Daily Devotion for September 18, 2014
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
“A Little Prayer”
Let us be thankful, Lord, for little things
The song of birds, the rapture of the rose;
Cloud-dappled skies, the laugh of limpid springs,
Drowned sunbeams and the perfume April blows;
Bronze wheat a-shimmer, purple shade of trees -
Let us be thankful, Lord of Life, for these!
Let us be grateful, God, for health serene,
The hope to do a kindly deed each day;
The faith of fellowship, a conscience clean,
The will to worship and the gift to pray;
For all of worth in us, of You a part,
Let us be grateful, God, with humble heart.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
[Temperance in all things.]
Dedication (from St. Teresa of Avila)
May it please you, my good Lord, that there may come a day when I can repay a little of my great debt to you. O Jesus, strengthen my soul, you who are good above all good; and since you have inclined my soul in this way, show me how I may act for you, whatever it may cost, O Lord. Here is my life, my honor and my will; I have given them all to you and they are yours: use me to do whatever you want.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Tobit 1:1-8 (MB)
Introduction to the Book of Tobit
This is the book of Tobit, from the clan of Asiel in the Tribe of Naphtali, who lived in the lands north of Galilee and was taken captive by the Assyrians under King Salmanazar.
All of my life, I have walked the path of righteousness. Even during this captivity and deportation to Nineveh, in Assyria, with my kinsmen, I have practiced charity, gathering food and items and distributing them among everyone.
In my younger days, when I lived in my own country, Israel, all of my tribe left the ways of the house of David and his city, Jerusalem. This city held the Temple, the dwelling of God, built so that all tribes would have one holy place to offer sacrifice for all generations. But my kinsmen (and my entire tribe) instead began to sacrifice to the young bull that King Jeroboam had built in Dan.
I would leave them and travel alone to Jerusalem for the festivals, as all the people of Israel are supposed to do. Even when I was a boy, and alone. And as decreed for all time, I would bring with me the first fruits of both field and flock, the first shearings of wool, and a tenth of my income for the priests descended from Aaron, at the altar. To these, the Levites, because they worked doing service in the Temple, I would bring also a tithe of grain, wine, olive oil, pomegranates, figs, and other fruits.
There were other tithes: the second tithe (except in sabbatical years) of money, for the poor in Jerusalem, and a third tithe for widows, orphans, and converts in Naphtali, every third year. These offerings are laws of Moses, and I learned them from my grandmother, Deborah. My father, Tobiel, died and left me an orphan. I married Anna, from my clan, and had a son whom we named Tobiah.
Notes on the Scripture
Our study of the history and prophecy of the conquest has opened a door to one of the gems of the Apocrypha, the book of Tobit, so I thought we might read it. It isn't terribly long, and it is interesting and even fun to read. Primarily it is the narrative of a man named Tobit who was captured by the Assyrians; the account of his adventures is interspersed with poetic and “wisdom” passages.
Patrick Henry Reardon said of Tobit, “I like to think of the Book of Tobit as a kind of universal essay, in the sense that its author makes considerable effort to place his brief, rather simple narrative within a literary, historical, and moral universe of surprising breadth and diversity, extending through the Fertile Crescent and out both sides. To find comparable dimensions of such large cultural exposure among biblical authors, one would have to go to Ezekiel, Luke, or the narrator of Job.”
We might have well read Ezekiel instead of Tobit — we are at exactly the point in the Bible when he lived, i.e. during the Exile period (see chart.) — but Ezekiel, at 48 chapters, is a major undertaking; while Tobit is much shorter and tells an interesting story. (If there are people interested in taking the time to read through one of the major prophets, like Ezekiel or Isaiah, I might be game, but we will have to do it on a different page rather here in the Daily Devotion.)
So, Tobit, a Jew of Naphtali who came of age just as Israel was being conquered. (Tobit says Naphtali is north of Galilee, but its south end included the “Galilee” region where Christ lived and taught.) In the Kingdom of Israel during the last days, when Baal worship had completely taken over the country, there were a few faithful Hebrews. We have seen several very vocal ones, in fact: the prophets Amos and Hosea. But it stands to reason that at least some people would have listened to the prophets and been in sympathy with them, and Tobit was such a person.
The first verses begin by showing his righteousness after his capture. His group of kinsmen were kept together after their capture, and Tobit spent his time and energy collecting food and probably other necessities of life, such as clothing, and distributing it to them. He took on this responsibility even though he had, apparently, only recently turned 20, the age of manhood in Hebrew society.
We then get a flashback of sorts. Tobit's righteousness had manifested before he was a man. As a boy, when all of his kin were going to worship at the golden calves built by Jeroboam, he would sneak off entirely on his own, to travel to Jerusalem and worship in the Temple. He kept such law as he understood, as there would have been no written record. It was passed down to him orally, from his grandmother Deborah, who must have raised him.
Note on the Translation and Upcoming Bible Study
We have been studying Old Testament history and prophecy for a long time now, and it must be getting stale for many people. I thought we would take a break with a good epistle, and since I'm in the process of translating two excellent ones, 1 John and Philippians, I had hoped to kill two birds with one stone: get any feedback on my translation and also get a change of pace in our Bible study.
The fly in that particular ointment is how difficult translating the epistles has proven to be. Reading Paul in English is a challenge; you should see the Greek! I really want to do a good job on them and it's going to take time. (I spent at least four hours on the first word of 1 John 1:1.)
(We are actually using my own translation of Tobit, by the way. There aren't very many of them, since almost no Protestant Bibles carry the Apocrypha any more, and those that exist are not to my liking. Luckily, Tobit is a lot easier to translate than the epistles.)