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Bible Study: Advent 4 (B) – 2014

December 21, 2014

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

We find David dwelling in his house, the Lord having given him rest from his enemies. Notice, this is not something that David wanted: “The Lord gave him rest.” We read that David wanted to build a house for the Lord. This may be a gesture of thanksgiving on the part of David, but even at that, it is presumptuous that David will build a house for the Lord. God answers David through the prophet, Nathan, and makes it clear that it has been God who took the shepherd, David, and made him king. It is God who will create a stable place in which the people of Israel will live. It is God who will “give you rest from all your enemies” and it is God who will build David a house. This house will be “established forever.”

From this we are to understand several things: Greatness is a gift from God; we do not accomplish greatness without God; greatness is accomplished through us and for us by God; God promises to work great things through us.

Most importantly, we must realize that we can do nothing to build up the Lord. The only building that can take place is when we turn to the Lord. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 126:1).

  • How does secular society understand greatness and building?
  • How do you understand what are considered to be great accomplishments in the secular world?
  • How do you understand the House of David in the context of being established forever?
  • Who is the House of David? Are we members?

Canticle 15 (Luke 1:46-55), the Magnificat

Mary has accepted what Gabriel has told her. She has literally accepted Christ in her life.

Notice the great amount of vertical motion in this passage. Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord. Another translation of the Greek word Μεγαλύνει is “to cause to be held in greater esteem through praise or deed, to exalt, glorify, speak highly of.” Mary’s soul exults, raises up praises to the Lord. She refers to her lowly state, yet she knows that she will be called blessed forever.

God’s mercy is on those who fear him. God puts down the mighty and raises up those of low degree. Finally, notice that the cause of all of this motion is the one mighty downward motion of God: God became incarnate in Mary.

  • How can we magnify the Lord in our daily lives?
  • Can you see the vertical motion described in the Magnificat in the world today?

Romans 16:25-27

These three verses are packed with potent words and thoughts. God strengthens us according to Paul’s gospel and the preachings of Jesus Christ. All of this is the “revelation of the mystery which was kept secret … but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the nations.”

It is important to appreciate Paul’s background, steeped in the teachings of the Hebrew Bible. He is noting the link between the prophetic writings and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul frames all of this as being the “command of the eternal God.” The purpose of this command is to “bring about the obedience of faith.”

What is the obedience of faith? If we consider that faith is the presence of Jesus in the believer, we then must look at the obedience of Jesus: “He, though he was in the form of God … emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7). Paul concludes this letter to the Romans by saying God’s purpose for us is to be empowered by the presence of Jesus in our lives to be servants of all. This servitude is the offering of love, hope, kindness and mercy to all. We are strengthened by God (v. 25) to do this.

  • Can you look at the prophetic writings and see how what may have seemed to be mysterious or hidden has now been disclosed for all nations through the gospel?
  • How can you better serve God’s purpose by serving others more each day?

Luke 1:26-38

In this beloved passage, we learn how Mary receives the news that she is to be the mother of our Lord Jesus. Upon being told that she was “favored,” Mary was “greatly troubled.”

We don’t know what she was thinking, but it may have involved her wondering, “Why me? Who am I? Will I measure up to what is about to take place?”

We do know she questioned how she would conceive since she was betrothed but still a virgin: a practical question. Gabriel assuages her doubt with the example of Elizabeth’s pregnancy though she was advanced in age and had been barren. Most importantly, though, he proclaims, “For with God nothing is impossible” (v. 37).

Mary, empowered by faith, not at all unlike the faith of Abram (Genesis 15:6), believes and offers herself as God’s handmaiden, fully committed to serve.

  • Mary didn’t earn her favored status; she was chosen. Do you consider yourself favored (chosen) by God in any way? What are you doing about it?
  • Gabriel assured Mary that “for God, nothing is impossible.” As we approach the celebration of the Incarnation of the Word – the birth of Jesus – how can you be strengthened by this assurance and offer it to others?

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Christopher Sikkema


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