Bernard Mizeki, Apostle of the MaShona, Martyr, 1896
Truly, God is loving to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
Nevertheless, my feet were almost gone;
my steps had well-nigh slipped.
For I was envious of the proud;
I saw the wicked in such prosperity;
For they suffer no pains and their bodies are sleek and sound;
They come to no misfortune like other folk;
nor are they plagued as others are;
Therefore pride is their necklace and violence wraps them like a cloak.
Their iniquity comes from within;
the conceits of their hearts overflow.
They scoff, and speak only of evil;
they talk of oppression from on high.
They set their mouth against the heavens,
and their tongue ranges round the earth;
And so the people turn to them and find in them no fault.
They say, ‘How should God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?’
Behold, these are the wicked;
ever at ease, they increase their wealth.
Is it in vain that I cleansed my heart and washed my hands in innocence?
All day long have I been stricken and chastened every morning.
If I had said, ‘I will speak as they do,’
I should have betrayed the generation of your children.
Then thought I to understand this, but it was too hard for me,
Until I entered the sanctuary of God and understood the end of the wicked:
How you set them in slippery places;
you cast them down to destruction.
How suddenly do they come to destruction, perish and come to a fearful end!
As with a dream when one awakes,
so, Lord, when you arise you will despise their image.
When my heart became embittered and I was pierced to the quick,
I was but foolish and ignorant;
I was like a brute beast in your presence.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with your counsel and afterwards receive me with glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing upon earth that I desire in comparison with you.
Though my flesh and my heart fail me,
God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.
Truly, those who forsake you will perish;
you will put to silence the faithless who betray you.
But it is good for me to draw near to God;
in the Lord God have I made my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
‘Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold to be refined.
Iron is taken out of the earth, and copper is smelted from ore.
Miners put an end to darkness, and search out to the farthest bound the ore in gloom and deep darkness.
They open shafts in a valley away from human habitation;
they are forgotten by travellers, they sway suspended, remote from people.
As for the earth, out of it comes bread; but underneath it is turned up as by fire.
Its stones are the place of sapphires, and its dust contains gold.
‘That path no bird of prey knows, and the falcon’s eye has not seen it.
The proud wild animals have not trodden it; the lion has not passed over it.
‘They put their hand to the flinty rock, and overturn mountains by the roots.
They cut out channels in the rocks, and their eyes see every precious thing.
The sources of the rivers they probe; hidden things they bring to light.
‘But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?
Mortals do not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living.
The deep says, “It is not in me”, and the sea says, “It is not with me.”
It cannot be bought for gold, and silver cannot be weighed out as its price.
It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire.
Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.
No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal; the price of wisdom is above pearls.
The chrysolite of Ethiopia cannot compare with it, nor can it be valued in pure gold.
‘Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding?
It is hidden from the eyes of all living, and concealed from the birds of the air.
Abaddon and Death say, “We have heard a rumour of it with our ears.”
‘God understands the way to it, and he knows its place.
For he looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens.
When he gave to the wind its weight, and apportioned out the waters by measure;
when he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the thunderbolt;
then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out.
And he said to humankind,
“Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” ’
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
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.