Welcome to The Living Word Bible study for Sunday, July 4 (TLW27B). This non-denominational study lets the Bible explain the Bible, without leaning to any church’s practice or preferences. We recommend that you read the whole passage first and let the Holy Spirit begin speaking to you through it, then go deeper with the verse by verse commentary and reflections. Bible readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary which many different churches and chapels share as their common framework and we’re using NIV © Biblica.
OT: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 — The Ark of God travels in praise procession to Jerusalem to be restored as the central place of Israel’s worship
NT gospel: Mark 6:14-29 — John, an Elijah-like prophet who prepared people for Jesus, is put to death by Herod the Tetrarch
NT letter: Ephesians 1:3-14 — Choosing Jesus brings new life in Him, the evidence of God also choosing us
And also read: Psalm 24
Theme: How God reveals the future through the present
• See also the linked article, Pictures of Heaven’s Future Purpose
• And also this week’s video How God gives a glimpse of future revival in the present
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12-19 — The Ark of God restored to Israel’s worship
The slow procession celebrates lavishly as befits the holiness of the ark
1 David again brought together all the able young men of Israel — thirty thousand.
2 He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark.
“Baalah… bring up from there” – for 20 years following its return by the afflicted Philistines the ark had stayed for 20 years in the backwater of Kiriath Jearim.
“Called by the Name” – meaning that the ark of God is His possession.
“Who is enthroned between…” – In 1 Chron. 28:2 the ark is referred to as ‘the footstool of our God’ – the footstool of God’s earthly throne. David, recognising the ark as the focus of God’s ultimate kingship and rule, now wants it to be central, and prominent.
3-5 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.
“Uzzah and Ahio” – these descendants of Abinadab decided to move the ark on a new cart (like the pagan Philistines) but they should have known to have it carried by Levites, Exodus 25:12-15, Numbers 4:4-6, a strategic error resulting in Uzzah’s death, verses 6-7 omitted, 1 Chron. 15:13-15.
12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.
“Blessed…Obed-Edom” – as the Lord had blessed the Levite from Gath Rimmon who had taken good care of the ark, the blessing would come on Jerusalem if the ark was reverentially treated there, David deduced. Aware that his own reverence had been lacking, David gives a strong lead to the praise procession.
13-14 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
“Those who were carrying” – now the Kohathite Levites are carrying the ark on their shoulders and David consecrates the new phase of the journey in sacrifice.
“Linen ephod” – David exchanges royal robes for a priestly garment, 1 Sam. 2:18.
16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.
“Daughter of Saul” – also a statement of attitude, her father’s daughter.
“She despised him” – Michal, a princess, upheld dignity and royal propriety. David had in mind the King of kings; his submission to the Lord in heartfelt worship overrode his personal dignity, verses 21-23.
17-19 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.
“Blessed the people” – as Moses and Aaron had, long before, outside the tent of meeting, when the glory of the Lord appeared, Lev. 9:23.
SUMMARY David exalted Yahweh as the real King of Israel and worshipped so openly that sometimes people forgot that David was set apart to lead, and not just one of them.
David made mistakes but he was a quick learner. He recognised that bringing up the ark as the ‘footstool of God’ at the heart of the nation would help to get everyone looking to God.
APPLICATION David’s predecessor Saul was a very different character, a proud person who needed everyone to know he was king. Unlike David, he was no worshipper and with the Ark of God out of sight in an obscure place, Israel had lost the expectation of the presence of God with them. The faith of the nation was at a low tide. By contrast, David’s vision for the Temple foreshadowed His descendant Jesus the Emmanuel, ‘God with Us’, and the time when each true believer would be their own temple of the Holy Spirit.
QUESTION David didn’t care what anyone thought when he was worshipping God exuberantly, so how accepting are we of people praising God with arms raised high?
Mark 6:14-29 — Herod the Tetrarch orders John to be executed
‘The Baptiser’ was a righteous and holy man, a prophet rather like Elijah
14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
“King Herod” – Herod Antipas wasn’t a king but the tetrarch ruler of the province of Galilee and Perea.
15 Others said, “He is Elijah.”
And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
“He is Elijah” – one of the last prophecies recorded was the return of Elijah, or one like him. John ministered in the “spirit and power of Elijah”as a prophetic preacher and a wilderness-dwelling outsider.
• For further study, Malachi 4:4, Luke 1:17.
16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
“John… has been raised” — superstitious Herod was fearful from a guilty conscience.
17-20 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
“Had him… put in prison” — in the fortress of Machaerus, as confirmed by the independent Jewish historian Josephus. Vindictive Herodias and indecisive ‘king’ Herod parallel the original Elijah’s persecutor Jezebel and weak husband Ahab.
21-22 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.
The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.”
23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”
“Half my kingdom” – more of a saying than a promise, see Esther 5:3,6.
24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”
“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.
25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
26-29 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her.
Herod saw integrity and moral courage in John, vv. 17-20, but could not lose face before military officers and people of power.
So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
“John’s disciples” — followers of this last of the OT prophets lasted for two or three generations.
SUMMARY John was an Elijah-like figure who announced Jesus, prepared people for Jesus by baptising in the River Jordan, and made a way for the ministry of a Messiah who was expected but not at all understood. His forerunner role came to an abrupt end as he was executed at the request of the tetrarch’s wife, who resented him.
APPLICATION David bringing up the Ark of the Lord led to temple worship and then to the Lord Himself. John the Baptist’s obedience to his call led to the the realm of God’s rule, the kingdom of God, starting to be perceived.
QUESTION Can you think of something you have done for God’s kingdom that made a preparation for someone else’s contribution?
Ephesians 1:3-14 — Choosing Jesus as Lord brings new life in Him
The Holy Spirit seen in fruitful lives is the evidence of God choosing us
…That we might be for the praise of His glory
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
“Praise be” – or more literally, “Blessed be”, following the style of Jewish daily prayers.
“Us in the heavenly realms” — a Christian anywhere in the world is also in a spiritual sense seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Our spiritual blessing and spiritual life is located in heaven, with Christ, influencing our everyday life on earth.
4-6 For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will — to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.
“Chose us in Him before” – we are located by time and space, but God is outside those constraints. That is how He could choose us, at the beginning of creation, for our own adoption into sonship through Jesus. A profound statement of how God sees us who have put our lives under Christ’s lordship, as “in Christ”.
“Praise of His…grace” – because it is not earned but conferred. We have to ‘unlearn’ the familiar worldview which emphasises merit, to understand how we can simply receive God’s grace in Jesus, without deserving it in any religious or sacrificial way.
7-9 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ…
“Redemption through His blood” – happened first for the enslaved nation of Israel in the Exodus, with the Passover sacrifice and applying of the lamb’s blood to the doorframes. This foreshadowed the provision of Christ’s shed blood from His sacrifice of Himself. Our redemption is that price paid by Christ for our release from slavery to sin.
“Made known to us the mystery” – the Holy Spirit makes sense of spiritual ‘mysteries’.
10 ...to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will…
“We were chosen ” — the balance in Scripture between being chosen in a way which was predestined, and putting ourselves in a place to be chosen, our decision (below) to (1) put our hope in Christ, (2) hear the message of truth and (3) believe.
12 ...in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory.
13-14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of His glory.
“Marked in Him” — there is a confidence in every person who has invited Jesus to be Lord of their lives. It is because when we believe who Jesus is and what He has done for us personally – when we say ‘Yes’ to Him — the Holy Spirit gives us an inner witness of who we are in Christ. That’s not about our righteousness, but His.
SUMMARY AND APPLICATION Paul explains a difficult concept — how the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence in us when we surrender to Jesus, and this puts on us an invisible spiritual ‘mark’. We know we are His. It is a mystery, meaning something that defies logic but is made understandable by spiritual revelation.
QUESTION Why does Paul put so much emphasis on us knowing who we are in Christ? Why does this help us to live well for Him?
PRAYER Lord, my perspective is so limited compared with Yours! Help me to see my desire for ‘success’ in the context of Your greater kingdom purpose and eternal timescale. I recognise I can only ever be the forerunner of someone to follow, and involved merely in the foreshadowing of Your purpose yet to be unfolded. Humbly I pray this to the honour and glory of Jesus, Amen.
PRINT EDITION You can download a PDF of the print edition from the link below. It prints on A4 paper to produce a four-page Bible-size folder. Permission given to copy for your own use, for your Bible study or home group, or for inclusion with your church bulletin.