Tobit: Prayers of Distress

Tobit: Part 2  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Context of the book
Northern kingdom
tribe of Naphtali
exile of northern kingdom
Foundation and formation
Foundation of good practices
worship at the temple in Jerusalem
not eating food of the gentiles
burying the dead respectfully
Formation of the mind
Continued previous practices even after his personal exile
convicted and committed to his service
before eating of Pentecost meal
Ended ch 2 with the blinding of Tobit after bird droppings hit his eye.
struggle to reconcile the suffering of the righteous.
The righteous are tested in order to bring about their improvement. This is why we must be strong in the face of temptations, knowing they do not occur in order to humiliate us but in order to make us grow if we face them with a serene mind for the sake of Christ.

Prayers of Despair

More difficult, than reconciling the suffering of righteous people, externally, is the internal battle that must be faced.
Prayers in times of afflictions are no stranger to the followers of God.
Prayer of the 3 youth in Daniel (LXX)
Prayer of Hezekiah
Prayer of Habakkuk (wondering where God was with all the injustice)
Jonah in the belly of the whale
Tobit’s Prayer of Despair
Tobit 3:1–3 NRSV
1 Then with much grief and anguish of heart I wept, and with groaning began to pray: 2 “You are righteous, O Lord, and all your deeds are just; all your ways are mercy and truth; you judge the world. 3 And now, O Lord, remember me and look favorably upon me. Do not punish me for my sins and for my unwitting offenses and those that my ancestors committed before you. They sinned against you,
Tobit 3:4–5 NRSV
4 and disobeyed your commandments. So you gave us over to plunder, exile, and death, to become the talk, the byword, and an object of reproach among all the nations among whom you have dispersed us. 5 And now your many judgments are true in exacting penalty from me for my sins. For we have not kept your commandments and have not walked in accordance with truth before you.
OT/NT mindset
God honors the good but punishes the evil and corrupt
Tobit saw his blindness as punishment from God for his sins and the sins of his ancestors
One of the challenges in working through our times of despair is dealing with our own cultural/societal biases.
Likely received biases from parents or strong influences
John 9:1–3 NKJV
1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
Afflictions take a toll on individuals
Tobit 3:6 NRSV
6 So now deal with me as you will; command my spirit to be taken from me, so that I may be released from the face of the earth and become dust. For it is better for me to die than to live, because I have had to listen to undeserved insults, and great is the sorrow within me. Command, O Lord, that I be released from this distress; release me to go to the eternal home, and do not, O Lord, turn your face away from me. For it is better for me to die than to see so much distress in my life and to listen to insults.”
Affliction fatigue is real!
Elijah the prophet
King David
Sarah’s prayer of Distress
Tobit 3:7–9 NRSV
7 On the same day, at Ecbatana in Media, it also happened that Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, was reproached by one of her father’s maids. 8 For she had been married to seven husbands, and the wicked demon Asmodeus had killed each of them before they had been with her as is customary for wives. So the maid said to her, “You are the one who kills your husbands! See, you have already been married to seven husbands and have not borne the name of a single one of them. 9 Why do you beat us? Because your husbands are dead? Go with them! May we never see a son or daughter of yours!”
Tobit 3:10 NRSV
10 On that day she was grieved in spirit and wept. When she had gone up to her father’s upper room, she intended to hang herself. But she thought it over and said, “Never shall they reproach my father, saying to him, ‘You had only one beloved daughter but she hanged herself because of her distress.’ And I shall bring my father in his old age down in sorrow to Hades. It is better for me not to hang myself, but to pray the Lord that I may die and not listen to these reproaches anymore.”
Tobit 3:11–12 NRSV
11 At that same time, with hands outstretched toward the window, she prayed and said, “Blessed are you, merciful God! Blessed is your name forever; let all your works praise you forever. 12 And now, Lord, I turn my face to you, and raise my eyes toward you.
Tobit 3:13–14 NRSV
13 Command that I be released from the earth and not listen to such reproaches any more. 14 You know, O Master, that I am innocent of any defilement with a man,
Sarah to wants to die but knows the problems it will bring to her family.
Turning to God in times of deep affliction
Truth is affirmed
truth of his goodness
truth of confusion
truth of the gap between current outcome and what should be
petitions are made
strength for the journey is requested
Hope in God’s intervention becomes the fuel we need to continue on.
ex. Susanna
Susanna 22–23 NRSV
22 Susanna groaned and said, “I am completely trapped. For if I do this, it will mean death for me; if I do not, I cannot escape your hands. 23 I choose not to do it; I will fall into your hands, rather than sin in the sight of the Lord.”
Susanna 42–43 NRSV
42 Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said, “O eternal God, you know what is secret and are aware of all things before they come to be; 43 you know that these men have given false evidence against me. And now I am to die, though I have done none of the wicked things that they have charged against me!”
Old Testament XV: Apocrypha The Lord Hears Also a Silent Prayer (Augustine)

THE LORD HEARS ALSO A SILENT PRAYER. AUGUSTINE: “With my voice I have cried to the Lord.” I have not, that is, cried with the voice of the body, whose sound is made from the vibration of the air, but with the voice of the heart that is silent for human beings but sounds like an outcry to God. Susanna was heard by this voice. With this voice the Lord has taught to us to pray without sound in the secret places, that is, in the recesses of the heart.60

Prayers are heard, Raphael is sent
Tobit 3:16–17 NRSV
16 At that very moment, the prayers of both of them were heard in the glorious presence of God. 17 So Raphael was sent to heal both of them: Tobit, by removing the white films from his eyes, so that he might see God’s light with his eyes; and Sarah, daughter of Raguel, by giving her in marriage to Tobias son of Tobit, and by setting her free from the wicked demon Asmodeus. For Tobias was entitled to have her before all others who had desired to marry her. At the same time that Tobit returned from the courtyard into his house, Sarah daughter of Raguel came down from her upper room.

Beginning the journey

Chapter 4
Tobit, having requested to die, prepares for his death
remembers the silver he deposited in Media
wants Tobias to retrieve it so that he can provide for himself and his mom
Request a proper burial and that his wife be buried her next to him.
Tobit gives Tobias advice for the road...
QUESTION: What do you think his advice will be?
Tobit 4:5–7 NRSV
5 “Revere the Lord all your days, my son, and refuse to sin or to transgress his commandments. Live uprightly all the days of your life, and do not walk in the ways of wrongdoing; 6 for those who act in accordance with truth will prosper in all their activities. To all those who practice righteousness 7 give alms from your possessions, and do not let your eye begrudge the gift when you make it. Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor, and the face of God will not be turned away from you.
Tobit 4:8–11 NRSV
8 If you have many possessions, make your gift from them in proportion; if few, do not be afraid to give according to the little you have. 9 So you will be laying up a good treasure for yourself against the day of necessity. 10 For almsgiving delivers from death and keeps you from going into the Darkness. 11 Indeed, almsgiving, for all who practice it, is an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High.
QUESTION: What strikes you about the advice?
The amount of generosity in Tobit
The awareness of giving alms and the movements of the heart. (v.7)
The uniqueness of the virtue of almsgiving with respect to salvation.
Old Testament XV: Apocrypha A Special Light Illuminates the Just (Augustine)

Tobit was blind, yet he taught his son the way of God. You know this is true, because Tobit advised his son, “Give alms, my son, for almsdeeds save you from departing into darkness,” yet the speaker was in darkness himself. Do you see from this that it is a different light that rises for a just person and good cheer for those of straightforward heart4?

Divine advice comes from those who have lived differently in this world. They have darkened themselves from the physical world and gained in return a divine light.
Tobit, also advises Tobias on a variety of issues with respect to moral conduct and making sure he marries someone from his own people

A guide for the road

Chapter 5
Tobias agrees to his father’s request to retrieve the silver, but needs a guide and wants to know how Gabrael will trust him and how he will navigate Media
Tobit tells him of the exchange of bonds and once this is shown he will know you are my son.
Tobias is told to find a guide…He finds Angel Raphael, but doesn’t know he is an angel.
Raphael declares that he is a kinsmen who knows Media well and can successfully guide him.
Raphael, also admits to knowing Gabael
This seals the deal to be the hired guide for the journey
Tobias goes back to tell his father and Tobit calls to meet Raphael.
Tobit 5:10 NRSV
10 Then Tobias went out and called him, and said, “Young man, my father is calling for you.” So he went in to him, and Tobit greeted him first. He replied, “Joyous greetings to you!” But Tobit retorted, “What joy is left for me any more? I am a man without eyesight; I cannot see the light of heaven, but I lie in darkness like the dead who no longer see the light. Although still alive, I am among the dead. I hear people but I cannot see them.” But the young man said, “Take courage; the time is near for God to heal you; take courage.” Then Tobit said to him, “My son Tobias wishes to go to Media. Can you accompany him and guide him? I will pay your wages, brother.” He answered, “I can go with him and I know all the roads, for I have often gone to Media and have crossed all its plains, and I am familiar with its mountains and all of its roads.”
Orthodox approach to the OT
OT / NT are a continual revelation of God
OT is best understood through the lens of Christ in the NT
many OT events are seen as a foreshadowing of salvation to completed in and through Christ.
Old Testament XV: Apocrypha Christ Appeared to the World (Bede)

An angel appeared to Tobias and offered himself as a companion through whom he might perform wonders for the people to whom he had been sent.1 And the Son of God assumed the nature of a human being so that, thus visibly spending his life with human beings, he might save the human race.2

As the conversation evolves, Raphael calls himself, Azariah, which means “God helps”
Ironically as they prepare to leave, Tobit prays that God angel protects them along the way.
Tobit’s wife comes in at the end of the chapter with deep concern for the journey…Tobit says, don’t worry for a “good angel” will accompany them.
Beautiful reminder, that God is always present with us before we ever realize it.
We started with a prayer of deep affliction and are left with the presence of God beginning to open the doors in such unique ways.
We are reminded to continually remain hopeful
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