TLW50B for December 20 (Advent 4). The Living Word Bible study on the set readings shared by many denominations. This is a Bible study following the progressive revelation of the Bible itself, without regard for the various liturgical practices of different churches, and draws out the theme that emerges from the three readings. Read the passage in its entirety first, let the Holy Spirit begin to speak to you, then use the verse by verse commentary and reflections offered, to dig deeper. Print edition.
OT: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 — God promises David a future descendant with an eternal reign
2 Samuel passage verse by verse
NT gospel: Luke 1:26-38 — Gabriel prepares Mary for the Holy Spirit to conceive in her a holy child to be called the son of God
Luke 1 passage verse by verse
NT letter: Romans 16:25-27 — Paul gives glory to God for the mystery of things formerly hidden now being revealed to all people in Jesus
Romans 16 passage verse by verse
And also read: Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
Theme: How the glory of God is progressively revealed
Linked article and video: Jesus — Sight Unseen
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 — God promises David an enduring succession
The prophecy speaks of a coming descendant and kingdom with an eternal reign
1-2 After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
“Living in a house of cedar” — the palace built for him by Hiram, king of Tyre, 2 Samuel 5:11.
“Rest from all his enemies” — the conflicts and victories of 2 Sam. 8:1-18 probably came before: the arrangement is more by topic than chronology.
3 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”
“Nathan replied” — at first his thoughts, before receiving God’s word on the matter. God made sure in each king’s reign, there was a prophet to communicate His truth and plans.
4-6 But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 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.
“Are you the one” — God’s priority for David was military leadership to secure the Lord’s rest for the nation in the promised land.
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?” ‘
“Why have you not built Me…” — it was a pagan idea that gods favoured human beings who built and maintained grand temples for them.
8-9 “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. 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.
“From tending the flock… appointed you ruler” — David who had been a shepherd and who called the Lord his shepherd was appointed as God’s shepherd-ruler.
• For further study: in the ancient Near East, kings were often called shepherds, 1 Kings 22:17; Isaiah 44:28; Ezekiel 34:2, 37:24; Nahum 3:18; Zech. 10:3.
10-11 ” ‘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 shall not oppress them any more, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders 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:
“And I will provide a place… and… establish a house for you” — the Lord’s word play moves the discussion from David’s building project to the Lord’s promise of a dynasty. This is the Davidic covenant which like the covenant with Abraham is unconditional. Jesus Christ, a direct descendant of David, was the ultimate fulfilment of this promise, Acts 2:22-36.
16 ” ‘Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before Me; your throne shall be established for ever.’ “
“Your throne shall be established for ever” — starting with Solomon (several texts have the variant “before you”) but the dynasty failed and disappeared for hundreds of years. However the covenant was seen again in David’s house and kingdom being renewed in Jesus Christ. Jesus was the sinless descendant of David and His reign is eternal.
SUMMARY King David, living in a cedar-wood palace provided by the people of Tyre, felt that God the Lord should be honoured with a grand dwelling. The custom in the surrounding nations was to build grand temples for their deities who, they thought would reward them with favour. But the Living God works by grace and is alive — and everywhere. He responds to David in a prophetic word, a covenant promise through Nathan. God says David will not build Him a house, but He will build David a different kind of house, an enduring dynasty. That promise was put on hold after the exile, but the coming of Jesus, a direct descendant of David, renewed it. His kingdom reign is truly eternal.
APPLICATION We have a forgetful tendency to see God as inhabiting church or chapel buildings. Here we are reminded that God doesn’t need a dwelling, and doesn’t live in an altar. When we gather for worship in church or chapel, the presence of God enters with every born-again believer.
QUESTION How have you seen God or experienced God in everyday life this week?
Luke 1:26-38 — Gabriel prepares Mary to give birth to Jesus
The Holy Spirit will conceive in her a holy child to be called the son of God
26-27 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
“Gabriel” — with Michael, one of two named messenger angels in the Bible. He had also appeared to Zechariah, Luke 1:19
“Nazareth, a town in Galilee” — Luke spells out where this little-known village, never mentioned in the OT, is located. It is on a route leading to Samaria used by Gentile merchants and Roman soldiers, and considered disreputable. In Jesus’ day ‘Nazarene’ was a term of derision.
“To a virgin pledged to be married” — Mary herself confirms, v.34, the vital fact that the conception of Jesus had to be a work of the Holy Spirit. As a legal son of Joseph He was also a descendant of David.
28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
“You who are highly favoured” — Mary did not feel highly favoured. She was young, poor, female — and in Nazareth.
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.
“Found favour” — literally “found grace”. The term is used in Ephesians 1:6 where it is clear that God’s grace is His free gift to all believers. Mary is one who receives grace, not the giver of grace.
31-33 “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; His kingdom will never end.”
“Call Him Jesus” — The Greek equivalent of Hebrew Yeshua, ‘The Lord is Salvation’.
The angel’s announcement of His name, title, ancestry and unending future reign mark Him out Him as the Messiah.
• For further study, read together 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 9:6-7; Psalm 132:11-12; Daniel 7:14; Hosea. 3:5.
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
“How will this be” — Mary had no reference for this. Her question was wonder, not unbelief, so she did not need Zechariah’s rebuke, Luke 1:20.
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
“The Holy Spirit will come on you” — a clear statement declaring the divine conception of Jesus.
“The holy one” — describing Jesus’ sinless nature rather than a title. His divine conception means He is uniquely ‘set apart’, or holy, and Jesus never sinned.
• For further study, see 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15, 7:26
36 “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.
“Elizabeth your relative” — or “cousin” in the King James, but the word used is more general than that.
37 “For no word from God will ever fail.”
“Word from God” — the angel encourages Mary to hold on to this in faith.
SUMMARY Mary, a very ordinary and young girl from a remote Galilean village, is visited by an angel with an extraordinary message. He tells her that her much older relative, who was previously unable to conceive, is now in her sixth month of pregnancy. Mary herself, betrothed but unmarried, will nevertheless find herself pregnant through the Holy Spirit coming upon her. She is given the child’s name, and told what He will become. He is unmistakably described in terms of the anticipated Messiah.
APPLICATION Mary is an outsider candidate — female, a teenager and living in an unlikely place. Jerusalem was the centre of the spiritual world. Nazareth was a long way out, in a remote part of Galilee, very small, poor, and lacking in any distinction. When much later, Philip finds Nathanael to tell him about Jesus of Nazareth, he reveals its reputation: “Can anything good come from there?”, John 1:45-46. Mary is perhaps the greatest example of someone who didn’t tick any of the boxes yet was the prime candidate for a difficult and vitally important role. She gave the Saviour of the world a human birth, brought Him up and later had to see Him give His life up as the price for our sin.
QUESTION Where would you NOT choose for a move of the Holy Spirit in revival? Why might God see it differently?
Romans 16:25-27 — Paul gives glory to God for giving us Jesus
The mystery of things hidden is now being revealed to all people
25 Now to Him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past…
“Able to establish you” — “able to make you strong”, NLT, “make you strong and keep you steadfast”, TPT.
“My gospel” — not different from the other apostles, but personal to Paul who received it by direct revelation, Galatians 1:11-12.
“Revelation of the mystery” — aspects of God’s plan unclear before Christs coming. The Bible is an unfolding mystery, revealing its truth progressively, from Old Covenant, through Jesus, His death and resurrection, and then the church in the new life of the Spirit. These are like looking in four windows to view the same scene in different perspective and detail.
26 …but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith…
“The Gentiles might come” — although the OT predicted the conversion of Gentiles, this was not understood until the Holy Spirit came.
27 …to the only wise God be glory for ever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
“To… God be glory” — the ultimate purpose of all things, Romans 11:36.
• For further study on giving glory to God: Psalm 29:1-2, 86:9,12, 96:7-8, 115:1; Luke 2:14; 1Cor. 10:31; Ephesians 1:12,14; Revelation 5:13, 7:12, 15:4, 19:1,7.
SUMMARY Paul signs off his letter to Christians in Rome, giving glory to God for the strengthening truth of the good news of Jesus Christ. The mystery of past ages, foretold by the prophets, was only now being revealed. The reality was the way Gentiles were finding faith in Jesus Christ.
APPLICATION Unlike world religions and their deities or holy examples of past lives, the good news about Jesus is that He is alive! He reveals to us the Living God who is present with us, involved with us and guiding us, and reassuring us with His love. God has always been revealing Himself and the Bible is one way He does that. He has shown Himself in different ways for different ages. There has been fire and smoke on the mountain for the giving of the covenant to Moses, the shepherding leadership of King David, and passionate proclamation of truth by the prophets. A step change in the unfolding of this mystery camer through the virgin birth of God’s Son. Through Jesus we see the exact representation of God in human form. Then His resurrection prompted the coming of the Holy Spirit, giving believers another dimension of insight about God and His purposes. These are different perspectives revealing God to us in both wide angle, and also close up views, of His glory. It’s good news that we can know Him personally and intimately.
QUESTION If someone asked you to explain what God is like to you, where would you start?
PRAYER Father God, we are so grateful for the way You have revealed Yourself through the ages, but particularly in Jesus.
You revealed Your plan to the prophets, but also to ordinary people. We thank you for reminding us, in Mary, that You give Your grace to who You will, and a low profile in the world may conceal a high value in Your plans and purposes.
In this Advent season, may we have a fresh encounter with You, and be part of Your revealing Yourself to others. We pray for a spiritual awakening in our family, friends and neighbourhood to reach out for the gift of incalculable value — new life in Jesus.
In His name and for Your glory we pray this. Amen.
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