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.)

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