Saturday, May 23, 2009

2 Samuel 1-8; Luke 6:20-7:35

My apologies to the zero people who have stopped by the last couple of days to keep up with their Bible reading, but I have been busy with all the events involved with graduation time at the seminary. No w I can get back to the more ordinary business of life.

2 Sam 1-8

Shifting back to the Samuel-Kings version of the history of Israel, we come to that period of transition from the reign of Saul to the reign of David. Such a transition is not easy even at the best of times, and these were not the best of times in Israel's history. The book of 2 Samuel begins with David's lament over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. Some might wonder about the appropriateness of David's lament, given that Saul was an ungodly, wicked man, who had hunted David mercilessly and opposed him in any way he could. But remember. Saul was the duly anointed king of Israel, he had led Israel in war against her enemies, and he died in the midst of the prosecution of that war. David's lament recognizes the loss to Israel of Saul's good labor. It may well be a lesson for us in times of political turmoil, that it is right and proper to mourn those who have served us as leaders when they fall, even though it might well be the case that they have been ultimately unsuccessful, and should have served us better than they did.

Chapter 2-5 trace the history of the short civil war between the forces of Saul and those of David. It tells of the perfidy of Joab in the assassination of Abner (for which Joab will pay after the death of David). The section then concludes in chapter 5 with the account of David's acclamation as king over all Israel, cemented in a sense by his victory over the Philistines recorded at the end of the chapter.

Chapters 6-8 record the establishment of David's political and religious capital at Jerusalem, the making of the Davidic covenant, and David's succeeding victories. Chapter 6 and 7 are among the most important theologically in the entire Old Testament. The political acumen of David shown in ch 6 is often overlooked, or not taken with sufficient seriousness. In choosing Jerusalem for his political capital, David made a smart choice. Jerusalem was located on the border between Benjamin (the tribe of Saul) and Judah (the tribe of David). With its selection David was announcing that he was not going to play favorites, either for his supporters or against the house of Saul. In taking the city from the Jebusites, David proved his military prowess. In making it both his political and religious capital, David indicated something about what was to be the entire tenor of his reign. The following victories recounted in ch 8 simply serve to emphasize the rightness of David as the king of Israel. He is getting the job done.

As to the Davidic covenant, it casts its shadow not only over the remainder of Old Testament history, but over the New Testament as well. The Messiah is designated a descendant of David. As we get further into the Old Testament, I will draw the reader's attention to places where this covenant continues to show its influence.

Luke 6:20-7:35

The first part of this material constitutes the "Sermon on the Plain," as compared to Matthew's "Sermon on the Mount." Are they different account of the same event? It is certainly possible, and many commentators take that position. On the other hand, Jesus preached and taught for over three years. It is clearly the case from the gospel accounts that he revisited key themes and teachings on more than one occasion, so it possible that this is a different even than the Sermon on the Mount. Again, commentators differ. Some may object, however, noting that the two "sermons" differ. That being the case, how can they be accounts of the same event? We have to recognize that the gospel writers, while accurately recording what Jesus said, did not record everything he said. So each account of Jesus' teaching is an accurate, true, and faithful excerpt of the statement Jesus made on that occasion. That being the case, the differences between the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain may simply represent differing excerpts from what Jesus said on the one occasion.

A second key thing to note here is that Jesus is setting himself above the Old Testament prophets. In his working of miracles, he is like Elijah and Elisha, but he is greater than they. In his teaching, he is like than the writing prophets, but again, he is greater than they. The writing prophets frequently said, "Thus says the Lord." Jesus said, "Thus, I say" (see, for example, 6:27, 46). 

Third, Jesus again appears in the guise of Elijah and Elisha in 7:1-17. First, he healed the servant of a foreign military leader (similar to the healing of Naaman). Then he raised the widow's son to life (reflecting events from the lives of both Elijah and Elisha). Note also how the people responded (7:16 ): "A great prophet had risen among us!" Third, by drawing the attention of the crowds to John the Baptist, he deliberately contrasts his ministry with that of John, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah. Jesus is the successor and the greater one to come. Yet the people don;t like the tune the piper plays (7:31-35). We need to be careful that we respond to the song the Scriptures play, and not go seeking tunes for itching ears.

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