Lesson: 2 Samuel 7:1-11,16
1 When the king was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” 3 Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you.”
4 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: 5 Thus, says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. 7 Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” 8 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; 9 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.
The Book of Samuel is part of the “Deuteronomic History” that includes the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. These books are a “didactic history” that covers the period from the time just before the entry into the Promised Land (c.1220 BCE, if the account is historical) to the beginning of Babylonian Captivity (586 BCE). The books were written in the period from 650 BCE to 550 BCE and continued to be revised even after that.
The Deuteronomists emphasized that YHWH controls history, and when the people (and their kings) worshiped YHWH properly, good things would happen to them. When they worshiped false gods, however, bad events would overtake them.
Today’s reading and the omitted verses (vv.12-15) were set in the early part of the Reign of King David (1005 to 965 BCE). This chapter is one of the most important passages in the Deuteronomic Histories. It combined the themes of Jerusalem as the divinely chosen center for worship (v.10), David’s offspring (v.12) building a house for YHWH (which Solomon did according to 1 Kings 6), and the Davidic line as the chosen dynasty in Judea (v.16).
The chapter was also central to the Deuteronomists’ belief that even if the kings and people strayed in their exclusive worship of YHWH, over the long term, YHWH’s steadfast love would be unwavering (v.15) and the line/house of David would be “established forever” (v.16).
In the 600’s BCE, YHWH’s unconditional promises were seen as “explaining” (in retrospect) the Judeans’ independent survival after the Assyrians conquered the Northern 10 tribes in 722 BCE.
The Babylonian Captivity (587 to 539 BCE), however, presented a major theological disconnect for the Judeans. How were they to explain the loss of the land promised by YHWH to Abraham and the end of the Davidic line in 587 BCE?
During and after the Exile, the prophets (especially Second Isaiah and Ezekiel) began to resolve this disconnect by affirming that YHWH’s promises were still in force but had been temporarily suspended because of the failure of the Judeans to uphold their part of the covenant with YHWH – to worship YHWH faithfully and to live justly.
Continuing to the First Century (and even for some Jews today), one of the characteristics of the awaited Messiah would be that the Messiah would come from the House of David.
Epistle: Romans 16:25-27
25 Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.
Paul’s letter to the Romans was his longest, last, and most complex letter. It was written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE) – about ten years before the first Gospel (Mark) was written – to a Jesus Follower community that Paul did not establish. Among other messages in the letter, Paul sought to encourage respectful and supportive relationships between the Gentile Jesus Followers and the Jewish Jesus Followers in Rome.
The “backstory” is that the Roman Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome in 49 CE. His successor, Nero (54-68 CE), allowed Jews (including Jewish Jesus Followers) to return to Rome, and this created tensions about leadership and worship within the Jesus Follower Community. (Jesus Followers were not called “Christians” until the 80’s.)
Paul was a Jew who became a Jesus Follower who saw the Jesus Follower Movement as part of a broader Judaism. As such, he continued to have expectations about the fullness of the Coming of the Messiah/the Christ. Reflecting his Jewish roots, Paul exhorted the Jesus Follower Community in Rome to follow the Commandments, particularly to love one another as neighbors.
Today’s verses are the concluding blessing in the letter. Some ancient manuscripts of Paul’s letter do not contain these verses.
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.