Prayer Psalm: 57
Prayer Point: This psalm was prayed from the back of a cave with enemies lurking outside. It goes from desperation to praise. Trying walking that prayer path for a problem you (or someone close to you) are facing.
Luke 12: 49-59
Jesus is more complex than a nice guy with a beard, a white robe and a blue sash. He is good, but he is no Mister Rogers. He is the good shepherd, who showed special love for the children, but he also came to confront the evil powers of our world. We need a kind God, but we also need a powerful one. Jesus is the one who comes bringing fire to the earth, a purifying fire that will rid the world of evil. But he will also undergo a baptism: his crucifixion. He will die in our place and rise from the dead, punishing sin in his own body so that he can rid the world of evil without getting rid of us. But not all will receive him.
Does Jesus see himself as a unifying or polarizing figure in this passage? Why do you think this is?
Revelation 14: 1-13
The book of Revelation is a letter to Christians who were suffering persecution in the Roman Empire. It is a letter of encouragement. God will preserve his people through their trials and they will emerge victorious in the end. As chapter 14 opens we see a vision of the hope that gives meaning to their suffering.
(Verse 1) What symbol refers to Jesus? How are the people of the Lamb, the church, depicted? How is God’s ownership and protection of his people symbolized?
Why are they singing and how did they learn the song?
The 144,000 in verse 4 are those “who did not defile themselves with women.” I believe that this should be interpreted as a metaphor for the worship of false gods. The Old Testament prophets called idolatry, “adultery”, to highlight their betrayal of the God who had been faithful to them to pursue other lovers. The 144,000 represent God’s people who did not not abandoned their first love, Jesus, by refusing to buy into the world’s system, Babylon (see Revelation 14:8) .
What role do the three angels play? What is the gospel message of the first angel? What does the second angel have to say about the current world order (Babylon)? What warning does the third angel give regarding those who worship and receive protection from the beast.
What is the message to the church in verse 12?
Evidently Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab must have thought Nehemiah was a moron for they tried to lure him to Ono which is somewhere outside of Jerusalem. It would never have occurred to Nehemiah that there might be something amiss meeting with three of his enemies. These people could not defeat Nehemiah with a frontal assault so they tried a more subtle approach.
What new approaches does Sanballat take to sabotage the rebuilding of Jerusalem? What qualities Nehemiah possess, as a leader and a man of God? Is he merely a nice man, or is there something more to him?
As the pressure from Sanballat intensifies, how does Nehemiah respond? Where does Nehemiah’s courage originate?
What happens to Israel’s enemies, once the walls of Jerusalem were completed?
*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.
24 The wisdom of the scribe depends on the opportunity of leisure;
only the one who has little business can become wise.
25 How can one become wise who handles the plow,
and who glories in the shaft of a goad,
who drives oxen and is occupied with their work,
and whose talk is about bulls?
26 He sets his heart on plowing furrows,
and he is careful about fodder for the heifers.
27 So it is with every artisan and master artisan
who labors by night as well as by day;
those who cut the signets of seals
each is diligent in making a great variety;
they set their heart on painting a lifelike image,
and they are careful to finish their work.
28 So it is with the smith, sitting by the anvil,
intent on his iron-work;
the breath of the fire melts his flesh,
and he struggles with the heat of the furnace;
the sound of the hammer deafens his ears, [Greek: renews his ear]
and his eyes are on the pattern of the object.
He sets his heart on finishing his handiwork,
and he is careful to complete its decoration.
29 So it is with the potter sitting at his work
and turning the wheel with his feet;
he is always deeply concerned over his products,
and he produces them in quantity.
30 He molds the clay with his arm
and makes it pliable with his feet;
he sets his heart to finish the glazing,
and he takes care in firing the kiln.
31 All these rely on their hands,
and all are skillful in their own work.
32 Without them no city can be inhabited,
and wherever they live, they will not go hungry
[and people can neither live nor walk there].
Yet they are not sought out for the council of the people
33 nor do they attain eminence in the public assembly.
They do not sit in the judge’s seat,
nor do they understand the decisions of the courts;
they cannot expound discipline or judgment,
and they are not found among the rulers.
34 But they maintain the fabric of the world,
and their concern is for the exercise of their trade.
What is the theme of verses 38:24-34? (It seems that the “wisdom of the scribe depends on the opportunity of leisure; only the one who has little business can become wise.” (Sirach 38:24 NRSV))
Who then can become wise? (Only the one who has time on his hands and who can apply himself to the task. Everyone else will be involved or concerned with his daily tasks: the smith; the artisan; the potter, etc.)
Why not the artisan, the smith, the potter? (“All these rely on their hands, and all are skillful in their own work. Without them no city can be inhabited, and wherever they live, they will not go hungry. Yet they are not sought out for the council of the people, nor do they attain eminence in the public assembly.” (Sirach 38:32-33a NRSV))
It seems that Sirach is segregating out a rather large segment of the population for the path of wisdom. Does this ring true to you? (While it is true that the Holy Spirit had not, by this time, been given, this type of segregating is inconsistent with Christian practice. Since the Holy Spirit now abides in each believer, it is possible for each to have the same opportunity for growth in wisdom. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” (Psalm 111:10 NIV) That is perhaps the simplest answer but for one catch: the fear of the LORD is deeply rooted in humility which is not so simple. Only here in Sirach is such a demarking suggested: that wisdom is for the few. I believe that no one should be given an “excuse” not to pursue wisdom. That one is a welder or a garbage collector or a professor does not exclude him from receiving the gift of wisdom. This has more to do with the heart than with the hands. Again, the main ingredient will prove to be humility. — j.t.))