Prayer Psalm: 119:49-72
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.
The Old Testament Law had extensive regulations concerning cleanliness and the preparation of food. The Pharisees created a set of elaborate washing rituals that were performed before eating. Jesus conspicuously chooses to not to follow them. What the Pharisees missed in their attempts to be clean on the outside?
Jesus condemns the lack of inward holiness in the Pharisees with the prophetic phrase, “woe to you.” What specific examples of the Pharisees’ inward uncleanness does Jesus expose? What will be their final judgment for rejecting God’s prophets and Jesus, God’s ultimate prophet?
Revelation 12 is one of several visions in the book that tell the story of human history from the perspective of heaven. There are three central characters that must be identified: the woman giving birth, the child, and the dragon.
- The woman. Compare John’s vision of the woman to Joseph’s dream recorded in Genesis 37:9-11. What images are present in both dreams? How did Joseph’s father, Jacob, interpret the images in his son’s dream? How does that shed light on the identity of the woman in Revelation 12? Based on the parallels between the two dreams and the details of the story that unfolds in chapter 12, we will identify the woman with God’s people. She is Israel before the coming of Jesus and the church after his coming.
- The child. In the background of John’s dream is the promise God made to Adam and Eve. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your [the serpent – identified with the dragon in Revelation 12] offspring and hers; he [the child] will crush your heel and you will strike his head.” (Genesis 3:15) Who is this offspring? None other than Jesus Christ, who will destroy the dragon by his crucifixion and resurrection and rule as king forever.
- The dragon. The dragon throughout the Bible represents the kingdoms that opposed God’s people, but most importantly the power behind these kingdoms, Satan. John and his readers would have identified the dragon with Rome and the power behind Rome, the Devil.
What does the dragon attempt to do to the child when he is born? What event in Jesus’ life do you think this is referring to? When was Jesus snatched up into heaven? What happens to woman after the birth of the child?
Compare the 1260 days to the 42 months (1260 days) that the witnesses are protected in Revelation 11:2-3. What is God promising to do for his faithful people (Israel, the church) during this 3 ½ years of trouble (1260 days)? How would this give hope and courage to John and the seven churches receiving this revelation?
Darius made search and found that a decree was issued by Cyrus authorizing the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, further that it was to be financed from the royal treasury. That goes a bit further than the decree as reported in Chapter 1: “And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:4 ESV)
Darius’ decree for the rebuilding of the temple began with a warning to Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River to “keep away”. Let the work proceed and not only that, Tattenai is to provide for the cost of the building “is to be paid to these men in full and without delay from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province from Beyond the River.” (Ezra 6:8 ESV) And if that weren’t enough, the governor is to provide “whatever is needed – bulls, rams, or sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt wine, or oil, as the priests at Jerusalem require – let that be given to them day by day without fail, that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.” (Ezra 6:9-10 ESV) The penalty for anyone altering the edict is that he be impaled on a beam from his own house and that the house is to be completely destroyed, i.e., made into a dunghill.
It is clear from this that the LORD is working in the heart of Darius to get the temple built. There are now no excuses for the structure not to be built. All obstacles have been swept away. Why is Darius so eager to see the temple built? Can we see the obstacles in our own lives which need to be swept away?
Do we experience the same sense of urgency (in terms of importance not in terms of time) regarding God as Darius? How do we get to the point where “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart”? (Deut. 6:5-6 ESV) Is not this the thing the LORD really wants from us?
*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.
Chapter 28: Verses 12-26
12 If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
yet both come out of your mouth.
13 Curse the gossips and the double-tongued,
for they destroy the peace of many.
14 Slander [Greek: a third tongue] has shaken many,
and scattered them from nation to nation;
it has destroyed strong cities,
and overturned the houses of the great.
15 Slander [Greek: a third tongue] has driven virtuous women from their homes,
and deprived them of the fruit of their toil.
16 Those who pay heed to slander will not find rest,
nor will they settle down in peace.
17 The blow of a whip raises a welt,
but a blow of the tongue crushes the bones.
18 Many have fallen by the edge of the sword,
but not as many as have fallen because of the tongue.
19 Happy is the one who is protected from it,
who has not been exposed to its anger,
who has not borne its yoke,
and has not been bound with its fetters.
20 For its yoke is a yoke of iron,
and its fetters are fetters of bronze;
21 its death is an evil death,
and Hades is preferable to it.
22 It has no power over the godly;
they will not be burned in its flame.
23Those who forsake the LORD will fall into its power;
it will burn among them and will not be put out.
It will be sent out against them like a lion;
like a leopard it will mangle them.
24a As you fence in your property with thorns,
25b so make a door and a bolt for your mouth.
24b As you lock up your silver and gold,
25a so make balances and scales for your words.
26 Take care not to err with your tongue,
and fall victim to one lying in wait.
Because of the power of the tongue, Sirach brings us back to the subject of gossip. The book of James spends the better part of Chapter three giving us advice regarding guarding the tongue.
“If you blow on a spark, it will glow; if your spit on it, it will be put out; yet both come out of your mouth.” (Sirach 28:12 NRSV) This verse corresponds somewhat to James 3:9-10: “With the tongue we praise our LORD and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (NIV)
What effect do the gossips and double-tongued have on people? (“Curse the gossips and the double-tongued, for they destroy the peace of many.” (Sirach 28:3 NRSV))
What effect does slander have on people, nations and cities? (“Slander has shaken many, and scattered them from nation to nation; it has destroyed strong cities, and overturned the houses of the great.” (Sirach 28:14 NRSV) It is important to remember that gossip and slander are not interchangeable terms. Gossip is usually based on truth which becomes tainted whereas slander is intended as a lie. — j.t.)
What, according to Sirach, will slander do to virtuous women? (“Slander has driven virtuous women from their homes, and deprived them of the fruit of their toil.” (Sirach 24:15 NRSV))
What is the cost of those who pay heed to slander? (“Those who pay heed to slander will not find rest, nor will they settle down in peace.” (Sirach 24:16 NRSV))
What is the difference between a blow of a whip and the blow of the tongue? (“The blow of a whip raises a wet, but a blow of the tongue crushes the bones.” (Sirach 24:18 NRSV))
What distinction does Sirach make between the damage done by a sword and that done by a tongue? (“Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not as many as have fallen because of the tongue.” (Sirach 28:18 NRSV) The thing about the sword, seldom will it come as a surprise to the victim. Usually one will see the sword coming. I think it is difficult to “surprise” someone by a sword attack. The tongue however presents many avenues of attack to most common is that of the backstabber. The victim can’t see the attack coming and may be powerless to respond adequately. The evil nature of gossip is that ofttimes the source remains anonymous. How can one defend himself against a nameless and faceless assailant? — j.t.)
How does Sirach describe the person who is protected from gossip? (“Happy is the one who is protected from it, who has been exposed to its anger, who has not borne its yoke, and has not been bound with its fetters.” (Sirach 28:19 NRSV))
What is Sirach’s description of gossip? (“For its yoke is a yoke of iron, and its fetters are fetters of bronze; its death is an evil death, and Hades is preferable to it. It has no power over the godly; they will not be burned in its flame.” (Sirach 28:20-22 NRSV) That Hades is preferable to the bondage and damage of gossip should tell us how evil gossip is. Hades was considered the place of the dead. Actually Sirach should not have used this Greek word given his desire to turn away from the Hellenization rampant at that time in Israel. The Hebrew word sheol would have been a better choice, but if he wanted to use a Greek word then perhaps “the deep” would serve his purpose. — j.t.)
What does Sirach say about the godly? What does he say about the ungodly? (“It [gossip] has not power over the godly; they will not be burned in its flame. Those who forsake the LORD will fall into its power; it will burn among them and will not be put out. It will be sent out against them like a lion; like a leopard it will mangle them.” (Sirach 28:22-23 NRSV))
What is the imagery in verses 28:24-26 which encourages one to keep away from gossip? (“As you fence in your property with thorns, so make a door and a bolt for your mouth. As you lock up your silver and gold, so make balances with scales for your words. Take care not to err with your tongue, and fall victim to one lying in wait.” (NRSV) If only we could apply practically these words to our lives.)
Just a note: I chose to go through each verse because I think the advice given here is worth to be considered and explored. Did you notice how the Greek translated the word “slander” in verse 28:14, 5? (A third tongue!)