Warning against Jerusalem (Jer 6:6-6:8)

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts.

‘Cut down her trees!

Cast up a siege ramp

Against Jerusalem!

This is the city

That must be punished!

There is nothing but oppression

Within her!

As a well keeps its water fresh,

So she keeps fresh her wickedness.

Violence is heard within her.

Destruction is heard within her.

Sickness is ever before me.

Wounds are ever before me.

Take warning!

O Jerusalem!

Otherwise I shall turn from you

In disgust.

I will make you a desolation.

I will make you an uninhabited land.’”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, warned Jerusalem. They were going to cut down trees in order to make a ramp siege against Jerusalem because this city needed to be punished. There was nothing but oppression and wickedness within her. Jerusalem was a place of violence and destruction with sickness and wounded people all around. Yahweh was going to turn away in disgust against Jerusalem. Thus it would become a desolate uninhabited land, if it did not heed his warning.

The rejected servant of Yahweh (Isa 53:1-53:3)

“Who has believed

What we have heard?

To whom has the arm of Yahweh

Been revealed?

He grew up

Like a young plant,

Like a root out of dry ground.

He had no form.

He had no majesty

That we should look at him.

There was nothing in his appearance

That we should desire him.

He was despised.

He was rejected by others.

He was a man of suffering.

He was acquainted with infirmity.

He was as one

From whom others hide their faces.

He was despised.

We held him of no account.”

Second Isaiah asks who believed us. Has the arm of Yahweh been revealed? This suffering servant grew up like a plant or a root from dry earth, not moist soil. This servant was not particularly good looking, not really desirable, and not majestic. In fact, he was despised and rejected by others. He seems to be suffering from some sickness or infirmity. People hid their faces from him as if he was a leper. Most people did not think much of him. Who then is this suffering servant? Is it Israel, Isaiah, or as some Christians project it to Jesus Christ?

Sickness (Sir 38:9-38:15)

“My child!

When you are ill,

Do not delay!

But pray to the Lord!

He will heal you.

Give up your faults!

Direct your hands rightly!

Cleanse your heart

From all sin!

Offer a sweet-smelling sacrifice!

Offer a memorial portion

Of choice flour!

Pour oil on your offering,

As much as you can afford.

Then give the physician his place.

The Lord has created him.

Do not let him leave you!

You need him.

There may come a time

When recovery lies

In the hands of this physician.

They too pray to the Lord.

Thus the Lord may grant him

Success in his diagnosis.

Thus he may grant him

Success in healing.

This is done

For the sake of preserving life.

He who sins

Against his Maker,

Will be defiant

Toward his physician.”

Sirach explains the connection between sickness and sin. However, the new twist is that you must do more than simply praying for forgiveness. You must also see a physician. Although the first thing that you do when you are sick is pray to the Lord, but that is not sufficient. You should confess your sins and cleanse your heart. You should also make a sweet smelling sacrifice to the Lord with choice flour and as much oil as you can. After that, you then turn to a physician who was created by the Lord. Do not let the physician leave you because your recovery will depend on him. He too prays for a successful diagnosis of your illness. He heals for the sake of preserving life. The physician takes the place of your maker God, since if you have sinned, you will be defiant to this physician also. Here we see the need for human remediation to help in sickness instead of a total reliance on God.

 

Disciplined eating and sleeping (Sir 31:19-31:22)

“How ample a little is

For a well-disciplined person.

He does not breathe heavily

When in bed.

Healthy sleep depends

On moderate eating.

He rises early.

He feels fit.

The distress of sleeplessness

Is with the glutton.

The distress of nausea

Is with the glutton.

The distress of colic

Is with the glutton.

If you are overstuffed with food,

Get up to vomit.

You will have relief.

Listen to me!

My child!

Do not disregard me!

In the end,

You will appreciate my words.

In everything you do,

Be moderate!

No sickness will overtake you.”

If you are a well disciplined person, you do not need a lot of food. You should not breathe heavily or snore in bed. In fact, good sleep depends on moderate eating habits. If you get up early, you will feel fit. Being a glutton can cause sleeplessness, nausea, and indigestion. However, if you eat too much, just leave the table and go vomit. Thus we have a hint of bulimia. Sirach wants you to listen to his words. Do not disregard them, because you will appreciate them later in life. You should be moderate in all that you do, in order to avoid any kind of sickness.

The intelligent ones (Prov 18:13-18:17)

“If one gives an answer before hearing,

It is folly and shame.

The human spirit will endure sickness.

But who can bear a broken spirit?

An intelligent mind acquires knowledge.

The ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

A gift opens doors.

Gifts give access to the great.

Whoever first states a case seems right,

Until the other comes,

Until the other cross-examines him.”

The intelligent mind is always acquiring knowledge. The wise ones always have an ear seeking knowledge. Inquiring minds want to know. It is folly and your shame if you give an answer before you hear the question. The human spirit can endure sickness, but a broken spirit is more difficult to bear. A gift will open doors for you, especially to the great ones. If you go to court, your case may seem right until you are cross-examined by somebody else.

Hope and knowledge (Prov 13:12-13:19)

“Hope deferred

Makes the heart sick.

But a desire fulfilled

Is a tree of life.

Whoever despises the word

Brings destruction on themselves.

But whoever respects the commandment

Will be rewarded.

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life.

Thus one may avoid the snares of death.

Good sense wins favor.

But the way of the faithless is their ruin.

The clever do all things intelligently.

But the fool displays folly.

A bad messenger brings trouble.

But a faithful envoy brings healing.

Poverty and disgrace come to

Whoever ignores instruction.

But whoever heeds reproof is honored.

A desire realized

Is sweet to the soul.

But to turn away from evil

Is an abomination to fools.”

When hope is deferred, it brings on sickness. However, when a desire is fulfilled, the tree of life grows more. If you despise the word or commandment of God, you will bring on your own destruction. If you respect the commandments, then you will be rewarded. Listen to the teachings of the wise ones because they are fountain of life to help you avoid the snares of death. Good sense will win you favors, while the faithless way leads to ruin. The clever smart ones do everything intelligently, while the fools tend to be foolish. It is better to be a good messenger than a bad messenger because that will bring healing to people. If you ignore instruction, you will end up poor and in disgrace. If you follow instructions, you will be honored. Realizing your dreams and hopes is sweet. The problem is that the evil ones have a hard time turning away from evil since they are so attracted to it.

Yahweh helped the sick (Ps 107:17-107:22)

“Some were sick through their sinful ways.

Because of their iniquities,

They endured affliction.

They loathed any kind of food.

They drew near to the gates of death.

Then they cried to Yahweh in their trouble.

He saved them from their distress.

He sent out his word.

He healed them.

He delivered them from destruction.

Let them thank Yahweh

For his steadfast love!

Let them thank Yahweh

For his wonderful works to humankind!

Let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices!

Let them tell of his deeds in songs of joy!”

Once again we have the correlation between sin and sickness. They were sick because they had sinned. These sick people could not eat any kind of food, as they were near death. They cried out to Yahweh as the other groups had done. Guess what? Yahweh saved them as he sent out word to heal them. Thus they were delivered from destruction. Therefore, just like the others, they should give thanks to Yahweh for his steadfast love and his wondrous deeds. However, they also had to offer thanksgiving sacrifices and tell others in songs of joy about what had happened to them. The other groups did not have to do that.

Those who help the poor (Ps 41:1-41:3)

To the choirmaster leader, a psalm of David

“Happy are those who consider the poor!

Yahweh delivers them in the day of trouble.

Yahweh protects them.

Yahweh keeps them alive.

They are called happy in the land.

You do not give him up to the will of their enemies.

Yahweh sustains them on their sickbed.

In their illness

You heal all their infirmities.”

Psalm 41 is another generic psalm of David with a choral leader, as the last psalm of the first book or section of psalms. The people who consider the poor will be rewarded. Yahweh will rescue them in the days of trouble. He will protect them and keep them alive. They are the truly happy ones. Yahweh will not give them up to their enemies. Yet he will sustain them in their sickness. He will heal them. Yahweh will be kind to those who care for the poor.

“When I kept silence,

My body wasted away.

I was groaning all day long.

Day and night

Your hand was heavy upon me.

My strength was dried up

Like the heat of summer.

Selah”

Sickness and sinning were considered synonymous. When David was silently suffering his body was wasting away. He groaned the whole time, both day and night. The heavy hand of Yahweh was upon him. His strength was dried up as the heat of summer does. Once again, there is a pause for a musical interlude with the Selah.

King Solomon’s prayer during bad times (2 Chr 6:28-6:31)

“If there is famine in the land,

If there is plague, blight, mildew, locust, or caterpillar,

If their enemies besiege them in any of the settlements of the land,

Whatever suffering,

Whatever sickness there is.

Whatever prayer,

Whatever plea there is,

From any individual or from all your people Israel,

All knowing their own suffering and their own sorrows,

So that they stretch out their hands toward this house.

May you hear from heaven your dwelling place,

Forgive!

Render to all whose hearts your know,

According to all his ways.

Only you know the human heart.

Thus they may fear you

And walk in your ways all the days

That they live in the land that you have given to our ancestors.”  

Once again, this prayer comes almost word for word from 1 Kings, chapter 8. There is a slight change at the end. If there is famine, plague, blight, or sickness, may the prayers of your people Israel be heard in this house. You know the afflictions of their hearts. Therefore, hear them, forgive them, and act on their pleas. Only you O Yahweh know what is in the human heart. Therefore they will fear you all the days that they live in the land that has been given to their ancestors.