Welcome to The Living Word Bible study for Sunday, June 13, TLW23B. This is a non-denominational study which 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 about it, then go deeper with the verse by verse commentary and reflections. Bible readings from the Revised Common Lectionary used by many different churches and chapels.
OT: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 — God rejects Saul as Israel’s king and instructs Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint a successor
NT gospel: Mark 4:26-34 — Jesus teaches on the hidden growth of God’s rule and reign in people’s hearts
NT letter: 2 Corinthians 5:6-17 — Knowing Christ’s love gives us the strongest motivation to live His kingdom life
Also read: Psalm 20
Theme: The heart-changing work of the hidden realm of the Spirit
• See also the article linked to this post Understanding the kingdom of God
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 — Saul’s demise brings the call of young David
God rejects Saul and instructs Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint a successor
34-35 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.
“Ramah… Gibeah” – a few miles apart.
“The Lord regretted…” – echoes 1 Sam. 15:11 and God’s regret at the time of the flood, Genesis 6:7. Saul’s call to kingship started well, 1 Samuel 9-10, but when tested by Samuel on whether he had obeyed the Lord’s command regarding plunder from the Amalekites, he lied and tried to justify himself.
16:1 The Lord said to Samuel,”How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
“Jesse” — was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth, of Bethlehem.
2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”
“He will kill me” — Samuel had already told Saul that God had rejected his kingship. He would have to travel through Saul’s settlement of Gibeah on the way to Bethlehem.
2-3 The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for Me the one I indicate.”
“Invite Jesse to the sacrifice” — giving Samuel a reason to go to Bethlehem and then follow what the Lord would show him next; inviting Jesse was essential because in God’s plan one of his sons would succeed Saul.
4-5 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”
5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
“Do you come in peace” — Saul’s emotionally unbalanced lack of leadership was already well known, and the people’s first response to Samuel was out of fear of Saul.
“I have come to sacrifice to the Lord” — not the whole reason, but that was what the Lord had told him to say in these adverse circumstances.
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
“Samuel saw Eliab” — he looked the part and later served in Saul’s army, but his true character came out in the David and Goliath story, 1 Samuel 17:28.
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
8-10 Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then made Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.”
“The Lord looks at the heart” – not appearance or qualifications but character and spiritual disposition; we are more swayed by evidence than insight. Saul looked tall and impressive, 1 Sam. 9:2, but lacked the stature of character.
• For further study, a person’s actions flow from ‘heart values’ they hold, 2 Chron. 16:9; Ps. 51:10; Prov. 4:23; Mark 7:21–23; Luke 6:45; 1 Thess. 2:4.
11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”
“Tending the sheep” — in ancient times, both human and divine rulers were often compared to shepherds, Ezekiel 34.
Samuel said,”Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
“Anoint him” — a pivotal moment, see 1 Samuel 16:14, with the transfer of anointing from Saul to David and the beginning of a long period where Saul struggles and David waits for his time of recognition.
• For further study, see 1 Samuel 16:14, Psalm 51:11.
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.
“The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David” — “rushed upon David” (ESV) in an empowering for kingship. The first mention of David.
SUMMARY Saul has shown himself to be too ready to justify himself rather than follow God’s instructions (chapter 15) and God has regretted His choice and rejected his kingship. He tells Samuel not to dwell on the failure, and gives him a legitimate reason to visit Bethlehem, and see Jesse — with further instructions to follow. Samuel sees all of Jesse’s older sons without sensing the prompting he was expecting — until the youngest is summoned from shepherding duties. Samuel anoints the young David for future service, the Holy Spirit comes on him and begins to prepare him for a role still some 15 years ahead.
APPLICATION The Lord knows what is going on in us, the values we hold — and also what we can become. This teaches us to rely on prayerful discernment, and to be able to set aside initial impressions.
QUESTION Do we look for someone who ‘ticks the boxes’ or for evidence of God working through them in Christian service?
Mark 4:26-34 — Jesus teaches on the hidden growth of the kingdom
As tiny seeds have the capacity to grow big, so does God’s rule and reign
26-29 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces corn – first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. As soon as the corn is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
“The kingdom of God is like” — most Jews of the time saw it in more or less nationalist terms as restoring a form of King David’s rule. Jesus both demonstrated and taught how God’s kingdom grows in the invisible maturing of changed hearts, among those who surrender the right to freewill independence, to welcome God’s order.
“The seed… grows, though he does not know how” — elsewhere the seed is a metaphor for God’s word and truth, which is at the heart of the kingdom’s capacity to grow and multiply. This parable is only in Mark.
• For further study, read Matthew 13:4-9,18-23.
30 Again He said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?
“Again He said” – Mark recounts some further seed parables about the hidden life of the kingdom of God which should, and will, appear, Mark 4:21, like a crop, unseen until it is growing.
31-32 “It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
“The smallest of all seeds” — the mustard seed was proverbially small, but could produce a sizeable bush. The kingdom has the capacity for huge expansion.
33-34 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when He was alone with his own disciples, He explained everything.
“With many similar parables” — Mark shows he is not giving a chronological account but a compilation of similar sayings of Jesus. He adapted His teaching to the hearers’ capacity to receive it.
SUMMARY Jesus uses an analogy very familiar to his rural Galilean hearers, describing the hidden capacity to reproduce, which is in the growth of every crop and the cause of every harvest. A seed so small it is hard to see, turns into a substantial bush all by itself.
APPLICATION The kingdom of God is designed to grow and multiply. It is the hidden work of the Holy Spirit, bringing life from the seed of God’s word, and it has the capacity to grow exponentially. From a few disciples, within a generation churches of Spirit-filled believers were springing up all around the Mediterranean area, soon to be taken further. Partnering God in what He is already doing, can be extraordinarily fruitful but the key is our awareness of, and openness to, His kingdom.
QUESTION How would you begin to explain the kingdom of God to a friend with no Christian background or awareness?
2 Corinthians 5:6-17 — Knowing Christ’s love changes our perspective
Made new in Him, we have the strongest motivation to live His kingdom life
6-7 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight.
“At home in the body” — spiritual life is constrained by human existence.
“Faith, not… sight” — not about being ostentatiously spiritual and believing the unbelievable, but living all of life in relationship with God, trusting Him, believing His promises, and learning to shift from immediate to an eternal view.
• For further study, review 2 Cor. 4:18-5:1.
8-10 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
“At home with the Lord” — Paul fully expects that, as a spiritual person belonging to the Lord, leaving his body on death, he will go immediately into the presence of Christ to stay with Him until the Day of Resurrection, Luke 23:43; Phil. 1:23; Heb. 12:23.
“Appear before the judgment seat” – like our phrase ‘appearing before the bench’. This was the bēma where the Roman governor sat to deliver judicial verdicts.
“Receive what is due to us” — salvation comes by God’s grace, not reward, but there is judgment in heaven where we will give account of how we have lived as part of Christ’s body on earth, 1 Cor. 3:11-15. We should keep short accounts with God and with others.
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.
“Christ’s love compels us” – Paul’s motivation is his awareness of the price paid for him by Jesus, and being held secure in that relationship of love. The revelation of how Jesus loves us through His sacrificial death is a strong motivation for us to live for Him, not for ourselves.
16-17 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!
“If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come” — this is a change of identity, from the old unregenerate person to the new, spiritual person. New creation also brings new perspective – we see things differently and the old, worldly point of view seems narrow and inadequate. The life of the Spirit brings a growing understanding of who we are “in Christ”, our new heavenly identity.
SUMMARY Paul depicts the human existence as being temporary state for heavenly people, with a heavenly perspective and destiny. There is work to do and relationships to keep up and we want to bring pleasure to our Saviour who has shown such great love for us.
APPLICATION The difference between us and the first disciples is that we only experience Christ by faith. But if we have accepted Him personally into our hearts, the Holy Spirit brings us a growing revelation of the love he showed for us, and also who we are “in Christ” (v.17). Just two words, “in Christ”, convey a big and profound truth about how heaven sees us— recreated in new spiritually-aware way and with a whole new identity. The question is, how much we allow this to shape our faith, our relationships and our relilience in life.
QUESTION Thinking back to Samuel and sons of Jesse (OT 1 Samuel reading above), how does “we live by faith, not by sight” (v.7 above) work in everyday life?
PRAYER O God our Father, how grateful we are that You look on the heart to see what You are making us, beyond the ‘work in progress’ that we are!
As we consider how Your kingdom realm, although unseen, is permeating the whole world, despite its persecution, equip us and give us fresh insight into the kingdom tasks You have for each of us.
And may we grow in the freedom that Jesus has secured for us, free to know His love and to love others. In His name we pray, Amen.
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