He built a synagogue (Lk 7:5-7:5)

“This centurion loves

Our people.

He built us

Our synagogue.”

 

ἀγαπᾷ γὰρ τὸ ἔθνος ἡμῶν καὶ τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτὸς ᾠκοδόμησεν ἡμῖν.

 

Luke uniquely said that these Jewish elders continued praising this centurion, who loved the Jewish people, their people (ἀγαπᾷ γὰρ τὸ ἔθνος ἡμῶν).  He had built a synagogue for them (καὶ τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτὸς ᾠκοδόμησεν ἡμῖν).  There were many instances of Roman soldiers adopting the religious practices of the people where they were staying.  However, building a synagogue seems a bit much.  It may have led to better community relations.  Although he was not Jewish, this centurion had been very favorable to the Jewish people by helping them build a new synagogue.  There was no mention of this synagogue in the Matthew story about the centurion.  Would you be favorable to a religion not your own?

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Fear of the Lord (Sir 34:14-34:20)

“The spirit of those

Who fear the Lord

Will live.

Their hope is in him

Who saves them.

Those who fear the Lord

Will not be timid.

They will not play the coward.

He is their hope.

Happy is the soul

That fears the Lord!

To whom does he look?

Who is his support?

The eyes of the Lord

Are on those who love him.

The Lord is a mighty shield.

The Lord is a strong support.

The Lord is a shelter

From the scorching wind.

The Lord is a shade

From the noonday sun.

The Lord is a guard

Against stumbling.

The Lord is a help

Against falling.

He lifts up the soul.

He makes the eyes sparkle.

He gives health.

He gives life.

He gives blessings.”

Sirach emphasizes the importance of fearing God with its consequences. Those who fear the Lord will live. They have hope that the Lord will save them. They will not be cowards or timid. The reason for their hope is that the Lord supports them. He loves them since he is like a shield. He provides shelter for them against the hot winds and shade against the hot midday sun. The Lord keeps them from stumbling or falling. He lifts up their souls as he makes their eyes sparkle. He gives them health, life and blessings. A lot of good things happen when you fear the Lord.

Stay with your own kind (Sir 13:15-13:20)

“Every creature loves its like.

Every person loves his neighbor.

All living beings associate

With their own kind.

People stick close to those

Like themselves.

What does a wolf have in common

With a lamb?

No more has a sinner anything in common

With the devout.

What peace is there

Between a hyena and a dog?

What peace is there

Between the rich and the poor?

Wild asses in the wilderness

Are the prey of lions.

Likewise the poor

Are feeding grounds for the rich.

Humility is an abomination

To the proud.

Likewise the poor are an abomination

To the rich.”

Sirach tells us that people and creatures like to stick with their own kind. There is a natural born prejudice to stay with your own kind of people. Everybody usually loves their neighbors. Why else would they live there? A wolf and a lamb have nothing in common, just like the sinner and the devout do not have anything in common. There can never be peace between hyenas and dogs, so too the animosity between rich and poor cannot be bridged. Wild donkeys are the prey of lions, so too are the poor the feeding grounds of the rich. The rich take advantage of the poor. The proud hate the humble, just like the rich hate the poor.

Wisdom teaches those who love her (Sir 4:11-4:16)

“Wisdom teachers her children.

Wisdom gives help to those who seek her.

Whoever loves her

Loves life.

Whoever seeks her from early morning

Is filled with joy.

Whoever holds her fast inherits glory.

The Lord blesses the place she enters.

Whoever serves her

Ministers to the Holy One.

The Lord loves those who love her.

Whoever obeys her

Will judge the nations.

Whoever listens to her

Will live secure.

If they remain faithful,

They will inherit her.

Their descendants will also obtain her.”

The personification of wisdom continues here with wisdom as a teacher. However, it is clear that they have to seek her out. Wisdom loves those who love her. They will be filled with joy, if they seek her in the morning. They will inherit glory. The Lord blesses everyplace that she goes. If you minister to wisdom, you are ministering to the Holy One, God. The Lord loves those who love her. If they obey wisdom, they will judge other nations and live a secure life. If they are faithful to her, they and their descendants will inherit and obtain wisdom.

The power of God (Wis 11:21-11:26)

“It is always in your power

To show great strength.

Who can withstand the might of your arm?

Because the whole world is before you

Like a speck that tips the scales.

It is like a drop of morning dew

That falls upon the ground.

But you are merciful to all.

You can do all things.

You overlook people’s sins.

Thus they may repent.

You love all things that exist.

You detest none of the things

That you have made.

You would not have made anything

If you had hated it.

How would anything have endured,

If you had not willed it?

How would anything not called forth by you

Have been preserved?

You spare all things.

They are yours. O Lord!

You love the living!”

This is like a great prayer to God, who has power and strength. No one is able to withstand the might of his arm. The whole world (ὅλος ὁ κόσμος) is like a speck or a drop of morning dew before him. This is reminiscent of the folk spiritual song He’s got the Whole World in his Hands. God is also merciful to all. He overlooks people’s sins so that man can repent (ἀνθρώπων εἰς μετάνοιαν). He loves (ἀγαπᾷς) all things, but he detests none since he made everything. If God hated anything, it would not endure. If he did not will it, it would not happen. He has preserved all things, since all belongs to the Lord who loves all (πάντων) living things.

The presence of wisdom (Wis 7:27-7:30)

“Although she is but one,

She can do all things.

While remaining in herself,

She renews all things.

In every generation

She passes into holy souls.

She makes them friends of God,

She makes them friends of prophets.

God loves nothing so much

As the person who lives with wisdom.

She is more beautiful

Than the sun.

She excels

Every constellation of the stars.

Compared with the light

She is found to be superior.

It is succeeded by the night.

But against wisdom

Evil does not prevail.”

Wisdom is one, but can do all things, while remaining in herself. She renews all things. In every generation, she makes holy souls become friends of God and prophets (φίλους Θεοῦ καὶ προφήτας). God loves (ἀγαπᾷ ὁ Θεὸς) the person who lives with wisdom (τὸν σοφίᾳ), since she is more beautiful than the sun. She excels every constellation of stars. She is superior to light. Evil will not prevail against wisdom. Once again, many of these same things have been said about the Christian Holy Spirit.

The qualities of wisdom (Wis 7:22-7:23)

“Wisdom is the fashioner of all things.

Wisdom has taught me.

There is in her a spirit that is

Intelligent,

Holy,

Unique,

Manifold,

Subtle,

Mobile,

Clear,

Unpolluted,

Distinct,

Invulnerable,

Loving the good,

Keen,

Irresistible,

Beneficent,

Humane,

Steadfast,

Sure,

Free from anxiety,

All-powerful,

Overseeing all,

Penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent,

Pure,

Altogether subtle.”

Many of the qualities given to the personification of wisdom will be adopted later in the New Testament writings by Paul with his description of the “Spirit” and the Christian Holy Spirit theology. Wisdom fashions all things. It has taught this author.   How do you describe this wisdom spirit? She is an intelligent and Holy Spirit. In some sense, she is the Holy Spirit. She is unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, and invulnerable. She loves the good, and is keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, and free from anxiety. She is all-powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all intelligent spirits. She is also pure and subtle. Thus you can see the comparative descriptions with the Christian Holy Spirit.