Old Testament Readings: 2 Samuel 6-12; 1 Chronicles 13-20
The readings in 2 Samuel present David’s early kingship. Having consolidated the nation under his rule (2 Samuel 5), David now brings the ark of God to Jerusalem as a sign of God’s presence and blessing (2 Sam 6). A disturbing event occurs in transit, when Uzzah reaches out to steady the ark and the Lord strikes him down for transgressing the sacred holiness of the object (2 Sam 6:6-8). David’s reaction of fear and insecurity clouds the day’s festivity and perhaps portends the later challenges David will face in his rule. The king has been reminded of the Lord’s holiness takes precedence over every human plan.
This same festive procession reveals tension or ill will in David’s house. David exuberantly welcomes the ark to Jerusalem, “leaping and dancing before the Lord” (6:16), while “Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window . . . and . . . despised him in her heart” (6:17). In private she takes him to task: “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself” (6:20). The narrator’s description of Michal as “the daughter of Saul” instead of “the wife of David” suggests an unresolved tension between Saul’s line and David’s, confirmed by David’s curt response that “the Lord . . . chose me above your father and above all his house” (6:21). The implicit threat that Saul’s line will return to power finds its answer in v.23: “And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.” [See ch.9 for another strand of this concern about Saul’s descendents.]
After securing the ark, David turns toward providing an even greater symbol of God’s enduring blessing in Jerusalem. David expresses the desire to build a home for the ark and hence a house for God: “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent” (7:2). Such a project would no doubt serve David well, conferring a sense of God’s power on his rule. But the Lord neither needs nor desires such a dwelling. Instead of David’s building God a house, “the Lord will make you a house”: “I will raise up your offspring after you . . . and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (7:11-13). This promise of the enduring line of David becomes increasingly important to Israel moving forward, providing assurance in the face of the threats, invasions, and exile that will come.
An external conflict, the war with the Ammonites (chh. 10-12), serves as the frame for a greater internal threat, David’s sin with Bathsheba. The narration suggests that David’s power has allowed him to adopt an unhealthy leisure: “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel. . . . But David remained at Jerusalem” (11:1). The story portrays the ugliness of David’s lust and power. He uses his regal authority to claim Bathsheba, knowing that she in another’s wife (11:3-4). His violation is not only moral but also sacred, since “she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness” (11:4). When Bathsheba sends word to the king of her pregnancy, David calls her husband, Uriah the Hittite, home from battle. David deviously invites Uriah to spend the night at home, hoping to provide a plausible explanation for the pregnancy. But Uriah’s honor exceeds David’s dishonor, and he refuses the comforts of home while his comrades remain in battle. David must go further to solve the problem, so he arranges with Joab the commander to have Uriah placed at the battle front, then exposed so he will die (12:14-21). The story dramatizes the compounding nature of sin, which demands increasing efforts to sustain and exacts increasing costs at every stage.
Though David tries to hide his sin, “the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (11:27). See how the prophet Nathan artfully traps David into a judgment against himself with his story of the rich man’s theft of the poor man’s lamb (12:1-7). Even though he has enjoyed all of God’s provision for him, David has used his power to subvert God’s will. Ironically, the one who rules in God’s name has violated that same rule himself. The judgment against David is painful: “the sword shall never depart from your house” (12:10), “your neighbor . . . shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun” (12:11) and “the child who is born to you shall die” (12:13). David’s rule will never regain its luster, and the remaining stories bear out this judgment of God against his wayward servant.
The readings in 1 Chronicles largely follow the outline of the readings in 2 Samuel, but the author’s intent to amplify David’s legacy creates some notable differences. The Chronicler omits the references to Saul’s descendants, making it seem as if David’s early rule was smooth and unthreatened by conflict. The book details the liturgical celebration of the ark’s arrival in Jerusalem, including a list of the worship leaders (1 Chronicles 15:16-28) and the text of David’s song of thanksgiving (1 Chron.16:8-36; see Psalms 105:1-15, 96:1-13, and 106:47-48). Most impressively, the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba—so important to the theological message in 2 Samuel--gets no mention.
New Testament Readings: Acts 23-27
Reading these chapters is like watching episodes of a television courtroom drama. Through speeches and procedural descriptions, the reader follows Paul as he faces the twin threats of Jewish enmity and Roman judgment. At each ascending step Paul adeptly addresses his inquisitors, wisely presenting himself and faithfully representing the gospel. Each forum could be the place where Paul’s journey ends, but by God’s providence the destination is clear. Paul will go to Rome, his case to be heard by Caesar and the gospel to be declared in the capital of the world’s ruling empire.
The setting of each stage of this story describes the essential path of the gospel through Jewish and Roman culture. Paul’s defense starts in Jerusalem to the Jewish leaders in the Sanhedrin (Acts 23), then proceeds to Caesarea and the Roman governor Felix, then to his successor Festus, and finally the Jewish King Agrippa.
Throughout these chapters Luke ensures a consistent affirmation of the gospel: In his defense Paul emphasizes the gospel’s continuity with Jewish belief. Paul identifies himself as a faithful Jew (22:3; 23:1,5,6; 24:14-16; 26:4-7). His belief in resurrection squares with his identity as a Pharisee. Despite the claims of the Jewish leaders, the authorities find no fault with Paul. Seeing the matter as a dispute within Jewish religion, they deem the gospel no threat to civic peace. Agrippa, the Jewish king, voices the definitive judgment: “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment” (26:31).
While this process fails to substantiate the charges against Paul, it also fails to exonerate him. Felix and Festus indulge the arguments of the Jews and choose not oppose them outright. Their inaction protracts the legal process. Paul’s status as a Roman citizen takes him from Jerusalem into the Romans’ jurisdiction (23:27) and eventually allows him to appeal his case to Caesar himself (25:10-12). As tortuous as this process is, it provides the unlikely opportunity for the gospel to engage the highest and greatest power in the world, fulfilling the promise of the Lord in an appearance to Paul: “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (23:11). Even the great storms and shipwreck in chapter 27 cannot frustrate God’s will. This divine appointment will fulfill the promise of the resurrected Jesus at the beginning of Acts: “you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (1:8).
Psalms: 60, 132, 89, 51, 32
The headnote of Psalm 60 links it to the military conquest of David in 2 Samuel 8:1-14. It offers communal lament for the hardships of war and asserts the belief, both negatively (v.10) and positively (v.12) that God’s presence is necessary for the nation’s protection and military success.
Psalm 132 celebrates the rule of David and centrality of Zion, the mountain upon which the Temple rests. The psalm starts by recalling David’s singular focus to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem (vv.1-8), then asserts the Lord’s promise of an eternal rule for David’s line (vv.11-12), connecting it to our reading in 2 Samuel 7:8-16.
Psalm 89 likewise recalls God’s covenant with David, celebrating the steadfast love by which the Lord created the world (vv.5-18) and established David’s rule (vv.19-37). Verses 38-48 explore the painful sense that God has abandoned the people and rescinded the promise—perhaps a sign that this psalm was written during or after Israel’s exile. The psalm ends by calling upon the Lord to live up to the divine word and restore the promised rule.
Psalm 51 stands as the best-known psalm of penitence in scripture. The headnote ascribes it to David after his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), but the psalm insightfully describes the experience of repentance and the desire for a new beginning with God. The speaker is abject before the Lord yet confidently seeks a restoration that only God can provide: “a new heart,” “a right spirit,” and “the joy of your salvation” (vv.10,12).
Psalm 32 is another penitential psalm. The experience of unconfessed sin (vv.3-4) creates unrelieved distress. When we acknowledge our sin and do not cover our iniquity (v.5), we not only receive the forgiveness we seek and the relief we need. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin in covered” (v.1). Amen!