bible blog 1110

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:

TERROR ALERT ACROSS THE WORLD

security in Yemen

security in Yemen

2 Samuel 7:1-17

New English Translation (NET)

The Lord Establishes a Covenant with David

7 The king settled into his palace, for the Lord gave him relief from all his enemies on all sides. The king said to Nathan the prophet, “Look! I am living in a palace made from cedar, while the ark of God sits in the middle of a tent.” Nathan replied to the king, “You should go and do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.” That night the Lord told Nathan, “Go, tell my servant David: ‘This is what the Lord says: Do you really intend to build a house for me to live in? I have not lived in a house from the time I brought the Israelites up from Egypt to the present day. Instead, I was traveling with them and living in a tent. Wherever I moved among all the Israelites, I did not say to any of the leaders whom I appointed to care for my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house made from cedar?”’

“So now, say this to my servant David: ‘This is what the Lord of hosts says: I took you from the pasture and from your work as a shepherd to make you leader of my people Israel. I was with you wherever you went, and I defeated all your enemies before you. Now I will make you as famous as the great men of the earth. 10 I will establish a place for my people Israel and settle them there; they will live there and not be disturbed any more. Violent men will not oppress them again, as they did in the beginning 11 and during the time when I appointed judges to lead my people Israel. Instead, I will give you relief from all your enemies. The Lord declares to you that he himself will build a dynastic house for you. 12 When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He will build a house for my name, and I will make his dynasty permanent. 14 I will become his father and he

Nathan and David: Rembrandt

Nathan and David: Rembrandt

will become my son. When he sins, I will correct him with the rod of men and with wounds inflicted by human beings. 15 But my loyal love will not be removed from him as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will stand before me permanently; your dynasty will be permanent.’” 17 Nathan told David all these words that were revealed to him.

Mark 8:11-21

New English Translation (NET)

The Demand for a Sign

11 Then the Pharisees came and began to argue with Jesus, asking for a sign from heaven to test him. 12 Sighing deeply in his spirit he said, “Why does this generation look for a sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat, and went to the other side.

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod

14 Now they had forgotten to take bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 And Jesus ordered them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod!” 16 So they began to discuss with one another about having no bread. 17 When he learned of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Have your hearts been hardened? 18 Though you have eyes, don’t you see? And though you have ears, can’t you hear? Don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of pieces did you pick up?” They replied, “Twelve.” 20 “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of pieces did you pick up?” They replied, “Seven.” 21 Then he said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Doubtless by the time the Samuel books were edited the dynasty of David had run out in catastrophic defeat by the Assyrians, Moreover the prophets and lawgivers of Israel attributed this catastrophy to the persistent unfaithfulness of these kings to the God of David. The promise of God to David, then, must have been interpreted as giving hope of the restoration of Israel and the davidic dynasty. The promise itself however seems genuinely old, perhaps going back to the time of David. Its basis is a divine joke: you will not build me a “house” (temple) but I will build you a “house” (dynasty). The Lord’s rejection of a temple s also full of wit: why should he take up residence in a temple when he has always travelled with the people on their journeys, living like any Israelite, in a tent? There is a rejection here of the temple cult which grew up in the time of David’s successor. This Lord will not be confined to one place, nor do people need to placate him with sacrifices. He has chosen to travel with this people and desires only obedience to his Law which is for the good of all. The more settled successors of David’s faith, both Jewish and Christian have found it difficult to come to terms with this Bedouin God. 

The promise to David and his dynasty is unconditional: God expects obedience and will punish disobedience but the Davidic kings are God’s sons whom he will never abandon. St. Paul uses the same idea in Romans 9-11, where he argues that God has not abandoned the Israel which rejected Messiah Jesus, and that after punishment He will restore its people. 

The Messiah arrives at the River Jordan: Ivanov

The Messiah arrives at the River Jordan: Ivanov

It’s easy to get lost in this God-langauge. The reader must remember that God’s words are imagined by human beings, God’s actions are proclaimed as such by human beings, God’s promises are the determination of human beings to hang on to God through thick and thin. The unconditional promise to David and his successors is the unwillingness of its authors to think think that Israel’s rulers could dispense with God.

Every now and again in the midst of our secular politics the messianic hope is revived, as in the writings of Karl Marx or in the leadership of Nelson Mandela as well as the less savoury examples of Hitler, Mussolini and Pol Pot. The conservative view is that all such hopes are dangerously illusory for all power corrupts and the best we can do is achieved with checks and balances. Revolutionaries believe that is spite of all the dangers, messianic politics is the only hope of justice in this world.

Mark’s picture of Jesus as Messiah provides an image that goes beyond the conservative and revolutionary alternatives. All rule can be described in terms of bread. Herod and the pharisees want to feed themselves (as shown in the story of Herod and Salome), whereas Jesus wants to feed the people (as in the stories of feeding 5000 and 4000 people). There is however only one true bread, which is given by the king who rules only by persuasion and therefore suffers death for his people and whose generosity is symbolised by bread which is “broken for you”.  King Jesus does not give up on the hope of justice but by his example insists that it cannot be achieved by force. If as St. Paul says, Jesus is the “yes” to all the promises of God, then his fulfillment of the promise to David proposes a surprising kind of king and an even more surprising kingdom.

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