George Herbert, Priest, Poet, 1633
Contend, O Lord, with those that contend with me;
fight against those that fight against me.
Take up shield and buckler and rise up to help me.
Draw the spear and bar the way against those who pursue me;
say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.’
Let those who seek after my life be shamed and disgraced;
let those who plot my ruin fall back and be put to confusion.
Let them be as chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord thrusting them down.
Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
For they have secretly spread a net for me without a cause;
without any cause they have dug a pit for my soul.
Let ruin come upon them unawares;
let them be caught in the net they laid;
let them fall in it to their destruction.
Then will my soul be joyful in the Lord and glory in his salvation.
My very bones will say, ‘Lord, who is like you?
You deliver the poor from those that are too strong for them,
the poor and needy from those who would despoil them.
False witnesses rose up against me;
they charged me with things I knew not.
They rewarded me evil for good, to the desolation of my soul.
But as for me, when they were sick I put on sackcloth
and humbled myself with fasting;
when my prayer returned empty to my bosom, it was as though I grieved for my friend or brother;
I behaved as one who mourns for his mother, bowed down and brought very low.
But when I stumbled, they gathered in delight;
they gathered together against me;
as if they were strangers I did not know they tore at me without ceasing.
When I fell they mocked me; they gnashed at me with their teeth.
O Lord, how long will you look on?
Rescue my soul from their ravages, and my poor life from the young lions.
I will give you thanks in the great congregation;
I will praise you in the mighty throng.
Do not let my treacherous foes rejoice over me,
or those who hate me without a cause mock me with their glances.
For they do not speak of peace,
but invent deceitful schemes against those that are quiet in the land.
They opened wide their mouths and derided me, saying
‘We have seen it with our very eyes.’
This you have seen, O Lord;
do not keep silent;
go not far from me, O Lord.
Awake, arise, to my cause, to my defence, my God and my Lord!
Give me justice, O Lord my God, according to your righteousness;
let them not triumph over me.
Let them not say to themselves, ‘Our heart’s desire!’
Let them not say, ‘We have swallowed him up.’
Let all who rejoice at my trouble be put to shame and confusion;
let those who boast against me be clothed with shame and dishonour.
Let those who favour my cause rejoice and be glad;
let them say always,
‘Great is the Lord, who delights in his servant’s well-being.’
So shall my tongue be talking of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long.
My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.
Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land:
‘Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?’
(‘Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?’)
‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.’
For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?
O that my head were a spring of water,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
so that I might weep day and night
for the slain of my poor people!
O that I had in the desert a traveller’s lodging-place,
that I might leave my people and go away from them!
For they are all adulterers, a band of traitors.
They bend their tongues like bows;
they have grown strong in the land for falsehood, and not for truth;
for they proceed from evil to evil,
and they do not know me, says the Lord.
Beware of your neighbours,
and put no trust in any of your kin;
for all your kin are supplanters,
and every neighbour goes around like a slanderer.
They all deceive their neighbours,
and no one speaks the truth;
they have taught their tongues to speak lies;
they commit iniquity and are too weary to repent.
Oppression upon oppression, deceit upon deceit!
They refuse to know me, says the Lord.
Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts:
I will now refine and test them,
for what else can I do with my sinful people?
Their tongue is a deadly arrow;
it speaks deceit through the mouth.
They all speak friendly words to their neighbours,
but inwardly are planning to lay an ambush.
Shall I not punish them for these things? says the Lord;
and shall I not bring retribution on a nation such as this?
Take up weeping and wailing for the mountains,
and a lamentation for the pastures of the wilderness,
because they are laid waste so that no one passes through,
and the lowing of cattle is not heard;
both the birds of the air and the animals have fled and are gone.
I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals;
and I will make the towns of Judah a desolation without inhabitant.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said,
‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’
But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them,
‘Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.’
For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said,
‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.
So Jesus asked the twelve,
‘Do you also wish to go away?’
Simon Peter answered him,
‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’
Jesus answered them,
‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.’
He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
King of glory, king of peace,
who called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honours
to be a priest in the temple of his God and king:
grant us also the grace to offer ourselves with singleness of heart in humble obedience to your service;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.