When you were in school, did you ever read an abridged version of a book for class? In my day, there were “Clif’s Notes”, but summaries of classic novels can be quickly found on the Internet today. When I was a kid, I also remember having little versions of classic novels, which could be read to get the gist of the story, but were a lot shorter than the full version.
Here’s what I wonder: Did you ever read an abridged version of a book, and then later read the whole thing? Whether you got caught in class by not knowing the details, or an excerpt piqued your interest, did you decide to dive in and read the real thing? I suppose that whenever we read a review (of a book, TV show, or movie), and then decide to try it out, we get the same experience.
When this happens, the full version is typically at least a little different from the shortened version. When portions of the author’s original details are left out, we end up with a different point of view, and sometimes a completely different story.
Let’s take a look at 2 Samuel chapter 7. In order to work up to the verse in question, we should have some context: 2 Samuel 7:1 sets up the baseline of this chapter: David has a palace for himself (in Jerusalem), and he is no longer obliged to fight with his enemies.
Matthew Henry writes (in the Shakespearean language of his day), “When God, in his providence, gives us rest, and finds us little to do of worldly business, we must do so much the more for God and our souls. How different were the thoughts of David when he sat in his palace from Nebuchadnezzar’s when he walked in his! Dan. 4:29, 30.”
In verse 2, David tells Nathan the prophet (who will be rebuking David a few chapters later, for David’s sins with Bathsheba and her husband) that he – David – wants to build a temple for God. That tent that David had set up for the ark seemed “less than” David’s palace, and perhaps he was feeling a little guilty.
Nathan tells the king to do what he wants, and even gives him a blessing, but God has a different message for David, which God gives to Nathan “that night”. God points out that He doesn’t need a house, and has never asked for a structure like David’s palace. A colleague of mine said once that maybe he was being “too helpful”, in trying to proactively do something for his wife: something that she had not requested! I kind of see David as being like that here, as he tried to do things for God that God didn’t need.
I’d like to call attention to verse 17, though:
Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.
2 Samuel 7:17 NIV
It would be easy enough to skim over this verse. After all, Nathan did what he was told; that is, Nathan acted according to what he had been told to do by God. Check!
However, I think that there’s some significance to the completeness with which Nathan gave this message. He reported “all the words”, and “this entire revelation”. Not a few. Not some. Not most. Not even the general intent of the message, retold in Nathan’s own words (or with his “spin” on things).
That is pretty important whenever we share God’s message to others. While I’m not saying that evangelism or discipleship entails quoting the entire Bible to someone (which would probably take hours, if not days), it is important that we consider the entirety of God’s word.
I suppose that if one of us was clearly told by God to give a message to someone else, it would be foolish not to do so. In that light, how about the command from God found in Matthew 28:19-20? Jesus told His disciples to teach others “to obey everything I have commanded you” – not just some things, but everything.
So, regardless of how God’s message to others comes to you, let’s be sure that we’re acting like Nathan, and reporting “all the words” and the “entire” message!
In addition, the same principle applies to those of us (which I hope is all of us) who read and study God’s message on our own. It’s almost become trite to suggest that followers of Jesus (myself included) would like to focus on certain passages that we like, and ignore or downplay others. After all, sins that we struggle with aren’t fun to revisit, and commands that we don’t want to follow aren’t the ones that we enjoy re-reading. Still, it is true: when we have a choice of what to read from the Bible, we probably have preferences as to where we gravitate towards.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 reminds us that all Scripture is useful, though. (If you believe that this is only referring to the scriptures that Timothy – the recipient of that letter – had access to at the time, then you still have a lot to study!)
So, I encourage you to consider a Bible reading plan that takes you through the entire Bible, or start a Bible Study – whether on your own, or with others – in a book of the Bible that you don’t know much about. Some parts may be more directly applicable to you than others, but all of God’s Worth is worth taking in and sharing with others.
From Sunday School Lesson for June 6, 2021
- The Lookout, June 2021, © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Matthew Henry. 1706, via BibleGateway.com.