Daily Bible Readings – Monday June 11, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 64

Prayer Point:  This psalm was most likely written as David was running for his life pursued by King Saul. It is best prayed on behalf of someone who is powerless and oppressed. Pray today on behalf of the civilians caught in the Syrian civil war, the Iranian underground church or another group of people who fear for their lives. Pray that God will protect them, end the evil, and inspire the world to worship Him.

Matthew 15:21-28

Jesus expands his ministry beyond the borders of Israel to the cities of Tyre and Sidon in Phoenecia (Lebanon). Now comes the moment of truth, a Canaanite woman an “accursed” Gentile cries out to Jesus desperate for him to heal her demon-possessed daughter.

How does Jesus test the woman’s faith and critique the racist attitudes towards Gentiles that was common in Israel? What is it about this woman that causes Jesus to heal her daughter? How was her great faith expressed?

Galatians 4:12-20

Galatians is a not a book but a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the largely Gentile church in the province of Galatia. The Galatians had come to believe the gospel through Paul’s preaching, but after he moved on, other teachers came and convinced the Galatians that they needed to be circumcised and follow Jewish law to be real Christians. Paul is greatly distressed by this turn of events because he believes that the gospel is at stake.

How did the Galatians receive Paul’s teachings the first time? What is missing now that the false teachers have convinced them to submit to Jewish Law? What were these false teachers hoping to accomplish? How had they succeeded is misdirecting their zeal? What is Paul’s desire for the Galatians by contrast?

Ecclesiastes 7:1-14     The Destiny of Every Man 

“A good name is better than fine perfume …” (Eccl. 7:1a NIV)  Perfume, while it may be expensive is an adornment to the person (i.e. body) where as “a good name” is an adornment to one’s character.  Shakespeare waxed eloquent regarding the truth of this scripture in Othello:
“Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls;
Who steals my purse steals trash –’tis something, nothing;
’Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.”                                          Iago Act 3 Scene 3

“… and the day of death better than the day of birth.” (Eccl. 7:1b)  The day of death spoken of here is not one’s own, but rather that of another.  Why would the day of death be better than the day of birth?  (I speculate that when someone dies that is more likely to give pause to those left behind.  The survivors can assess not only the decedent’s life but their own.  We, in America, have endeavored to remove death from our vocabulary; it is a reality we really don’t want to face.  We say things like “He passed.” or “He’s gone over.” or even “He bought the farm.” but seldom do we say “He died.”  The euphemisms seek to soften this reality.  “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27 NIV) That is the stark reality that death brings to mind.  We Christians, of all people, should fear death the least.)

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.” (Eccl. 7:2 NIV)  It seems to me that the house of feasting will focus only on the moment and the pleasure at hand.  The house of mourning is one of reflection and perhaps of repentance.  The Christian should mourn and miss the dead while at the same time see Christ’s victory over death.  This verse encourages us to ponder the end of life.

“Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.”  (Eccl. 7:3 NIV)  The fact is we learn more from God in sadness than in mirth.  Sadness shifts our attention from the trivial to the serious.

“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.”  (Eccl. 7:4 NIV)  This is just a re-telling of verse two.   This preoccupation with death is meant to help us understand the shortness of life.  There are countless verses in the Psalms which remind us that life is but a vapor.  We are limited in terms of time, it would be wise to use what time we have prudently.  I have often thought that the very preciousness of life lies in the fact that it ends.  It must not be taken for granted.

“It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools.” (Eccl. 7:5 NIV)  This verse is only encouraging us to be teachable.  If we can humble ourselves to take rebuke (graciously) the rewards can be great.

Verse six talks about how meaningless is the “laughter of fools”.  The only biblical reference I can make here is the kind of ridicule Noah must have endured in spending his time building an ark on dry land for no apparent reason.  I presume he proclaimed the LORD’s plan but to unbelieving ears.

“Extortion turns a wise man into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart.” (Eccl. 7:7 NIV)  Paul in is second letter to Timothy puts it this way: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (2 Tim. 6:10 NIV)  Remember: money is not evil; it is the love of money that is a root of evil.

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”  (Eccl. 7:8 NIV)  This may simply mean to plan a project out before undertaking to start it.  It will also be important to be disciplined enough to see the project to its conclusion.  By this exercise even patience will be learned.  Jesus spoke of this truth this way: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.  Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?  For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’”  (Luke 14:28-30 NIV)

“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools” (Eccl. 7:9 NIV)  How would you re-write this verse?  (Such things as “Count to ten.” and “Hold your tongue lest you have to eat your words.”)

“Do not say ‘Why were the old days better than these?’  For it is not wise to ask such questions.”  (Eccl. 7:10)  Who hasn’t asked that question?  Why is it not wise to ask such questions?  (Is is not wise to ask such questions because one cannot go back nor can the times be changed to seem to go back.)

“Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun.”  (Eccl. 7:11)  Wisdom is a good thing.  The problem is we don’t usually know when we have it; wisdom is something someone else observes in us not something we tend to see in ourselves.  As for “those who see the sun”, I am not sure what that means.

Read verse 12 for it needs no explanation.  “Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.”  (Eccl. 7:12 NIV)

“Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” (Eccl. 7:13 NIV)  Remember what the Lord did for the Israelites while they were in Egypt and once they hit the road.  There was a lot more than the crooked being made straight.

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.  Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.”  (Eccl. 7:4 NIV)  The book of Job is considered the first of the books of Wisdom in the Old Testament.  Hear what he has to say on the subject: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  (Job 1:21 NIV)  And, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  (Job 2:10b NIV)  Actually the most comforting words on this subject came from Paul in his letter to the Romans: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)

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