May Essays


May Overview: It Takes a Steady Hand to Hold a Full Cup

This month we will be reaching a high point in the history of Israel - the reign of king David. Although he has the most successful reign in the history of Israel, he finds that it many challenges in leading a great nation.

What a fascinating character study is the life of David. It is interesting that God chooses and anoints him, but lets him wait seven years before making him king. For many of us, we feel like the Lord has given us a direction to go in but then restrains us from getting there. We can learn a lot from how God trains David, because David needs much wisdom to lead his kingdom. And his son Solomon, who even has the divine gift of wisdom, still makes very foolish choices that ultimately cause the downfall of the kingdom. Anyone who feels the Lord has called them into a position of leadership can learn from the lives of David and Solomon, two of Israel's greatest leaders.

We also will be reading some of Paul's wisdom for leading the new church in Corinth. Again, Paul and the other evangelists have had great success in establishing the church in many cities, but now he has to grapple with critical issues that threaten the life of the new church - how the church will function, how to avoid division, and even doctrinal issues like whether or not Christ rose from the dead. Once again, people in leadership especially should consider Paul as an example of one of God's leaders with the job of establishing the body of Christ.



Week 19: 1 Sam. 29 - 31, 2 Sam. 1 - 14, 1 Corinthians 2 - 6, Psalm 50 - 51

Son of David, Son of God

We know that the people of Jesus' day were expecting a Messiah, hoping that he would deliver them from their enemies and that he would have a great kingdom. What scriptures were the source of that belief? There are some hints early on: in Genesis 3, God promises that one of Eve's seed will crush the serpent's head, and in Genesis 12, God tells Abraham that through him all nations will be blessed. Later Moses says in Deuteronomy 18 that there will be a prophet after him who will be like him. But it isn't until much later that God gives many clues about who is coming.

It is in David's time that God begins speaking specifically about the Messiah. In fact, this week we will read the one of the most important references to the coming Messiah in the Old Testament. David tells God that he wants to build God a "house", meaning a temple. And God tells him that he wants his son Solomon to do that, but then he tells David that He will build a "house" for him, meaning that God will establish his family line after him. God further promises David that from his family will come a king whose kingdom will have no end:

“‘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 fathers, 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 the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. 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 Sam 7:11 - 16

This prophecy has been understood as having a double fulfillment - it is first fulfilled in Solomon, who built the temple, but did what God forbade - amassed a great fortune and married foreign wives. His kingdom was not established forever, but broke apart within a few years after his death. But it also spoke about a "Son of David" who would come, who would have a kingdom without end. God will be his father, and He will be His son. So the Son of David will also be the Son of God!

Son of David

The prophets after David expanded on the prophecies about David's future son. They often pictured a family as a tree, so if the parents were the trunk, then the children were the branches, or the shoots that come up at the base of the tree. So, often the coming messiah was called the Branch of David, or the Shoot of Jesse (David's father):

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land." Jer. 23:5

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. Is. 11:1 & 2

Because of this prophecy in 2 Samuel, people knew that the Messiah had to come from the line of David. That is why, when we read the genealogy of Jesus in the beginning of the gospels, Matthew and Luke both make it clear that he is a descendant of David, even though they use different lineages. It is all from this prophecy that from David would come the king whose kingdom would endure forever.

Son of God

The sentence "I will be his father and he will be my son", became a source of many messianic statements. In Psalm 2, about God's anointed messiah, it says

I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.  Psa. 2:7 -8

In the gospels, at Jesus' baptism and transfiguration, when the divine voice says "This is My Son", once again God is naming Jesus as the one that He spoke about to David, and in the Psalms.

The ancient Jews also had another related tradition about the Messiah. Out of respect for God, when they prayed, they would refer to God as "our father", using the plural to address God as father to not be too intimate. (The prayer that Jesus teaches the disciples has this form, of course.) But from the prophecy in 2 Samuel, they understood that when the Messiah came, He would have a relationship with God so close that when He prayed, He would refer to God as "My Father". No other person in all of scripture referred to God as "My Father" except Jesus. But when Jesus is 12 and his parents find him in the temple, Jesus says "Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) - this was the first time that Jesus made a messianic reference to Himself, showing that He understood who He was since childhood. Throughout Jesus' ministry, He refers to God as "My Father", and every time He used those words, His listeners would have heard it as a bold claim to be the One who God had promised would come.

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©2002 Lois A. Tverberg, Ph.D., OurRabbiJesus.com. All of the articles in this series are copyrighted and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of the author. To request permission for use, contact Tverberg@OurRabbiJesus.com.

The Read Through the Bible Commentaries were sent out by email during 2002 and are available in an archive on this site. If you would like to receive the monthly En-Gedi commentary by email, use this form to sign up.

 


Week 20: 2 Samuel 15 - 1 Kings 5; 1 Corinthians 7 - 11; Psalm 52 - 55

Jesus, King of Kings

Last week we were discussing one of the most important messianic passages in the Old Testament, and a highlight of King David's life: the promise from God that one of his offspring will have a throne and a kingdom without end. In 1 Chronicles 17, the story of this prophecy to King David is told again, and the prophet Nathan says to David:

“When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.”  (1 Chron. 17:11-14)

This theme of God giving a king to Israel pervades the Old Testament. The highest point in Israel's history is when David and Solomon reign as kings. But as we have read, David's reign quickly falls into corruption, and even though Solomon has several years of glory, he also brings corruption and ruin to Israel too. After they are gone Israel was still waiting for the king that God wants for her.

We should be very interested in knowing what kind of king God wants for Israel, because this king of Israel will be king over the whole world. In fact, we are claiming that Jesus is this king whenever we call him "Jesus Christ", or "The Messiah". The word "Christ" in Greek and "Messiah" in Hebrew mean "Anointed" - which refers to those who have had sacred oil poured on them to set them apart because God has chosen them for some purpose. While a prophet or priest could be anointed, the most common reference in the Old Testament is that God's "anointed one" is to a king he has chosen. David refers to Saul as "God's anointed" ("messiah" in Hebrew) even when Saul is trying to kill him. So the anointed "son of David" refers to a coming king.

As modern day Christians read about Jesus in the gospels, we don't tend to see Jesus as a king. Some would even say that He isn't king yet, but when He comes again, He will become king then. But there is plenty of scriptural evidence that suggests that Jesus is not just going to be king in the future, He already was one when He walked on earth.

We see it in His words: Jesus made it clear that the "kingdom of God" had begun on earth with His coming, and that this was His kingdom. His kingdom is gradually expanding, growing like a mustard seed into a great tree. It would reach its zenith in the future when He came again in glory, but it had already begun, and He was already king.

If we know Jesus' culture and His scriptures, we also see hints that Jesus is a king. In Matthew 2, the wise men come looking for a king and bring gifts to honor this ruler. They are fulfilling prophecies in Isaiah 60 and in Psalm 72 about the visitors of other nations who would come to honor the messianic king when he arrived. They also are replaying a scene from Solomon's life when the Queen of Sheba came with gold and spices to honor him as king. Also, when Jesus gets on a donkey and rides into Jerusalem amid rejoicing, He is replaying Solomon's coronation in 1 Kings 1, and fulfilling more prophecies about the messianic king from Zechariah 9:9:

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  (Zechariah 9:9)

How did Jesus act as king during His ministry on earth? I was fascinated by what one (non-messianic!) Jewish commentator said the messianic king would be like:

The ideal Jewish king ascends his throne in a time of tranquility. The nation is secure and prosperous because its ultimate King, God, has made it so, and its way of life is charted by the Torah. The king plays a unique role. He, as first citizen of the nation, is the living embodiment of Torah and how its statutes and holiness ennoble man. Holder of immense and almost unbridled power, he submits to the laws in the Scriptures which he carries with him at all times; required by his duty to the nation to hold wealth and exhibit pomp, he acquires what he must, but shuns excess; enabled by his station to indulge his passions, he sets an example of sobriety and self-control; inhibited by no mortal restraint, he turns his energies to the selfless service of his people; able to establish the absolute dominion of his own will, he does not rest until his people know the rigors of Torah study and a discipline of honesty and morality in their personal and business lives that would earn sainthood in any other nation. It is the function of the king to safeguard the Torah and see to it that the people study it and obey its commandments. Nor is he to be considered above the Law - on the contrary, it is his duty to be a model of scrupulous adherence to the laws of the Torah.  (Nosson Scherman, from the ArtScroll Commentary on Ruth, pp xxxi - xxxiii)

It is amazing to hear this description and some of the amazing similarities to Jesus' earthly ministry. It seems very odd to us that the chief role of the messianic king would be to perfectly obey God's laws and teach his people about the scriptures. But, if you think about it, this was exactly the kind of kingdom Jesus said that He was establishing on earth. Jesus came to proclaim God as true King, and to cause people to repent and enter under God's kingship, to obey him and to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven.



Jesus had one more role as king that we can only see from knowing ancient middle eastern culture. It was not uncommon in ancient days that when a new king came into power that he would declare a year of Jubilee. This was a year when all debts were forgiven, and those who were in bondage were set free.

In Luke 4, Jesus quotes a passage from Isaiah 61 in which the anointed one (messianic king) proclaims "the year of the Lord's favor," a Jubilee, and Jesus says that it was fulfilled in him. Jesus declared a Jubilee too, only in His kingdom, it was not monetary debts that were forgiven, it was debts of sin. Those who would enter his kingdom would be set free from their past and able to start clean, new lives with Him as their Lord.

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©2002 Lois A. Tverberg, Ph.D., OurRabbiJesus.com. All of the articles in this series are copyrighted and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of the author. To request permission for use, contact Tverberg@OurRabbiJesus.com.

The Read Through the Bible Commentaries were sent out by email during 2002 and are available in an archive on this site. If you would like to receive the monthly En-Gedi commentary by email, use this form to sign up.



Week 21: 1 Kings 6 - 19, 1 Corinthians 12 - 16, Psalm 56 - 59

Son of David, Builder of the House

In the last two weeks we have been discussing where the promise of a messiah in the Old Testament came from, and how Jesus fulfilled it. As we said before, King David was faithful to God and asked him if he could build a house (a temple) for Him. God said in response,

“When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.”  (1 Chron. 17:11-14)

We have discussed how this prophecy is essentially the beginning of the promise of a Messiah. The Messiah was to be a son of David who would be a great king, and would have a kingdom without end. It was partially fulfilled by Solomon, the son of David, but ultimately fulfilled by Jesus, the Son of David.  We see many interesting parallels between Solomon and Jesus. The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that was like Solomon's coronation (1 Kings 1), the gifts from the wise men that were like the adoration Solomon received from the queen of Sheba and other kings (1 Kings 10). Even Solomon's peaceful reign as king and his wise teachings are rough parallels of Jesus.

The messianic promise to David says another key thing: that this Son of David would build a house for the Lord. Building the Temple was the high point of Solomon's reign, and this week we are reading about its construction. For Jesus as well, this will be one of the most important pictures of what His mission on earth accomplished.

What is a "house" for the Lord?

In Hebrew many words have a wide range of meanings, and it is helpful to understand that the word for house, beit can mean a house, a temple, a family or a lineage, among other things. In fact, in the prophecy to David, God is making a wordplay using two different meanings of the the word beit. King David had told God that he wanted to build Him a "house", meaning a temple, and God answers instead that He will build him a "house", meaning a family lineage. In Hebrew both meanings are part of the word. So, this gives us a hint that the kind of "house" that Jesus would build will be very different than the Temples that were built before him.

Another thing to note is that God had first commanded his people to build "a house" back when Moses built the tabernacle so that He could be near them. God said, “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them." (Exodus 25:8) The goal of God's sanctuary was for Him to be intimately with His people. God comes to be physically present among his people when the Spirit came to indwell the sanctuary of the tabernacle of Moses, and in the temple of Solomon.

Jesus and His Temple

Jesus often in His ministry talks about the temple, and he makes the key statement that "I will destroy this temple (house) made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” (Mark 14:58). In the gospel of John it says that He was referring to his body, in terms of being raised to life in three days. There is a bigger picture there as well. Through Jesus' death and resurrection He was building a "house" for God of a different type. He was bringing together a "house" of a family of believers who would become that place where God's Spirit dwells.

At Pentecost (Shavuot), the Spirit indwelt the hearts of the believers. The people of the early church would have thought back to the other scenes of the Spirit entering the temple to dwell there. They realized that instead of dwelling in a house made by human hands, the Spirit of God had moved into a new temple, the body of believers, with Jesus as the cornerstone. This picture is found throughout the New Testament:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. (1 Cor. 3:16 - 17)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Cor. 6:19)

What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Cor 6:16)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph. 2:19 - 22)
   
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God,   you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1Pet. 2:4-5)

One thing to note - with only one exception (1 Cor. 6:19), the Temple of God's people does not refer to us individually but of us collectively, as one body. While we all individually have God's Spirit living in us, God's picture of where He wants to dwell with us is as a body of people, not just individually in our hearts. We experience God's presence best not when we are on a mountain alone, but with others who love God and each other.

Now we can see a progression of God's plan to have intimacy with human beings, who forfeited their relationship with Him through sin. First He chose the Israelites, let them use sacrifices for atonement, and dwelt among them in their tabernacle. Then He had Solomon built the Temple, which was to be "a house of prayer for all nations" (Is 56:7). But finally, through the atoning work of Christ and new covenant, God was able to indwell our hearts as His Temple, and achieve His greatest goal of living intimately with His people.

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©2002 Lois A. Tverberg, Ph.D., OurRabbiJesus.com. All of the articles in this series are copyrighted and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of the author. To request permission for use, contact Tverberg@OurRabbiJesus.com.

The Read Through the Bible Commentaries were sent out by email during 2002 and are available in an archive on this site. If you would like to receive the monthly En-Gedi commentary by email, use this form to sign up.



Week 22: 1 Kings 20 - 22, 2 Kings 1 - 12, 2 Corinthians 1 - 5, Psalm 60 - 63

How to Be a Disciple

Last week and this week we are reading about Elijah and Elisha in 1 & 2 Kings. God told Elijah to chose Elisha to succeed him as prophet, and when he called him, Elisha left his home to live with and serve Elijah. It is interesting to discover that the Elijah/Elisha relationship served as a model during Jesus' time of what was expected of the rabbi/disciple relationship. Since Jesus tells us to make disciples out of all nations (and be them ourselves), we will be enriched to understand what exactly was expected of a disciple.

Let's look at Elijah and Elisha's relationship:

So he (Elijah) departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to Elisha and threw his mantle on him. He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and became his attendant. (1 Kings 19:19 - 21)

It appears that when Elisha asks to say good-bye to his family, Elijah's response to be angry because Elisha is delaying answering the calling that God has given him. Elisha responds by burning his plow to show his total commitment to following Elijah, even over supporting his own family. Compare this with a scene from Jesus' life when He is speaking to a would-be disciple:

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9: 61 - 62)

There are interesting parallels here - a potential disciple asks to delay his commitment to following Jesus for the sake of his family, and Jesus gives him a tough reply - that he had to abandon everything to be a part of the kingdom of God. It sounds as if, by alluding to the plow, that he is hinting to the scene when Elisha makes the same request of Elijah.

A disciple was supposed to be utterly devoted to his rabbi - to love him like his own father. He wasn't just supposed to be an academically-oriented student, he was supposed to serve his rabbi. We see this in Elisha when it says that he became Elijah's attendant (1 Kings 19:21). It also tells later about how devoted Elisha was to Elijah: in 2 Kings 2, nothing Elijah would say could make Elisha walk away from him when Elisha knew that Elijah was about to be taken away. Elisha even called Elijah "father" when he saw him go up in a heavenly chariot.

If we see this as a model for the disciples of Jesus, it casts more light on some of the scenes of the gospels. When Peter says "I will never leave you or forsake you", that would have been a reasonable thing for a disciple to say to his beloved master, the rabbi. In contrast, Judas' betrayal would have been unthinkable, even if Jesus had not been the Messiah. When Peter denies Jesus as well, he would have felt terrible also because of the fact that a disciple would never betray or abandon his master.

We can also see some of the context when Jesus is teaching them about service by washing their feet. As His disciples, it was their job to serve Him, not the other way around. He was teaching them a great lesson in humility - that the one most deserving of being served is serving Himself, while they are busy arguing who is the greatest.

Another thing we learn from Elijah and Elisha was that Elisha's goal was to be like Elijah, and he asked for the same prophetic spirit that Elijah had to be poured out on him (2 Kings 2:9). A disciple didn't want to just know what his master knows, he wanted to have the same abilities and passion to serve God too. Elisha served Elijah to see how Elijah lived and to learn to have the same wisdom in each situation. And ultimately, Elisha became Elijah's spiritual successor and able to do miracles too.

Interestingly, this is yet another parallel between Elijah/Elisha and Jesus/disciples stories. After Elijah is taken up into heaven, his mantle falls on Elisha and Elisha receives the ability through the Spirit to do miracles as Elijah did. In the New Testament, a few weeks after the disciples see Jesus ascend to heaven, they receive the Spirit and become able to do miracles themselves as well. We as Jesus' disciples receive the spiritual gifts that allow us to continue serving as the first church did.

Through these two stories, we see many applications for our own lives as Jesus' disciples. We are supposed to be utterly devoted to serving and following Jesus, to love Him more than our own families and our livelihood. Our goal cannot just be to learn all about Him, or treat Him as an academic teacher, but to become like Him ourselves.

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©2002 Lois A. Tverberg, Ph.D., OurRabbiJesus.com. All of the articles in this series are copyrighted and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of the author. To request permission for use, contact Tverberg@OurRabbiJesus.com.

The Read Through the Bible Commentaries were sent out by email during 2002 and are available in an archive on this site. If you would like to receive the monthly En-Gedi commentary by email, use this form to sign up.