The people are powerless (Isa 41:5-41:7)

“The coastlands have seen this.

They are afraid.

The ends of the earth tremble.

They have drawn near.

They come.

Each one helps the other.

They say to one another.

‘Take courage!’

The artisan encourages the goldsmith.

The one who evens the surface

With the hammer

Encourages the one

Who strikes the anvil.

He says of the soldering.

‘It is good.’

They fasten it with nails

So that it cannot be moved.”

The people on the Mediterranean coastline are afraid since all over the earth the land is trembling. They are getting together to help each other. They try to encourage each other, especially in their occupations. The artisan and the goldsmith get together. Those who work with metals try to work together with those who use hammers and anvils. Those that solder and nail work together also. They want to make sure that things stay the same.

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The divine judge (Sir 17:15-17:24)

“Their ways are always known to him.

They will not be hid from his eyes.

Their ways from youth tend towards evil.

They are unable

To make for themselves hearts of flesh

In place of their stony hearts.

In the division of nations of the whole earth

He appointed a ruler for every nation.

But Israel is the Lord’s own portion.

Being his firstborn,

He brings them up with discipline.

He allots to them

The light of his love.

He does not neglect them.

All their works are as clear

As the sun before him.

His eyes are continually upon their ways.

Their iniquities are not hidden from him.

All their sins are before the Lord.

The Lord is gracious.

He knows how they were formed.

He has not left them.

He has not abandoned them.

But he has spared them.

One’s almsgiving is

Like a signet ring with the Lord.

He will keep a person’s kindness

Like the apple of his eye.

Afterward he will rise up.

He will repay them.

He will bring their recompense on their heads.

Yet to those who repent,

He grants a return.

He encourages those who are losing hope.”

The Lord is a diving judge. He knows human ways. You cannot hide from him. He appointed rulers for the various countries, but he is the ruler of Israel. Since the time of the Exile in the 6th century BCE, there was no king of Israel. As Israel is the first born, the Lord has disciplined and loved Israel. He would not neglect them as he watches them continually. Their works are as clear as the sun. They cannot hide their sins, but he has not abandoned them. Almsgiving is like the Lord’s ring. Kindness is the apple of his eye. However, he will repay them for their sins. Nevertheless, those who repent can return. In fact, he tries to encourage those who are losing hope.

The difference between the rich and the humble (Sir 13:21-13:24)

“When the rich person totters,

He is supported by friends.

But when a humble person falls,

He is pushed away

Even by friends.

If the rich person slips,

Many come to his rescue.

If he speaks unseemly words,

They justify him.

If the humble person slips,

They even criticize him.

If he talks sense,

He is not given a hearing.

When the rich person speaks,

All are silent.

They extol to the clouds

What he says.

When the poor person speaks,

They say.

‘Who is this fellow?’

Should he stumble,

They even push him down.

Riches are good

If they are free from sin.

Poverty is evil

Only in the opinion of the ungodly.”

Sirach points out the different attitudes that we have toward the rich and the poor. We tolerate and encourage bad behavior by rich people, but we put down the good behavior of poor people. If a rich person totters a little bit, everyone will come to help him. If a humble poor person slips, his friends push him away. Everyone tries to justify the unseemly words of the rich. However, they will criticize the words of the poor, even if they make a lot of good sense. No one will listen to the poor, but everyone is silent when the rich speak. They will say how wonderful he is. On the other hand, when the poor person speaks, they will ask, who is this guy anyway. If a poor person stumbles, they will push him down further. The only way that rich can be good, is if they are free from sin. In fact, the ungodly think that poverty is evil. It is a tough life if you are poor, but everyone will cover your mistakes if you are rich, because you have “affluenza”.

The bad behavior of the rich (Sir 13:3-13:7)

“A rich person does wrong.

A rich person even adds insults.

A poor person suffers wrong.

A poor person must add apologies.

A rich man will exploit you,

If you can be of use to him.

But if you are in need,

He will forsake you.

If you own something,

He will live with you.

He will drain your resources

Without a qualm.

When he needs you,

He will deceive you.

He will smile at you.

He will encourage you.

He will speak to you kindly.

He will say.

‘What do you need?’

He will embarrass you with his delicacies,

Until he has drained you

Two or three times.

Finally he will laugh at you.

Should he see you afterwards,

He will pass you by.

He will shake his head at you.”

Sirach warns that rich will do bad things to you and then insult you. If a poor person does something wrong, they have to apologize. Not so for the rich. They will exploit you if you can be helpful to them. However, if you need anything, they will leave quickly. The rich will use what you have and thus drain your resources. If the rich need you, they will deceive you with smiles and kindly words. They will encourage you by asking what they can do for you. They will provide embarrassing delicacies, until you are drained a couple of times over. Then they will laugh at you. If you see them later, they will pass you by and shake their heads at you. Do not be fooled by the rich and their false kindness.

 

Job responds to his accusers (Job 16:1-16:5)

“Then Job answered.

‘I have heard many such things.

You are miserable comforters!

Have windy words no limit?

What provokes you that you keep on talking?

I also talk as you do.

If you were in my place,

I could join words together against you.

I could shake my head at you.

I could encourage you with my mouth.

The solace of my lips would assuage your pain.’”

Job responded that they were miserable comforters. Why did they keep on talking? Job could talk also. If the tables were turned, he could talk against them. However, he would encourage them with mouth and words to ease their pain, not the opposite as they have done. The idea of shaking one’s head was a sign of disgust and derision.

Simon’s speech in Jerusalem (1 Macc 13:1-13:6)

“Simon heard that Trypho had assembled a large army to invade the land of Judah and destroy it. He saw that the people were trembling and fearful. So he went up to Jerusalem. He gathered the people together. He encouraged them, saying to them.

‘You yourselves know

What great things

My brothers and I

And the house of my father

Have done for the laws and the sanctuary.

You know also the wars

And the difficulties

That my brothers and I have seen.

By reason of this,

All my brothers have perished for the sake of Israel.

I alone am left.

Now, far be it from me

To spare my life

In any time of distress.

I am not better than my brothers.

But I will avenge my nation

And the sanctuary

And your wives and children.

All the nations have gathered together out of hatred to destroy us.’”

Simon, who was the governor of the coastal states, saw how afraid the Israelites were. He knew that Trypho had a large army that was attempting to destroy the people of Judah. He went to Jerusalem to gather the people there in a great assembly. He spoke to the people to encourage them to keep going. He reminded them of what his family had done. His father and all his brothers had died fighting for Judah and the law. He was the only one left, even though he was not better than his brothers. Simon had assumed that Jonathan was dead and not captured. He wanted to avenge all the nations that had attacked the Jewish people. He was going to defend the sanctuary, their wives, and their children.