Prayer Psalm: 40
Prayer Point: How can we repay God for his kindness and salvation? We can do nothing but offer ourselves in gratitude. Think about the ways God has demonstrated grace in your life. Confess to him the areas of your life you are afraid to offer him. Tell him your troubles and ask him to save you once again.
Why does Jesus refuse to make in a ruling in the inheritance dispute? What should concern this man more than losing his share of the inheritance? What does life not consist of?
Why is it foolish to base our security on our possessions?
What are we as followers of Jesus commanded NOT to worry about? What does Jesus point to as proof that our heavenly Father is both willing and able to provide us with the necessities of life? What should be our chief focus if not securing the necessities of life?
Having been frustrated in his attempts to destroy the Son of God (the child of Revelation 12:1-6), Satan now turns his attention to God’s people the church. If he can’t strike at Jesus, he will move against the people of God.
The dragon and beast coming out of the sea represent the empires of the world and Satan, the power behind them, who persecute the people of God past, present, and future. In what way does the beast out of the sea mock Jesus the Lamb of God in verses 2-4 and 7 (see Revelation 5:6-10)?
Notice that the beast is given authority for 42 months. 42 months (see Revelation 11:2), 1,260 days (see Revelation 11:3, 12:6) or 3 and a half years is symbolic in Revelation for a period of trouble. What is the beast able to do to unbelievers (see verses 3-4 and 7-8)? What does the beast do to God’s people (verse 7)? What does God ask of his church during this difficult time (see verse 10)?
Verse 10 is a summary of this book’s message to a persecuted church. Endure persecution patiently for God’s salvation will soon come.
What begins with mourning and fasting and earnest plea to God is now translated into action. What risk does Nehemiah take in putting his prayers into action? Nehemiah courageously obeys, but God supplies the power. What does God do to make Nehemiah’s God-given dream a reality? How does Nehemiah inspire the people to begin the work of rebuilding? What stirrings of opposition do you see? Watch for it in tomorrow’s reading.
Sirach 34:1-8; 18-22
*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.
1 The senseless have vain and false hopes,
and dreams give wings to fools.
2 As one who catches at a shadow and pursues the wind,
so is anyone who believes in dreams.
3 What is seen in dreams is but a reflection,
the likeness of a face looking at itself.
4 From a unclean thing what can be clean?
And from something false what can be true?
5 Divinations an omens an dreams are unreal,
and like a woman in labor, the mind has fantasies.
6 Unless they are sent by intervention from the Most High,
pay no attention to them.
7 For dreams have deceived many,
and those who put their hope in them have perished.
8 Without such deceptions the law will be fulfilled
and wisdom is complete in the mouth of the faithful.
18 To whom does he look? And who is his support?
19 The eyes of the LORD are on those who love him,
a mighty shield and strong support,
a shelter from scorching wind and a shade from noonday sun,
a guard against stumbling and a help against falling.
20 He lifts up the soul and makes the eyes sparkle;
he gives health and life and blessing.
21 If one sacrifices ill-gotten goods, the offering is blemished [or is made a mockery];
22 the gifts [or mockeries] of the lawless are not acceptable.
Consider verses 1-8. This is an interesting approach to dreams. What is the tenor of this passage? (It strikes me that Sirach is not convinced that dreams can be from the LORD. Perhaps because of the Hellenistic influence on the people of his day, Sirach thought it best to employ a “zero tolerance” for dreams. In the Greek world much importance was given to “oracles” and soothsayers, which, of course, leads to fortunetellers. The best solution is to outlaw all dreamers just to be sure. The earliest dreamer in scripture was Jacob with his dream of the ladder extending from heaven to earth. Abraham may have had dreams but these were recorded as “visions” which I think are not the same thing. The prophet Joel made it quite clear that dreams will play an instrumental role in the world in the days just preceding the return of Jesus. “‘And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.'” (Joel 2:28 NIV) We, of course, don’t know how Sirach felt about Daniel and his dreams, or of Joseph and his, or of Ezekiel his dreams. It is unlikely that he dismissed these great prophets who had gone before him. It is clear that this attitude of Sirach’s was not prevalent in the early church. Peter had dreams and Paul had dreams. John the Evangelist had what are considered visions which tell of fantastic things. The fact is that throughout all of the Old Testament, dreams were a means of God bringing his message to his people. — j.t.)
Whom does the LORD have his eyes on? (“The eyes of the LORD are on those who love him…” (Sirach 34:19 NRSV))
What does Sirach say about sacrifices? (“If one sacrifices ill-gotten goods, the offering is blemished [is made in mockery]; the gifts [mockeries] of the lawless are not acceptable.” (Sirach 34:21-22 NRSV) The offering to the LORD was one of the most important aspects of Jewish worship. This was not to be tampered with. “‘When any of you brings an offering to the LORD, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock. If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting [or Temple], so that it will be acceptable to the LORD ‘” (Leviticus 1:2-3 NIV) The LORD doesn’t want sloppy seconds.)