Readings for Sunday, July 22 – God’s promise of inclusion and rest
2 Samuel 7:1-14a – The promise of rest from oppression with God present
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 – The promise of Jesus’ compassion for all who draw close
Ephesians 2:11-22 – The promise of access to the Father without exclusion
The theme is based on three Bible promises of peace and rest and being included in God’s promise of hope and protection. King David is promised rest from the oppression of enemies – a promise that we can stand on when we face oppression – in Galilee crowds finding Jesus’ compassion give us a promise of God’s mercy, including healing, and the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles makes a present-day promise to all of being included in God’s promises without religious separation.
2 Samuel 7:1-14a » David desires a fitting place of worship for God to retain the nation’s rest
God will have a dwelling for people to draw close, but not built by David. He will, however, grant David longevity of rule and lineage
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.”
David, as king, now had a palace built of stone and imported cedar while the ark remained under a tent covering, 2 Sam. 6:17. David felt that the heavenly King should be more prominently honoured than him.
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:
This word is also referred to as the Davidic covenant. It contains both national (v.10) and person (v.11) promises.
For further study of references to this as a covenant, see 2 Sam. 23:5, Psalm 89:3,28,34,39 and Ps. 132:11
5-7 “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. 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?” ’
“Are you the one?” – David’s God-given task was to fight the Lord’s battles to achieve rest, freedom from oppression, in the land that had been promised. See 1 Kings 5:3, 1 Chron. 22:8-9.
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.
“Cut off all your enemies” – Bible material is often arranged according to topic rather than the exact chronology we would expect. The events of 2 Sam. 8:1-14 probably happened before this chapter.
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 will not oppress them anymore, 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.
“Provide a place… for Israel” – the real purpose behind making David king.
“Since…I appointed leaders…” – meaning the time of the judges who preceded Saul and David and the kings.
“ ‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord Himself will establish a house for you:
“Establish a house” – the play on words is plain in translation. God does not David to build Him a house, or temple, but God will build David a house, or royal dynasty.
Many Bible covenants are conditional with an”if” clause, but this covenant with David is unconditional, as with Noah, Abram and Phinehas.
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.
The covenant points forward to its greater fulfilment in Jesus Christ, born of the tribe of Judah and the house of David, Matt. 1:1, Luke 1:32-33 etc
IN PRACTICE This teaching in the Old Testament from King David’s time contains the first of three promises from God of ‘rest’ which is a state of peace and trust from enemies.
David’s enemies mostly appeared with a spear in their hands, and his battles are trials of military strength worked out in combat on the battlefield. In our world of NATO and Europol and summit talks, is all that irrelevant? Certainly not. Spiritual conflicts in the heavenlies, where the hosts of the defeated enemy, Satan, are still pursuing a vicious rearguard action, are played out in acts of terrorism, persecution and imprisonment of political opponents, and every kind of cruelty and injustice.
When we encounter evil actions and evil people, we need to see the evil that is finding people’s vulnerabilities and insecurities to work through.
Now turning to submit to God in worship, who has promised His rest, starts to make very present-day, practical sense.
QUESTION When evil in one of its forms draws near to us, who do we draw near to? How do we bring God’s promises to bear?
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 » The promise of Jesus’ compassion for all who draw close
People recognise the Messiah and draw close. Wherever Jesus went crowds gathered and brought their sick
30-31 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
“Get some rest” – two meanings here. Another definition of finding rest is taking time in a quiet place with Jesus.
32-34 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognised them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.
53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there.
Or crossed the shoreline. Gennesaret (modern-day Ginosar) is down the coast a little way, towards Tiberius.
54-56 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognised Jesus.
The crowd from vv.32-34 could see the boat and follow its progress on foot.
They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard He was. And wherever He went – into villages, towns or countryside – they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged Him to let them touch even the edge of His cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
“All who touched it…” – a clear statement. See also Matthew 8:16-17.
IN PRACTICE To seek a divine encounter with the promise of healing is entirely in line with this teaching, but out of line with most of our experience. It’s controversial. We all know people who have struggled with illness. For some, their earthly life appears to have foreclosed early and suddenly.
The account of people flocking to Jesus, pressing in to Him and the statement that “all who touched [His cloak] were healed” leaves us with both a promise and also a problem.
The promise seems clear enough, but so is the expectation of coming to the Lord (who we can’t touch) and trust in Him, when we have so many alternatives to trust in. Some we know from their stories are miraculously healed; for many it is a process and good medicine may be experienced as God’s gift. For some, the healing is total in transition to new and eternal life. Our philosophy is inadequate to explain this, but let’s not let lack of predictability and our sense of control and reason stop us from simply trusting and believing what God has written.
QUESTION In the battle that goes on in our minds between reason and logic and trusting in what God says, how do we referee the contest?
Ephesians 2:11-22 » The promise of access to the Father without exclusion
The new relationship with God includes Gentiles on the same basis as Jews
11-13 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
“Remember that formerly… at that time” – referring to those outside a personal relationship with Christ, as they were when they “followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air…”, Eph. 2:1-10. We are either committed to belong to Christ, or we are by default under the sway of the devil.
“You who are Gentiles” – most of those in the church in Ephesus.
The rite of circumcision was a clear mark of distinction and also pride. A major exclusion in the ancient world, between people groups hostile to each other, is reconciled in Christ.
14-15 For He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace…
“Two groups one” – believing Jews and believing Gentiles.
“Destroyed the barrier” – a barrier of prejudice. Jews and Gentiles practised strict religious isolation from one another. Gentiles in the Jerusalem temple area were not allowed past the barrier in the Court of the Gentiles.
16 …and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the Cross, by which He put to death their hostility.
“One body” – God sees those who are the Lord’s, those who are His, as one body of Christ.
17-18 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
“Far away and… near” – Gentiles, unlike Jews, had no cultural experience of the Living God and so were not as “near”, although both had shared the same need to come into personal relationship through Jesus and His Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household…
“Foreigners and strangers” – addressing what had been a deep-seated division.
20 …built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
“Cornerstone” – hundreds of years before Christ, Isaiah spoke of God laying a “tested stone” as a cornerstone foundation, Isaiah 28:16, meaning the Messiah to come.
“Foundation of apostles and prophets” – the early church was built on these ministries as people were sent out in ground-breaking roles. Church planting in our time, both overseas and new congregations at home, require the equipping ministries mentioned later in the letter, Eph. 4:11-13.
21 In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
22 And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
“In Him… built together” – Peter also refers to Jesus as the Living Stone in whom we ‘living stones’ are being built into a spiritual ‘house’. See 1 Peter 2:4-6
IN PRACTICE The third teaching in this theme of God’s promise of our inclusion in His hope and His promises, and therefore our rest, is about who is included and whether there is a kind of hierarchy of privilege. We think there is. We think that our religious obedience, however that is expressed, gets us up the queue line because that’s how we as humans are programmed – so much in our education, professional life and general experience is based on merit.
When ministers began to take the Good News of Jesus outside the confines of pews and pulpit (as John Wesley did in the 1700s and many others since) God’s love and grace for the apparently underserving presented many surprises to the religious mind. He loves to overturn our comfortable theology! Back in the first century, it was the same. The Jews really did consider themselves God’s chosen people, even if they had largely rejected their own Messiah. They wanted to treat the ‘outsider’ Gentiles as second class, if they had dealings with them at all. God confronted that exclusivity of attitude in them, and He still does in us. Formal religion has created all kinds of barriers to knowing God’s love and He delights in opening another door that needs no ticket other than a desire to enter in and experience Him.
QUESTION If you see another person in church who dresses differently, behaves differently and just is – different, how do you view them and how does God view them – and how will you love them anyway?
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28
John 2: 13-22
Meeting God in the Temple – in the holy of holies, or in the temple courts accessible to everybody?
|13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.||13 John mentions four or five passovers.
13 This is the beginning of a section on John (up to John 4:54) which recounts Jesus’ ministry to Jerusalem, Judea, and to Samaria and Gentiles. There are two major encounters to come, one with Nicodemus who represented the Jerusalem religious elite, and a second, very different in nature, with the Samaritan woman, representing the Samaritan religion. This temple incident is like a prologue.
|14 In the temple courts He found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.||14 This was in the temple courts, or court of the Gentiles, the area where non-Jews were admitted to pray in the “house of prayer for all nations” Isaiah 56:7.|
|15 So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.||15 The three synoptic (narrative) gospels record a second, later, clearing of the temple courts by Jesus at the Jewish Passover, just before the Crucifixion.|
|16 To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a market!”
17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”
|16-17 This is a prophetic action by Jesus, a little drama depicting what will happen to the Jewish religious leaders who had allowed commerce to overtake worship and become an obstacle to people, especially the non-Jewish ‘God-fearers’, for whom this was the part of the temple courts where they could come and pray. See Psalm 69:9, quoted in part above.|
18 The Jews then responded to Him, “What sign can you show us to prove Your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
18-19 Jesus implies that He will have a part in raising Himself from the dead. Elsewhere He says “I am the Resurrection and the Life”, John 11:25. All rather confusing until we step back and recognise that Jesus is in the Father, John 14:10-11, and the Father i.e. the Holy Spirit is in Him, John 10:38 – The Trinity is one, and acts as one. Lacking the insight of faith, they are simply seeing the Jesus who had emptied Himself of the divine nature to be born as man, and standing before them as the Galilean rabbi. As is so often the challenge for us, the close up picture is not the whole picture.
For further study, other verses tell us that the Father and the Holy Spirit were involved in the Resurrection: Acts 2:24, Romans 6:4, 1 Cor. 6:14, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:20, and also Romans 1:4, 8:11
|20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”||
20 Or alternative translation, “this temple was built 46 years ago”. Herod the Great had constructed the temple proper, but the hieron, temple courts, were still unfinished.
20 No one understood Jesus’ reply at the time. This sheds lights on the taunts made three years later at the trial and crucifixion, Matthew 26:62, Matt. 27:40.
|21 But the temple He had spoken of was His body.||21 A temple is a place where God dwells. This was a key to Israel’s worship, first around the tabernacle, and then in more permanent temples built by Solomon, then on returning from exile Zerubbabel, and finally Herod the Great. Now all that changes, because Jesus, the new temple, renders all other obsolete, by manifesting God the Father, John 1:14, 18. The final and ultimate once-for-all-time sacrifice took place in this “temple”, His body, which was “destroyed” when He was put to death, but Jesus was “raised” from the dead “in three days”.|
|22 After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.|
The idea that God’s dwelling place was in the Jerusalem Temple was looking old-fashioned as soon as Jesus entered the courts. The church is not a building – church building or temple structure.
At the same time, the temple had been built and rebuilt, originally by Jesus’ ancestor Solomon, as a place set apart to God – a holy place – and a centre of worship. Now it was full of sheep and cattle – and bankers. So Jesus was more than entitled to say He wanted His house of prayer back.
This is a picture of how God’s clear intentions can get taken over by the purposes of man, and how God feels about that. Medieval churches in the UK, especially in the country, were commonly used as community meeting places and markets, especially if there were no other market hall. The wider use of the building is not the point.
What is at issue here is whether the church of God, as the people of God, are carrying out His mission, rooted in worship that comes from the faith that can only grow from close personal relationship – or whether they have degenerated into self-serving institutions.
The reformation, revivals and renewals of every century since the Middle Ages suggest that the Holy Spirit is always at work, shaking what can be shaken, and bringing the mission of God to the fore. The temple that Jesus entered was scarcely complete architecturally before it was demolished and much of Jerusalem with it, by which time the church was growing in Asia, Greece, Italy and beyond. If we don’t catch what God is doing now and change course to meet Him in it, we too will become a barrier of dead stones.
For reflection and discussion
Tabernacle, temple building and then Jesus Himself… where is the temple where God resides now?
How does our worship practice reflect this, or perhaps could reflect this better?