Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, November 4, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 24

Prayer Point:  “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Who can make such a claim? Only Jesus can. We would have no hope of entering God’s city without Jesus. He is the King who entered the gates of Jerusalem and offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Thank God for opening the door to know and enjoy him through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Matthew 18:21-35

“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

The conventional wisdom among rabbis in Jesus’ day was that a person should forgive someone three times. Anything beyond that was enabling. Peter, sensing that Jesus has a more expansive view of forgiveness, increases it to seven times.

How much larger is Jesus’ understanding of forgiveness than our own?

What is your impression of the servant who was forgiven the debt of 10,000 talents? Do you think he deserves his fate?

Here is some background information on the debts that were owed. A talent was the largest unit of measure and 10,000 was the largest number used in Greek language in the first century. In other words, this debt is astronomical and could not be higher.

The debt owed the unmerciful servant is considerably smaller by comparison but is still significant. A denarius was a day’s wage, so one hundred denarii was a third of laborer’s annual salary. Can you imagine taking a financial hit like that?

Here’s something else to think about. Jesus turns the tables on us in verse 35 by identifying the unmerciful servant with us. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart. If we are unmerciful servants, who is the forgiving king? What did it cost the king to forgive us?

What are some of the 100 denarii debts that are owed you? How does the understanding of the debt we owe God affect the way we are able to forgive those who hurt us? What will happen to us if we fail to let go of the debts that are owed us?

1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13

The first ‘you’ in verse 27 is plural. We in New England don’t differentiate between the singular and plural you, but if we were among our brothers and sisters in the south, this passage could be translated: “y’all are the body of Christ, and each one of y’all is a part of it.” What is our collective identity as a Christian community? How does each of us fit into the larger community? What roles and gifts does Paul list for us?

As great as the spiritual gifts are, what is the greatest ‘gift’ of them all as we transition to chapter 13? What must accompany our gifts, talents, and accomplishments if they are to have any meaning?

Nehemiah 5:1-19

To be sure, the obvious enemy was Sanballat and his cohorts but there was another. We can deduce that there was a serious famine in the land at that time because people were mortgaging their homes, selling themselves and their children into slavery. The building of the wall was just an added burden of the people of the land. What was depressing was that the wealthier Jews were exacting usury (illegally high interest) from their own. There were provisions in the Law of Moses regarding usury and slavery (of Jew to Jew) but these were being ignored.

How does Nehemiah attack the debt crisis facing the poor in the city of Jerusalem? How is Nehemiah different than the governors that preceded him with regards to the poor?

Sirach 36:1-17

*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 36
Verses 1-17

1 Have mercy upon us O God of all,
2 and put all the nations in fear of you.
3 Lift up your hand against foreign nations
and let them see your might.
4 As you have used to show us your holiness to them
so use them to show your glory to us.
5 Then they will know, as we have known,
that there is no God but you, O LORD.
6 Give new signs, and work other wonders;
7 make your hand and right arm glorious.
8 Rouse your anger and pour out your wrath;
9 destroy the adversary and wipe out the enemy.
10 Hasten the day, and remember the appointed time,
and let people recount your mighty deeds.
11 Let survivors be consumed in the fiery wrath,
and may those who harm your people meet destruction.
12 Crush the heads of hostile rulers
who say, “There is no one but ourselves.”
13 Gather all the tribes of Jacob, {Owing to a dislocation in the Greek Mss. of Sirach, the verse numbers 14 and 15 are not used in Chapter 36, though no text is missing.}
16 and give them their inheritance, as at the beginning.
17 Have mercy, O LORD, on the people called by your name,
on Israel, whom you have named your firstborn[.]

How has the LORD used the Israelites? (See verse 36:4) (“As you have used us to show your holiness to them, so use them to show your glory to us” (NRSV))

What was the point of using the Israelites? (“Then they will know, as we have known, that there is no God but you, O LORD.” (Sirach 36:5 NRSV))

What is Sirach’s request of the LORD to do to the “enemy”? (“Rouse your anger and pour out your wrath; destroy the adversary and wipe out the enemy.” (Sirach 36:8-9 NRSV) We don’t know who, specifically, is the enemy referred to in this passage. In Psalm 137 we hear the psalmist calling down vengeance on his captor (in this case Babylon) in the most vociferous of terms: “O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us — he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalm 137:8-9 NIV) Most Christians have some difficulty with this passage because of the judgment visited on the innocent children. This type of purging was not new. If you search throughout Joshua and 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel you will find this policy enforced. In fact Saul lost his kingdom and crown because he did not follow the LORD’s command to destroy everything of the enemy. (See 1 Samuel 15 for a graphic commission from God.))

This prayer closes with a plea for the LORD to have mercy on his people. (Sirach 36:17)

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