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.
Now Abimelech son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s kinsfolk and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, ‘Say in the hearing of all the lords of Shechem, “Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?” Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.’ So his mother’s kinsfolk spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the lords of Shechem; and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, ‘He is our brother.’ They gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the temple of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. He went to his father’s house at Ophrah, and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone; but Jotham, the youngest son of Jerubbaal, survived, for he hid himself. Then all the lords of Shechem and all Beth-millo came together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.
When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and cried aloud and said to them,
Listen to me, you lords of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. The trees once went out to anoint a king over themselves.
So they said to the olive tree, “Reign over us.” The olive tree answered them, “Shall I stop producing my rich oil by which gods and mortals are honoured, and go to sway over the trees?”
Then the trees said to the fig tree, “You come and reign over us.” But the fig tree answered them, “Shall I stop producing my sweetness and my delicious fruit, and go to sway over the trees?”
Then the trees said to the vine, “You come and reign over us.” But the vine said to them, “Shall I stop producing my wine that cheers gods and mortals, and go to sway over the trees?”
So all the trees said to the bramble, “You come and reign over us.” And the bramble said to the trees, “If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”
Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and honour when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done to him as his actions deserved—for my father fought for you, and risked his life, and rescued you from the hand of Midian; but you have risen up against my father’s house this day, and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his slave-woman, king over the lords of Shechem, because he is your kinsman—if, I say, you have acted in good faith and honour towards Jerubbaal and towards his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you; but if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the lords of Shechem, and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the lords of Shechem, and from Beth-millo, and devour Abimelech.’
Then Jotham ran away and fled, going to Beer, where he remained for fear of his brother Abimelech.
Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’
God our saviour, look on this wounded world in pity and in power; hold us fast to your promises of peace won for us by your Son, Amen.