very first to be told of the Messiah’s arrival.

How vital it is not to slip into raising our own horn of power or control or self-promotion, because it raises a barrier to what may do in our lives. How vital it is to be able to wait for God to raise our horn in His time and according to His purpose

Discussion starter

2. Where do we see the place of praise, in our lives and in our church life?

Overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!

The Living Word for the week up to Sunday, December 31: Part 1 of 5

Monday, Dec 25: Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3

The Lord desires to show His justice and salvation to the world and we are His demonstration of that.

10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!

  • Who is the speaker? Probably Zion, at this point.

For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels.

  • The language of being clothed or wrapped around with a garment is widely used not just in Psalms and Proverbs but also Job and the prophets, and in the N.T. An opposite use is in Psalm 109:29

11 The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.

  • Now back to the prophet speaking.
  • Stories of revivals e.g. the Welsh Revival spreading from valley to valley in 1904-05, have often included accounts of crime dropping dramatically, spontaneous prayer meetings – and salvations with changed lives. When righteousness springs up, it is visible to all.

62:1 Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.

  • “Her righteousness” sometimes translated as “her vindication”. Similarly in the verse following.

2 The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory. And you will be given a new name by the Lord’s own mouth.

  • New name reflects new status, e.g. Hephzibah “My delight is in her” and Beulah “married” which come up a couple of verses further on in Isaiah 62:4. The significance of “married” is that marriage was considered a blessing – especially to people who had previously been described as childless widows: Isaiah 54:1 “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labour; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.

3 The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see – a splendid crown in the hand of God.

  • Isaiah 28:5 speaks of the Lord Almighty being a glorious crown and a beautiful wreath for those of His people who remain faithful.
  • This is a picture of the Lord holding up His people before a watching world, as a beautiful demonstration that He, ultimately, is the king and that His good purposes prevail. He will show His justice to the world (61:11 above).

Application

The Lord is always seeking faithful people of beautiful attitude, to show His ways to a watching and often cynical world. This community – which has nothing to do with denominations or buildings, but everything to do with faith and prayer and submission to the Lord’s purposes – is for us, in our time, the “Zion” that the Lord loves and wishes to use as a shining picture of what righteousness looks like.

There are many overtones of revival in this passage, with righteousness springing up, people seeing God in it and turning to praise Him.

If this is God’s desire and purpose, what holds it back? Surely only our reluctance to engage in the prayer and listening and willingness to move to repentance that God is always seeking.

Discussion starter

1. The prophet says “I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn.” What is God’s desire for revival, and what does He need us to do to usher it in?

Covenant and God’s faithfulness

The Living Word for week up to Sunday, December 24, 2017: Part 5 of 5

The emerging message

2 Samuel 7:1-11 and 16

Psalm 89:1-4 and 19-26

Luke 1:26-38

Romans 16:25-27

Do we sometimes doubt God, or wonder if we are in the right place for Him to see our needs or grant our requests? This week’s message is about God’s faithfulness to His purpose and to His people, told over a time span of over 1,000 years that saw following but also much failure.

David’s renown and kingly influence would continue, according to the covenant promise to David that emerges through the first reading. As we now know, the story of that succession, in the books of Kings and Chronicles, was a bumpy ride for the nation of Israel; there were some good and godly leaders, and there were far too many who were the exact opposite – they were covenant breakers. How could that prophetic word be fulfilled.

The psalmist of Psalm 89 writes 400 years later, at the time of the fall of Jerusalem, about how this unconditional covenant seems to have been abandoned. Standing in the ruins of a city broken down where most had been exiled, the psalm praises God while lamenting God’s apparent unwillingness to save them – the covenant was unconditional, but like any agreement, it was not unilateral. But, as the psalm asserts, God is always faithful to what He has promised. The anointing that was on David, and on David’s line, will be fulfilled.

In the angel’s appearance to Mary we begin to see how the covenant promise will be fulfilled in a different way. He sets out her special mission and responsibility, to give birth to the Son of God, whose ministry was to be the Good News that had been announced by the prophets so much earlier – the good news which was now for all mankind, Gentiles as well as Jews.

Our God combines being all majestic, all powerful and all holy – with being in all things faithful to His promises and loving with patience and longsuffering. The covenant with David and his successors was all but forgotten by the time Jerusalem, after many threats and constant appeals by the prophets, was finally sacked. Had the covenant been broken? No, but it had been abandoned by those it was supposed to protect. Nevertheless the Lord would maintain His covenant promises with His people, when there were people who regarded themselves as His. As we now know, it was worked out rather differently, as had long been foretold, in Jesus the Messiah and the Light to the Gentiles as well as Israel.

Wherever we are in life, wherever our level of faith may be, we can always come back, and there are promises for us particularly in the New Covenant in Jesus, but without losing the benefits of older covenants. He is our God and we are His people, and He desires His promises to be worked out in our lives even more than we do.

All the discussion starters

  1. What (verses 8-16) does David or his descendants have to do or to be, in order to comply with this promise? If it is not explicit, what might be implicit?
  2. Why is it important as church to begin worship with declaring God’s goodness in praise? What reminder does that embed in us?
  3. Is our heavenly or spiritual worldview separated from our everyday worldview and beliefs about how our world works, or are we able, at times, to connect them and see how God’s heavenly purpose seeks to influence our earthly lives? Quite a profound question to consider, but this is a season when we remember a profound miracle where heaven impacted the earthly order!
  4. To what extent have you received the gospel from someone else – and found that you needed to outgrow their perspective, as you grew in your own revelation of it, through your relationship with the Lord?
  5. We are made in God’s image, but do we try to relate to God as being like us? What have we learned about His way of being that is quite a lot different to ours and which challenges our understanding of His ways?

Covenant spells Good News in Jesus

The Living Word for week up to Sunday, December 24, 2017: Part 4 of 5

Thursday, Dec 21: Romans 16:25-27

Paul exhorts hearers of the letter in Rome to be strong in the Good News, to be made known to Gentiles everywhere to the glory of God.

25 Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says.

  • “My Good News (or my Gospel) might seem to be Paul’s version versus others. Paul’s gospel is perhaps more developed, as one would expect, but no different in essence – and gained at first hand. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Galatians 1:11-12, explains that “his gospel” is not a version of someone else’s gospel but an understanding that he received directly from the Lord by revelation; see also Ephesians 3:2-6.

This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time.

  • The prophets, in stark contrast to the exclusive culture they lived in, saw in the Spirit the nature of the gospel and its universality – “a light for the Gentiles”. This truth was hidden, spoken out by the prophets but still a mystery waiting to be revealed until Jesus came and until the time Paul is writing in.

26 But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him.

  • God has commanded that the message to be made known to all people everywhere, for them to respond and believe. In among His final instructions to the disciples, in a very well-known passage, Jesus told them to go and make disciples “of all nations” or as we would say, all kinds of people – not just people like us.

27 All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.

Application

The passage begins and ends with Paul giving all glory to God. For what? The message of good news which the prophets heard and spoke of first, not just for the Jews but for all mankind. Paul is seeing this unfolding, and he has had a good deal to do with this. However he is quick to point out that it was good news for him first, he was giving what he had been given, and it was God’s message and promise, not his.

He is showing us that when we see God do great things, and we may, by His grace, have had some involvement in that, hold it lightly and give the glory to God as it is due. It all goes wrong when we start to think it is our achievement, not God’s.

Discussion starter

  1. To what extent have you received the gospel from someone else – and found that you needed to outgrow their perspective, as you grew in your own revelation of it, through your relationship with the Lord?

Covenant promise: the miraculous conception

The Living Word for week up to Sunday, December 24, 2017: Part 3 of 5

Wednesday, Dec 20: Luke 1:26-38

Mary hears from the angel Gabriel that the Holy Spirit will cause her to conceive and bear a child who will be called the Son of God, and her older relative Elizabeth, who was thought barren, has also conceived.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favoured woman! The Lord is with you!”

  • Gabriel seems to have appeared to Mary in her own home, but only a divine messenger would start a conversation with such an exalted greeting.

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favour with God!

  • She found favour (lit. “you did find favour”), a reminder that grace is found and received, never earned.

31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

  • These verses recall the “kingdom that will endure for ever” and the well-remembered words “great” and “throne” and “Son” that were part of the language of the prophecy over David in 1 Samuel 7:8-16.

34  Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God.

  • “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” recalls the words of Isaiah 32:15 which is a restoration promise.
  • The Second Person of the Trinity, by conception of the Holy Spirit, remained God but “became flesh or “became human”, NLT, John 1:14. – fully God and fully man.

36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.”

  • She could have been a cousin, or an aunt, or another relative. Cousin (King James) as popularly used in a loose sense, is not incorrect. Mary was of the house of David, and Elizabeth of the house of Aaron, but they might be related by their mothers. It was common for those of the families of David and Levi to intermarry.

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

  • This passage doesn’t support a religious view that wants to deify Mary. She is clearly here “a vessel to receive, not a fountain to dispense” (Lenski).
  • Later we are told that Mary headed to the hill country of Judah, from Nazareth in Galilee where she lived – a north to south journey of some distance.

Application

Why did Mary find such favour with God?

  • She was the right person in the right place at the right time. Sometimes we could be that right person, the only right person, in the right place for God to use. He is not a ‘respecter of persons’ like someone who looks for track record or the best CV.
  • She was the right person in terms of character. We embody a mixture of experience and passion and spirituality and gift, all vital to who we are. But none of this can be used by God unless we have the qualities of character that He seeks: submitted to Him, teachable by Him, loving and forebearing like Him. Mary, at her young age, had this kind of maturity of character. God looks to us to see if we are submitted and teachable, and whether we uphold His ways or are swayed by the ways of men.
  • She was the right person in terms of her worldview and beliefs. She had a foundation in the Scriptures, and if she was surprised by an angel manifesting as visible and speaking to her – who wouldn’t be – she was not surprised by the angel’s recollection of the promise of the Son of God linked to the Throne of David. We can’t avoid having a worldview that is from the world we live in, but do we also hold a heavenly worldview?

Discussion starter

  1. Is our heavenly or spiritual worldview separated from our everyday worldview and beliefs about how our world works, or are we able, at times, to connect them and see how God’s heavenly purpose seeks to influence our earthly lives? Quite a profound question to consider, but this is a season when we remember a profound miracle where heaven impacted the earthly order!

Has God renounced the covenant?

The Living Word for week up to Sunday, December 24, 2017: Part 2 of 5

Tuesday, Dec 19: Psalm 89:1-4 and 19-26

The ‘headline’ to this late psalm of around 586 BC is in verses 38-40: walls broken, strongholds made ruins – and the covenant supporting the rule apparently renounced. In a lament it appeals to God for restoration.

1-2 I will sing of the Lord’s unfailing love forever! Young and old will hear of Your faithfulness. Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.

  • Love connects with faithfulness, as one expression. Each of these words is repeated seven times, to make a point: It appears that God’s love and faithfulness is what has failed in His rejection of the king of Davidic line, and therefore covenant, 2 Sam. 7:16.

3-4 The Lord said, “I have made a covenant with David, my chosen servant.

  • This the point of the psalm. That covenant was established through the prophetic word spoken by Nathan to David. Unlike the covenant with Moses and people (Exodus 19-24) which was two-way and therefore conditional, this was essentially one-way and unconditional – provided that the Davidic dynasty remained loyal to God the covenant giver. The covenant held good – the Messiah was of David’s line – but the most severe curse implicit in the Moses covenant was also operating, Leviticus 26:27-39, Deut., 28:36-37, 45-48. Reference: NIV Study Bible page 21 table.
  • For further study: Five of the seven ancient covenants were of the Royal Grant or unconditional type: with Noah, Genesis 9:8-17; grant of land to Abraham, Gen. 15:9-21; with Phinehas the priest, Numbers 25:10-31; this covenant with David, 2 Samuel 7:5-16; and the New Covenant, below.
    The two conditional covenants were the second part of the covenant with Abraham as patriarch, and his descendants, Gen. 17 – conditional on consecration to the Lord; and the ‘Mosaic’ covenant with descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all redeemed from bondage, Exodus 19-24, conditional on consecration to the Lord as His people, His rule and His purposes.
    The New Covenant, promised at the very time that Israel is about to be expelled from the Promised Land for breaking covenant, is an unconditional covenant of pure grace in which the law would be “written on hearts”. The only condition is accepting and receiving this covenant, in other words, entering into it.

I have sworn this oath to him: ‘I will establish your descendants as kings forever; they will sit on Your throne from now until eternity.’” Interlude

  • In an unconditional covenant, even if the party entering into it breaks covenant, God is committed to fulfil it. That is not to ignore the consequences of reneging on the covenant, which this psalm seems not to take into account.
    In the classic form of ancient Royal Grant covenant, a king would make a grant to a servant, whose heirs would continue to benefit from it as long as they maintained the same loyalty and service to the king. So it was unconditional, except in the sense that the essential condition of the covenant had to be maintained.
  • The classic suzerain-vassal conditional form of covenant was made between a great king and a subject king and it demanded total and exclusive loyalty and service, in return for the suzerain’s (great king’s) protection. Kings and Chronicles detail times when Israel worshipped other gods and sought the protection of other powers – both serious transgressions, the consequences of which the prophets spelled out.

19 Long ago You spoke in a vision to Your faithful people.

  • Or ‘Your godly ones”. People like the prophet Nathan, who God used to speak His words of covenant over David (2 Sam. 7:4ff above)

You said, “I have raised up a warrior. I have selected him from the common people to be king.

20 I have found My servant David. I have anointed him with My holy oil.

21-23 I will steady him with my hand; with my powerful arm I will make him strong. His enemies will not defeat him, nor will the wicked overpower him. I will beat down his adversaries before him and destroy those who hate him.

  • This was David’s experience, even when it seemed inevitable that he would be overpowered by the greater army and force of public opinion in Absalom’s uprising, 2 Sam. 14:28-18:33.

24 My faithfulness and unfailing love will be with him, and by my authority he will grow in power.

25-26 I will extend his rule over the sea, his dominion over the rivers. And he will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’

  • References the promise of Exodus 23:31, that the Lord would give Israel the land between the River Euphrates and the Red Sea.

Application

God said that His faithfulness and unfailing love would be with David and his descendants. Not all the kings that succeeded him had this experience, but there were reasons, which the prophets were not shy of pointing out.

David was not of perfect character, or conduct. He was a warrior, and had been responsible for the deaths of many enemies. Yet he knew God’s extraordinary favour, summarised in 2 Sam 7:4-16 and recalled in this psalm.

How much more can we look to God for mercy and grace and favour, because of who we are in Jesus Christ, the position of adopted sonship we have gained through accepting the Lordship of God’s Son.

Discussion starter

  1. Why is it important as church to begin worship with declaring God’s goodness in praise? What reminder does that embed in us?

A covenant that God will not break

The Living Word for week up to Sunday, December 24, 2017: Part 1 of 5

The story of God’s faithfulness in maintaining covenant, from King David’s successors to the Good News of King Jesus.

Monday, December 18: 2 Samuel 7:1-11 and 16

Tuesday, December 19: Psalm 89:1-4 and 19-26

Wednesday, December 20: Luke 1:26-38

Thursday, December 21: Romans 16:25-27

Friday: The emerging message and discussion starters

Monday, Dec 18: 2 Samuel 7:1-11 and 16

Nathan the prophet’s word to King David about the house, or dynasty, of David which would follow him.

  • Although not called a covenant here, in other places it is i.e Psalm 89:3,28,34,39; Psalm 132:11; and 2 Samuel 23:5 “If my house were not right with God, surely He would not have made with me an everlasting covenant…(NIV)”. This promise to make David’s family the representative of His people for ever is a key passage in the history of salvation.

1-2 When King David was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all the surrounding enemies, the king summoned Nathan the prophet. “Look,” David said, “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of God is out there in a tent!”

  • David wanted to build the Lord a ‘house’ or suitable, permanent place for the Ark to remain – but contrast this with v.11 below, The Lord… will make a house for you…”
  • The Ark of God is covered by (literally) ‘curtains’.

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

4 But that same night the Lord said to Nathan…

  • An example of a project that has started to form without the Lord being consulted, except in the sense of his prophet being part of a prayerful conversation. Nathan was hasty in his “Go ahead…” response because he hadn’t heard at that point. When we start with our plan and seek the Lord’s approval, He may substitute His own plan!

5-7 “…Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord has declared:

  • “The Lord is with you” v.3 but “This is what the Lord says…”

Are you the one to build a house for me to live in? I have never lived in a house, from the day I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until this very day. I have always moved from one place to another with a tent and a Tabernacle as my dwelling. Yet no matter where I have gone with the Israelites, I have never once complained to Israel’s tribal leaders, the shepherds of my people Israel. I have never asked them, “Why haven’t you built me a beautiful cedar house?”’

  • See 1 Chron. 22:8 for the reason why David was not permitted to build the temple. He had waged too many wars and shed too much blood.
  • Israel’s leaders, or judges. The word as it stands can mean ‘sceptres’, a figure of speech for rulers.

8-11 “Now go and say to my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I took you from tending sheep in the pasture and selected you to be the leader of my people Israel.

  • “My people…” is an important emphasis. It is the Lord who called David from shepherding to kingship, prevailed over enemies and who had made the original promise of enduring renown, Genesis 12:2.

I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed all your enemies before your eyes.

  • The events in the following chapter probably preceded this chapter – but the material has not been arranged chronologically, as we assume, but in topics.

Now I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth! And I will provide a homeland for my people Israel, planting them in a secure place where they will never be disturbed. Evil nations won’t oppress them as they’ve done in the past, starting from the time I appointed judges to rule my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies.

  • It is the Lord acting on His promise, rather than David’s acts of military achievement, who will establish His people in a land of their own.

“‘Furthermore, the Lord declares that He will make a house for you – a dynasty of kings!

16 Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.’”

  • “The house” now takes on the meaning of dynasty.
  • This is a double prophecy with covenantal implications: the first outworking of this is in Solomon, who (unlike David) is permitted to build the Temple (v.13); the second “eternal throne… established forever” is fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah.

Application

Our faith has deep roots and this event, 1000 years before Christ’s appearance, has big implications.

It describes God, speaking through the mouthpiece of an attested and righteous prophet, about a one-way promise, or covenant, He is making with David which will extend beyond his lifetime or present influence, indefinitely. This is number six of seven major covenants recorded in Scripture and its form is essentially unconditional – it is a description of what God undertakes to do for David, not of what David has to do for God. There is, however, a presumption of continuing loyalty to God on the part of David’s descendants which is in the nature of any covenant agreement: that the parties actually enter into it.

It promises David:

  • Enduring renown
  • Israel to have their own land to remain in
  • Security and rest from enemies
  • A dynasty and influence that endures

David knew God as the Faithful One, Psalm 145:13,17 “ The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does.”

In the ups and downs of life, in a world where agreements are seen as situational and easily broken, God is there for us upholding the commitment of His covenant.

We have a better covenant than Abraham, Moses or David in Jesus Christ, with better provisions, and based on God’s grace – we turn to Him and He turns to us. God who has made and maintained promises for those who were after His heart in the past, makes and maintains promises to those who belong to Him in Christ Jesus. That’s something to have ready for when the enemy comes knocking on the door of your mind with his doubts and fears.

Discussion starter

  1. What (verses 8-16) does David or his descendants have to do or to be, in order to comply with this promise? If it is not explicit, what might be implicit?