“Do not disobey the fear of the Lord; do not approach him with a divided mind”. (Sirach 1:28)
I have to admit I do not know much about Apocryphal literature. My studies in seminary did not focus in as great a depth on non-canonic literature as the canon. But what is not canon can be as illuminating as canon. And that our forefathers and foremothers used it says a great deal. Let us look than at what this verse says.
Yesterday we read that the the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (however we understand the word ‘fear’). Here we read that one should not disobey the fear of the Lord. The implication is than that one should obey fear of the Lord; what might that mean? The rest of the verse seems to be just as mysterious; approach the Lord an undivided mind. What are we to make of this?
If you think this sounds a lot like Proverbs or other books of the recognized canon, you are correct. My brief research into this book told me that it was written by Ben Sira, and is known as the Wisdom of Ben Sira, or Ecclesiasticus, and is a work from the second century BC (before 180 BC), and was originally written in Hebrew. Today it is more frequently known as Ben Sira or simply Sirach. Ben Sira is thought to have worked as a scribe.
So what we have is wisdom from a scribe who lived a good many years before Jesus, and was a contemporary of other biblical writers we are more familiar with. Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy entered it into Old Testament canon, but not Jewish or Protestant canon. One reason for the exclusion from Jewish canon that there were no Hebrew manuscripts, just Greek. I could not find a stated reason why Protestants passed on it, although generally speaking Protestant canon is based on what King James rejected and accepted. That the Anabaptists used these texts speaks to the fact that they came out of Catholicism which did accept some apocryphal literature.
But all of this has not gotten us closer to understanding this verse. So, if we are to take as a basic assumption that ‘fear’ (or reverence or respect or however you understand the concept) of the Lord is a good thing, this verse is just confirming that one should let this worshipful attitude guide one’s life. Furthermore, one should not both fear the Lord and dismiss God’s divinity; you can not and should not have it both ways. If you have reverence and worship for God, you should not disregard the laws and precepts that God has put into place, and you should give God the worship and devotion that the Divine deserves and demands.
This is not really that different from what is in the canon. Truth is truth who ever says it, and where ever it is found. May you look for, find, and follow the truth of God and Christ Jesus where it is reveal to you. Selah!