Daily Bible Readings — Friday, October 26, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 31

Prayer Point: It is easy to believe that God has abandoned us when bad times come. That’s why we need psalms like this one. You are listening to the cries of a forsaken man who refuses to surrender his faith. He will not give up. Who is he? He is one who said, “into your hands I commit my spirit” as he hung from a cross (Luke 23:46). Pray this psalm on behalf of someone you know who wants to give up. Pray that they (or you) might truly know that God has entered our suffering through Jesus Christ so that one day we might be set free.

Gospel: Luke 10:38-42, Old Testament: Ezra 3:1-13, Sirach 11:2-20*,  New Testament: Revelation 9:13-21

*Sirach is a Jewish holy book written about 100 years before the coming of Christ.  It is not considered to be Scripture by the Jewish faith nor our tradition, but the book is still worth reading.  We offer Sirach in addition to the Old Testament readings.

Luke 10:38-42

What makes Mary’s choice better than her sister’s?  What “one thing” did she recognize?  What can this tell us about the way we schedule our lives?

Revelation 9:13-21

Jesus, the lamb of God who was slain and now lives, is the one who is worthy to open God’s scroll (see Revelation 5:1-2) and set into motion God’s plan to judge evil, rescue his people and establish his kingdom on earth where he will live with his people in peace forever.  The judgments of God are divided into seven trumpets.  In chapter 8 we were introduced to trumpets one through four, trumpet  five was sounded in the first half of chapter 9  and in today’s reading we hear the sixth.

Just as the demons were released from the Abyss to inflict judgment on the earth (see Revelation 9:1-3) so now four more fallen angels are released to carry out God’s will. What are these fallen angels released to carry out? What did the surviving two-thirds of unbelieving humanity refuse to do?

We see another tie to the Exodus which tells the story of God’s judgment on Egypt which freed his people Israel. An opportunity to repent was offered after each plague was inflicted on Egypt, but Pharaoh hardened his heart and rejected God’s gracious offer. Unfortunately this is also true of the unbelieving world.

Sirach 11:2-20                 Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Sirach
Chapter 11
Verses  2-20

2 Do not praise individuals for their good looks,
or loathe anyone because of appearance alone
3 The bee is small among flying creatures,
but what it produces is the best of sweet things.
4 Do not boast about wearing fine clothes,
and do not exalt yourself when you are honored;
for the works of the LORD are wonderful
and his works are concealed from humankind.
5 Many kings have had to sit on the ground,
but one who was never thought of has worn a crown.
6 Many rulers have been utterly disgraced,
and the honored have been handed over to others.

7 Do not find fault before you investigate;
examine first, and then criticize.
8 Do not answer before you listen,
and do not interrupt when another is speaking.
9 Do not argue about a matter that does not concern you,
and do not sit with sinners when they judge a case.

10 My child, do not busy yourself with many matters;
if you multiply activities, you will not be held blameless.
If you pursue, you will not overtake,
and by fleeing you will not escape.
11 There are those who work and struggle and hurry,
but are so much the more in want.
12 There are others who are slow and need help,
who lack strength and abound in poverty;
but the eyes of the LORD look kindly upon them;
he lifts them out of their lowly condition
13 and raises up their heads
to the amazement of the many.

14 Good things and bad, life and death,
poverty and wealth, come from the LORD.
[15 Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of the law come from the LORD;
affection and the ways of good works come from him.
16 Error and darkness were created with sinners;
evil grows old with those who take pride in malice.]
17 The LORD’s gift remains with the devout,
and his favor brings lasting success.
18 One becomes right through diligence and self-denial,
and the reward allotted to him in this:
19 when he says, “I have found rest,
and now I shall feast on my goods!”
he does not know how long it will be
until he leaves them to others an dies.

20 Stand by your agreement and attend to it,
and grow in your work.

We all know that while we are usually impressed by appearance, it is never a good policy to trust in it completely.  Way back in 1 Samuel the LORD was looking for a replacement king for Saul who proved a sore disappointment.  This is what he tells Samuel when he was reviewing the sons of Jesse: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV)

“One becomes rich through diligence and self-denial, and the reward allotted to him is this: when he says, ‘I have found rest, and now I shall feast on my goods!’ he does not know how long it will be until he leaves them to others and dies.” (Sirach 11:18-19 NRSV)  Jesus addressed this same issue: “And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.  He thought to himself, “What shall I do?  I have no place to store my crops.”  Then he said, “This is what I’ll do.  I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of goods laid up for many years.  Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, “You fool! this very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”  This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.'”  (Luke 12:16-21 NIV)

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Daily Bible Readings — Thursday, October 25, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 37

Prayer Point:  The perceived prosperity of the wicked may be one of the greatest challenges to our faith. Psalm 37 urges us to see the world from God’s perspective, and to trust/wait/delight in God. Confess your fears to God. Tell him about the specific things that get you angry. Meditate on the world as God sees it and pray for the faith to trust him today.

Gospel: Luke 10:25-37, Old Testament: Ezra 1:1-11, Sirach 10:1-18*, New Testament: Revelation 9:1-12

*Sirach is a Jewish holy book written about 100 years before the coming of Christ.  It is not considered to be Scripture by the Jewish faith nor our tradition, but the book is still worth reading.  We offer Sirach in addition to the Old Testament readings.

Luke 10:25-37

What must I do to inherit eternal life?  What does it take to be right with God? How does the Law answer this question? What two things are required?

Why would the law expert be interested in finding out who his neighbor was?

Many rabbis in Jesus’ day excluded enemies from the category of neighbor. Therefore “love your neighbor, but hate your enemy” was a common teaching of the day. Samaritans most certainly would have been considered enemies.

How does the story of the Good Samaritan give a different answer to this question?

Who would Jesus say is your neighbor? Do you live up to this standard?

Revelation 9:1-12

Jesus, the lamb of God who was slain and now lives, is the one who is worthy to open God’s scroll (see Revelation 5:1-2) and set into motion God’s plan to judge evil, rescue his people and establish his kingdom on earth where he will live with his people in peace forever.  The judgments of God are divided into seven trumpets.  In chapter 8 we were introduced to trumpets one through four, in chapter 9 we will hear trumpets five and six.

Here are some definitions that might help you understand what you are reading:

“Star that had fallen from the sky to earth.”  – Satan, see Luke 10:18)
Abyss – “Realm of demons over which Satan rules” (NIGTC Commentary on Revelation by Greg Beale)
Locusts – demons.

Who or what is released from the Abyss? Why is it significant that Jesus must open the seal before the powers are released from the Abyss?  Is there anything Satan can do without God’s permission? Who are the demons allowed to afflict? Who are they forbidden to touch (see Revelation 7:3-4)? What are they not allowed to do?

While we must pray, “deliver us from the evil one,” we must not grant evil powers it does not have.  Revelation tells us that in a broken world, God is still king.

The fifth trumpet is now completed. “The first woe is past; two other woes [trumpets six and seven] are yet to come.”

Sirach 10:1-18                 Rulers and later Pride

Sirach
[Verses in brackets are not found in the original Hebrew text.]

Chapter 10
Verses  1-18

1 A wise magistrate educates his people,
and the rule of an intelligent person is well ordered.
2 As the people’s judge is, so are his officials;
as the ruler of the city is, so are all its inhabitants.
3 An undisciplined king ruins his people,
but a city becomes fit to live in through the
understanding of its rulers.
4 The government of the earth is in the hand of the LORD,
and over it he will raise up the right leader for the time.
5 Human success is in the hand of the LORD,
and it is he who confers honor upon the lawgiver.

6 Do not get angry with your neighbor for every injury,
and do not resort to acts of insolence.
7 Arrogance is hateful to the LORD and to mortals,
and injustice is outrageous to both.
8 Sovereignty passes form nation to nation
on account of injustice and insolence and wealth.
[Nothing is more wicked than one who loves money
for such a person puts his own soul up for sale.]
9 How can dust and ashes be proud?
Even in life the human body decays.
10 A long illness baffles the physician;
the king of today will die tomorrow.
11For when one is dead
he inherits maggots an vermin and worms.
12 The beginning of human pride is to forsake the LORD;
the heart has withdrawn from it Maker
13 For the beginning of pride is sin,
and the one who clings to it pours out abominations.
Therefore the LORD brings upon them unheard-of calamities,
and destroys them completely.
14The Lord overthrows the thrones of rulers,
and enthrones the lowly in their place.
15 The LORD plucks up the roots of the nations,
and plants the humble in their place.
16 The LORD lays waste the lands of the nations,
and destroys them to the foundations of the earth.
17 He removes some of them and destroys them,
and erases the memory of them from the earth.
18 Pride was not created for human beings,
or violent anger for those born of women.

What does Sirach say about the ruler?  (“As the people’s judge is, so are his officials; as the ruler of the city is, so are its inhabitants.” (Sirach 10:2 NRSV))

In whose hand is the government of the earth?  (“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…” (Psalm 24:1 NIV)  “The government of the earth is in the hand of the LORD and over it he will raise up the right leader for the time” (Sirach 10:4 NRSV))

What does Sirach say about arrogance and injustice? (“Arrogance is hateful to the LORD and to mortals, and injustice is outrageous to both.” (Sirach 10:7 NRSV))

What reasons does Sirach give for sovereignty passing from nation to nation? (“Sovereignty passes from nation to nation on account of injustice and insolence and wealth.” (Sirach 10:8 NRSV))

What is the beginning of human pride?  (“The beginning of human pride is to forsake the LORD; the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.  The beginning of pride is sin and the one who clings to it pours out abominations.” (Sirach 10:12-13a NRSV))

Which of these verses could have been quoted by Mary when Gabriel announced to her that she was to be the mother of the Savior?  (Verse Sirach 10:14: “The LORD overthrows the thrones of rulers, and enthrones the lowly in their place.” Compare with: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” (Luke 2:52 NIV))

Daily Bible Readings — Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 38

Prayer Point:  Will God save us from the consequences of our own sin? Psalm 38 is proof that he does. In this psalm God will save us not only from the suffering due to others’ sin, but also the struggles that come from our own failures. What are you struggling with today?  Confess your part in them to God, but also boldly ask him to save you.

Gospel: Luke 10:17-24, Old Testament: Lamentations 2:8-15, Sirach 7:4-14*, New Testament: Revelation 8:1-13

*Sirach is a Jewish holy book written about 100 years before the coming of Christ.  It is not considered to be Scripture by the Jewish faith nor our tradition, but the book is still worth reading.  We offer Sirach in addition to the Old Testament readings.

Luke 10:17-24

Jesus trained his disciples taking them through the following steps:
Stage 1: You watch me, while I do my ministry.
Stage 2: You do the ministry and I will watch.

The disciples have just graduated into stage 2 of their training. They’ve been sent out to heal the sick and preach the kingdom of God, the very things they had watched Jesus do. Today’s reading begins with the excitement of their return.

Why are they so thrilled? Why do you think Jesus calls them to rejoice in their standing with God rather than the results of their ministry?

Where is Satan now according to this passage? How does this give hope to the disciples, considering that Satan was formerly the prosecutor of heaven?

How does Jesus feel about what he has passed on to his disciples? I don’t think we can fully appreciate the significance of what the disciples have just received. The kings and prophets of Israel longed to see the Kingdom of God break into our broken world. The disciples are seeing the first waves of God’s great invasion of love. The sick are healed and demons are cast out. These are a taste of what is coming, a world without evil and death.

Revelation 8:1-13

Chapter 8 opens with Jesus opening the seventh seal, which begs the question, the seventh seal of what? The answer lies back in Revelation 5.  In Revelation 5:1 we see a scroll with seven seals at the right hand of God the Father. The scroll can best be understood as a Roman will, which was a document that was made in the presence of legal witnesses and sealed with seven seals (My thanks to my old New Testament professor, Dr. Greg Beale for this one.  There is no way I would have ever figured that one out.)  The seals of the will could not be broken nor the scroll opened, until the death of the will’s testator.  If you look back at chapter 5, you’ll notice that all heaven weeps because there is no one is who worthy to open the scroll until a lamb, looking as if it had been slain, steps forward.  That lamb, Jesus, is worthy to open the scroll.  Now in chapter 8 Jesus will open the seventh and final seal.

So what is in this scroll? The scroll represents God’s plan to rid the world of evil, establish his kingdom on earth, and rescue his people.  Now that God’s people have been sealed for their protection (see Revelation 7), God’s judgment is ready to begin. Each judgment of God is announced by a trumpet sounded by an angel. There will be seven trumpets and judgments in all, four in this chapter and two in the next.

How is the earth affected by God’s judgment? Why do you think his judgment is so severe? Compare these judgments to the plagues that hit Egypt (see Exodus chapter 7-11).

Sirach 7:4-14      Miscellaneous Advice

Sirach
[Verses in brackets are not found in the original Hebrew text.]

Chapter 7
Verses  4-14

4 Do not seek from the LORD high office,
or the seat of honor from the king.
5 Do not assert your righteousness before the LORD,
or display your wisdom before he king.
6 Do not seek to become a judge,
or you may be unable to root out injustice;
you may be partial to the powerful,
and so mar your integrity.
7 Commit no offense against the public,
and do not disgrace yourself among the people.

8 Do not commit a sin twice;
not even for one will you go unpunished.
9 Do not say, “He will consider the great number of my gifts,
and when I make an offering to the Most High God,
he will accept it.”
10 Do not grow weary when you pray;
do not neglect to give alms.
11 Do not ridicule a person who is embittered in spirit,
for there is One who humbles and exalts.
12 Do not devise a lie against your brother,
or do the same to a friend.
13 Refuse to utter any lie,
for it is a habit that results in no good.
14 Do not babble in the assembly of the elders,
and do not repeat yourself when you pray.

There is one theme that I could discern among these verses and that is humility.  Don’t seek high office; do not assert your righteousness; do not disgrace yourself among the people…

How can one not commit a sin more than once?  All sins will be punished but what must one be cautious of?  (One has to guard against presumption.)

Sirach encourages us to persevere in prayer and to give to the poor.   Verse 7:11 reminds me of what Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”  Sirach gives us the reason why.

I am guilty of repeating myself in my prayers from one day to the next (Sirach 7:14).  I think that we are encouraged not to give up in our petitions and therefore we may end up repeating ourselves.

Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday, March 23, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 26

Prayer Point: Does Psalm 26 describe your life? It doesn’t describe mine. Jesus is the only one man who can pray this prayer with integrity. I can imagine him praying this as he was crucified between two thieves. He is the one who lived a blameless life on our behalf. He is the one bore the punishment for our failures. We are heard by God, not because of what he have done, but because of who we belong to. Use this psalm to praise God for the grace he showed us through Jesus.

Gospel: Luke 10:1-16 Old Testament: Lamentations 1:1-12, Sirach 6:5-17* New Testament: Revelation 7:9-17

*Sirach is a Jewish holy book written about 100 years before the coming of Christ.  It is not considered to be Scripture by the Jewish faith nor our tradition, but the book is still worth reading.  We offer Sirach in addition to the Old Testament readings.

Luke 10:1-16

The disciples had spent months observing Jesus. Now, seventy two others (not the original 12 disciples) are ready to be sent out to do what Jesus had been doing.

What hope does Jesus give his disciples as he sends them out and what are they to ask for (verse 2)? What warning does he give them in verse 3? What provisions are they to take with them? Why do you think Jesus commanded them to be dependent upon the kindness of strangers?  How will the disciples know where to go and how long to stay? What kind of person are they looking for?

We think of houses as buildings with walls, a roof, and a garage.  Luke’s understanding of “house” was not so much the building, but a community of people, family, extended family, friends, and neighbors.  In other words a house = a social network.  A man of peace is someone who is open to Jesus (he may not yet be a believer) and welcomes the disciples of Jesus to come into their social network and share the gospel.

What two things are the disciples commanded to do when they entered a house? Compare this to the authority Jesus gave his twelve disciples in Luke 9:1. What are the disciples to say to the people of the house (social network) that they have entered? (see verse 9)

“Woe to you” is a phrase typical of Jewish prophets announcing God’s judgment.  Korazin and Bethsaida were Jewish towns.  Tyre and Sidon were foreign cities.  Note the irony.  Why would judgment be so harsh on the city of Capernaum?  (Think about where Jesus did most of his ministry).

Who are the disciples representing?  If the disciples are rejected, who is ultimately being rejected?

Revelation 7:9-17

In yesterday’s reading (Revelation 7:1-8) we saw that God “sealed” his people so that they might persevere through suffering with God’s protection.

At the end of God’s judgment who is left standing (see verse 9)? What do you notice about God’s people? Where are these people from? What are they doing? Why are they singing?

Where do the singers get their white robes? What will Jesus, the Lamb, do for his people who suffered patiently for so long? What hope would this have given John and the seven churches who were all experiencing persecution?

Sirach 6:5-17                               Friendship, False and True

Sirach
[Verses in brackets are not found in the original Hebrew text.]

Chapter 6
Verses  5-17

5 Pleasant speech multiplies friends,
and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies
6 Let those who are friendly with you be many,
but let your advisers be one in a thousand.
7 When you gain friends, gain them through testing,
and do not trust them hastily.
8 For there are friends who are such when it suits them,
but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.
9 And there are friends who change into enemies,
and tell of the quarrel to your disgrace.
10 And there are friends who sit at your table,
but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.
11 When you are prosperous, they become your second self,
and lord it over your servants;
12 but if you are brought low, they turn against you,
and hide themselves from you.
13 Keep away from your enemies,
and be on guard with your friends.

14 Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter;
whoever finds one has found a treasure.
15 Faithful friends are beyond price;
no amount can balance their worth.
16 Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
and those who fear the LORD will find them.
17 Those who fear the LORD direct their friendship aright,
for as they are, so are their neighbors also.

“Let those who are friendly with you be many, but let your advisers be one in a thousand.” (Sirach 6:6 NRSV).  Why, do you suppose, Sirach would give this kind of advice?  (“Your best friends won’t tell you, but I will,” about sums up this advice.  Friends may prove reluctant to impart bad news or to disagree.  It is always better to know the unvarnished truth than to be ignorant of it.)
What does Sirach say about trusting friends?  (Sirach tells us that trust is something to be earned.  He calls it “testing”.)

What is the famous rendering of verses 6:8-12?  (These are known as “fair weather friends”.)

Sirach seems to have had some issues with his friends; he seems to be untrusting.  Does verse 6:13 actually sound like good advice?  (Not to me!  One has to reach a point of trusting others.  To be suspicious of one’s friends speaks of the lack of depth of the relationship.  Clearly “friends” in these verses [7:5-13] are false friends.)

What does Sirach say about “faithful friends”? (Sirach 6:14-17)  (“Faithful friends are beyond price no amount can balance their worth.”  That about sums it up!  One of Solomon’s proverbs puts it this way: “The kisses of an enemy may be profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend.” (Proverbs 27:6 NIV)  Please understand that the wounds mentioned here are inflicted by the friend.  If a friend needs to touch your heart, the experience may prove somewhat painful.  Remember: the truth won’t kill you but it may hurt a great deal.)

Daily Bible Readings – Monday October 22, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 25
Prayer Point:  “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.” Are we ready to pray this? Are there areas of our lives that we will not lift up to God? Confess those parts of your life to God and pray for the faith to believe that “all the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful.”

Gospel: Luke 9:51-62 Old Testament: Jeremiah 44:1-14, Sirach 4:20-5:7* New Testament: Revelation 7:1-8
*Sirach is a Jewish holy book written about 100 years before the coming of Christ.  It is not considered to be Scripture by the Jewish faith nor our tradition, but the book is still worth reading.  We offer Sirach in addition to the Old Testament readings.

Luke 9:51-62

The rift between Jews and Samaritans went back centuries when Israel was divided into two kingdoms, northern and southern.  The Jews were descended from the Southern Kingdom whereas the Samaritans were the remnants of the Northern Kingdom. Very early on in the split, the Northern Kingdom built their own temples to discourage their people from traveling south to the temple in Jerusalem. (Note the reason the Samaritans rejected Jesus in verse 53 and John 4:19-20.) These temples were not authorized by God and were rightly rejected by the Jews.  The problem was that their ‘rightness’ degenerated into national pride as they despised their cousins to the north regarding them as half-breeds and religious sellouts.

Does Jesus share his disciples’ desire to call down God’s judgment on the Samaritans? What does this tell us about Jesus’ attitudes towards sinners even if they are indeed worthy of God’s wrath?

In this passage (verses 57-62) we see three people asking if they could follow Jesus.  Each person misses the mark and cannot follow.  Why?  What is it about Jesus that makes him so hard to follow?  Compare the disciples’ attitude when they were called to these three individuals.  What is different about their response?  See Mark 1:15-20 and Mark 2:13-14.

Compare verse 62 to the story of Lot’s wife in Genesis 19:1-26.

Revelation 7:1-8

The book of Revelation teaches us that we live in the best of times and the worst of times. It is the best of times because Christ our savior has laid down his life for us securing our forgiveness and has risen from the dead securing our future. God’s victory is assured, no matter what the world throws at us. It is the worst of times because we are waiting for the return of Jesus Christ. The enemy still has the power to strike, to make our lives miserable, but he lacks the power to kill our souls. God does not promise to shield us from suffering, he promises to shield us through our suffering.

God’s people, those who will be shielded through suffering are symbolized by the 144,000 described in verses 4-8. This includes people from Israel who remained faithful to God and those who were adopted into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ.

What symbol does John use to describe God’s protection of his people, to shield them through suffering?

Romans 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The imagery here also calls to mind the Exodus story when God rescued his people from slavery in Egypt (see Exodus chapters 11 and 12). In this story, God’s judgment was poured out on Egypt through the plagues, but God’s people, whose homes were marked (sealed) by the blood of the lamb were protected. We see the same thing happening in Revelation 7. The angels have been given power to harm the land, the sea, and the trees, but not before God’s people are sealed so that they will be saved through the judgment. Just as Egypt was judged and Israel saved through the judgment, so also will God’s people be saved when God brings judgment on the earth.

Jeremiah 44:1-14

The remnant of Israel, those left behind after the destruction of Jerusalem, lacked the faith to remain in Israel and instead fled to, of all places, Egypt. But God continues to pursue his people into Egypt through his prophet Jeremiah.

What is God’s message to the remnant of Judah (Israel) living in Egypt? What have they failed to learn from the destruction of Jerusalem? What is the remnant doing instead of returning to God? Where have they put their faith? What will happen to them because of their lack of faith?

Sirach 4:20-5:7           Advice about Speech

Sirach
[Verses in brackets are not found in the original Hebrew text.]

Chapter 4
Verses 20-5:7

20 Watch for the opportune time, and beware of evil,
and do not be ashamed to be yourself.
21 For there is a shame that leads to sin,
and there is a shame that is glory and favor.
22 Do not show partiality, to your own harm,
of deference, to your downfall.
23 Do not refrain from speaking at the proper moment,
and do not hide your wisdom.
24 For wisdom becomes known through speech,
and education through the words of the tongue.
25 Never speak against the truth,
but be ashamed of your ignorance.
26 Do not be ashamed to confess your sins,
and do not try to stop the current of a river.
27 Do not subject yourself to a fool,
or show partiality to a ruler.
28 Fight to the death for truth,
and the LORD God will fight for you.

29 Do not be reckless in your speech,
or sluggish and remiss in your deeds.
30 Do not be like a lion in your home,
or suspicious of your servants.
31 Do not let your had be stretched out to receive,
and closed when it is time to give.

Chapter 5
Verses 1-7

1 Do not rely on your wealth,
or say, “I have enough.”
2 Do not follow your inclination and strength
in pursuing the desires of your heart.
3 Do not say, “Who can have power of me?”
for the LORD will punish you.
4 Do not say, “I sinned, yet what has happened to me?”
for the LORD is slow to anger.
5 Do not be so confident of forgiveness
that you add sin to sin.
6 Do not say, “His mercy is great,
he will forgive the multitude of my sins,”
for both mercy    and wrath are with him,
and his anger will rest on sinners.
7 Do not delay to turn back to the LORD,
and do not  postpone it from day to day;
for suddenly the wrath of the LORD will come upon you,
and at the time of punishment you will perish.
What is the good advice offered in verse 4:20?  (“Do not be ashamed to be yourself.” (Sirach 420b NRSV))

In what opposite directions does shame lead?  (“For there is a shame that leads to sin, and there is a shame that is glory and favor.” (Sirach 4:21 NRSV)  It appears to me that “pride” is the shame which leads to sin.  That being the case, it then follows that “humility” is the shame that is glory and favor.  Pride will continue to kill the soul whereas humility will bring the favor of the LORD.  “The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the abode of the righteous.  Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he shows favor.” (Proverbs 3:33-34 NRSV))

Verse 4:22 warns against  showing partiality.  From where does this admonition originate?  (There is a law in Deuteronomy which warns against showing partiality. “You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who  are in the right.” (Deuteronomy 16:19 NRSV)  So as early as Moses this behavior of showing partiality had been discouraged (viewed as sin) and so it continued throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament.)

What is the subject of verses 4:23-25?  (Speaking and speech.  “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: … a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b NRSV)  Sirach is telling us that one should speak at the proper moment and not to hide one’s wisdom.”.  Of course speaking against the truth is lying and who could be proud of being ignorant?)

Why is everyone always uncomfortable with verse 4:26a?  (Confessing sins has to, by its very nature, bring us to humility.  No one likes to admit his (let’s call them) secret sins to another, I suspect for fear of rejection.  Add to that the fact that that is a Catholic “thing”.  As for “do not try to stop the current of a river” — apart from the obvious fact that it is humanly impossible — I don’t have any idea what this means. — j.t.)

Verse 4:28 is also the answer to the question about speaking against the truth (in verse 4:25).

What is the bonus of fighting to the death for truth? (“… and the LORD God will fight for you” Sirach 4:28b NRSV))

What New Testament book springs to mind when we talk about not being reckless in one’s speech?  (The book of James in chapter 3 goes into some detail about the dangers of the tongue.  James tells us that the tongue is untamable.  How often have you wanted to grab back a few words once they were spoken — or as a politician might say, “misspoken”?  This is universally good advice since James did not write his letter until after about 200 years had elapsed.)

How might Sirach 4:31 be rephrased?  (“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 NIV))

What is wrong with relying on your wealth (Sirach 5:1)?  (To rely on one’s wealth means one is not relying on God.  The LORD has always wanted us to depend on him to keep us.  As far back a Gideon (in the book of Judges) the LORD thinned out all the “strength” of man so that the victory Gideon experienced could not be claimed by Gideon.  (See chapter seven in Judges for just how the LORD limited the size of Gideon’s force against one many times larger than his own.)  Try this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. … For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 (NIV))

Why would Sirach advise against following one’s inclination and strength in pursuing the desires of one’s heart?  (Jeremiah is famous for saying: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)  In Matthew Jesus put it this way: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV))

What is the substance of the remaining verses we’re looking at? (Sirach 5:3-7) (These verses address the sin of presumption — very much like taking God and his mercy for granted.  We read continually throughout the bible that his mercy endures forever.  While that is true, still no one wants to be taken for granted and presumption is a serious offense against God.  “Do not delay to turn back to the LORD [read: repent], and do not postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the LORD will come upon you, and at the time of punishment you will perish.” (Sirach 5:7 NRSV))

Daily Bible Readings – Sunday July 22, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 98

Prayer Point:  New songs were sung in the Old Testament when God performed an act of salvation such as parting the Red Sea. We sing because God has made his salvation known through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Join with all creation today in thanking God for his forgiveness and his promised return to restore peace and justice to this world.

Mark 2:1-12

Word of Jesus’ healing miracles has spread throughout the countryside and crowds mob the home where he is staying. Desperate to get their friend to Jesus, a hole is torn in the roof of the house and a paralyzed man is lowered before Jesus. What did Jesus see that caused him to declare to the paralyzed man, “your sins are forgiven”?

To declare the power to forgive sin was to claim to be God for only God himself reserved that right. The Jewish leaders considered Jesus’ words to be blasphemy because they did not believe that he was God.

Why does Jesus go ahead and heal the paralytic? What does the healing demonstrate?

Acts 22:30-23:11

The Sanhedrin were the Jewish ruling council made up of the chief priests, teachers of the Jewish law and other religious leaders. This council was split between two parties: the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

The Sadducees denied the supernatural elements of the Jewish faith dismissing heaven, resurrection and spiritual beings such as angels and demons. They had witnessed the deaths of their countrymen in futile attempts to overthrow the Romans and seeking to prevent future uprisings, downplayed the “other worldly elements of their faith.” The Romans in gratitude placed the Sadducees in positions of power within Israel.

The Pharisees still held to the hopes of heaven and the resurrection. They believed that if the people of Israel walked in obedience to the Jewish Law that God would reward them by sending the Messiah and liberate them from Roman rule.

How does Paul cleverly throw the Sanhedrin into confusion? What is God’s purpose for Paul at this stage of his life? Look for this mission to play itself out in the final chapters of the book of Acts.

Joshua 6:15-27         “And the walls came a’tumblin’ down”

What is Joshua’s battle cry at the “seventh trump”?  (“Shout!  For the LORD has given you the city!” (Joshua 6:16b NIV))

Joshua tells the people that, “The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD.”  Let me explain this word “devoted”.  According to the footnotes in the NIV, “The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the LORD, often by totally destroying them.”  When I think of “devoted” ‘to destruction’ is not the image I have in mind.  What it means, of course, is that there would be no booty – no spoils of war – to be garnered by the people.  If something is “devoted to God” the violation of it will prove to be fatal.  In other words: hands off the gold (or anything of material value).

What of our friend Rahab and her family? (“Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent.”  (Joshua 6:17b NIV)

What is Joshua’s warning concerning the “devoted” things?  (“But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them.  Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring disaster on it.”  (Joshua 6:18 NIV))

What is to become of the “devoted things” then if the people can’t have them?  (“All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury.” (Joshua 6:19 NIV))

It is clear that the LORD does not need silver and gold (and all that other stuff).  Why, do you suppose then, that the Lord does not want the people to have it?  (Greed! We will learn later from St. Paul that “the love of money (gold, wealth) is the root of all evil.”  The Israelites didn’t make that calf (idol) in the wilderness of mud but of gold.)

Just how total was the destruction of Jericho?  (“They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it – men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. …  Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD’s house.” (Joshua 6:21 NIV)  Rahab and all who were with her were spared.)
What is Joshua’s curse regarding Jericho?  (“Cursed before the LORD is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates.” (Joshua 6:26 NIV))

“So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.” (Joshua 6:27 NIV)

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday July 21, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 32

Prayer Point: Secret sin is burden that saps our strength. Why suffer, if through Christ, our sins are forgiven and our sins are covered? Confess your sins to God today. Rejoice in his forgiveness. Submit yourself to him and allow him to teach you the way you should go.

Matthew 26:26-35

The setting of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples before his crucifixion was the Jewish feast of Passover. The parallels are striking. The first Passover was celebrated the night before God liberated his people from Egypt by striking down the first born of Egypt. This Passover is celebrated the night before God liberated us from slavery to sin and death by striking down his own Son.

In the first Passover, unleavened bread was eaten and cups of wine were drunk. Who is the bread and the wine in the Passover meal Jesus celebrates with his disciples?

For what purpose is the blood of Christ poured out? When will Jesus drink the cup again with his disciples?

What prediction does Jesus make of his disciples? What promise does Jesus give them despite the cowardice that is to come that very night? How does Peter respond to Jesus’ prophecy? How do you think Jesus would have wanted Peter to respond? Give that some thought.

Romans 13:1-7

How are Christians called to relate to the governments they live under?  Why?  Do you think this includes corrupt and oppressive governments?  Remember that the Christians lived under the brutal Roman Empire as you think about how Paul’s teaching could be applied to today.

Joshua 6:1-14             Joshua vs. Jericho

The LORD encourages Joshua onward with the words: “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” (Joshua 6:1 NIV)  The LORD’s timing may be a little off; he is speaking in the past tense and the battle has yet to happen.  What kind of preparation is Joshua told to make?  (Joshua is told to march his army around the city once each day for six days.  The priests are to accompany them carrying the ark of the covenant.  Also in this retinue were to be seven (!) priests as trumpeters of rams’ horns.)

The Lord loves the seventh day.  What crescendo of events has the Lord planned for Jericho on this seventh day?  (“On the seventh day, march around the city seven times with the priests blowing the trumpets.  When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” (Joshua 6:4b-5 NIV))