Friday, August 10, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 44 and Acts 21:1-25

Sirach 44 – He turns to the praise of famous men: James Agee got the title of his 1941 book about sharecroppers in the South from this part of Sirach – Now Let Us Praise Famous Men. There have been men of authority, intelligent advisers and prophets, musicians and poets. “Some of them left a name behind them, . . .while others have left no memory, and disappeared as though they had not existed, it is now as though they had never been, and so too, their children after them” (44:8-9).

Among those named are Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses, Aaron, Phinehas, Joshua, Caleb, the judges, Samuel, Nathan, David, Solomon and others will take up the remaining chapters.

Abraham is revered for how he “observed the Law of the Most High” but the Mosaic Law was not given in his time. I wonder what “Law” meant in the mind of the writer when applying it to Abraham’s time – maybe the experiential guidance of the God who Abraham felt had reached out to him and brought him to live by faith. 

Acts 21:1-25 – Paul tears himself away from Ephesus, and goes by sea to Cos, Rhodes, Patara and south of Cyprus to Tyre. He stays a week there, and the people urge him not to go on to Jerusalem. He goes to Ptolemais and stays a day there and then heads to Caesaria where he stays with Philip, the Apostle.

Philip is said to have four virgin daughters who are prophets and they foretell Paul’s fate in Jerusalem, that he will be handed over to pagans, but Paul is ready for this too. They go on to Jerusalem, lodging en route with Cypriot Mnason, a very early convert. They are warmly greeted by disciples in Jerusalem.

He visits with James and the elders. He reports on the ministry he’s done. “Staunch Law keepers” have heard that Paul instructs “all Jews living among the pagans to break away from Moses” (21:21). They want Paul to try to persuade these staunch Jews that he is not trying to undermine Mosaic Law by taking part in a purification vow over seven days and paying for the expenses four men have incurred to do this. They remind him that it was decided that all Christian converts from paganism would observe abstention from things sacrificed to idols, from blood and the meat of strangled animals and from “fornication” or marrying close relatives. Paul does take part in the purification ceremony and pays what they ask him to pay.

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