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.
To you I lift up my eyes, to you that are enthroned in the heavens. As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, or the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until he have mercy upon us.
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of the arrogant, and of the contempt of the proud.
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, “Thus says the Lord: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For if you will not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you, your officials, and your people, and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies; so also the land where they live. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people live, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I the Lord am in this land. Thus I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign shall appear tomorrow.” ’ The Lord did so, and great swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh and into his officials’ houses; in all of Egypt the land was ruined because of the flies.
Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron, and said, ‘Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.’ But Moses said, ‘It would not be right to do so; for the sacrifices that we offer to the Lord our God are offensive to the Egyptians. If we offer in the sight of the Egyptians sacrifices that are offensive to them, will they not stone us? We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as he commands us.’ So Pharaoh said, ‘I will let you go to sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness, provided you do not go very far away. Pray for me.’ Then Moses said, ‘As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the Lord that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; only do not let Pharaoh again deal falsely by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.’
So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord. And the Lord did as Moses asked: he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and would not let the people go.
And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, without us, be made perfect.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Gracious Father, you gave up your Son out of love for the world: lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion, that we may know eternal peace through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.