The watchful eye of Yahweh (Jer 31:28-31:28)

“‘Just as I have watched

Over them

To pluck up,

To break down,

To overthrow,

To destroy,

To bring evil,

So I will watch

Over them

To build

And to plant.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh in this oracle says that he watches over the Israelites. Just as he plucked them up, broke them down, overthrew them, destroyed them, and brought evil to them, so too he would watch over them as he builds them up and plants them again. There is a glimpse of hope here.

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More paradoxes (Sir 34:28-34:31)

“When one builds,

Another tears down.

What do they gain

But hard work?

When one prays,

Another curses.

To whose voice

Will the Lord listen?

If one washes

After touching a corpse,

Then touches it again,

What has he gained

By his washing?

So if one fasts

For his sins,

Then goes again

And does the same things,

Who will listen

To his prayer?

What has he gained

By humbling himself?”

Sirach cites various paradoxes in life. One man builds and another tears it down. What is this except a waste of time and labor for both of them? Who does the Lord listen to, if one person prays and the other curses? If you wash after touching a dead body, then you go and touch it again, what was the point of washing in the first place? If you fast for your sins, and then go out again and sin, who would listen to your prayers? What did you gain by humbling yourself?

The wise ones (Prov 14:1-14:3)

“The wise woman builds her house.

But the foolish woman tears it down

With her own hands.

Those who walk uprightly

Fear Yahweh.

But one who is devious in conduct

Despises Yahweh.

The talk of fools

Is a rod for their backs.

But the lips of the wise

Preserve them.”

The wise woman builds her own house. The foolish woman, on the other hand, tears it down herself. If you walk upright, you fear Yahweh. If you are devious all over the place, then you despise Yahweh. The talk of fools brings the whipping rod to their backs, while the lips of the wise keep them save.

Yahweh is the source of all (Ps 127:1-127:2)

A song of ascents, of Solomon

“Unless Yahweh builds the house,

Those who build it

Labor in vain.

Unless Yahweh guards the city,

The guard keeps watch in vain.

It is in vain

That you rise up early.

It is in vain

That you go late to rest.

It is in vain

To eat the bread of anxious toil.

He gives sleep to his beloved.”

Psalm 127 is another of these short pilgrimage songs or psalms sung on the way ascending to Jerusalem. However, this one has the name of Solomon since there is a little wisdom saying embedded here about God’s providence. Unless Yahweh builds the house, your work is in vain. Unless Yahweh guards your city, it is in vain to have guards watch it. You should not be anxious for your daily bread. It is in vain to rise up early to work or stay up late at night to work. Yahweh gives sleep to his beloved ones. Do not be anxious for Yahweh is the source of all things.