Justice and sacrificial offerings (Mic 6:6-6:8)

“‘With what shall I come

Before Yahweh?

Shall I bow myself

Before God on high?

Shall I come before him

With burnt offerings?

Shall I come before him

With calves a year old?

Will Yahweh be pleased

With thousands of rams?

Will Yahweh be pleased

With ten thousand rivers of oil?

Shall I give

My first-born

For my transgression?

Shall I give

The fruit of my body

For the sin of my soul?’

O mortal!

He has showed you

What is good!

What does Yahweh

Require of you?

But you are

To do justice,

To love kindness,

To walk humbly

With your God!”

Yahweh, via Micah, once again showed the relationship between worship and justice.  Much like the written prophets, Amos, chapter 5, Hosea, chapter 2, and Isaiah, chapters 7 and 30, the emphasis was on justice over sacrificial gifts.  Micah asked what kind of gifts he should bring to Yahweh, the high God.  Would Yahweh be happy with burnt offerings of one-year old calves?  Would 1,000 rams please him?  Would 10,000 rivers of oil be enough for Yahweh?  Should he offer up his firstborn son to save his soul?  Micah pointed out what Yahweh required.  Yahweh wanted them to do justice and love kindness.  Very simply, they were to walk humbly with their God, Yahweh.

The princes will exercise justice (Ezek 45:9-45:9)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

‘Enough!

O princes of Israel!

Put away violence!

Put away oppression!

Do what is just!

Do what is right!

Cease your evictions

Of my people.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Yahweh was going to tell the princes that he had enough of their violence and oppression. Now they were to do what was right and just. They should no longer evict the people of Yahweh, their God.

Prostitution with the Chaldeans (Ezek 16:29-16:29)

“You multiplied

Your prostitute ways

With Chaldea,

The land or merchants.

Even with this

You were not satisfied.”

Yahweh said that they multiplied their prostituting ways with the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, who would later take them over. However, they were originally attracted to them by their merchandise, since the Chaldeans were good merchants. Even this mercantile arrangement was not enough. Jerusalem was never satisfied.

The warnings against these abominations (Ezek 8:17-8:18)

“Then Yahweh said to me.

‘Have you seen this?

O son of man!

Is it not bad enough

That the house of Judah

Commits the abominations

Done here?

Must they fill the land

With violence?

Must they provoke

My anger further?

See!

They put the branch

To their nose.

Therefore I will act

In wrath!

My eye will not spare!

I will not have pity!

Although they cry

In my hearing

With a loud voice,

I will not listen to them.’”

Then Yahweh warned Ezekiel again. Had he seen enough? The house of Judah committed all these abominations. On top of that, they filled the land with violence. They had provoked the anger of Yahweh. They even put branches in their noses as some kind of worship activity. Yahweh was going to act against them in his anger. He was not going to spare them or show any pity. Even if they cried very loudly, Yahweh was not going to listen to them. Their actions spoke louder than their words.

 

The false pursuits (Bar 3:15-3:19)

“Who has found

Her place?

Who has entered

Her storehouses?

Where are the rulers

Of the nations?

Where are those

Who lorded it over

The animals on earth?

Where are those

Who have made sport

Of the birds of the air?

Where are those

Who hoarded up

Silver with gold

In which people trust ?

Where are those

With no end

To their getting?

Where are those

Who schemed

To get silver?

Where are those

Who are anxious?

There is no trace

Of their works.

They have vanished.

They have gone down

To Hades.

Others have arisen

In their place.”

Baruch talks about the vanity and uselessness of various life pursuits as in wisdom literature. What happens to people who store up treasures in a storehouse? Where are all the rulers of the various nations? Where are all the people who felt superior to animals. Where are the sportsmen who tried to shoot the birds in the air with their arrows? What happened to all those who hoarded up and put their trust in silver and gold? Where are all the people who never had enough? Where are those who schemed to get silver? Where are all the people who were so anxious? Baruch’s response is simple and clear. There is no trace of any of these people and their works. They have vanished and gone to hell, Hades, the Greek word for Sheol, the shadowy underworld that we often call hell. However, there are always others to take their place to do the same thing over and over again.

They will be ashamed (Jer 13:25-13:27)

“Says Yahweh.

‘This is your lot.

This is the portion

I have measured out to you.

Because you have forgotten me.

You trusted in lies.

I myself will lift up your skirts

Over your face.

Your shame will be seen.

I have seen your abominations.

I have seen your adulteries.

I have seen your neighing.

I have seen your shameless prostitution

On the hills of the countryside.

Woe to you!

O Jerusalem!

How long will it be

Before you are made clean?’”

Yahweh was really upset, as Jeremiah indicates. Yahweh has chosen their lot and measured the size of it. They had forgotten Yahweh, but trusted in lies. Thus Yahweh was going to violate them by lifting up their skirts over their face, so that everyone could see the shame of their nakedness. Yahweh had seen enough of their abominations that included adultery, complaining, and senseless prostitution on the hills in the countryside. Thus Yahweh issued his curse on them. He had no idea how long it would take to make them clean.

Futile sacrificial offerings (Isa 1:11-1:13)

“‘What to me

Is the multitude of your sacrifices?’

Says Yahweh.

‘I have had enough

Of burnt offerings

Of rams.

I have had enough

Of burnt offerings

Of the fat of fed beasts.

I do not delight

In the blood of bulls.

I do not delight

In the blood of lambs.

I do not delight

In the blood of goats.

When you come

To appear before me,

Who asked this

From your hand?

Trample my courts no more.

Bringing offerings is futile.

Incense is an abomination to me.’”

In a total rejection of the priestly Levitical Israelite line that stressed the importance and necessity of sacrificial offerings, Yahweh, via Isaiah, seems to call all of the Temple sacrifices useless. Why were there multitudes of sacrifices? Yahweh, the Lord, had had enough of priestly burnt offerings of rams, fatten animals, blood, bulls, lambs, and goats. Who asked you to bring all these animals? Why, of course it was God’s law, the Torah, especially the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. It was a common theme as late as the wisdom literature. Here is an opposite strain of thought. Yahweh did not want his courts trampled, but that was what the law called for. This is a strong condemnation of incense, which was praised throughout all the other biblical writings because of its sweet smell. What a stunning reversal against the Torah!

Saved from death (Sir 51:5-51:9)

“The Lord delivered me

From the deep belly of Hades.

He delivered me

From an unclean tongue.

He delivered me

From lying words.

He delivered me

From the slander

Of an unrighteous tongue                          

To the king.

My soul drew

Near to death.

My life was

On the brink of Hades below.

They surrounded me on every side.

There was no one to help me.

I looked for human assistance.

There was none.

Then I remembered your mercy.

O Lord!

I remembered from of old.

You rescue those

Who wait for you.

You save them

From the hand of their enemies.

I sent up my prayers from the earth.

I begged for rescue from death.”

This author shows how he was near death, when the Lord helped him. He was saved from the belly of hell or Hades, the shadowy underworld after death. He also was saved from the unclean and lying tongues of the unrighteous people who went to the king against him. His soul grew close to death as he was on the brink of hell or the underworld of Hades. He was surrounded on every side, when he realized that human help was not enough. Then he remembered the mercy of the Lord who had rescued and saved others from the hands of their enemies. Thus he sent up prayers from earth to heaven, begging to be rescued from death.

Praise for the Divine presence (Sir 43:27-43:33)

“We could say more.

But we could never say enough.

Let the final word be.

‘He is the all.’

Where can we find the strength

To praise him?

He is greater

Than all his works.

Awesome is the Lord.

He is very great.

His power is marvelous.

Glorify the Lord!

Exalt him as much as you can!

He surpasses even that.

When you exalt him,

Summon all your strength.

Do not grow weary!

You cannot praise him enough.

Who has seen him?

Who can describe him?

Who can extol him as he is?

Many things greater

Than these lie hidden.

I have seen

But a few of his works.

The Lord has made all things.

To the godly,

He has given wisdom.”

Sirach assumes the first person plural saying that he or we could say more, but it would never be enough. In fact, Sirach is very close to a pantheistic view when he maintains that the Lord is all things. However, he quickly corrects himself when he says that the Lord is greater than all his works, separating him from his creation. The Lord is awesome, very great, marvelous, and powerful. Where do we get the strength to praise the Lord? We should glorify him and exalt him as much as we can. We should not grow weary because we can never praise God enough. Nobody has seen him or described him. How can we extol him enough? Sirach has related what he has seen, but there are many more hidden things about the Lord, since he is the creator of all things. Luckily, he has given wisdom to the godly, so that they will experience a few of these marvels of the Lord.

Judgment day (Sir 11:23-11:28)

“Do not say.

‘What do I need?

What further benefit can be mine?’

Do not say.

‘I have enough.

What harm can come to me now?’

In the day of prosperity,

Adversity is forgotten.

In the day of adversity,

Prosperity is not remembered.

It is easy for the Lord,

On the day of death,

To reward individuals

According to their conduct.

An hour’s misery

Makes one forget past delights.

At the close of one’s life.

One’s deeds are revealed.

Call no one happy

Before his death.

By how he ends,

A person becomes known.”

Sirach warns us about judgment day. Do not say that you need anything. Do not say that you have enough, that no one can hurt you. You have to always remember that in the days of your adversity, you may forget about your days of prosperity. The reverse is also true. At the time of your prosperity, you may forget about the days of your adversity. The Lord can quickly reward people according to their conduct, at the day of their death. Sometimes a little misery makes you forget the great delights that you have enjoyed. All your deeds will be revealed at the time of your death. No one is truly happy before they die. A person will be known by how they came to their death. A good life leads to a good death.