The Lord, the most mighty God, has spoken and called the world from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth; our God comes and will not keep silence. Consuming fire goes out before him and a mighty tempest stirs about him. He calls the heaven above, and the earth, that he may judge his people:
‘Gather to me my faithful, who have sealed my covenant with sacrifice.’
Let the heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Hear, O my people, and I will speak:
‘I will testify against you, O Israel; for I am God, your God.
I will not reprove you for your sacrifices, for your burnt offerings are always before me.
I will take no bull out of your house, nor he-goat out of your folds,
For all the beasts of the forest are mine, the cattle upon a thousand hills.
I know every bird of the mountains and the insect of the field is mine.
If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the whole world is mine and all that fills it.
Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and fulfil your vows to God Most High.
Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall honour me.’
But to the wicked, says God:
‘Why do you recite my statute and take my covenant upon your lips, Since you refuse to be disciplined and have cast my words behind you? When you saw a thief, you made friends with him and you threw in your lot with adulterers. You have loosed your lips for evil and harnessed your tongue to deceit. You sit and speak evil of your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things have you done, and should I keep silence?
Did you think that I am even such a one as yourself?
But no, I must reprove you, and set before your eyes the things that you have done. You that forget God, consider this well, lest I tear you apart and there is none to deliver you.
Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honours me and to those who keep my way will I show the salvation of God.’
Then he commanded the steward of his house, ‘Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the top of his sack. Put my cup, the silver cup, in the top of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain.’ And he did as Joseph told him. As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys. When they had gone only a short distance from the city, Joseph said to his steward, ‘Go, follow after the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, “Why have you returned evil for good? Why have you stolen my silver cup? Is it not from this that my lord drinks? Does he not indeed use it for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.” ’
When he overtook them, he repeated these words to them. They said to him, ‘Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants that they should do such a thing! Look, the money that we found at the top of our sacks, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan; why then would we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? Should it be found with any one of your servants, let him die; moreover, the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.’ He said, ‘Even so; in accordance with your words, let it be: he with whom it is found shall become my slave, but the rest of you shall go free.’ Then each one quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack. He searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. At this they tore their clothes. Then each one loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city.
Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house while he was still there; and they fell to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, ‘What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that one such as I can practise divination?’ And Judah said, ‘What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? How can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; here we are then, my lord’s slaves, both we and also the one in whose possession the cup has been found.’ But he said, ‘Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the one in whose possession the cup was found shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father.’
Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere, ‘What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honour, subjecting all things under their feet.’
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Almighty God, who gave to your servant Polycarp boldness to confess the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world and courage to die for his faith: grant that we also may be ready to give an answer for the faith that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.