Bible Tuesday for Advent IV, 2017
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2the 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.” 3Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”
4But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: 5Go and tell my servant 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. 7Wherever 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?” 8Now 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;9and 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. 10And 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, 11from 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. 12When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings.15But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.
This passage is from the story of King David coming to power. Originally, the tribe of Judah sided with David while all the other tribes sided with Saul. It took a while for David to unite the kingdom under himself . Once that was settled, David took his army out and fought against some of Israel’s neighbors to expand Israel’s borders. During that time, David moved Israel’s capitol to Jerusalem and build for himself a “palace” there made of cedar. Heretofore, David and all Israel had been living in tents and the occasional cave, but now David was establishing himself and his kingdom more permanently.
The above text encapsulates the conflict between God and Israelite kings. David sees himself as the king of Israel, while God refers to David as the “prince”. David believes that his might and capabilities have coalesced his kingdom and now allowed him to erect a permanent structure to live in. David wants to build God a house on the same level and of the same material as his house, as if to say, “I’m going to build my buddy, God, as house right next door to mine so that he and I can hang together all the time.”
God responds to David’s hubris by turning the tables. “You think I need you to build me a house when I have all creation in which to dwell, as if it could actually contain me?! You think you are going to build me a little wooden house to live in?! I tell you who is going to build a house! I am going to build a house, a dynasty out of you! Your children after you will sit on this throne forever!”
God also states that David is not to build a Temple to the Lord, but David’s heir. This is such a frustration for David that he procures all of the building materials, prepares Mt. Moriah (aka Mt. Zion) for a construction site, and has the royal architect draw up plans for the Temple, so that when David dies, there is a ready-to-build Temple kit waiting for Solomon.
46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
When the Israelites were following Moses back to the Promised Land, they understood that land to be finite. There were only so many acres and God was going to divvy it up between everyone so that the parceling of land was fair. Israelites thought about wealth and power in the same way, it was finite. If one person was really rich, it was because he had somehow amassed the wealth of others who were now poor. It someone was very powerful, it was because he had somehow usurped the power of others we were now deprived of some of their power. The Year of Jubilee falling every 50 years was meant to be a reset button, re-leveling the playing field of life and redistributing wealth in a more even way.
In former times when the liturgical color of Advent was purple, there was one Sunday of reprieve from this shorter season of repentance, Rose Sunday. The third Sunday of Advent was reserved for Mary, The story of Mary and Elizabeth was read on this Sunday, which was marked with a pink candle on the otherwise purple candled evergreen wreath. Though the theme of Advent has shifted from the purple penitence to blue hope, we still celebrate with Mary on this 3rd Sunday of Advent.
In her Magnificat, Mary speaks an “aha moment”. Gabriel’s announcement, and Elizabeth’s greeting have given Mary eyes to see the Year of Jubilee that God is inaugurating in and with her. All the up-side-downing in her speech is God redistributing wealth and power to bring everyone back into the middle where everyone has enough and no one has too much. Because, in the Kingdom of God, all peoples’ needs are satisfied to empower them to love and satisfy the needs of others.
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 26but 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— 27to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.
These final words of Paul’s letter to the congregation in Rome are not likely Paul’s words. Some ancient manuscripts don’t have these words, while others have them inserted into other places in the book of Romans. The fact that these words are missing from many manuscripts and that these words are a doxology suggest that Paul’s letter to the congregation in Rome was used in the earliest Christian worship services.
Whether Paul wrote them or not is mute, the continue the themes most important to Paul: 1) Paul’s proclamation is gospel, the gospel of Jesus, son of God, 2) Jesus being God in the flesh is the ultimate revelation of the mystery of God, a mystery spoken about in the words of the prophets, 3) the mystery of God’s salvation for creation is made available to all, both Jew and Gentile, 4) faith is the key to participation in God’s fulfillment of all promises.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He 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. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The 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. 36And 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. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then 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.
The angel, Gabriel, is named in the Hebrew Scriptures, most often in the book of Daniel. It is he who leads God’s army. But in this passage of the gospel of Luke, Gabriel wages war for God in a whole new way, by announcing the conception of God in the Flesh, Jesus. The “lucky lady” is Mary who is described as a “virgin”.
The Greek parthena, and the Hebrew almah, are translated as “virgin” in English. Both parthena and almah mean young, unmarried woman. There has been debate on whether young and unmarried actually meant “virgin”. In the days when women were stoned for premarital sex, whether consensual or not, being young and unmarried was synonymous with being a virgin. Therefore, I believe Mary was not only young and unmarried, but also a virgin when God miraculously implanted in her the pregnancy which was Jesus.
Gabriel’s message announcing Mary’s pregnancy is full of references to Hebrew Scriptures. The books of Isaiah, Daniel, Samuel, are all either alluded to or quoted directly in Gabriel’s short proclamation.
While Mary seems puzzled and frightened by Gabriel’s words, the news that Elizabeth is also pregnant appears to help Mary accept the angel’s miraculous annunciation. What is most astounding, most endearing to me is Mary’s response, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your w