Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 33 and Acts 16:1-18

Sirach 33 – On God’s Creative Will: “Like clay in the hands of the potter to mold as it pleases him, so are men in the hands of their Maker to reward as he judges right. Opposite evil stands good, opposite death, life; so too, opposite the devout man stands the sinner” (33:13-14).

On Avoiding Dependency: “Neither to son nor wife, brother nor friend, give power over yourself during your own lifetime. . . . As long as you live and there is breath in your body, do not yield power over yourself to anyone” (33:20).

On Slaveryharsh “wisdom” of a different era here, seemingly like the advice to parents on dealing with their children: “Work your servant hard, and you will know peace of mind; leave his hands idle, and he will start thinking of his freedom” (33:26).

If you have only one slave, “treat him as a brother since you need him as you need yourself. If you ill-treat him and he runs away, which way will you go to look for him?” (33:33)

Acts 16:1-18 – Paul and Silas head north through Syria and Cilicia to Derbe and Lystra. There they meet Timothy whose mother was a Jew and father a Greek. Paul wants him to travel with them. He has him circumcised to make him more acceptable to the Jews of the area. While Paul seriously believed that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised to become part of the Christian community, the son  of a Jewish woman was technically Jewish, so circumcision may have seemed more appropriate to him.

They go farther north and west through Phrygia to Mysia on the upper northwest corner of Asia Minor, but they stop before going into Bithynia (north of them on the Black Sea) – the “Spirit of Jesus would not allow them” (16:7).

They then turn south and go to Troas on the Aegean Sea where Paul has a vision in which a Macedonian appears to him and begs him to come across to them. They arrange passage in the belief that God has called them to go.

Note that here in verses 9 and 10, the “voice” of the narrator changes from third person (“they”) to first person (”we”); Luke must have joined Paul and Timothy. They go to Neapolis and Philippi, a Roman colony and principal city of the region. Jews in Philippi had no synagogue, so they worshipped near the river. They preach to the women there (16:14), one of whom – Lydia – is a leading woman of the area in the purple dye trade. She and her family converts and she invites Paul, Timothy and Silas to stay with them.

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