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.

Put wisdom into practice (Sir 51:26-51:30)

“I resolved to live

According to wisdom.

I was zealous for the good.

I shall never be disappointed.

My soul grappled with wisdom.

In my conduct

I was strict.

I spread out my hands

To the heavens.

I lamented my ignorance of her.

I directed my soul to her.

In purity

I found her.

With her,

I gained understanding

From the first.

Therefore I will never be forsaken.

My heart was stirred to seek her.

Therefore I have gained a prize possession.

The Lord gave me my tongue

As a reward.

I will praise him with it.”

Sirach or this author wanted to live according to wisdom, to put wisdom into practice. He was zealous for the good things, so that he was never disappointed. He was strict in his conduct, as his soul wrestled with wisdom. He admitted in prayer that he was ignorant of wisdom, but he tried to purify his soul to find out more. Finally, he gained the understanding that he would never be abandoned by God. His heart was stirred to seek her even more. The result was a prize possession, the Lord gave him a speaking tongue so that he could praise the Lord even much more.

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.

The folly of the artistic idol maker (Wis 15:7-15:8)

“A potter kneads the soft earth.

He laboriously molds each vessel for our service.

He fashions out of the same clay

Both the vessels that serve clean uses

As well as those for contrary uses.

He makes all alike.

But which shall be the use of each of them?

The worker in clay decides.

With misspent toil,

These workers form a futile god

From the same clay.

These mortals were made of earth a short time before.

After a little while,

They go to the earth

From which all mortals are taken.

When the time comes,

They return the souls that were borrowed.”

The potter makes items from clay. Thus he performs a service to society by making things that for everyday usage. Some items are for good use and others are not. He must decide whether to spend his time on good uses or making futile gods of clay (κακόμοχθος θεὸν). He must have forgotten that he too was made of clay a short time ago. He, too, will return to the earth (γῆς) when his soul (τῆς ψυχῆς) separates from his mortal body. This concept of body and soul shows the influence of Greek philosophy since the body merely borrowed the soul.

Trust in Yahweh (Ps 143:7-143:8)

“Answer me quickly!

Yahweh!

My spirit fails!

Do not hide your face from me.

Otherwise I shall be

Like those who go down to the Pit.

Let me hear of your steadfast love

In the morning.

In you

I put my trust.

Teach me the way I should go.

To you

I lift up my soul.”

David wanted a quick answer to his prayer. His spirit was failing. He did not want Yahweh to hide his face because then he would go down into the Pit. He wanted to hear the steadfast love of Yahweh in the morning. David put all his trust in Yahweh so that Yahweh might teach him the way to go. He had lifted up his soul to Yahweh.

Remembering the good old days (Ps 143:5-143:6)

“I remember the days of old.

I think about all your deeds.

I meditate on the works of your hands.

I stretch out my hands to you.

My soul thirsts for you

Like a parched land.”

Selah

David remembered the good old days when Yahweh had done so much. He meditated on the works of Yahweh. He stretched out his hands to Yahweh.  His soul was thirsting for Yahweh like a parched land seeking water. This section ends with the musical interlude meditative pause of Selah.

Give thanks to Yahweh (Ps 138:1-138:3)

A Psalm of David

“Yahweh!

I give you thanks

With my whole heart.

Before the gods,

I sing your praise.

I bow down toward your holy temple.

I give thanks to your name.

Because of your steadfast love.

I give thanks to your name.

Because of your faithfulness.

You have exalted your name

Above everything.

You have exalted your word

Above everything.

On the day I called,

You did answer me.

You increased my strength of soul.”

Psalm 138 is a thanksgiving psalm of David as indicated in the title. David gives thanks to Yahweh from his whole heart. He sings his praises in his holy Temple. Yahweh is greater than any of the other gods or angels. He gave thanks to his holy name for his steadfast love and faithfulness. His name and word were to be exalted above everything. On the day that David called, Yahweh answered him. There was no delay here. Thus this strengthened his soul.