O Lord, hear my prayer and let my crying come before you. Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; when I call, make haste to answer me, For my days are consumed in smoke and my bones burn away as in a furnace. My heart is smitten down and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread. From the sound of my groaning my bones cleave fast to my skin. I am become like a vulture in the wilderness, like an owl that haunts the ruins. I keep watch and am become like a sparrow solitary upon the housetop. My enemies revile me all the day long, and those who rage at me have sworn together against me. I have eaten ashes for bread and mingled my drink with weeping, Because of your indignation and wrath, for you have taken me up and cast me down.
My days fade away like a shadow, and I am withered like grass. But you, O Lord, shall endure for ever and your name through all generations. You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is time to have mercy upon her; surely the time has come. For your servants love her very stones and feel compassion for her dust. Then shall the nations fear your name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory, When the Lord has built up Zion and shown himself in glory; When he has turned to the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their plea.
This shall be written for those that come after, and a people yet unborn shall praise the Lord. For he has looked down from his holy height; from the heavens he beheld the earth, That he might hear the sighings of the prisoner and set free those condemned to die; That the name of the Lord may be proclaimed in Zion and his praises in Jerusalem, When peoples are gathered together and kingdoms also, to serve the Lord.
He has brought down my strength in my journey and has shortened my days. I pray, ‘O my God, do not take me in the midst of my days; your years endure throughout all generations. In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; They shall perish, but you will endure; they all shall wear out like a garment. You change them like clothing, and they shall be changed; but you are the same, and your years will not fail. The children of your servants shall continue, and their descendants shall be established in your sight.’
God also spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name “The Lord” I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they resided as aliens. I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the Israelites, “I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.” ’ Moses told this to the Israelites; but they would not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his land.’ But Moses spoke to the Lord, ‘The Israelites have not listened to me; how then shall Pharaoh listen to me, poor speaker that I am?’ Thus the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, and gave them orders regarding the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, charging them to free the Israelites from the land of Egypt.
For if we wilfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy ‘on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know the one who said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet ‘in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay; but my righteous one will live by faith. My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.’
But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.
Merciful Lord, you know our struggle to serve you: when sin spoils our lives and overshadows our hearts, come to our aid and turn us back to you again; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.