7 January 2017 Bible Reading
Today’s passage in Matthew 6 mentions giving to the needy. The phrase “when you give to the needy” assumes that one would care for the needs of the poor, and this was certainly the standard within Judaism. When I study this passage using traditional, religious commentaries, the focus tends toward condemnation (from the “Christian” perspective) of how Judaism was practiced in those days. I do not see anything to indicate Jesus was speaking to us on a collective or societal level; Jesus spoke to us as individuals. Jesus was warning against making a show of one’s personal religion. It turns out that charity and mercy are like much of the rest of life: God’s ways are so different from man’s ways that we cannot simultaneously please both.
We have so many reasons to not give. On the rare occasion that we do give, we desperately want the praise of those around us. In other words. we ignore pretty much everything God has to say on the topic. One problem is that most of us don’t really know anyone in need. With the exception of those struggling with addiction or mental health problems there are no poor in our country. The average American is 90 times richer that the average person in the Central African Republic.
We would have to put a little effort into it if we we wanted to give to the needy. I’m willing to bet that it’s worth it.
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had a servant, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. 2 Sarai said to Abram, “See now, Yahweh has restrained me from bearing. Please go in to my servant. It may be that I will obtain children by her.” Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to Abram her husband to be his wife. 4 He went in to Hagar, and she conceived. When she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. 5 Sarai said to Abram, “This wrong is your fault. I gave my servant into your bosom, and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes. Yahweh judge between me and you.”
6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your hand. Do to her whatever is good in your eyes.” Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her face.
7 Yahweh’s angel found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain on the way to Shur. 8 He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where did you come from? Where are you going?”
She said, “I am fleeing from the face of my mistress Sarai.”
9 Yahweh’s angel said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hands.” 10 Yahweh’s angel said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, that they will not be numbered for multitude.” 11 Yahweh’s angel said to her, “Behold, you are with child, and will bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because Yahweh has heard your affliction. 12 He will be like a wild donkey among men. His hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. He will live opposite all of his brothers.”
13 She called the name of Yahweh who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees,” for she said, “Have I even stayed alive after seeing him?” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi. Behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
15 Hagar bore a son for Abram. Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Yahweh appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty. Walk before me, and be blameless. 2 I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.”
3 Abram fell on his face. God talked with him, saying, 4 “As for me, behold, my covenant is with you. You will be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 Your name will no more be called Abram, but your name will be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you. Kings will come out of you. 7 I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are traveling, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession. I will be their God.”
9 God said to Abraham, “As for you, you will keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin. It will be a token of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old will be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations, he who is born in the house, or bought with money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. 13 He who is born in your house, and he who is bought with your money, must be circumcised. My covenant will be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 The uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people. He has broken my covenant.”
15 God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. Yes, I will bless her, and she will be a mother of nations. Kings of peoples will come from her.”
17 Then Abraham fell on his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to him who is one hundred years old? Will Sarah, who is ninety years old, give birth?” 18 Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”
19 God said, “No, but Sarah, your wife, will bear you a son. You shall call his name Isaac.[i] I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his offspring[j] after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He will become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this set time next year.”
22 When he finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. 23 Abraham took Ishmael his son, all who were born in his house, and all who were bought with his money; every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the same day, as God had said to him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 Ishmael, his son, was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 In the same day both Abraham and Ishmael, his son, were circumcised. 27 All the men of his house, those born in the house, and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.
18 Yahweh appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and saw that three men stood opposite him. When he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, “My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please don’t go away from your servant. 4 Now let a little water be fetched, wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 I will get a morsel of bread so you can refresh your heart. After that you may go your way, now that you have come to your servant.”
They said, “Very well, do as you have said.”
6 Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly prepare three seahs of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes.” 7 Abraham ran to the herd, and fetched a tender and good calf, and gave it to the servant. He hurried to dress it. 8 He took butter, milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them. He stood by them under the tree, and they ate.
9 They asked him, “Where is Sarah, your wife?”
He said, “See, in the tent.”
10 He said, “I will certainly return to you when the season comes round. Behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Sarah heard in the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age. Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old will I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
13 Yahweh said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Will I really bear a child, yet I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for Yahweh? At the set time I will return to you, when the season comes round, and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Then Sarah denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh,” for she was afraid.
He said, “No, but you did laugh.”
16 The men rose up from there, and looked toward Sodom. Abraham went with them to see them on their way. 17 Yahweh said, “Will I hide from Abraham what I do, 18 since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed in him? 19 For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Yahweh, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that Yahweh may bring on Abraham that which he has spoken of him.”
6 “Be careful that you don’t do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by them, or else you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 Therefore when you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does, 4 so that your merciful deeds may be in secret, then your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
5 “When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, enter into your inner room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 In praying, don’t use vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking. 8 Therefore don’t be like them, for your Father knows what things you need, before you ask him. 9 Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10 Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. 13 Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen. ’
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 “Moreover when you fast, don’t be like the hypocrites, with sad faces. For they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen by men to be fasting. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; 18 so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
19 “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and Mammon.
A meditation by David, which he sang to Yahweh, concerning the words of Cush, the Benjamite.
7 Yahweh, my God, I take refuge in you.
Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me,
2 lest they tear apart my soul like a lion,
ripping it in pieces, while there is no one to deliver.
3 Yahweh, my God, if I have done this,
if there is iniquity in my hands,
4 if I have rewarded evil to him who was at peace with me
(yes, if I have delivered him who without cause was my adversary),
5 let the enemy pursue my soul, and overtake it;
yes, let him tread my life down to the earth,
and lay my glory in the dust.
6 Arise, Yahweh, in your anger.
Lift up yourself against the rage of my adversaries.
Awake for me. You have commanded judgment.
7 Let the congregation of the peoples surround you.
Rule over them on high.
8 Yahweh administers judgment to the peoples.
Judge me, Yahweh, according to my righteousness,
and to my integrity that is in me.
9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end,
but establish the righteous;
their minds and hearts are searched by the righteous God.
10 My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge,
yes, a God who has indignation every day.
12 If a man doesn’t relent, he will sharpen his sword;
he has bent and strung his bow.
13 He has also prepared for himself the instruments of death.
He makes ready his flaming arrows.
14 Behold, he travails with iniquity.
Yes, he has conceived mischief,
and brought out falsehood.
15 He has dug a hole,
and has fallen into the pit which he made.
16 The trouble he causes shall return to his own head.
His violence shall come down on the crown of his own head.
17 I will give thanks to Yahweh according to his righteousness,
and will sing praise to the name of Yahweh Most High.
My son, if you will receive my words,
and store up my commandments within you;
2 So as to turn your ear to wisdom,
and apply your heart to understanding;
3 Yes, if you call out for discernment,
and lift up your voice for understanding;
4 If you seek her as silver,
and search for her as for hidden treasures:
5 then you will understand the fear of Yahweh,
and find the knowledge of God.