Friday, July 20, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 18-20 and Acts 9

Sirach 19 – The writer deals with the very serious issue of rumor mongering: “Never repeat what you are told and you will come to no harm; whether to friend or foe, do not talk about it, uness it would be sinful not to talk about it, unless it would be sinful not to, do not reveal it; you would be heard out, then mistrusted, and in due course you would be hated” (19:7-9).

“Have you heard something? Let it die with you. . [if you find offense in what you’ve heard] Question your friend, he may have done nothing at all, and if he has done anything, he will not do it again. Question your neighbor, he may have said nothing at all, and if he has said anything, he will not say it again. Question your friend, for slander is very common, do not believe all you hear. A man sometimes makes a slip, without meaning what he says; and which of us has never sinned by speech? (19:10-18).

Sirach 20 – About speaking and silence, paradoxes and inappropriate talk. “Better a slip on the pavement than a slip of the tongue” (20:18). There are few passages in this chapter that seemed quotable.

Acts 9Saul is furious with these Hellenized Christians – remember they are still part of the Jewish community and they are preaching a very controversial message – that the Temple and strict adherence to the Mosaic Law are no longer necessary. He goes to the High Priest and from him gets letters that will permit him to pursue these now scattered “heretics” and have them returned to Jerusalem where they will meet the same fate as Stephen

As he is traveling near the city of Damascus, he suddenly sees a light from heaven and hears a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (9:4) He asks who it is, and he hears “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (9:5). The men with him hear the voice too but do not see anything. Saul is blinded by the intense light; they lead him to Damascus, where he cannot see for three days.
Meanwhile the Lord appears in a vision to a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. He tells him to go to the place where Saul is, that Saul too has had a vision that a man named Ananias will bring his sight back. Ananias is afraid, knowing Saul’s reputation, but the Lord says, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel” (9:15). He goes and lays his hands on Saul, and immediately “something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored” (9:18).

He stays a few days with Ananias and immediately “he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God” (9:20). His preaching has great “convincing power” as early Friends said. When some “Jews” [remember they are all still Jews, but these are Jews wedded completely to the Law and Temple worship.  They plan to kill him; he learns of it and escapes the town.

He comes to Jerusalem, but the disciples are all afraid of him, “for they did not believe that he was s disciple” (9:26). A man named Barnabas tries to help him, bringing him to the apostles and telling his story to them. But now he starts to preach and “argue” (9:29) with the Greek speaking Jews that seem to agree with their conservative Aramaic-speaking brothers. They try to kill Paul, but when “the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus” (9:30).
Now Luke’s attention turns to Peter’s work. Peter comes down to the “saints” living in Lydda. There he meets a man named Aeneas who was bedridden and paralyzed. Peter heals him and wins many converts. Healing parallels Jesus’ healing in Luke 5:24. In Joppa a disciple named Tabitha dies. They carry her to an upstairs room. The disciples send for Peter. He goes into the room, kneels down and prays. He turns to the body and tells her to get up. She gets up, and word of her recovery brings in many converts. Again, this closely parallels Jesus’ raising of Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8:49. Peter stays with Simon the tanner.

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