Prayer Psalm: 75
Prayer Point:It is difficult to be thankful to God when injustice seems to reign in our world. Psalm 75 reminds us that God is in control of all things including the weather and human governments despite what we see. Pray that God might give us the faith to believe this so that we might live bold and thankful lives in the midst of a broken world.
The Pharisees are seeking to get rid of Jesus. In yesterday’s reading (Luke 13:31-35), they attempted to scare him off. In today’s reading they try to discredit him as a law breaker. The issue is whether it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. The Pharisees who were respected interpreters of Jewish Law regarded healing to be work and therefore unlawful on the Sabbath. They bait the trap by planting a man with dropsy in front of Jesus. They know that Jesus is a man of compassion and will not refuse to heal the man and when he does, they will brand him as a Sabbath-breaker.
How does Jesus discredit the idea that healing was unlawful on the Sabbath?
Jesus goes on the offensive in verses 7-11. What sin does he expose in his opponents?
The lamb is the main symbol of Jesus in the book of Revelation. Jesus’ faithful people, true Israel and the church, are depicted as the bride of the lamb. These images have their evil counterparts. The beast, Satan, is a distortion of Jesus the lamb. The whore of Babylon, Satan’s world system, mocks the bride of the lamb.
The name Babylon is significant in Israel’s history, as it was the kingdom that destroyed Jerusalem, the temple of God, and carried God’s people into exile. Babylon represents the Satanic system that has oppressed God’s people through the ages.
What kind of a relationship did the kings of the earth have with the whore of Babylon? What benefit did the world’s merchants get out of their relationship with her?
What is God’s message to Babylon? What is God’s message to his faithful people? What is about to happen to the whore of Babylon?
This message has its roots in Israel’s history. Remember that God freed his people by sending plagues to bring their Egyptian oppressors to their knees. Just as Israel came out of Egypt, now the church is called to come out of “Babylon” for judgment is coming.
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you … and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them and show no mercy to them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. (Deuteronomy 7:1-4 ESV emphasis added) [Well, maybe not so quickly. – j.t.]
From at least the time of Solomon, intermarriage with non-Israelites had been at the root of all of the evils that had pervaded the land. As indicated above in Deuteronomy, the infection results in idolatry. Because Ezra can read, he must have familiarized himself with the relative recent history of Israel (from the time of the tearing of the kingdom until the Babylonian Captivity). Prophet after prophet had proclaimed the word of the LORD regarding the national sin of idolatry which they linked to the intermarriage of the people with the heathen. Solomon, the wisest of the kings, was ensnared by idolatry.
Was nothing learned by the dispersion and the captivity? The Northern Tribes were dispersed and managed to lose their tribal identity. The prophets had continually warned both Israel and Judah that the LORD would cast them out of his sight because of idolatry. I wish I had Ezra’s sensitivity about my own sin as he had for his people.
Why does Ezra respond the way he does to the news of widespread intermarriage between the Jews and the neighboring peoples?
Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us?
How does Ezra the priest play the role of Jesus the High Priest for the remnant of Israel?
*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.
PRAYER OF JESUS SON OF SIRACH
1 I give you thanks, O LORD and King,
and praise you, O God my savior.
I give thanks to your name,
2 for you have been my protector and helper
and have delivered me from destruction
and from the trap laid by a slanderous tongue,
from lips that fabricate lies.
In the face of my adversaries
you have been my helper 3 and delivered me,
in the greatness of your mercy and of your name,
from grinding teeth about to devour me,
from the hand of those seeking my life,
from the many troubles I endured,
4 from choking fire on every side,
and from the midst of fire that I had not kindled,
5 from the deep belly of Hades,
from an unclean tongue and lying words —
6 the slander of an unrighteous tongue to the king.
My soul drew near to death,
and my life was on the brink of Hades below.
7 They surrounded me on every side,
and there was no one to help me;
I looked for human assistance,
and there was none.
8 Then I remembered your mercy, O LORD,
and your kindness from of old,
for you rescue those who wait for you
and save them from the hand of their enemies.
9 And I sent up my prayer from the earth,
and begged for rescue from death.
10 I cried out, ” LORD, you are my Father;
do not forsake me in the days of trouble,
when there is no help against the proud.
11 I will praise your name continually,
and will sing hymns of thanksgiving.”
My prayer was heard,
12 for you saved me from destruction
and rescued me in time of trouble.
For this reason I thank you and praise you,
and I will bless the name of the LORD.
After what does this prayer style itself? (This sounds very much like a psalm.)
How does the prayer open? (Sirach’s prayer opens with thanksgiving; an acknowledgment of gratitude and his reasons for his gratitude.)
What does Sirach remember? (In his prayer Sirach remembers God’s mercy: “Then I remembered your mercy, O LORD, and your kindness from of old.” (Sirach 51:8 NRSV))
What does Sirach cry out in his prayer? (“I cried out, ‘ LORD, you are my Father; do not forsake me in the days of trouble, when there is no help against the proud. … My prayer was heard, for you saved me from destruction and rescued me in time of trouble.” (Sirach 51:10, 11b) This actually sounds like something our friend Jonah might also pray. –j.t.)
“For this reason I thank you and praise you, and bless the name of the LORD.” (Sirach 51:12 NRSV)