Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday, March 30, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 45

Prayer Point: God will throw a wedding feast when his Son, Jesus, will marry his bride, his people, the church. Today’s psalm was written for the wedding of a Jewish King, but I think it is best understood in light of the wedding of King Jesus. The poet expresses a number of hopes for this king. Pick two or three that resonate with you and pray “your kingdom come.” The poet also challenges the bride to believe in the King’s love. How is God challenging you to believe in the love of Christ. Pray for the faith to rest in his love today.

Luke 11:27-36

Who is blessed according to Jesus in verse 28?

Skeptics of Jesus demanded that he perform a sign to validate his teaching. Jesus never did a miracle to convince an unbeliever, only to confirm faith, no matter how small. What are the only signs that will be given to a wicked and unbelieving generation?

The sign of Jonah is a reference to a story of the prophet Jonah. He was sent by God to prophesy against Nineveh, the capital of Israel’s archenemy Assyria. Jonah fearing that the people would repent and receive God’s forgiveness tries to flee by sailing in the opposite direction. It’s a long story, but in the end, Jonah spends three days in the belly of a whale, is vomited onto shore, preaches an uninspired sermon in Nineveh and of course, the entire city repents. You can read the exciting in the book of Jonah which can be easily read in one sitting.

There are two things that Jesus is drawing out of Jonah’s story. Jonah spends three days in a the belly of a whale only to “come back to life.” Jesus, likewise will be dead and on the third day, come back to life. The second hits a chord of irony. When God calls the wicked Ninevites to repent, they do. Israel on the other hand rejects God’s call to repentance. The same is true of the Queen of the South or the Queen of Sheba (see 1 Kings 10:1-13). This Gentile queen hears of the wisdom of Israel’s King Solomon and travels long distances to hear it. Israel has Jesus, the greater Solomon and the greater Jonah, but they will reject him.

What is Israel supposed to do with the light they receive from Jesus’ teaching? What part of the body is key to being full of light? Having an ‘evil eye’ is a Hebrew expression for greed. What will greed do the light of Jesus’ teaching?

Revelation 11:14-19

Jesus commands us to pray, “your kingdom come,” in the Lord’s Prayer. How is this dream realized in verse 15? How long will this dream last? How does God’s people, the twenty elders, respond?
What happens to God’s temple? Notice what you can see.

The Old Testament temple was a copy of the true temple in heaven. Within this temple was an inner room, the Holy of Holies which contained the Ark of the Covenant, which was the concentrated presence of God. In the earthly version of the temple, the Holy of Holies was hidden from the people by a heavy curtain. No one could enter the Holy of Holies, save the High Priest once a year. This symbolized that we were cut off from God’s presence by our sin. When Jesus died, that the curtain was torn, because our sins were dealt with and our relationship with God restored. It is no wonder that in the heavenly temple we see clear into the Holy of Holies, because Jesus has removed the curtain.

Ezra 5:1-17

Not only did the prophets predict the restoration of Jerusalem, they also spurred the people into action and even rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty. What does this tell you about the nature of faith? See also James 2:17. What makes this faith all the more remarkable is that while Cyrus gave the order to begin work on the temple (Ezra1:2-4), a later order issued by King Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:23) halting the project had never been rescinded.

While the Jews put their faith into action by restarting work on the temple, God supplied the power. How does God prevent the work on the temple from being halted?

Sirach 24:1-12                   

1Wisdom praises herself,
and tells of her glory in the midst of her people.
2 In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth,
and in the presence of his hosts she tells of her glory;
3 “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High,
and covered the earth like a mist.
4 I dwelt in the highest heavens,
and my throe was in a pillar of cloud.
5 Alone I compassed the vault of heaven
and traversed the depths of the abyss.
6 Over waves of the sea, over all the earth,
and over every people and nation I have held sway.”
7 Among all these I sought a resting place;
in whose territory should I abide?
8 “Then the Creator of all things gave me a command,
and my Creator chose the place for my tent.
He said, ‘Make your dwelling in Jacob,
and in Israel receive your inheritance.’
9 Before the ages in the beginning, he created me
and for all the ages I shall not cease to be.
10 In the holy tent I ministered before him,
and so I was established in Zion.
11Thus in the beloved city he gave me a resting place,
and in Jerusalem was my domain.
12 I took root in an honored people,
in the portion of the LORD, his heritage.

From The New Interpreter’s Study Bible: p.1481
24:1-43:33 “Ben Sira’s (Sirach’s) great concern was for the Jewish community of his day, confronted with the temptations of resulting from the Hellenization of the near Eastern world. This concern can be seen in a particular way in the poem that introduces this section. The argument that he makes here sets up a context within which the teachings of the rest of the section should be understood. At the time of Ben Sira the grandeur of classical Greek culture reigned supreme in the Mediterranean world, evident in the art and architecture that dominated the world. Its language was rich and innovative, and its patterns of thought were precise and sophisticated and provided some of the world’s greatest literature. It boasted a degree of superiority that was very difficult to dispute. Any culture that contested these claims would have a difficult challenge before it. Ben Sira, in faithfulness to his sacred Jewish tradition, made such a claim. If in the first chapters of the book his instruction appears to be general enough to apply to almost any culture, it is clear here that he is arguing for the excellence of his religious tradition. The instruction that follows is illustrative of this excellence.”

24:1-34 “In this second hymn, personified Wisdom sings her own praises. She describes her origin in God, the cosmic scope of her influence, her ultimate settling in Israel, and her identification with the Law of the covenant. This beautiful hymn function as a polemic against those who maintained that the philosophical tradition of the Greeks was superior to all other systems of thought, even the wisdom tradition of Israel. Ben Sira presents Wisdom as proclaiming that she could have settled in any nation of the world, but God chose Israel for her dwelling place, and there she established herself.”

From where did Wisdom come? (“I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist.” (Sirach 24:3 NRSV))

Where did Wisdom dwell? (“I dwelt in the highest heavens, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.” (Sirach 19:4 NRSV))

What is the significance of the phrase “in a pillar of cloud”? (Way back in the book of Exodus we first encounter this “pillar of cloud”. “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” (Exodus 13:20-22 NIV) This close association of Wisdom to Deity is perhaps the best understanding Sirach could imagine. Certainly he would not have conceived of Wisdom as being a “person” in God which is later revealed to be the Holy Spirit. — j.t.)

What is the scope of Wisdom’s influence as seen in Sirach 24:5-6? (“She held sway over the cosmic forces of chaos (the abyss and the sea). Such domination was a prerogative that by right belonged to the Creator-God who alone had conquered the forces of chaos.” The New Interpreter’s Study Bible p. 1481)

Over whom does Wisdom hold sway? (“Wisdom also exercised jurisdiction over all the nations of the world. She had the freedom to roam the entire created world.” The New Interpreter’s Study Bible p 1481.)

Where does Wisdom seek a resting place? (“Then the Creator of all things gave me a command, and my Creator chose the place for my tent. He said, ‘Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.” (Sirach 24:8 NRSV))

So ultimately where does Wisdom settle? (“In the holy tent I ministered before him, and so I was established in Zion. Thus in the beloved city he gave me a resting place, and in Jerusalem was my domain.” (Sirach 24:10-11 NRSV))

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