Thursday, August 2, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 34-35 and Acts 16:19-40

Sirach 34 – On Dreams: “As well clutch at shadows and chase the wind as put any faith in dreams. Mirror and dream are similar things: confronting a face, the reflection of that face” (34:2-3).

“[D]reams have led many astray, and those building their hopes on them have been disappointed” (34:7).

On the Happiness of Those Who Fear the Lord: “Happy the soul of the man who fears the Lord. On whom does he rely? Who supports him? The eyes of the Lord watch over those who love him, he is their powerful protection and their strong support, their screen from the desert wind, their shelter from the midday sun, a guard against stumbling, an assurance against a fall” (34:14-16).

On Sacrifices: they are useless unless they are offered sincerely and not at cost to others.

Sirach 35 – Keeping the Law More Important than Sacrifices: “A man multiplies offerings by keeping the Law; he offers communion sacrifices by following the commandments. By showing gratitude he makes an offering of fine flour, by giving alms he offers a sacrifice of praise” (35:1-2).

“Mercy is welcome in time of trouble, like rain clouds in time of drought” (35:24).

Acts 16:19-40 - They meet a slave girl in Philippi who is a “soothsayer” (Jerusalem Bible note says the term literally means “Python spirit,” and this refers to the python who belonged to the Delphic oracle). She annoys Paul by proclaiming the men’s mission every time she sees them, so he orders the spirit to leave the woman in Jesus’ name (16:18). Her masters drag Paul and Silas to the law courts and accuse them of “causing a disturbance” by advocating practices it was “unlawful for us as Romans to accept or follow” (16:21-22). Jerusalem Bible notes that any kind of proselytizing Romans was unlawful for Jews or Christians. They are scourged and thrown into prison. 

That night, they pray and sing God’s praises, and suddenly there is an earthquake that basically knocks the prison down and results in them being able to go free. Note here again an echo of a similar experience Peter has in Acts 12:3. The jailer, fearing he will be held responsible, starts to commit suicide, but Paul stops him. He asks “what [he] must do to be saved” (16:30). They tell him “’believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your family’” (16:31).

The next day, an officer comes to order their release, but Paul makes a stink about it and says they must come and escort them out. The magistrates do come and beg them to leave the town. Then they go to Lydia’s again and leave from there to go to Thessalonika.

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