Prayer Psalm: 50
Prayer Point: God calls both the wicked (verses 7-15) and the righteous (verses 16-25) to repentance in this psalm because both groups worship a distorted image of God. What lies about God have you believed? Confess those to God and pray for the faith to see him rightly and trust him by calling on our good God in the day of trouble.
In yesterday’s reading (Luke 11:37-52), Jesus blasted the hypocrisy of the Pharisees for their outward cleanliness masking their dark hearts. Contrast the Pharisees’ response to Jesus to the crowds. What is the ‘yeast of the Pharisees’ which warns his disciples against? Why is it futile to live hypocritically before God?
Whom are we not to fear? Whom are we to fear? Remember that Satan does not have the power anyone into hell. How does ‘the one we are to fear’ feel about the sparrows? How does the fear of God ironically destroy all fear?
What will happen to those who disown the Son of Man? Is there possibility for forgiveness for those who do (see John 18:15-27 and 21:15-25)? What is the one sin that we will not be forgiven? Why should we not fear if it we are brought before rulers and authorities because of our faith?
Yesterday’s reading, Revelation 12:1-6, told the Christmas story from a cosmic perspective. Not exactly the stuff of a Hallmark Special. A woman symbolizing God’s people gives birth to Jesus the Savior while a hungry dragon looks on waiting to devour her child. The boy is snatched up to heaven (Jesus’ ascension) while the woman, God’s people, flee to the desert where they are protected for 1,260 days, Revelation’s symbolic number for a period of trouble.
All battles on earth have a spiritual and heavenly dimension to them. As the story of Jesus and his church played out on earth, the battle also rages in heaven between the Archangel Michael and Satan the dragon.
What happens to Satan in the aftermath of the war? The name ‘Satan’ is actually a title meaning “prosecutor or accuser.” Where was Satan before the battle? Where is he now? Who has taken the prosecutor’s place (see Romans 8:31-34)?
The opponents of the early Christians would have attributed their suffering to the fact that they had abandoned the gods of their ancestors. How does God explain the church’s suffering? Why is there hope?
What I know of Nehemiah can be summed up in the phrase “cupbearer to the king”. This says a great deal about what influence Nehemiah had with the king. A cupbearer was a bit more than a food taster – though that was not insignificant. The cupbearer had to be a person of trust for he held the king’s life in his hands as it were. When you add to that that this cupbearer was a foreigner and a captive indicates to me that Nehemiah had found great favor with the king.
While Nehemiah could have lived out his days comfortably, what news does he receive that changes the trajectory of his life? What does he do first with the news and for how long? How would you outline his prayer?
Section 1 (5-6a) __________________________.
Section 2 (6b-7) _________________________________.
Section 3 (8-11) _________________________________.(How does Nehemiah know what to ask for in verses 8-11?)
Are you facing something that breaks your heart? Try following Nehemiah’s pattern of prayer.
Sirach 31:12-18, 25-32:2
*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.
Verses 12-18, 25-32:2
12 Are you seated at the table of the great?
Do not be greedy at it,
and do not say, “How much food is there here!”
13 Remember that a greed eye is a bad thing.
What has been created more greedy than the eye?
Therefore it sheds tears for any reason.
14 Do not reach out your hand for everything you see,
and do not crowd your neighbor at the dish.
15Judge your neighbor’s feelings by your won,
and in every matter be thoughtful.
16 Eat what is set before you like a well brought-up person,
and do not chew greedily, or you will give offense.
17 Be the first to stop, as befits good manners,
and do not be insatiable, or you will give offense.
18If you are seated among many persons,
do not help yourself before they do.
25 Do not try to prove your strength by wine-drinking,
for wine has destroyed many.
26 As the furnace tests the work of a smith [Greek: tests the hardening of steel by dipping],
so wine tests hearts when the insolent quarrel.
27 Wine is very life to human beings
if taken in moderation.
What is life to one who is without wine?
It has been created to make people happy.
28 Wine drunk at the proper time and in moderation
is rejoicing of heart and gladness of soul.
29 Wine drunk to excess leads to bitterness of spirit,
to quarrels and stumbling.
30 Drunkenness increases the anger of a fool to his own hurt,
reducing his strength and adding wounds.
31 Do not reprove your neighbor at a banquet of wine,
and do not despise him in his merrymaking;
speak no word of reproach to him,
and do not distress him by making demands of him.
1 If they make you master of the feast,
do not exalt yourself;
be among them as one of their number.
Take care of them first and then sit down;
2 when you have fulfilled all your duties, take your place,
so that you may be merry along with them
and receive a wreath for your excellent leadership.
Table etiquette: from The New Interpreter’s Study Bible p. 1491
“31:12-13 Eating in public was an important community event regulated by rules of etiquette for both host and guest. Conformity to these rules enhanced one’s honor, while disregard of them brought shame. One’s place at table indicated social standing in the group (see Luke 14:7-11)”
What should one do if seated at table among the great? (“Are you seated at the table of the great? Do not be greedy at it, and do not say, ‘How much food there is here!'” (Sirach 31:12 NRSV))
What does Sirach say about the eye in verse 31:13? (“Remember that a greedy eye is a bad thing. What has been created more greedy than the eye? Therefore it sheds tears for any reason.” (NRSV) Such evil things as lust and envy stem from a greedy eye. Notice also how “easily” one may shed tears. Jesus said, “And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell” (Matthew 18:9 NIV) Let’s face it when Jesus said this he did not expect people actually to gouge out their eyes for that would not heal the problem. The problem is in the heart — to covet, to lust, and to envy. These are not as easily disposed of as plucking out one’s eye. — j.t.)
What sort of kindness do verses 31:14-15 encourage of us? (I think Sirach is telling us to defer to everyone else, i.e., serve yourself last. When Jesus was faced with the question of being the “greatest” his reply was, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11 NIV) So serve yourself last!)
How can one give offense at the table? (“Eat what is set before you like a well brought-up person, and do not chew greedily, or you will give offense.” (Sirach 31:16 NRSV))
Why is it best to be the first one to stop eating? (“Be the first to stop, as befits good manners, and do not be insatiable, or you will give offense.” (Sirach 31:17 NRSV) It is also good manners to leave a little on the plate so that the host does not think you a glutton. — j.t.)
Verse 31:18 is a rephrasing of verses 31:14, 15 i.e., think of others before yourself.
Why is it unwise to prove one’s strength by wine-drinking? (“…for wine has destroyed many” (Sirach 31:25b NRSV)) Verse 31:27 tells us that wine is “very life to human beings … what is life to one without wine?” (Sirach 31:27 NRSV) Verse 31:28 says: “Wine drunk at the proper time and in moderation is rejoicing of heart and gladness of soul.” (NRSV) Why do you think that Sirach assigns so much importance to wine? (I think Sirach is equating wine [symbolically] to blood. “very life” Psalm 104 puts it this way: “He [God] makes grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate — bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.” (Psalm 104:14-15 NIV) Evidently it is okay to be merry.)
Where does excess drinking lead? (“Wine drunk to excess leads to bitterness of spirit, to quarrels and stumbling. Drunkenness increases the anger of a fool to his own hurt, reducing his strength and adding wounds.” (Sirach 31:29-30 NRSV))
What verse in Chapter 31 do verses 32:1-2 bring to mind? (Verses 31:14-15 speak of putting others first. It would be a gracious host to treat all his guests with deference. (“Take care of them first and then sit down.” (Sirach 32:1 NRSV))