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