Monday 6 July 2009

Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible (14/50) – King for a Day?

‘Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible’, from London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, is a series of fifty emails designed to look at the main milestones of the biblical story, seeking to show how whole-life discipleship is woven through Scripture as a whole, from beginning to end. Here is the fourteenth of the fifty emails.

The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by human beings, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.
2 Samuel 7:11b-16

Israel’s struggle to take the land and the destructive spiral of the period of the judges paves the way for the monarchy. Thus begins the shift from a tribal society to a central government, where the focus of attention moves from the nation to the king.

With kingship comes the ambivalence of the political order and human rule we know so well – its necessity alongside its tendency to corruption. Writers of the records do not hide the negative details of Israel’s kingship, David included. But with kingship comes a further reminder of God’s gracious willingness to get his fingers dirty with politics, society, and culture; his determination to work through human foibles and failures; his ultimate oversight as the covenant relationship with his people is played out and preserved in the history and politics of real life.

At this point in the story, David has been crowned king, defeated Israel’s enemies, and has moved the ark of the covenant to the newly-secured capital city, Jerusalem. Concerned that his own royal palace is more lavish than God’s dwelling, David is determined to build a temple for God. As it turns out, David is not allowed to build a ‘house’ (temple) for God, and told that God will build a ‘house’ (dynasty) for David, giving him the promise of a kingdom that will last forever, in which true kingship will be marked by faithfulness to God.

God’s covenant with David adds a new dimension to the biblical story – a royal representative of the people, God’s ‘son’ no less – with the promises of the covenant now focused on Mount Zion, the place where God will be seen to dwell with his people as their true king. The language is echoed in many psalms, where the king’s reign is celebrated as marked by wisdom and righteousness, providing a visible centre of God’s rule for the sake of the nations.

As we might expect, then, God’s commitment to David has implications beyond Israel, and stands in continuity with the promise to Abraham of blessing to all nations, itself tied to God’s purposes for creation. David and his sons will take centre stage in the story of God’s dealings with men and women, so that through his line – through his anointed ‘Son’ – the Lord may restore and bless the whole world.

For further reflection and action:

1. Resonances of 2 Samuel 7 are found in Psalms 2, 72, 89, 132; Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-5; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:14-26; Ezekiel 34:20-24. How do they fill out the details of what ideal ‘kingship’ should look like?

2. How does this passage illumine our understanding of Jesus, ‘great David’s greater Son’? Check out Luke 1:30-33; Acts 2:22-36; 13:32-36; Romans 1:2-4.

3. Why does Matthew make it clear in his genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17) that the story which moves from Abraham to David to Christ is our family story as Christians too? What difference, if any, might that make to your tasks this week?

4. If possible, share and discuss with someone else the pattern we have seen in the biblical story so far, where there is a move from the ‘particular’ to the ‘universal’. The Lord singles out one person (Abraham) for the blessing of the nations, and one nation (Israel) to be a light to the world, and now he singles out one king (David) and one place (Zion), for the sake of the extension of his rule to the ends of the world. In what ways is it possible to see Christians singled out in order to bless others? What examples of this have you seen in your own life?

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