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2 Prayer and Covenant Renewal Sara’s life was the story of one tragedy after another. For many years her family had been living as refugees in Assyria, having been forcibly deported from their homeland in northern Israel. Now settled in this foreign land, her father Raguel had been trying desperately to find her a suitable match. There was no lack of candidates. In fact, several young men had agreed to take her as a bride. The only problem was that every time they would get to the honeymoon suite, the groom would die. It so happened that a nasty demon named Asmodeus was in love with Sara, and in his jealously he would slay each young man before the marriage could be consummated. Falsely accused of having murdered the seven grooms herself, Sara in her despair cried out to God, “Either take my life, or deliver me from this shame!” (Tob 3:11–16). At the same time that Sara prayed, another Jewish refugee, in another part of the land, was also praying. Tobit was also a victim of tragedy. Despite his many righteous deeds, things always seemed to go wrong for him. Like Daniel, he had once risen to a prominent position in the royal court, only to be driven away when the king he served died. He was then caught illegally burying the bodies of dead Jews that he 25 found in the streets, and all of his possessions were taken away. Finally, to add insult to injury, a sparrow defecated into his eyes while he was standing near a wall, leaving him totally blind. Nothing could go right for poor Tobit! In his shame and embarrassment he saw that the tragic comedy of his own life was a crude reflection of Israel’s story. It was becoming too much to bear. So he cried out to God, “Either take my life or deliver Israel from her shame” (Tob 3:1–6). As the prayers of these two righteous people rose to heaven, an angel was dispatched to come to their aide. His name was Raphael, and his four-fold mission was to find a spouse for Sara, outsmart Asmodeus, heal Tobit’s eyes, and show both Sara and Tobit that there was still reason for hope in Israel. To accomplish this task, Raphael engaged the services of two characters: Tobit’s son Tobias, and a salubrious fish. The story is a bit complex, but the crucial details are that Tobias marries Sara, burns the fish’s heart and liver to drive away the demon, and then uses the gall to heal his father’s eyes. In the end, both Sarah and Tobit acknowledge that God has heard their prayers, and they can be confident that he will restore their nation. Despite what we may consider its humorous elements, the book of Tobit actually contains a serious and theologically rich message. At the end of the story, Tobit makes prayers and prophecies regarding the future of his people and all the nations of the earth. In his prayer he declares that all peoples will come to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel: “A bright light will shine to all parts of the earth; many nations shall come to you from afar, and the inhabitants of all the limits of the earth, drawn to you by the name of the Lord God, bearing in their hands their gifts for the King of heaven. Every generation shall give joyful praise in you, and shall call you the chosen one, through all ages forever” (Tob 13:11–12). And then he later prophesies again: But God will again have mercy on them and bring them back to the land of Israel. They shall rebuild the temple, but it will not be like the first one, until the era when the appointed times shall be completed. Afterward all of them shall return from their exile, and they shall rebuild Jerusalem with splendor. In her the temple of God shall also be rebuilt; yes it will be rebuilt for all generations to come, just as the prophets of Israel said ON EARTH AS IN HEAVEN 26 of her. All the nations of the world shall be converted and shall offer God true worship; all shall abandon their idols which have deceitfully led them into error, and shall bless the God of the ages in righteousness. (Tob 14:5–7) By the way that it combines fantasy and reality, the story of...


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