Prayer Psalm: 69
Prayer Point: We often wonder where God is when we are up to our necks in the waters of life’s troubles. I imagine David felt this way when he prayed this psalm. But, if you read the prayer, you hear someone else crying out to God. It voice of Jesus desperately calling out to God on the cross. This psalm is Jesus’ crucifixion psalm. If you feel down today, remember that God the Father heard this prayer. Jesus, the Son, entered our pain and suffered in our place and the Holy Spirit is willing to make this real to us today. Pray that God might give you the hope of the resurrection today.
The Pharisees are troubled by Jesus’ teaching and attempt to scare him off by warning that Herod is out to kill him. Why isn’t Jesus afraid of Herod? How does Jesus feel about Jerusalem, the city that will call for his crucifixion? What does he offer her? What will be consequences of Jerusalem’s rejection?
“Hen gathers her chicks under her wings” is a reference to a barnyard fire. A mother hen will sacrifice herself for the sake of her chicks by gathering them under herself to shield them from the flames. This, for me, is one of the most compelling images of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
JRR Tolkien’s stories (I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings) give us insight into a Biblical understanding of evil. Evil cannot create, it can only mock the beauty of God’s Creation. In chapter 14, we saw God’s people depicted as a woman. The woman in chapter 17, the whore of Babylon, is a mockery of the bride of Christ, the church. The beast, Satan, mocks the Lamb of God.
How does the life trajectory of the beast in verse 8 mock the life story of Jesus, the Lamb of God? What is the woman’s relationship with the kings of the earth and to the beast? What are the kings relationship to the beast? Is the woman wealthy or poor? What is she drunk on? Who is seduced by the beast?
Who will the kings of the earth, the woman, and the beast make war against?
John, who was exiled for his faith, and the persecuted churches he is writing to (see Revelation 2-3) are already feeling the effects of this war. The manifestation of the Beast’s Empire in their time was Rome. The Beast’s Empire takes on different forms today.
Ezra 7:27-28, 8:21-36
How does Ezra explain the favor and blessings he has received from the king? Why does Ezra refuse the king’s offer of an armed escort for their journey to Jerusalem? How do they “provide” for their own defense? What do the exiles do upon arriving in Jerusalem?
It is not insignificant that the 12 bulls for all Israel are offered but yet only three tribes are represented here (Levites, Judah, and Benjamin). There was always a kinship among all the tribes of Israel particularly when it came to worship. (You may remember that the first king of the Northern Tribe [Israel] Jeroboam I set up the golden bulls – one in the north at Dan and the other in the south at Bethel – just so that the people would not have to go to Jerusalem to worship and thus limit defection to Judah.)
Verse 36 tells us that once Ezra delivered the edict to the king’s satraps (like governors) and governors in “the province Beyond the River, they aided the people and the house of God.” (Ezra 8:36 ESV)
Sirach 50:1, 11-24
*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 1, 11-24
1 The leader of his brothers and the pride of his people
was the high priest, Simon son of Onias,
who in his life repaired the house,
and in his time fortified the temple.
11 When he put on his glorious robe
and clothed himself in perfect splendor,
when he went up to the hole altar,
he made the court of the sanctuary glorious.
12 When he received the portions from the hands of the priests,
as he stood by the hearth of the altar
with a garland of brothers around him,,
he was like a young cedar on Lebanon
surrounded by the trunks of palm trees.
13 All the sons of Aaron in their splendor
held the LORD’s offering in their hands
before the whole congregation of Israel.
14 Finishing the service at the altars,
and arranging the offering to the Most High, the Almighty,
15 he held out his hand for the cup
and poured a drink offering of the blood of the grape;
he poured it out at the foot of the altar,
a pleasing odor to the Most High, the king of all.
16 Then the sons of Aaron shouted;
they blew their trumpets of hammered metal;
they sounded a mighty fanfare
as a reminder before the Most High.
17 Then all the people together quickly
fell to the ground on their faces
to worship their LORD,
the Almighty, God Most High.
18 Then the singers praised him with their voices
in sweet and full-toned melody [or in sweet melody throughout the house].
19 And the people of the LORD Most High offered
their prayers before the Merciful One,
until the order of worship of the LORD was ended,
and they completed his ritual.
20 Then Simon came down and raised his hands
over the whole congregation of Israelites,
to pronounce the blessing of the LORD with his lips,
and to glory in his name;
21 and they bowed down in worship a second time,
to receive the blessing from the Most High.
22 And now bless the God of all,
who everywhere works great wonders,
who fosters our growth from birth,
and deals with us according to his mercy.
23 May he give us gladness of heart,
and may there e peace in our days
in Israel, as in the days of old.
24 May he entrust to us his mercy
and may he deliver us in our days.
It is unfair of me to ask you just who Simon is because you will not glean all that much from the reading. So allow me to “lift” some information from The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NRSV) pp. 1515-16:
“All of this history culminates in the celebration of Simon son of Onias, who served as high priest from 219-196 B.C. He probably held the office at the time of Ben Sira. 50:1-4 Like several of the heroes before him, Simon organized building projects that strengthened Jerusalem and the Temple within it. 50:5-11 The description of Simon as he participated in the temple liturgy consists of eleven metaphors taken from the natural world. His splendor was like that of the heavenly bodies: the morning star (Venus), the full moon (radiant and compete), and the sun (the consummate celestial body). He resembled the brilliant rainbow, the heavenly pledge of peace and harmony (see Genesis 9:13-15). When he puts on his vestments, he is like the flowers that manifest new life, or the incense that rises to heaven and the precious vessel that holds it, or the stately and fruitful trees that command respect. His very presence made the court of the sanctuary glorious. 50-21 The solemnity and grandeur of Simon’s participation in the temple liturgy is described He is surrounded by all of the priests and the entire assembly of Israel is present. The service concludes with the high priest’s blessing (see Numbers 6:4-26) and the people’s obeisance [deference, honor]. Ben Sira paints a spectacular scene.”