Saturday, August 4, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 37 and Acts 17:15-34

Sirach 37 – On False Friendships: “[S]ome friends are only friends in name. Is it not a deadly sorrow, when a comrade or a friend turns enemy?” (37:2)

On Advisers: “Any adviser will offer advice, but some are governed by self-interest” (37:7). You should always know what the interests of your advisers are, so you can properly judge their advice.

“Do not consult a woman about her rival, or a coward about war, a merchant about prices, or a buyer about selling, a mean man about gratitude, or a selfish man about kindness, a lazy fellow about any sort of work. . .[b]ut constantly have recourse to a devout man, whom you know to be a keeper of the commandments, whose soul matches your own, and who, if you go wrong, will be sympathetic” (37:11-12).

“Stick to the advice your own heart gives you; no one can be truer to you than that” (37:13). And “beg the Most High to guide your steps in the truth” (37:15).

Real Wisdom: “Reason must be the beginning of every activity, reflection must come before any undertaking. Thoughts are rooted in the heart, and this send out four branches: good and evil, life and death, and always mistress of them all is the tongue” (37:16-18).

Another bit on eating moderately follows.

Acts 17:15-34 - Paul waits in Athens, and Luke gives us a great account of the historic context Paul faced in this great city, “the center of culture, philosophy, and art” (Brown 311) at this time. He is revolted at the idolatry of the city – debating not only with the usual Jews and God-fearers in the synagogue but with anyone he met in the streets. Epicurian and Stoic philosophers debate him. They invite him to the Council of the Areopagus. The writer notes that the people living in Athens LOVED to discuss all the latest ideas – this is cool.

Paul makes this argument to them: He says he’s been “admiring [their] sacred monuments” (17:23) – and especially the altar inscribed “To an Unknown God.”  He then tells them the God he preaches IS this God. “Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands . . .From one single stock he not only created the whole human race . . .but he decreed how long each nation should flourish . . .And he did this so that all nations might seek the deity, and by feeling their way towards him, succeed in finding him. Yet in fact he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said” (24-28). I can’t tell you how I love and appreciate these words; it so captures my own experience of feeling the pull of the Creator in my life.

While God permitted men to worship false gods in the past, when we were ignorant, “now he is telling everyone everywhere that they must repent, because he has fixed a day when the whole world will be judged, and judged in righteousness, and he has appointed a man to be the judge. And God has publicly proved this by raising this man from the dead” (17:29-31). Some laugh at Paul when he says this, but he wins some too, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris.

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