Synopsis Tobit 8:20-10:2 9/17/2020
Tobiah and Sarah woke from the first night as a married couple. When they did, Raguel vowed to celebrate the wedding for fourteen days. His vow made it impossible for Tobiah not to comply.
At the same time, Raguel gave Tobiah half of all that he owned. Furthermore, he promised the other half when he and his wife died.
But Tobiah had other business. Tobit sent him on this journey to get the ten talents of silver. Twenty years before, Tobit had deposited the money with Gabael. If he went to Rages, then he would be further delayed. The fourteen days of feasting meant he already could not get home on time. And, he knew that Tobit and Anna would be worried.
So, Tobiah sent Raphael to collect the money and invite Gabael to the wedding feast. Of course, Gabael gladly joined the party.
But back in Nineveh, Tobit worried at Tobiah’s delay. But it was harder for Anna. She was so discouraged that she did nothing all day except sit at the road and wait for news about her son.
Edna’s Rejoicing & Anna’s Grief
Edna was Raguel’s wife. She had endured the normal worries that mothers have for their daughters. But she also had to experience the perplexing and grievous deaths of seven different men who had attempted to marry her daughter. So, Tobiah & Sarah’s marriage was a source of great joy and deep satisfaction. Accordingly, she and Raguel’s wanted the celebration to last as long as possible.
But Anna was grieved. Tobiah had not returned home on time. With no other communication, she began to imagine the worst. And so, the very days of celebration at Raguel’s house were tortuous days of despair to Tobiah’s mother.
Joy and Grief
On the surface of it, it seems strange that the same event can be the cause of great joy for one person, and the cause of great suffering for another. And yet, this sort of thing happens all the time.
God has given me limited perspective. I can only see things in a way that makes sense to me. And so, even if I truly want what I believe God wants, I remain susceptible to failed expectations. As evidence of this, I become overjoyed at outcomes that have nothing to do with God’s intentions. And conversely, in more painful moments, I feel bitter disappointment when I carry expectations concerning something that God never intended.
This is the way with men – even men who ostensively long to see God’s will done. In the end, the only emotionally safe place is found in Habakkuk’s refrain.
“Yet I will rejoice in the LORD and exult in my saving God.” Habakkuk 3:18
Synopsis Tobit 8:5-19 9/16/2020
Tobiah married Sarah. And on their first night together, they prayed for God’s protection.
But Sarah’s father couldn’t sleep. He worried that Tobiah might die. Sarah had married seven times before. And each time, the would-be husband died on the wedding night. This had brought shame on the family. So, Raguel, her father, ordered his servants to dig a grave in case Tobiah had died like the others. So, they dug a grave in the court.
Afterward, he directed his wife to send a maid into the bridal chamber to see if Tobiah survived. Shortly afterward, the girl returned. And she reported all was well. So, Raguel and all the family quietly rejoiced. And then, he directed his servants to fill the unused grave.
The next day, he prepared a large feast for his family and friends.
Raguel & The Unused Grave
Raguel was worried about his family’s reputation. Having already lost seven would-be sons-in-law, the other people in his community were assuredly wondering what the matter was. And it very likely affected the way the community related to him and his family.
Now, Tobiah was foreign to the city of Ecbatana. No one knew him. And not many even realized he had come to the city. So, if he were to die, Raguel intended to bury him before anyone in the community realized what had happened.
But the cost was the wasted work. He dug a grave in the middle of the night. And the grave would never be used.
The need to look respectable comes naturally to me. But the truth is, respectability takes a lot of time and effort. I hope to follow God, but I don’t want anyone to think I’ve gone off the deep-end.
Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” John 6:27
Synopsis Tobit 7:12-8:4 9/15/2020
When the Assyrians forced the northern Israelites to leave the promised land, they exiled them to different cities. As a result, when Tobiah and Raphael arrived at Raguel’s house, none of them had ever met before, even though they were close relatives.
So, Raguel and his family received Tobiah with great joy. And they made a feast. However, before the feast, Tobiah told Raguel that he desired to marry his daughter Sarah. In fact, this was his purpose in coming to visit.
So, Raguel agreed. And he immediately made out a marriage contract. Afterward, they all feasted while the bridechamber was prepared. And then Tobiah and Sarah were left alone. So, they made a special incense according to Raphael’s instructions. Then, Tobiah and Sarah prayed to God for protection.
Tobiah & Sarah Prayed
Everyone involved in this marriage experienced the anxious worry that things might end poorly. And everyone handled their concerns in the various ways that humans do. But, Tobiah and Sarah prayed. And God heard their prayers and saved them.
I feel this. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night anxious. And I worry.
“What if my hoped-for project goes wrong.” Or, “what if I blow this important opportunity.”
Left alone, I can think some dark, discouraging thoughts.
But the command is to pray. I can only do what God has called me to do. If He has called me, then He will provide for every need. And so, I pray.
“Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matt 26:41
Synopsis Tobit 7:1-11 9/14/2020
Tobiah and the angel Raphael traveled together toward the city of Rages. But when they arrived in Ecbatana, they went directly to Raguel’s house to visit.
Although they had never met, Raguel recognized a resemblance between Tobiah and his father Tobit. And so his wife asked who they were. When Tobiah revealed that he was Tobit’s son, Raguel and his family rejoiced to meet Tobiah. But at the same time, they were overcome with sadness because of Tobit’s blindness.
Once they had welcomed Tobiah, Raguel and his family prepared a special meal for them. However, Tobiah had come determined to make Sarah his wife. And so, he told Raguel his intention.
Tobiah Took Action
Tobiah was a man of action. Once he realized what needed to be done, he refused to wait for even a day.
If I know what it I should do, then my reluctance is a form of unbelief. Similarly, if I know how to solve a problem, it is faithless to wait for the problem to solve itself. More specifically, my tendency toward waiting to do what I know is right – is a way of rebelling.
Once the way forward is clear, act.
“Oh, that today you would hear his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion.’ Heb 3:15
Synopsis Tobit 6:13-18 9/11/2020
As the two journeyed together, Tobiah and Raphael discussed Raguel’s daughter Sarah. Raphael had explained her many virtues to Tobiah. And he assured him that Raguel would not withhold Sarah from him.
But Tobiah remained concerned. Especially because Sarah had been married seven times. And each marriage had ended on the wedding night with her new husband dead at the hands of an evil demon.
Raphael assured Tobiah that no harm would befall him. Accordingly, he instructed Tobiah how to make a special incense from a fish’s liver and heart. And Tobiah had these items on hand because Raphael had told him to remove the innards from a fish they previously encountered while crossing the Tigris River.
In this way, Tobiah became determined to marry Sarah.
Tobiah listened to Raphael’s counsel. Although he expressed concerns about moving forward in marriage to Sarah, Raphael helped him recognize God’s intentions and purposes. As a result, Tobiah gained confidence that his proposal was in harmony with God’s plan.
The hallmark of great spiritual counsel isn’t that I’ve been told what to do. Instead, I recognize great spiritual counsel because it has the power to make my circumstances clearer.
“The way of fools is right in their own eyes, but those who listen to advice are the wise.” Prov 12:15
Synopsis Tobit 6:2-13 9/10/2020
Tobiah and Raphael set off on their journey to Media. Along the way, the stopped to camp at the Tigris River. While there, a large fish attacked Tobiah.
The fish attempted to swallow his foot. Although Tobiah cried out in alarm, Raphael told him to grab the fish and haul it to shore. Furthermore, he instructed Tobiah to clean the fish for food. And, he told him to retain the heart, liver and gall bladder. Later on, he told Tobiah that the fish innards would be useful as medicine.
Finally, as the two men neared the city of Ecbatana, Raphael told Tobiah about Raguel’s daughter Sarah, who lived in the city. Specifically, he described Sarah’s beauty and courage. And Raphael mentioned that, Tobiah had the first right to marry Sarah. This right came because Raguel was a near relative.
A fish attacked Tobiah and attempted to swallow his foot. As startling as it was, he could have interpreted it as nothing more than an odd coincidence.
But , Raphael informed Tobiah that in reality, the fish was a great resource for food and for medicine. It was a gift that he hadn’t even asked for.
God is sovereign over the affairs of men. As it is written, “[There is] No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel [that] prevail against the LORD” (Prov 21:30). And, “we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).
Sometimes the best way to see coincidence is to recognize that, perhaps for only a moment or two, God has peeled back the unseen in order to let you know that He’s got you covered.
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” Jer 29:11
Synopsis Tobit 5:12-6:1 9/7/2020
Tobit invited Raphael into his house for an interview. So, he questioned the angel closely about his lineage. In response, Raphael identified himself as Azariah, the son of a close relative.
Tobit accepted Raphael’s identity. More importantly, he accepted Raphael’s promise to bring Tobiah back safely. So, despite his wife’s concerns, Tobit sent Tobiah on his way with Raphael.
Tobit & The Unseen
Before Tobit allows Tobiah to leave with Raphael, he prays to God that an angel will be sent to guide him home safely. He even assures his wife that a “good angel” will go and make the journey a success.
The irony, of course, was that Raphael was an angel. But Tobit couldn’t see him in this way.
The challenge of the unseen is that I cannot directly perceive it. So, things aren’t always obvious. Yet, this doesn’t mean the unseen is unknowable. It’s just not always obvious. And, it is God’s grace to me to reveal that which is not obvious.
Accordingly, because so much is unseen, the only reasonable response is to respond faithfully to God’s revelation.
“Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” Heb 13:2
Synopsis Tobit 5:4-11 09082020
Tobit directed his son to travel to the city of Rages in order to collect some money. His son’s name was Tobiah. He also instructed Tobiah to find a hired man who would guide the journey.
So, Tobiah went into the city. And there, he encountered the angel Raphael, who was posing as one of Tobiah’s kinsmen. Raphael agreed to go with Tobiah. And he assured him that they would be successful.
Of course, Tobit required an interview. So, Tobiah brought Raphael to his father’s house. And there, Tobit asked Raphael questions to determine his qualifications. Raphael assured Tobit that he was qualified to guide Tobiah and that the journey would be a success.
Tobit Asked Questions
Tobit was an effective man. And he was in the habit of asking hard questions.
Often Christianity is characterized as a faith tradition that doesn’t like questions. There is a sense that, in order to be a Christian, I need to leave my intellect at the door of the church. I sometimes even encounter Christians who willingly accept this caricature.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The church always opens itself to every conceivable question about faith and practice. Yes, it is true that we don’t keep asking the same questions repetitively about issues that have been largely, or completely resolved. But, short of that, Christians are actually encouraged, if not commanded, to ask hard questions.
So, especially as a Catholic Christian, God has called me to be a truth-seeker. He calls me to “test everything” and “retain what is good”.
“Test everything; retain what is good.” 1Thess 5:21
Synopsis Tobit 4:15-5:3 9/2/2020
Because of his misfortunes, Tobit prayed to God to end his miserable life. Thinking that God might do it, he decided to give his son final instructions.
As he spoke to his son Tobiah, Tobit gave him wise counsel. But at the conclusion, Tobit notified Tobiah that he had placed a large sum of money with a relative in a distant city. So, he instructed Tobiah to go to that city and claim the money that was owed. Furthermore, he gave specific instructions on the process of redemption. And he sent him with a bond.
Wisdom of Tobit
Tobit had experienced much in his life. Through it all, he remained faithful to God. And he persisted in well-doing.
So, when Tobit instructed Tobiah, he imparted a deep understanding of how life actually worked.
Listen to Wisdom
Long life produces wisdom. The aged are a necessary and invaluable resource to my family and my parish.
So, let me celebrate them.
“So with old age is wisdom, and with length of days understanding.” Job 12:12
Synopsis Tobit 3:1-10 8/30/2020
Tobit expreienced a great deal of sadness. As a young man, Assyrian forces exiled him from homeland in Naphtali to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Later, the king of Assyria sought to kill him for helping persecuted Israelites. And though he survived persecution, sparrows dropped waste into his eyes as he slept. The waste blinded him. And no physician could help.
As a result, Tobit despaired because of his circumstances. So, he begged God to take his life.
Far away, in another Assyrian city, a young Israelite woman named Sarah similarly despaired. A demon persecuted her by killing her husbands on the evening of each of her marriages. As a result, people mocked and humiliated her.
So, after a while, she decided to take her own life. But as she prepared to end it all, she began to realize the impact her death would have on her father. And so, she thought better of her decision. Instead, she likewise decided to beg God to take her life.
Tobit and Sarah
Tobit and Sarah each hated their circumstances. And eventually, they came to the conclusion that nothing could ever change. And so, they asked God to end their lives.
The Prayer for Death
Emotional pain is real. And I suppose most have felt deep emotional pain at some point on their journey.
But the real danger of emotional pain is that I get so caught up in my pain that I forget to look outward in love. This kind of inward collapse is desperate.
This story gives clarity to the distinction between the transitory hope of the old testament and the anticipatory hope of the Good News.
Jesus changes everything!
“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” Rom 12:12