Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne, 709
Blessed are those whose way is pure, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep his testimonies and seek him with their whole heart, Those who do no wickedness, but walk in his ways. You, O Lord, have charged that we should diligently keep your commandments. O that my ways were made so direct that I might keep your statutes. Then should I not be put to shame, because I have regard for all your commandments. I will thank you with an unfeigned heart, when I have learned your righteous judgements. I will keep your statutes; O forsake me not utterly.
How shall young people cleanse their way to keep themselves according to your word?
With my whole heart have I sought you; O let me not go astray from your commandments. Your words have I hidden within my heart, that I should not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; O teach me your statutes.
With my lips have I been telling of all the judgements of your mouth. I have taken greater delight in the way of your testimonies than in all manner of riches. I will meditate on your commandments and contemplate your ways. My delight shall be in your statutes and I will not forget your word.
O do good to your servant that I may live, and so shall I keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may see the wonders of your law. I am a stranger upon earth; hide not your commandments from me. My soul is consumed at all times with fervent longing for your judgements. You have rebuked the arrogant; cursed are those who stray from your commandments. Turn from me shame and rebuke, for I have kept your testimonies. Rulers also sit and speak against me, but your servant meditates on your statutes. For your testimonies are my delight; they are my faithful counsellors.
My soul cleaves to the dust; O give me life according to your word. I have acknowledged my ways and you have answered me; O teach me your statutes. Make me understand the way of your commandments, and so shall I meditate on your wondrous works.
My soul melts away in tears of sorrow; raise me up according to your word. Take from me the way of falsehood; be gracious to me through your law. I have chosen the way of truth and your judgements have I laid before me. I hold fast to your testimonies; O Lord, let me not be put to shame. I will run the way of your commandments, when you have set my heart at liberty.
Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed; take all the fighting men with you, and go up now to Ai. See, I have handed over to you the king of Ai with his people, his city, and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king; only its spoil and its livestock you may take as booty for yourselves. Set an ambush against the city, behind it.’
So Joshua and all the fighting men set out to go up against Ai. Joshua chose thirty thousand warriors and sent them out by night with the command, ‘You shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it; do not go very far from the city, but all of you stay alert. I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. When they come out against us, as before, we shall flee from them. They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city; for they will say, “They are fleeing from us, as before.” While we flee from them, you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city; for the Lord your God will give it into your hand. And when you have taken the city, you shall set the city on fire, doing as the Lord has ordered; see, I have commanded you.’ So Joshua sent them out; and they went to the place of ambush, and lay between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai; but Joshua spent that night in the camp.
In the morning Joshua rose early and mustered the people, and went up, with the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. All the fighting men who were with him went up, and drew near before the city, and camped on the north side of Ai, with a ravine between them and Ai. Taking about five thousand men, he set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. So they stationed the forces, the main encampment that was north of the city and its rearguard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley. When the king of Ai saw this, he and all his people, the inhabitants of the city, hurried out early in the morning to the meeting-place facing the Arabah to meet Israel in battle; but he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. And Joshua and all Israel made a pretence of being beaten before them, and fled in the direction of the wilderness. So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they were drawn away from the city. There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel; they left the city open, and pursued Israel.
Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Stretch out the sword that is in your hand towards Ai; for I will give it into your hand.’ And Joshua stretched out the sword that was in his hand towards the city. As soon as he stretched out his hand, the troops in ambush rose quickly out of their place and rushed forward. They entered the city, took it, and at once set the city on fire. So when the men of Ai looked back, the smoke of the city was rising to the sky. They had no power to flee this way or that, for the people who fled to the wilderness turned back against the pursuers. When Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city was rising, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. And the others came out from the city against them; so they were surrounded by Israelites, some on one side, and some on the other; and Israel struck them down until no one was left who survived or escaped. But the king of Ai was taken alive and brought to Joshua.
When Israel had finished slaughtering all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and when all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai, and attacked it with the edge of the sword. The total of those who fell that day, both men and women, was twelve thousand—all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the sword, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their booty, according to the word of the Lord that he had issued to Joshua. So Joshua burned Ai, and made it for ever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree, threw it down at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’
And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’
God our maker,
whose Son Jesus Christ gave to your servant Bede grace to drink in with joy the word that leads us to know you and to love you:
in your goodness grant that we also may come at length to you, the source of all wisdom, and stand before your face;
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.