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7 September 2017 Bible Reading

In today’s reading from 2 Corinthians 9, the Holy Spirit provides an in-depth study of the motives behind Christian giving. The idea that God can and does multiply the generous giver’s resources is not well received today. We make a huge mistake when we assume this refers only to material wealth. The Bible actually goes to great lengths to make clear that God gives us what we need, not what we want. This sometimes takes the form of material wealth, but not always. Even here the Holy Spirit explains to the Corinthians that they will be made rich in every way so that [they] can be generous on every occasion (v. 11). In this text we are specifically discussing charitable giving, as supplying the needs of God’s people in verse 12 makes clear.

But pay close attention to the things God is not telling us here. He does not say that wealth or surplus income is a sign of God’s blessing. Nor is it giving per se that is applauded. It is, rather, a lifestyle of generosity that God commends. For those who give cheerfully and willingly, the promise is that God will provide all that they need to continue doing good.

Not only does the giver benefit from generosity, but the recipients benefit as well. This service that you perform, Paul says, supplies the needs of God’s people (v. 12). The text is literally “the service [diakonia] of this service [leitourgia].” Diakonia, commonly translated “ministry” (3:7-9; 4:1; 5:18; 6:3) or “service” (8:4; 9:1), can refer more specifically to “aid” or “support”. The aid discussed here is the Corinthians’ contribution to the Jerusalem collection, which is called a leitourgia. The word means “work for the people” (ergon + laos) and was used in Hellenistic Greek for service to the community that certain persons were under obligation to do because of the size of their income.

Song of Solomon 5-8
5 I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride.
I have gathered my myrrh with my spice;
I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey;
I have drunk my wine with my milk.
Eat, friends!
Drink, yes, drink abundantly, beloved.
2 I was asleep, but my heart was awake.
It is the voice of my beloved who knocks:
“Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled;
for my head is filled with dew,
and my hair with the dampness of the night.”
3 I have taken off my robe. Indeed, must I put it on?
I have washed my feet. Indeed, must I soil them?
4 My beloved thrust his hand in through the latch opening.
My heart pounded for him.
5 I rose up to open for my beloved.
My hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with liquid myrrh,
on the handles of the lock.
6 I opened to my beloved;
but my beloved left; and had gone away.
My heart went out when he spoke.
I looked for him, but I didn’t find him.
I called him, but he didn’t answer.
7 The watchmen who go about the city found me.
They beat me.
They bruised me.
The keepers of the walls took my cloak away from me.
8 I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem,
If you find my beloved,
that you tell him that I am faint with love.
9 How is your beloved better than another beloved,
you fairest among women?
How is your beloved better than another beloved,
that you do so adjure us?
10 My beloved is white and ruddy.
The best among ten thousand.
11 His head is like the purest gold.
His hair is bushy, black as a raven.
12 His eyes are like doves beside the water brooks,
washed with milk, mounted like jewels.
13 His cheeks are like a bed of spices with towers of perfumes.
His lips are like lilies, dropping liquid myrrh.
14 His hands are like rings of gold set with beryl.
His body is like ivory work overlaid with sapphires.
15 His legs are like pillars of marble set on sockets of fine gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.
16 His mouth is sweetness;
yes, he is altogether lovely.
This is my beloved, and this is my friend,
daughters of Jerusalem.
6 Where has your beloved gone, you fairest among women?
Where has your beloved turned, that we may seek him with you?
2 My beloved has gone down to his garden,
to the beds of spices,
to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.
3 I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.
He browses among the lilies,
4 You are beautiful, my love, as Tirzah,
lovely as Jerusalem,
awesome as an army with banners.
5 Turn away your eyes from me,
for they have overcome me.
Your hair is like a flock of goats,
that lie along the side of Gilead.
6 Your teeth are like a flock of ewes,
which have come up from the washing;
of which every one has twins;
no one is bereaved among them.
7 Your temples are like a piece of a pomegranate behind your veil.
8 There are sixty queens, eighty concubines,
and virgins without number.
9 My dove, my perfect one, is unique.
She is her mother’s only daughter.
She is the favorite one of her who bore her.
The daughters saw her, and called her blessed;
the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.
10 Who is she who looks out as the morning,
beautiful as the moon,
clear as the sun,
and awesome as an army with banners?
11 I went down into the nut tree grove,
to see the green plants of the valley,
to see whether the vine budded,
and the pomegranates were in flower.
12 Without realizing it,
my desire set me with my royal people’s chariots.
13 Return, return, Shulammite!
Return, return, that we may gaze at you.
Why do you desire to gaze at the Shulammite,
as at the dance of Mahanaim?
7 How beautiful are your feet in sandals, prince’s daughter!
Your rounded thighs are like jewels,
the work of the hands of a skillful workman.
2 Your body is like a round goblet,
no mixed wine is wanting.
Your waist is like a heap of wheat,
set about with lilies.
3 Your two breasts are like two fawns,
that are twins of a roe.
4 Your neck is like an ivory tower.
Your eyes are like the pools in Heshbon by the gate of Bathrabbim.
Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon which looks toward Damascus.
5 Your head on you is like Carmel.
The hair of your head like purple.
The king is held captive in its tresses.
6 How beautiful and how pleasant you are,
love, for delights!
7 This, your stature, is like a palm tree,
your breasts like its fruit.
8 I said, “I will climb up into the palm tree.
I will take hold of its fruit.”
Let your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
the smell of your breath like apples,
9 Your mouth like the best wine,
that goes down smoothly for my beloved,
gliding through the lips of those who are asleep.
10 I am my beloved’s.
His desire is toward me.
11 Come, my beloved, let us go out into the field.
Let us lodge in the villages.
12 Let’s go early up to the vineyards.
Let’s see whether the vine has budded,
its blossom is open,
and the pomegranates are in flower.
There I will give you my love.
13 The mandrakes produce fragrance.
At our doors are all kinds of precious fruits, new and old,
which I have stored up for you, my beloved.
8 Oh that you were like my brother,
who nursed from the breasts of my mother!
If I found you outside, I would kiss you;
yes, and no one would despise me.
2 I would lead you, bringing you into my mother’s house,
who would instruct me.
I would have you drink spiced wine,
of the juice of my pomegranate.
3 His left hand would be under my head.
His right hand would embrace me.
4 I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem,
that you not stir up, nor awaken love,
until it so desires.
5 Who is this who comes up from the wilderness,
leaning on her beloved?
Under the apple tree I aroused you.
There your mother conceived you.
There she was in labor and bore you.
6 Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm;
for love is strong as death.
Jealousy is as cruel as Sheol.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a very flame of Yahweh.
7 Many waters can’t quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If a man would give all the wealth of his house for love,
he would be utterly scorned.
8 We have a little sister.
She has no breasts.
What shall we do for our sister
in the day when she is to be spoken for?
9 If she is a wall,
we will build on her a turret of silver.
if she is a door,
we will enclose her with boards of cedar.
10 I am a wall, and my breasts like towers,
then I was in his eyes like one who found peace.
11 Solomon had a vineyard at Baal Hamon.
He leased out the vineyard to keepers.
Each was to bring a thousand shekels of silver for its fruit.
12 My own vineyard is before me.
The thousand are for you, Solomon;
two hundred for those who tend its fruit.
13 You who dwell in the gardens, with friends in attendance,
let me hear your voice!
14 Come away, my beloved!
Be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices!

2 Corinthians 9
9 It is indeed unnecessary for me to write to you concerning the service to the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast on your behalf to them of Macedonia, that Achaia has been prepared for a year past. Your zeal has stirred up very many of them. 3 But I have sent the brothers that our boasting on your behalf may not be in vain in this respect, that, just as I said, you may be prepared, 4 so that I won’t by any means, if anyone from Macedonia comes there with me and finds you unprepared, we (to say nothing of you) should be disappointed in this confident boasting. 5 I thought it necessary therefore to entreat the brothers that they would go before to you, and arrange ahead of time the generous gift that you promised before, that the same might be ready as a matter of generosity, and not of greediness. 6 Remember this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart; not grudgingly, or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may abound to every good work. 9 As it is written,
“He has scattered abroad, he has given to the poor.
His righteousness remains forever.”
10 Now may he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness; 11 you being enriched in everything to all liberality, which produces through us thanksgiving to God. 12 For this service of giving that you perform not only makes up for lack among the saints, but abounds also through many givings of thanks to God; 13 seeing that through the proof given by this service, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the Good News of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all; 14 while they themselves also, with supplication on your behalf, yearn for you by reason of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Now thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!

Psalm 51
For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
51 Have mercy on me, God, according to your loving kindness.
According to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity.
Cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions.
My sin is constantly before me.
4 Against you, and you only, have I sinned,
and done that which is evil in your sight;
that you may be proved right when you speak,
and justified when you judge.
5 Behold, I was born in iniquity.
In sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts.
You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
7 Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean.
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones which you have broken may rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all of my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a right spirit within me.
11 Don’t throw me from your presence,
and don’t take your holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation.
Uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways.
Sinners shall be converted to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation.
My tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 Lord, open my lips.
My mouth shall declare your praise.
16 For you don’t delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it.
You have no pleasure in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.
A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do well in your good pleasure to Zion.
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of righteousness,
in burnt offerings and in whole burnt offerings.
Then they will offer bulls on your altar.

Proverbs 22:24-25
24 Don’t befriend a hot-tempered man,
and don’t associate with one who harbors anger:
25 lest you learn his ways,
and ensnare your soul.

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