Lection Notes
Lection Notes
4th Sunday of Advent
by Michael Phillips

2nd Samuel 7:1-16

It's helpful to understand that this chapter of 2nd Samuel is the heart of the Deuteronomic History, a tale told / recorded in the books beginning with Deuteronomy and concluding with 2nd Kings. In other words, here is the climax of the story. It makes sense of everything that has happened previously, and serves as the explanation of everything that is to follow.[1]

David's enemies have been subdued, and he resides in a palatial home. This shepherd boy has made his mark, with God's help, and now, as he resides in the comfort of a cedar home, imagines God should have a house (rather than a tent) as well.

Instead, God pledges to build David a house (dynasty). From this point forward, the God of Israel, the nation of Israel, and the household of David are forever interlocked (according to DH), in much the same way that God's choice of Abraham changed the lives of his clan, and affected the lives of many clans springing from him into the future created by his faith and God's faithfulness.

DH's (Deuteronomic Historian's) view is precisely in this relationship of "good kings" leading the people into the presence and safety of the Promised Land kept in trust with God for Israel. As long as the king served well, things went well. Should the king fail to observe the terms of the covenant, disaster would eventually overtake the king and people. This finally occurred with the deportation of Jehoiachin in the exile to Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-16). He was the last crowned occupant of the Davidic throne. In 2 Kings 25:27-29, DH takes the time to tell us that Jehoiachin was released from prison, sat (at meals) in the court of the Babylonian King, given a daily allowance (and lived happily ever after). The point of the story seems to be that the lineage continues, even if the crowning ceremonies cease, hence, the promise continues, even if the fruits of that promise are not in evidence, i.e., the adoption is irrevocable.

The result is that Israel awaits a messiah to restore the Davidic Realm of God / Yahweh on behalf of the people of Israel - to reign from the great river to the sea over all the nations (from Jerusalem), establishing justice and peace (Shalom) for all, vindicating all who have trusted / feared / struggled / remained faithful. As Christians our testimony is that God's faithfulness / vindicating power / shalom has been proclaimed in the life death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Messiah in David's line.

Luke 1: 26-38

Here is Luke's fulfillment story of the prophecies / promises regarding the Davidic dynasty. The Messianic Exegesis employed by the gospel writers in order to make sure all the promises found their resolution in Jesus Christ was an ongoing challenge (apparently) for the early church, particularly in relation to the lineage of Jesus. Matthew's gospel recounts the lineage through Joseph. Luke appends son of Joseph (as was thought) and brings the lineage forward yet again. I seem to recall some hype from my charismatic days about the Matthew lineage being Joseph's lineage through a king who had been cursed, while Luke's lineage was Mary's lineage through a king who had not. However, Luke's lineage remains through Joseph, not Mary (perhaps I misheard). It's possible that Joseph's lineage in Matthew and Luke differ in order to trace Joseph's lineage through a different brother, but Luke makes the point moot by saying, parenthetically (as it was thought). I am reminded of the exchange between Jesus and his opponents when he asks, "Whose son is the Messiah?" They answer, "David's." Jesus responds, "How then, does the Scripture say that David said, "The LORD said to my Lord, sit at my right hand.hence, how does David call his supposed son, "my Lord?" Surely the questions surrounding Jesus' legitimacy are coming into play here, but perhaps it's not the point of the pericope at all.

What Luke says is that "The Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.he will reign forever. Clearly, the promise to David's dynasty is now shouldered (for Luke) by Jesus Christ, questions notwithstanding.

The challenge for the preacher will be to find a focus that relates an all too familiar story. I am tempted to surrender this season to the familiarity, and merely relate the promise and fulfillment. Another tack I may pursue is to follow up with the theme of darkness that has occluded the advent season, and suggest that 'nothing is impossible with God," i.e., in the final analysis, there is no door that can be closed that God cannot open, and that our business is to wait in the darkness of our experience for the experience of a promise that never seems to appear in its fullness, and can only be glimpsed (from the backside) with the eyes of faith.

May you all be blessed this Christmas with the light breaking into the world which remains in a darkness that all our Words seek to dispel, and will one day be dispelled by "one little Word" (A Might Fortress).

  1. Emphasis, Volume 32 Number 4, November/December 2002, p. 61

(Comments to Michael at mphillip@epix.net.)

First Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Berwick, Pennsylvania (Susquehanna North Branch)