Prayer Psalm: 63
Prayer Point: Are we hungry and thirsty enough to reach out to God? Meditate on the promises of this psalm. Confess our lack of faith in these promises. Pray for the faith to believe that God, not money, not relationships, will satisfy us.
Today’s reading assumes that another Christian has significantly hurt us by their words or actions. I emphasize significant so that we don’t include irritation or differences of opinion which should be overlooked.
What do we do first if a brother (a fellow Christian) sins against us? Why is this important?
What should be done if the brother or sister refuses to listen to your complaint? What happens if the person will not even listen to the church leadership?
What is described in Matthew 18 is called church discipline. The goal of church discipline is to call the person to repent and restore their relationship with God and those they have offended. The goal of treating them as a “tax collector”, meaning putting them out of the community, was to allow them to feel the weight of their sin and to create a desire to make things right. Note that this teaching shows us how to deal with fellow Christians who sin against us. For non-Christians, the other teachings would stand, “go the extra mile”, “turn the other cheek.”(See Matthew 7:38-48).
1 Corinthians 10:15-24
The “cup of thanksgiving” and the “bread” are the bread and cup of communion. How does communion bind us to God and to each other? Why couldn’t the Corinthians participate in communion (the Lord’s Table) and pagan sacrifices at the same time? If the idols are nothing, what is the harm?
Paul argues that we have a considerable amount of freedom as followers of Jesus. Why would we not do everything that is permissible for us? For what reasons should we set aside our freedoms? How should we exercise our freedoms in light of Jesus’ command to “love our neighbor as ourselves?”
Interestingly the opening words of Haggai begin with: “In the second year of Darius the king…” Well, wouldn’t you know it, the word of the LORD came to Haggai in the second year of Darius the king. As we have seen, the people in Judah have been told that they may not rebuild their temple nor their city. Evidently, however, they have been allowed to build their homes and to make improvements to them.
Why has the remnant that returned to rebuild Jerusalem harvested little? Why are they unable to quench their hunger and thirst? Why can’t their clothes keep them warm? Why is their money never enough? How did the people respond to the LORD’s admonition?
How does God encourage those who were old enough to remember the old temple? What does God promise for the future? Who do you think the ‘desired of nations’ is? What is this new temple that the LORD speaks of? See Acts 2:1-3 and Revelation 21:1-27. One thing that may help is to remember that the temple is not so much a building, but the place where God lives with his people. In Israel’s past, God dwelt first in the tabernacle (a tent), then in the temple. Then it was Jesus. Then it was the Holy Spirit living in the hearts of Jesus’ followers. And then at the end of time, God himself will make his home on earth at the restoration of all things.
19 Before you speak, learn;
and before you fall ill, take care of your health.
20 Before judgment comes, examine yourself;
and at the time of scrutiny you will find forgiveness.
21 Before falling ill, humble yourself;
and when you have sinned, repent.
22 Let nothing hinder you from paying a vow promptly,
and do not wait until death to be released from it.
23 Before making a vow, prepare yourself;
do not be like one who puts the Lord to the test.
24 Think of his wrath on the day of death,
and of the moment of vengeance when he turns away his face.
25 In the time of plenty think of the time of hunger,
in the days of wealth think of poverty and need.
26 From morning to evening conditions change;
all things move swiftly before the Lord.
27 One who is wise is cautious in everything;
when sin is all around, one guards against wrongdoing
28 Every intelligent person knows wisdom,
and praises the one who finds her.
29 Those who are skilled in words become wise themselves,
and pour forth apt proverbs.
30 Do not follow your base desires,
but restrain your appetites.
31 If you allow your soul to take pleasure in base desire,
it will make you the laughingstock of your enemies.
32 Do not revel in great luxury,
or you may become impoverished by its expense.
33 Do not become a beggar by feasting with borrowed money,
when you have nothing in your purse,
[for you will be plotting against your own life].
What is Sirach advocating in verses 18:19-29? (Sirach is telling us to turn inward. To think before speaking. Seek humility, repent when necessary [i.e., that would be daily — j.t.]. Keep your word “Let: nothing hinder you from paying a vow promptly, and do not wait until death to be released from it.” (Sirach 18:22 NRSV) The only vows we concern ourselves with today are those relating to marriage. At the time of this writing, people would make vows to the Lord because they felt deeply about certain public issues, for instance, the state of idolatry in Israel. The vow may include fasting as a means of demonstrating to oneself just how important the issue is. Vows were always intended to be private agreements between an individual and God except for that of the Nazarite. John the Baptist was the finest example of a Nazarite. He was wounded for the sin of his people which is why he looked and acted so strangely. Jesus tells us that when it comes to fasting, make it very personal; do it in secret.)
What does Sirach have to say about plenty and want? About wealth and poverty? (“In the time of plenty think of the time of hunger; in days of wealth think of poverty and need.” (Sirach 18:25 NRSV) That fact is that if all we had were beautiful days and no rainy ones, we would not appreciate how beautiful the days are. We always need a point of comparison — the better from the worse.)
What is the main subject of verses 18:30-33? (Sirach is addressing the subject of self-control.)
What apostle spent time talking about self-control? (Paul. He talks about how athletes subject their bodies to rigorous training to win a perishable prize and that we should do the same “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; be we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23a NIV))