Law and sacrifice (Sir 35:1-35:5)

“Whoever keeps the law,

Makes many offerings.

Whoever heeds the commandments

Makes an offering of well-being.

Whoever returns a kindness

Offers choice fine flour.

Whoever gives alms

Sacrifices a thank offering.

To keep from wickedness

Is pleasing to the Lord.

To forsake unrighteousness

Is atonement.”

Sirach reminds us of the connection between keeping the law and offering the sacrificial rites. If you keep the law, you are like offering many sacrifices. If you keep the commandments, you are making the equivalent of a well-being or peace offering. When you return a kindness to someone, offer them the choice flour. If you give alms, you are like making a thanksgiving sacrifice. Whenever you keep from wickedness, you are pleasing to the Lord. When you stay away from unrighteousness, you are making an atonement for your sins. Keeping the law is like offering sacrifices.

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Financial independence (Sir 33:19-33:23)

“To son or wife,

To brother or friend,

Do not give power over yourself,

As long as you live.

Do not give your property

To another.

In case you change your mind,

You must ask for it.

While you are still alive,

While you have breath in you,

Do not let anyone take your place!

It is better

That your children

Should ask from you

Than that you should look

To the hand of your children.

Excel in all that you do!

Bring no stain upon your honor!

At the time when you end

The days of your life,

In the hour of your death,

Distribute your inheritance.”

Sirach points out the important of keeping your money until you die. He did not want people to give up their property to sons, wives, brothers, or friends as long as they were alive. He would be against the modern power of attorney concept. He seems to prefer the old fashioned last will and testament. His reasoning was that you might change your mind. Then you would have a hard time getting it back. No one should take your place as long as you were living. It is better that your children come to you, rather than you depend on your children. During your life, you should excel in all that you do. You should bring honor to your family. However, at the end, when you are near death, then you can distribute your goods via a will or anyway you please.

The right time (Eccl 3:1-3:8)

“For everything there is a season.

There is a time

For every matter under heaven.

A time to be born.

A time to die.

A time to plant.

A time to pluck up what is planted.

A time to kill.

A time to heal.

A time to break down.

A time to build up.

A time to weep.

A time to laugh.

A time to mourn.

A time to dance.

A time to throw away stones.

A time to gather stones together.

A time to embrace.

A time to refrain from embracing.

A time to seek.

A time to lose.

A time to keep.

A time to throw away.

A time to tear.

A time to sew.

A time to keep silence.

A time to speak.

A time to love.

A time to hate.

A time for war.

A time for peace.”

This is the famous poem about a correct time for everything. Sometimes it is read at funerals. There also was the 1950s and 1960s Pete Seeger popular song Turn, Turn, Turn that took its lyrics from this poem. God decides the time. We do not. There is a time and place for all the dichotomies of life, birth and death, planting and harvesting, killing and healing, breaking down and building up, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, throwing away and gathering stones, embracing and not embracing, seeking and losing, keeping and throwing away, tearing and sowing, keeping silent and speaking, loving and hating, making war and making peace. Everything under heaven has its place and season.

Yahweh keeps them from evil (Ps 121:7-121:8)

“Yahweh will keep you from all evil.

He will keep your life.

Yahweh will keep

Your going out.

Yahweh will keep

Your coming in.

Yahweh will do this

From this time on and forevermore.”

This psalm ends with Yahweh keeping these pilgrims of Israel from evil. He would protect their lives, whether they were coming in or going out. He would be their eternal protector from this time on.

Remembering the Temple (Ps 42:4-42:6)

“These things I remember,

As I pour out my soul.

How I went with the throng.

I led them in procession

To the house of God.

There were glad shouts.

There were songs of thanksgiving.

There was a multitude keeping a festival.

Why are you cast down?

O my soul!

Why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God!

I shall again praise him.

My help!

My God!”

This psalmist remembers the Temple worship as he poured out his soul. There was a great crowd and a great procession to the house of God with happy shouts of joy. Everyone was keeping the festival. However, now he was cast down because his soul was disturbed and disquieted. He, however, hoped that he would again praise God in his Temple. He relied on God as his helper.