Monday, July 16, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 12-13 and Acts 7:1-44

Sirach 12 – Bad advice here, at least from a Christian perspective: “The Most High himself detests sinners, and will repay the wicked with a vengeance. Give to the good man, and do not go to the help of a sinner” (12:6-7). Jesus broke this “wisdom” rule a time or two. But this, after all, is human wisdom. If you lend aid to someone who is bad, you are making him stronger in his wickedness.

Sirach 13 – Beware of rich and influential men. They will take advantage of you and leave you humiliated.

“When the rich man stumbles he is supported by friends; when the poor man falls, his friends push him away. When the rich man slips, there are many hands to catch him, if he talks nonsense, he is congratulated. The poor man slips, and is blamed for it, he may talk good sense but no room is made for him. The rich man speaks and everyone stops talking, and then they praise his discourse to the skies. The poor man speaks and people say, ‘Who is this?’ and if he staggers they push him down” (13:21-23).

We are very tribal: “Every living thing loves its own sort, and every man his neighbor. Every creature mixes with its kind, and man sticks to his own sort” (13:26-27). He extends this especially to class-tribes, but democracy has bred political tribes as well. Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind is great on describing the moral psychology of these tribes.

Acts 7:1-44 – After Stephen is accused, the High Priest asks for his response: Stephen addresses his “brothers and fathers” (7:1) by reviewing the whole story of his people. Starting with Abraham, he retells the story slowly and in great detail.


The Jerusalem Bible notes that accompany Stephen’s address emphasize that he is in some instances using a “non-biblical tradition” (211). He begins with Abraham even before he moved to Haran and focuses on the promise made to him, his faithfulness to God despite never getting “a square foot of ground” (7:5) or a single child; then he touches on the institution of circumcision. He tells the story of Joseph and his brothers, Joseph’s rise in Pharaoh’s court and the eventual return of return of Abraham’s body to the tomb at Shechem.


He proceeds to tell the story of Moses and his call, and the difficulty that the people – his people – had in accepting his leadership. It is the rejection of Moses’ leadership that Stephen focuses on because he is trying to show everyone that Jesus was the expected “prophet like Moses” [see Deuteronomy 18:15]. Stephen says of Moses, “it was he who was entrusted with words of life to hand on to us. This is the man that our ancestors refused to listen to: they pushed him aside, turned back to Egypt in their thoughts” (7:38). Again, a Jerusalem Bible note is great. “For the Christian, the gospel preaching is ‘the word of life’ . . . ‘the word of salvation’ . . Since life springs from God’s word, this word is itself ‘living’ . . . And Jesus is himself ‘the Word of life’ “ (213).


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