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Simple Bible Reading Guide

Sirach

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INTRODUCTION

"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." —Psalms 119:130

God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.

Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).

Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.

Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.

P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a prophetic, life-changing power for you.
 

Sir 1  —  FEAR OF THE LORD — I

"Fear of the Lord is glory and splendor, gladness and a festive crown. Fear of the Lord warms the heart, giving gladness and joy and length of days. He who fears the Lord will have a happy end." —Sirach 1:9-11

This book was written by a man named Jesus (see Sir 50:27) about two hundred years before the birth of the God-Man, Jesus. It was translated into Greek some time after 132 B.C. by the author's grandson. Amid its secularized Greek culture, this book stressed that "all wisdom comes from the Lord" (1:1) and "the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord" (1:12).

Prayer: Father, stir up in me the spiritual gift of fear of the Lord (see Is 11:2-3).
Promise: "The root of wisdom is fear of the Lord; her branches are length of days." —1:18
 

Sir 2  —  FEAR OF THE LORD — II

"You who fear the Lord, wait for His mercy, turn not away lest you fall. You who fear the Lord, trust Him, and your reward will not be lost. You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy." —Sirach 2:7-9

We will benefit from secular wisdom only if we are overshadowed by fear of the Lord. Otherwise, secular wisdom will seduce and confuse us because we will not be able to discern the good from the bad.

Prayer: Father, give me an increased fear of You to displace the fear of man.
Promise: "Those who fear the Lord disobey not His words; those who love Him keep His ways. Those who fear the Lord seek to please Him, those who love Him are filled with His law. Those who fear the Lord prepare their hearts and humble themselves before Him." —2:15-17
 

Sir 3  —  FEAR, FAMILY, AND FRIENDS

"He who fears the Lord honors his father, and serves his parents as rulers." —Sirach 3:7

When we fear the Lord, we will respect our parents and conduct our affairs with humility. Fear of the Lord is not only an awe of God; it is a most practical attitude in everyday life.

Prayer: Father, may I submit to others because of my fear of You (Eph 5:21).
Promise: "Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God. For great is the power of God; by the humble He is glorified." —3:18-19
 

Sir 4  —  SEEING GOD IN THE POOR

"To the fatherless be as a father, and help their mother as a husband would; thus will you be like a son to the Most High, and He will be more tender to you than a mother." —Sirach 4:10

When we fear the Lord, we are in right relationship with Him and will have the wisdom to give justice to the poor. Whatever we do for the least of the brethren, that's what we do for the Lord (Mt 25:40).

Prayer: Jesus, may I see You and serve You in the poor.
Promise: "Even to the death fight for truth, and the Lord your God will battle for you." —4:28
 

Sir 5  —  PRESUMPTION

"Of forgiveness be not overconfident, adding sin upon sin." —Sirach 5:5

When we fear the Lord, we will not be presumptuous. We will not rely on our wealth or power; rather, we will throw ourselves at the Lord's feet and rely on Him alone. "Delay not your conversion to the Lord, put it not off from day to day" (5:8).

Prayer: Father, I surrender everything to You immediately.
Promise: "Be consistent in your thoughts; steadfast be your words. Be swift to hear, but slow to answer." —5:12-13
 

Sir 6  —  FEAR AND FRIENDS

"A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds." —Sirach 6:16

When we fear the Lord, we speak wisely. When we speak wisely, we multiply friends. Therefore, let us delight in the fear of the Lord and seek wisdom.

Prayer: Father, like Solomon, I ask for wisdom and the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom.
Promise: "If you see a man of prudence, seek him out; let your feet wear away his doorstep! Reflect on the precepts of the Lord, let His commandments be your constant meditation; then He will enlighten your mind, and the wisdom you desire He will grant." —6:36-37
 

Sir 7  —  SWEET HUMILITY

"More and more, humble your pride; what awaits man is worms." —Sirach 7:17

Every detail of our lives should be characterized by humility. The Lord "is stern with the arrogant but to the humble he shows kindness" (1 Pt 5:5; Prv 3:34).

Prayer: Father, show me some simple, practical ways to humble myself (Mt 23:12). Then grant me the grace to do it.
Promise: "With all your soul, fear God, revere His priests." —7:29
 

Sir 8  —  PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS

"Spurn not the discourse of the wise, but acquaint yourself with their proverbs; from them you will acquire the training to serve in the presence of princes." —Sirach 8:8

Personal relationships are the essence of life. We must have God's wisdom in dealing with the influential, rich, angry, repentant, elderly, dying, wise, and sinful. We must be wise in relating to fools, strangers, judges, and business associates.

Prayer: Father, give me Your wisdom which fosters Your love for the people You have sent into my life.
Promise: "Be not too familiar with an unruly man, lest he speak ill of your forebears. Shame not a repentant sinner; remember, we all are guilty." —8:4-5
 

Sir 9  —  PURITY

"Avert your eyes from a comely woman; gaze not upon the beauty of another's wife — through woman's beauty many perish, for lust for it burns like fire." —Sirach 9:8

Above all other types of relationships, man needs God's wisdom in relating to women. Paul told Timothy: "You should treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity" (1 Tm 5:1-2).

Prayer: Father, make me pure as Jesus is pure (1 Jn 3:3).
Promise: "With the learned be intimate; let all your conversation be about the law of the Lord. Have just men for your table companions; in the fear of God be your glory." —9:15-16
 

Sir 10  —  THE FEARFUL, GREAT, AND HUMBLE

"The prince, the ruler, the judge are in honor; but none is greater than he who fears God." —Sirach 10:23

Sirach is back on his favorite subject: the fear of the Lord. He asks: "Which offspring are in honor? Those who fear God" (10:19). "He who fears God is in honor among his people. Be it tenant or wayfarer, alien or pauper, his glory is the fear of the Lord (10:20-21).

When we fear the Lord, we are great and humble. Therefore, we avoid pride which "is the reservoir of sin" (10:13). Because of pride, God "sends unheard-of afflictions and brings men to utter ruin" (10:13). Thus, with humility we must "have self-esteem" and prize ourselves as we deserve (10:27).

Prayer: Father, may I humble myself as Your Son Jesus did.
Promise: "A wise magistrate lends stability to his people, and the government of a prudent man is well ordered." —10:1
 

Sir 11  —  A CONTROLLING INTEREST?

"Trust in the Lord and wait for His light." —Sirach 11:21
"Say not: 'I am independent. What harm can come to me now?' The day of prosperity makes one forget adversity; the day of adversity makes one forget prosperity." —Sirach 11:24-25

We should not try to take control of everything in our lives, rather, we should trust in the Lord. It is not what we do but what we let Him do that transforms our lives.

Prayer: Father, I put my life in Your hands.
Promise: "When a man dies, his life is revealed. Call no man happy before his death, for by how he ends, a man is known." —11:27-28
 

Sir 12  —  CONDITIONAL AND UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

"If you do good, know for whom you are doing it, and your kindness will have its effect. Do good to the just man and reward will be yours, if not from him, from the Lord." —Sirach 12:1-2

Sirach cautions us against helping the wicked and exposing ourselves to our enemies' schemes. These warnings are not abolished but are fulfilled (Mt 5:17) by Jesus' call to unconditional, crucified love.

Prayer: Father, thank You for loving me unconditionally. Otherwise, I would have been doomed.
Promise: "In our prosperity we cannot know our friends; in adversity an enemy will not remain concealed." —12:8
 

Sir 13  —  JESUS, OUR PEACE (Eph 2:14)

"Every living thing loves its own kind, every man a man like himself. Every being is drawn to its own kind; with his own kind every man associates." —Sirach 13:14-15

Sirach considers it unrealistic to expect barriers to be broken in human relationships. Therefore, as a general rule, we should associate with our own kind. But Jesus has changed all that. Only in Jesus is it possible to break the barriers that divide us.

Prayer: Jesus, our Peace, thank You for breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart (Eph 2:14).
Promise: "The heart of a man changes his countenance, either for good or for evil." —13:24
 

Sir 14  —  ETERNAL LIFE

"Give, take, and treat yourself well, for in the nether world there are no joys to seek." —Sirach 14:16

Sirach has great wisdom because he focuses on fear of the Lord. However, his wisdom is severely limited because he is not aware of eternal happiness in the life after death.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for revealing that this life on earth is the beginning, not the end, of our lives.
Promise: "Happy the man who meditates on wisdom, and reflects on knowledge." —14:20
 

Sir 15  —  FREE WILL

"When God, in the beginning, created man, He made him subject to his own free choice." —Sirach 15:14

We are to make our choices based on God's wisdom. "There are set before you fire and water; to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, whichever he chooses shall be given him" (15:16-17).

Prayer: Father, I could damn myself by using wrongly my free will. May I obey You.
Promise: "He who fears the Lord will do this; he who is practiced in the law will come to wisdom. Motherlike she will meet him, like a young bride she will embrace him." —15:1-2
 

Sir 16  —  REPENTANCE OR PUNISHMENT?

"If I sin, no eye will see me; if all in secret I am disloyal, who is to know?" —Sirach 16:19

Throughout history, God has punished the sinner. He sees every move we make and will give us the wages of sin unless we repent (Rm 6:23).

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for shedding Your blood to wash away my sins. I repent.
Promise: "Behold, the heavens, the heaven of heavens, the earth and the abyss tremble at His visitation; the roots of the mountains, the earth's foundations, at His mere glance, quiver and quake." —16:16-17
 

Sir 17  —  DISTURBING THE PEACE?

"How great the mercy of the Lord, His forgiveness of those who return to Him!" —Sirach 17:24

God has created this world to exist in perfect harmony and peace. If we have "disturbed the peace" through our sins, we must "return to the Lord and give up sin, pray to Him" and makes our offenses few (17:20). We should "turn again to the Most High and away from sin" and "hate intensely what He loathes" (17:21).

Prayer: Father, You love me so much that You won't take Your eyes off me.
Promise: "All their actions are clear as the sun to Him, His eyes are ever upon their ways." —17:15
 

Sir 18  —  CAREFUL AND THOUGHTFUL

"A wise man is circumspect in all things." —Sirach 18:27

The Lord has made an awesome, mysterious world. We must be careful and thoughtful. "Keep careful watch over your conduct. Do not act like fools, but like thoughtful men. Make the most of the present opportunity, for these are evil days. Do not continue in ignorance, but try to discern the will of the Lord" (Eph 5:15-17).

Prayer: Father, give me both a sense of wonder and a hard-headed practicality.
Promise: "Delay not to forsake sins, neglect it not till you are in distress." —18:21
 

Sir 19  —  CRUCIFIED FLESH (Gal 5:24)

"Contumacious desire destroys its owner." —Sirach 19:3

Our desires and our tongues get us into trouble. If, by the Spirit, we control our desires and tongues, we can control our bodies entirely (Jas 3:2).

Prayer: Father, crucify my flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24).
Promise: "Never repeat gossip, and you will not be reviled." —19:6
 

Sir 20  —  WISE GUYS AND DAMNED FOOLS

"A wise man makes himself popular by a few words, but fools pour forth their blandishments in vain." —Sirach 20:12

Everything a wise person touches turns to gold, while everything a fool touches goes bad. "A proverb when spoken by a fool is unwelcome, for he does not utter it at the proper time" (20:19). "Better the man who hides his folly than the one who hides his wisdom" (20:30).

Prayer: Father, may I really be wise by becoming a fool for Christ (1 Cor 3:18).
Promise: "A wise man advances himself by his words, a prudent man pleases the great." —20:26
 

Sir 21  —  WISDOM IS NOT PERFECTION BUT TAKING CORRECTION

"He who hates correction walks the sinner's path, but he who fears the Lord repents in his heart." —Sirach 21:6

A wise person repents from sin, prays for forgiveness, avoids sin in the future, and learns from his mistakes. A fool hates correction and continues to walk in the sinner's path.

Prayer: Father, may the Spirit convict me of my sins (Jn 16:7-8).
Promise: "He who keeps the law controls his impulses; he who is perfect in fear of the Lord has wisdom." —21:11
 

Sir 22  —  LAZY BOY

"The sluggard is like a lump of dung; whoever touches him wipes his hands." —Sirach 22:2

Sirach continues to talk about friends and fools, but now we meet a new character, the sluggard. "Do not grow lazy, but imitate those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises" (Heb 6:12).

Prayer: Father, may the love of Christ motivate me (2 Cor 5:14).
Promise: "Masonry bonded with wooden beams is not loosened by an earthquake; neither is a resolve constructed with careful deliberation shaken in a moment of fear." —22:16
 

Sir 23  —  FLESH AND BLOOD

"A man who has the habit of abusive language will never mature in character as long as he lives." —Sirach 23:15

Sirach repeatedly focuses on the sins of the tongue and of the flesh. We will never be free to grow until we claim the Lord's victory in these areas.

Prayer: Father, "let not the lustful cravings of the flesh master me, surrender me not to shameless desires" (23:6).
Promise: "He does not understand that the eyes of the Lord, ten thousand times brighter than the sun, observe every step a man takes and peer into hidden corners." —23:19
 

Sir 24  —  DIVINE WISDOM

"From the mouth of the Most High I came forth, and mistlike covered the earth. In the highest heavens did I dwell." —Sirach 24:3-4

As in Proverbs and the book of Wisdom, wisdom is depicted as almost a person, even a divine person. This is an intimation of the Trinity and was fully understood in the coming of Jesus, our Wisdom (1 Cor 1:30).

Prayer: Jesus, our Wisdom, I come and adore You.
Promise: "Come to me, all you that yearn for me, and be filled with my fruits." —24:18
 

Sir 25  —  WOMAN-POWER

"Worst of all wounds is that of the heart, worst of all evils is that of a woman." —Sirach 25:12

Women have the greatest power on the face of the earth. They are the greatest blessing and the worst evil. "No poison worse than that of a serpent, no venom greater than that of a woman. With a dragon or a lion I would rather dwell than live with an evil woman" (25:14-15).

Prayer: Father, may my relationships with the opposite sex be pleasing to You.
Promise: "Fear of the Lord surpasses all else, its possessor is beyond compare." —25:11
 

Sir 26  —  A GOOD WIFE

"Choicest of blessings is a modest wife, priceless her chaste person. Like the sun rising in the Lord's heavens, the beauty of a virtuous wife is the radiance of her home." —Sirach 26:15-16

"Happy the husband of a good wife, twice-lengthened are his days; a worthy wife brings joy to her husband, peaceful and full is his life. A good wife is a generous gift bestowed upon him who fears the Lord" (26:1-3).

Prayer: Father, may all the married couples reading this accept Jesus as Lord of their marriage and pray together daily.
Promise: "A gracious wife delights her husband, her thoughtfulness puts flesh on his bones; a gift from the Lord is her governed speech, and her firm virtue is of surpassing worth." —26:13-14
 

Sir 27  —  GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS

"For the sake of profit many sin, and the struggle for wealth blinds the eyes. Like a peg driven between fitted stones, between buying and selling sin is wedged in." —Sirach 27:1-2

Sirach knows our fallen human nature so well that he could have written this yesterday.

Prayer: Father, may I not be conformed to the world but transformed by the Spirit (Rm 12:2).
Promise: "Limit the time you spend among fools, but frequent the company of thoughtful men." —27:12
 

Sir 28  —  UNFORGIVENESS

"Should a man nourish anger against his fellows and expect healing from the Lord? Should a man refuse mercy to his fellows, yet seek pardon for his own sins?" —Sirach 28:3-4

Unforgiveness and resentment prevent our being forgiven and block our healing. The sins of the tongue are so serious because they lead to unforgiveness and resentment. "Cursed be gossips and the double-tongued, for they destroy the peace of many. A meddlesome tongue subverts many, and makes them refugees among the peoples; it destroys walled cities, and overthrows powerful dynasties" (28:13-14).

Prayer: Jesus, may I pray with You: "Father, forgive them," no matter what the circumstances (Lk 23:34).
Promise: "Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin!" —28:6
 

Sir 29  —  MONEY MATTERS

"Store up almsgiving in your treasure house, and it will save you from every evil." —Sirach 29:12

"The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tm 6:10). Therefore, we should be frugal, give alms, and be very careful about going surety for someone or giving a loan.

Prayer: Father, give me a radically different life-style in imitation of Jesus.
Promise: "Be it little or much, be content with what you have, and pay no heed to him who would disparage your home." —29:23
 

Sir 30  —  PARENTING

"He who loves his son chastises him often, that he may be his joy when he grows up." —Sirach 30:1

Our relationship with the Lord is a whole new way of living. Because we fear the Lord, we love our children enough to discipline them and raise them very differently from the ways of the world.

Prayer: Father, may we raise our children "with the training and instruction befitting the Lord" (Eph 6:4).
Promise: "More precious than gold is health and well-being, contentment of spirit than coral." —30:15
 

Sir 31  —  THE SPIRIT AGAINST THE FLESH (Gal 5:17)

"Happy the rich man found without fault, who turns not aside after gain! Who is he, that we may praise him? He, of all his kindred, has done wonders." —Sirach 31:8-9

Those who fear the Lord do not lust for money or material possessions. They are also not lustful for food or drink.

Prayer: Father, by Your grace may I crucify my flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24).
Promise: "Distress and anguish and loss of sleep, and restless tossing for the glutton! Moderate eating ensures sound slumber and a clear mind next day on rising." —31:20
 

Sir 32  —  "DO NOT DISDAIN THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD" (Heb 12:5)

"He who would find God must accept discipline." —Sirach 32:14

By God's grace, we must be disciplined at table, in conversation, in thought, and in action.

Prayer: Father, thank You for treating me as Your child by disciplining me.
Promise: "His judgment is sound who fears the Lord; out of obscurity he draws forth a clear plan." —32:16
 

Sir 33  —  THE END, BUT...

"No evil can harm the man who fears the Lord; through trials, again and again he is safe." —Sirach 33:1

Sirach seems to end the book with the conclusion: "Now I am the last to keep vigil, like a gleaner after the vintage; since by the Lord's blessing I have made progress till like a vintager I have filled my winepress, I would inform you that not for myself only have I toiled, but for every seeker after wisdom" (33:16-18). But then he goes on with more wisdom about property and employees. No matter how much is written about living a God-fearing life, something always seems to be missing. Only in Jesus is wisdom complete (see Rm 21:6).

Prayer: Father, thank You for loving the world so much as to give Your only Son (Jn 3:16).
Promise: "Like clay in the hands of a potter, to be molded according to his pleasure, so are men in the hands of their Creator, to be assigned by Him their function." —33:13
 

Sir 34  —  DREAMS

"Like a man who catches at shadows or chases the wind, is the one who believes in dreams." —Sirach 34:2

Sirach thought he'd covered everything, but he forgot to consider dreams. He advised that dreams are usually deceptive, except for dreams "specially sent by the Most High" (34:6).

Prayer: Father, buoy up my spirits, bring a sparkle to my eyes, and give me health, life, and blessing (34:17).
Promise: "Lively is the courage of those who fear the Lord, for they put their hope in their Savior; he who fears the Lord is never alarmed, never afraid; for the Lord is his Hope. Happy the soul that fears the Lord!" —34:13-15
 

Sir 35  —  LOVE GOD'S POOR

"In generous spirit pay homage to the Lord, be not sparing of freewill gifts. With each contribution show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy." —Sirach 35:7-8

The Lord has great compassion on the weak and oppressed, the orphan and the widow. Therefore, to be in harmony with God, we should freely give alms.

Prayer: Father, may I love the poor as You do.
Promise: "For the Lord is One Who always repays, and He will give back to you sevenfold." —35:10
 

Sir 36  —  PRAYER-POWER

"Come to our aid, O God of the universe, and put all the nations in dread of You! Raise Your hand against the heathen, that they may realize Your power." —Sirach 36:1-2

Sirach realized that all the wisdom in the world is useless without the power to apply it. Therefore, he prays for the Lord to come in power.

Prayer: Father, "give new signs and work new wonders; show forth the splendor of Your right hand and arm" (36:5). "Give evidence of Your deeds of old; fulfill the prophecies spoken in Your name, reward those who have hoped in You, and let Your prophets be proved true" (36:14-15).
Promise: "Hear the prayer of Your servants, for You are ever gracious to Your people; thus it will be known to the very ends of the earth that You are the eternal God." —36:16-17
 

Sir 37  —  CHOICE WORDS

"Instead, associate with a religious man, who you are sure keeps the commandments; who is like-minded with yourself and will feel for you if you fall." —Sirach 37:12

Our lives will be greatly affected by our choice of spouse, friends, and counselors. "Bad company corrupts good morals" (1 Cor 15:33).

Prayer: Father, may I actively seek Christian community.
Promise: "A man's conscience can tell him his situation better than seven watchmen in a lofty tower. Most important of all, pray to God to set your feet in the path of truth." —37:14-15
 

Sir 38  —  WHEN SHOULD YOU GO TO THE DOCTOR?

"Then give the doctor his place lest he leave; for you need him too. There are times that give him an advantage, and he too beseeches God that his diagnosis may be correct and his treatment bring about a cure." —Sirach 38:12-14

Our physical health depends to a great extent on our diet. "For sickness comes with over-eating, and gluttony brings on biliousness. Through lack of self-control many have died, but the abstemious man prolongs his life" (37:29-30).

However, when we are sick, we should pray first, then repent, make our offering to God, and finally, if necessary, go to the doctor.

Prayer: Doctor Jesus, may I be healed by obeying Doctor's orders, that is, Your orders (Mk 2:17).
Promise: "Thus God's creative work continues without cease in its efficacy on the surface of the earth." —38:8
 

Sir 39  —  A LIFE OF LOVING AND LIVING GOD'S WORD

"How different the man who devotes himself to the study of the law of the Most High!" —Sirach 39:1

Although farmers, engravers, smiths, and potters have important professions, the scribe is in a class by himself because his task is to study God's law. "His care is to seek the Lord, his Maker, to petition the Most High, to open his lips in prayer, to ask pardon for his sins. Then, if it pleases the Lord Almighty, he will be filled with the spirit of understanding; he will pour forth his words of wisdom and in prayer give thanks to the Lord (39:6). "While he lives he is one out of a thousand, and when he dies his renown will not cease" (39:11).

With this theme, Sirach tries to conclude for a second time. In conclusion, he praised God the Creator. Once again, however, there is always a need to say more.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the privilege of letting me read and pray the Bible.
Promise: "So now with full joy of heart proclaim and bless the name of the Holy One." —39:35
 

Sir 40  —  THE LIGHT LIFE

"A great anxiety has God allotted, and a heavy yoke, to the sons of men." —Sirach 40:1

Life has many blessings and sufferings. But the sufferings would outweigh the blessings, except for Jesus. For He alone takes the heavy yoke of human life and makes it light (Mt 11:30).

Prayer: Jesus, I would be crushed by life's burdens, except for You. Thank You for carrying my cross to Calvary.
Promise: "Wealth and vigor build up confidence, but better than either, fear of God. Fear of the Lord leaves nothing wanting; he who has it need seek no other support: The fear of God is a paradise of blessings." —40:26-27
 

Sir 41  —  "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" (1 Cor 15:55)

"Fear not death's decree for you; remember, it embraces those before you, and those after." —Sirach 41:3

Sirach wrote in a secular humanistic culture. He often contrasts the wisdom of Judaism with the emptiness of secular humanism, especially on the subject of death. Secular humanism lives in denial of death and insanely tries to escape or at least postpone death. However, Christianity sees death as the answer, not the problem.

Prayer: Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life (Jn 11:25), free me from all fear of death (Heb 2:15).
Promise: "Have a care for your name, for it will stand by you better than precious treasures in the thousands." —41:12
 

Sir 42  —  MUCH TOO MUCH

"Yet even God's holy ones must fail in recounting the wonders of the Lord." —Sirach 42:17

Sirach has given us forty-two chapters of wisdom concerning living a God-fearing life-style. But there's always something else to think about — in this case, true and false shame, and a father's care for his daughter.

Who can even remember all these things — much less apply them to our lives? We need Jesus to write the law in our hearts (Jer 31:33) and the Spirit to remind us of all Jesus taught us (Jn 14:26).

Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit! Teach me how to live.
Promise: "A daughter is a treasure that keeps her father wakeful, and worry over her drives away rest." —42:9
 

Sir 43  —  JUST ONE MORE THING

"More than this we need not add; let the last word be, He is All in all!" —Sirach 43:28

Sirach praises God for the weather and tries for possibly the third time to conclude the book. But he wanted to add just one more thing.

Prayer: Father, thank You for any kind of weather. Thank You for life.
Promise: "Beyond these, many things lie hid; only a few of His works have we seen. It is the Lord Who has made all things, and to those who fear Him He gives wisdom." —43:34-35
 

Sir 44  —  ENCYCLOPEDIA

"Now will I praise those godly men, our ancestors, each in his own time." —Sirach 44:1

Sirach has dealt with theology, philosophy, psychology, friends and fools, dreams and doctors, marriage and parenting, the weather and wisdom, and so much more. Now he tries his hand at sacred history.

Prayer: God, make me godly. May You be praised because of my life (Mt 5:16).
Promise: "These also were godly men whose virtues have not been forgotten; their wealth remains in their families, their heritage with their descendants; through God's covenant with them their family endures, their posterity, for their sake." —44:10-12
 

Sir 45  —  HIGH PRIESTHOOD

"He raised up also, like Moses in holiness, his brother Aaron, of the tribe of Levi. He made him perpetual in his office when He bestowed on him the priesthood of his people; He established him in honor and crowned him with lofty majesty." —Sirach 45:6-7

After Sirach gives the patriarchs Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob only an "honorable mention," he gives Moses, Aaron and Phinehas much more coverage. He especially emphasizes Aaron. In this way, Sirach shows that he believes the priesthood and communal worship are the most important aspects of life. The writer of Hebrews agrees with Sirach.

Prayer: Jesus, eternal High Priest, may I exercise my royal priesthood for Your glory (1 Pt 2:9).
Promise: "For even His covenant with David, the son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah, was an individual heritage through one Son alone; but the heritage of Aaron is for all his descendants." —45:25
 

Sir 46  —  DEVOTION

"Beloved of his people, dear to his Maker, dedicated from his mother's womb, consecrated to the Lord as a prophet, was Samuel, the judge and priest." —Sirach 46:13

Sirach's purpose in giving some historical highlights is to show "how good it is to be a devoted follower of the Lord" (46:10).

Prayer: Father, as Your child, may I be devoted to You, as Your Son is.
Promise: "And who could withstand him when he fought the battles of the Lord? Did he not by his power stop the sun, so that one day became two?" —46:3-4
 

Sir 47  —  HOP-SCOTCH

"He added beauty to the feasts and solemnized the seasons of each year with string music before the altar, providing sweet melody for the psalms." —Sirach 47:9

Sirach quickly skips through Israelite history. He's hurrying to get to his "main man," Simon the priest, in chapter 50.

Prayer: Father, teach me how to understand history.
Promise: "But God does not withdraw His mercy, nor permit even one of His promises to fail." —47:22
 

Sir 48  —  READING BETWEEN THE LINES

"By his powerful spirit he looked into the future and consoled the mourners of Zion; he foretold what should be till the end of time, hidden things yet to be fulfilled." —Sirach 48:24-25

Sometimes Sirach says more in omitting certain kings and prophets than in including others. We should not just read what's there but what's not there.

Prayer: Father, give me the spiritual gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and discernment of spirits.
Promise: "You are destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord, to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons." —48:10
 

Sir 49  —  BREAKDOWN?

"Glorious, too, were Shem and Seth and Enos; but beyond that of any living being was the splendor of Adam." —Sirach 49:16

Sirach looks at 200 years of history, before and after the Babylonian exile, and doesn't have much to say.

Finally, he goes back to Enoch, Joseph, Shem, Seth, Enos, and even Adam. No one has ever understood the method to this madness. Are these omissions that Sirach planned to insert later into his overview of Israelite history? If so, what are they doing here? This breakdown in the order of the book may mirror the breakdown of the chosen people after the exile.

Prayer: Father, after Adam, humanity became worse and worse. Thank You for sending Jesus to save us.
Promise: "He turned to God with his whole heart, and, though times were evil, he practiced virtue." —49:3
 

Sir 50  —  TWO JESUSES

"The greatest among his brethren, the glory of his people, was Simon the priest, son of Jochanan, in whose time the house of God was renovated, in whose days the temple was reinforced." —Sirach 50:1

Sirach proclaims Simon the priest to be the epitome of Israelite history. This one person receives much more attention than any other person in Israelite history.

After proclaiming in the person of Simon the paramount importance of the priesthood and Temple worship, Sirach tried once again to conclude the book. But before this, the order of the book breaks down with a proclamation of hatred against "those who live in Seir and Philistia, and the degenerate folk who dwell in Shechem" (50:26). Although Sirach has made a monumental effort, it is obvious he doesn't have all the answers.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the other Jesus, the only Way, Truth, and Life (Jn 14:6).
Promise: "Wise instruction, appropriate proverbs, I have written in this book, I, Jesus, son of Eleazar, son of Sirach, as they gushed forth from my heart's understanding. Happy the man who meditates upon these things, wise the man who takes them to heart! If he puts them into practice, he can cope with anything, for the fear of the Lord is his lamp." —50:27-29
 

Sir 51  —  MY SAVIOR

"I give You thanks, O God of my father; I praise You, O God my Savior!" —Sirach 51:1

You probably don't believe it, but Sirach is actually going to end this time. The book ends in praise of God, our Savior. Only in Jesus our Savior is this last chapter of Sirach and the whole Old Testament fulfilled.

Prayer: Jesus, our Wisdom, Savior, Lord, and God, I adore You and give my life to You.
Promise: "Work at your tasks in due season, and in His own time God will give you your reward." —51:30
 

CONCLUSION

When you finish reading this booklet, give it to someone else. Pray for that person to be motivated to read God's word and make a total commitment to the Lord. Use this book as a tool for evangelization. Right now pray to know the person with whom you are to share this book.

 

Nihil obstat: Reverend Ralph J. Lawrence, November 17, 1997
Imprimatur: Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, November 19, 1997

The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.

The cost of this publication is a donation. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit what amount He would have you contribute.

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