Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 15-16 and Acts 8:1-24

Sirach 15 – “[W]hoever grasps the Law will obtain wisdom. She will come to meet him like a mother, and receive him like a virgin bride. She will give him the bread of understanding to eat, and the water of wisdom to drink. He will lean on her and will not fall, he will rely on her and not be put to shame” (15:2-4).

“Do not say, ‘The Lord was responsible for my sinning’, for he is never the cause of what he hates . . .He himself made man in the beginning, and then left him free to make his own decisions. If you wish, you can keep the commandments, to behave faithfully is within your power” (15:11-15).

“He has set fire and water before you; put out your hand to whichever you prefer. Man has life and death before him; whichever a man likes better will be given him. For vast is the wisdom of the Lord; he is almighty and all-seeing. His eyes are on those who fear him, he notes every action of man” (15:16-19).

Sirach 16 – “However many [children] you have, take no pleasure in them, unless the fear of the Lord lives among them” (16:2).

“[M]ercy and wrath alike belong to the Lord who is mighty to forgive and to pour out wrath. His mercy is great, but his severity is as great; he judges every man as his deeds deserve: the sinner shall not escape with his ill-gotten gains, nor the devout man’s patience go for nothing” (16:11-13).

“Do not say, ‘I will hide from the Lord, who will remember me up there? I shall certainly not be noticed among so many; what am I in the immensity of creation?’ Why look the sky and the heavens above the sky, the deep and the earth tremble at his visitation. The mountains and the base of the earth together quail and tremble when he looks at them. But who bothers his head about such things? Who attempts to understand the way he moves? The storm win itself is invisible, and most of what he does gods undetected. ‘Who will report whether justice has been done? Who will be expecting it? The covenant is far away.’ Such are the thoughts of the man of little sense, the rash misguided man who loves his illusions” (16:17-22).

Acts 8:1-24 – We are told that “Saul approved of their killing [Stephen]” (8:1).

A severe persecution begins in Jerusalem “and everyone except the apostles fled to the country districts of Judaea and Samaria” (8:1). The Jerusalem Bible note and Ray Brown both indicate that those scattered were the Hellenist believers in Christ, not the Hebrew believers. Their testimony against Temple worship brought on the persecution. The Hellenists were “scattered” and became the first Christian missionaries (Brown, 51). Saul is seen as behind the persecutions. He ravaged the church “by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women” (8:3) and committing them to prison.
Philip goes to the province of Samaria to carry the work. He did many signs there as well, curing the paralyzed or lame, healing the possessed. Now a man there name Simon was a great magician, and he too was converted by Philip. He “stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place” (8:13). When the apostles heard that Samaria was being converted they sent Peter and John there, that “they might receive the Holy Spirit” (8:16). They laid hands of them and they received the Spirit. When Simon saw this, he offered them money for this power. Peter rebukes him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money! You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God” (8:20-21). Simon seems to repent and asks them to pray for him (8:24). Simony, the practice of profiting from sacred things, comes from his name.

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