Luke said that some people were speaking about the Temple (Καί τινων λεγόντων περὶ τοῦ ἱεροῦ), since it was adorned with beautiful stones (ὅτι λίθοις καλοῖς), gifts dedicated to God (καὶ ἀναθήμασιν κεκόσμηται). Luke was the only Greek biblical writer to use the word ἀναθήμασιν that means a gift or offering dedicated in a temple by a worshipper or a gift or offering consecrated to God. There was something similar in Matthew, chapter 24:1, and Mark, chapter 13:1. Mark said that Jesus was leaving the Temple (Καὶ ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ). Then one of his disciples (λέγει αὐτῷ εἷς τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ) pointed out to him the beautiful Temple buildings. This unnamed disciple called him teacher (Διδάσκαλε). He wanted Jesus to see and look at the wonderful or great stones and buildings (ἴδε ποταποὶ λίθοι καὶ ποταπαὶ οἰκοδομαί). Matthew, like Mark, indicated that Jesus came out of the Temple (Καὶ ἐξελθὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ τοῦ ἱεροῦ). As he was going away (ἐπορεύετο), his disciples came up to him to point out the beautiful Temple buildings (καὶ προσῆλθον οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτῷ τὰς οἰκοδομὰς τοῦ ἱεροῦ). The Jerusalem Temple had been under reconstruction since the time of Herod the Great in 19 BCE, but would not have been completed at the time of Jesus, since it was only finished in 63 CE. However, most of the work would have been done by the time of Jesus. Just like many churches, this Temple was not completed in a few years. Do you know of any churches that took a long time to build or rebuild?
There is something similar in Luke, chapter 11:44. Jesus continued to curse the Pharisees and the Scribes, much like earlier in verses 13, 14, 15 and 25. The first part of this diatribe is exactly the same as those earlier verses. Woe to you (Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν)! Scribes (γραμματεῖς)! Woe to you! Pharisees (καὶ Φαρισαῖοι)! Hypocrites (ὑποκριταί)! There is no doubt that here Jesus was cursing the Scribes and the Pharisees. This time it was a continuation against the false hearts of the Pharisees. They were like whitewashed tombs (ὅτι παρομοιάζετε τάφοις κεκονιαμένοις), that looked outwardly beautiful (οἵτινες ἔξωθεν μὲν φαίνονται ὡραῖοι). However, the inside of these unmarked tombs was full of the bones of dead people and other kinds of filth or impure things (ἔσωθεν δὲ γέμουσιν ὀστέων νεκρῶν καὶ πάσης ἀκαθαρσίας). Thus, the Pharisees appear to look righteous on the outside to others (οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ἔξωθεν μὲν φαίνεσθε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις δίκαιοι). However, on the inside of them, in their hearts, they are full of hypocrisy and iniquity or lawlessness (ἔσωθεν δέ ἐστε μεστοὶ ὑποκρίσεως καὶ ἀνομίας).
This prayer of Azariah ended with a beautiful appropriate final praise to God. The Lord is good. His mercy endures forever. Thus, he should be blessed by all those who worship the Lord. He is, after all, the God of gods. Therefore, everyone should sing praise to him and thank him for his enduring everlasting mercy.
This section opens with a sarcastic question about who is more beautiful. The response is that they are to go down and lie with the uncircumcised people and those killed by the sword. Egypt with the multitude of their inhabitants has been handed over to death. The mighty chiefs with their helpers will speak to them in the middle of Sheol, the shadowy underworld of the afterlife. They will say that the Egyptians have come down to lie quietly with the uncircumcised and those killed by the sword, which is the worst place in Sheol.
This great cedar tree was splendid. All the birds of the air made their nests in its branches. All the animals of the fields gave birth to their young in its large shade. Many or all the great nations lived under its shadow. It was beautiful in every way, since it had great big beautiful long branches with deep roots that went down into an abundant water supply.
In somewhat beautiful poetic terms, Yahweh, via Jeremiah’s letter, says that if they called on him, he would hear them. If they prayed to him, he would listen to them. If they searched for him, they would find him. If they sought him with their whole hearts, he would let himself be found. Yahweh was ready and willing to help them. They just had to reach out to him with calls, prayers, and sincere searching.
Second Isaiah has this beautiful Yahweh call to the house of Jacob and the remnant of the house of Israel. He wanted them to listen to him. He reminded them that he had taken care of them since their birth. He had carried them from the womb. Even to their old age, when their hair turns gray, he would be with them since he made them. He would bear them, carry them, and save them because they were special.
Despite all, Isaiah says that some branches of Yahweh will continue as beautiful and as glorious as ever. The fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. There are good things to come for the remnant or those remaining in Israel. These faithful few who remain in Zion and Jerusalem will be called the holy ones, the righteous remnant of Israel.
Everything happened according to God’s will. Thus, according to Sirach, the cold north wind with bird like snow is sent by the Lord. Sometimes the snow storm looks like locusts descending on a field. However, we are dazzled by the soft gentle beautiful white snowflakes. Sometimes the snowflakes are like salt that forms pointed thorn icicles. This northern wind freezes the ponds, so that they look like they have a protective breastplate shield on them. This is very beautiful descriptive language about snow and frost.
Sirach now recalls the works of the Lord in nature. He was speaking about what he had seen. The works of the Lord were made by his word. This is in slight contradiction with the creative role of wisdom. Here it is the word of God that creates the world. All these creative things do the will of the Lord. Thus the sun lights up and glorifies the world. Thus you see the ancient inclination to make the sun a god. Just like today, we think that all things look so beautiful on a gorgeous sunny day. No one, not even the holy angels, can tell all about the marvelous works that the Almighty Lord has done. The universe stands as an example of his glory.