Hear my teaching, O my people; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will pour forth mysteries from of old, Such as we have heard and known, which our forebears have told us. We will not hide from their children, but will recount to generations to come, the praises of the Lord and his power and the wonderful works he has done. He laid a solemn charge on Jacob and made it a law in Israel, which he commanded them to teach their children, That the generations to come might know, and the children yet unborn, that they in turn might tell it to their children; So that they might put their trust in God and not forget the deeds of God, but keep his commandments, And not be like their forebears, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.
The people of Ephraim, armed with the bow, turned back in the day of battle; They did not keep the covenant of God and refused to walk in his law; They forgot what he had done and the wonders he had shown them. For he did marvellous things in the sight of their forebears, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. He divided the sea and let them pass through; he made the waters stand still in a heap. He led them with a cloud by day and all the night through with a blaze of fire. He split the hard rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink as from the great deep. He brought streams out of the rock and made water gush out like rivers.
Yet for all this they sinned more against him and defied the Most High in the wilderness. They tested God in their hearts and demanded food for their craving. They spoke against God and said,
‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
‘He struck the rock indeed, so that the waters gushed out and the streams overflowed,
'but can he give bread or provide meat for his people?’
When the Lord heard this, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob and his anger went out against Israel, For they had no faith in God and put no trust in his saving help. So he commanded the clouds above and opened the doors of heaven. He rained down upon them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. So mortals ate the bread of angels; he sent them food in plenty.
He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens and led out the south wind by his might. He rained flesh upon them as thick as dust and winged fowl like the sand of the sea. He let it fall in the midst of their camp and round about their tents. So they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they desired. But they did not stop their craving; their food was still in their mouths, When the anger of God rose against them, and slew their strongest men and felled the flower of Israel.
But for all this, they sinned yet more and put no faith in his wonderful works. So he brought their days to an end like a breath and their years in sudden terror. Whenever he slew them, they would seek him; they would repent and earnestly search for God. They remembered that God was their rock and the Most High God their redeemer. Yet they did but flatter him with their mouth and dissembled with their tongue. Their heart was not steadfast towards him, neither were they faithful to his covenant.
But he was so merciful that he forgave their misdeeds and did not destroy them; many a time he turned back his wrath
and did not suffer his whole displeasure to be roused. For he remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes by and does not return.
2 Kings 1.2-17
Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay injured; so he sent messengers, telling them, ‘Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury.’ But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Get up, go to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?” Now therefore, thus says the Lord, “You shall not leave the bed to which you have gone, but you shall surely die.” ’ So Elijah went.
The messengers returned to the king, who said to them, ‘Why have you returned?’ They answered him, ‘There came a man to meet us, who said to us, “Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him: Thus says the Lord: Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not leave the bed to which you have gone, but shall surely die.” ’ He said to them, ‘What sort of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?’ They answered him, ‘A hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist.’ He said, ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite.’
Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty men. He went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, ‘O man of God, the king says, “Come down.” ’ But Elijah answered the captain of fifty, ‘If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.’ Then fire came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
Again the king sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty. He went up and said to him, ‘O man of God, this is the king’s order: Come down quickly!’ But Elijah answered them, ‘If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.’ Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
Again the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. So the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and entreated him, ‘O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight. Look, fire came down from heaven and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight.’ Then the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, ‘Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.’ So he set out and went down with him to the king, and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron,—is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word?—therefore you shall not leave the bed to which you have gone, but you shall surely die.’
So he died according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken. His brother Jehoram succeeded him as king in the second year of King Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat of Judah, because Ahaziah had no son.
Five days later the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and an attorney, a certain Tertullus, and they reported their case against Paul to the governor. When Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:
‘Your Excellency, because of you we have long enjoyed peace, and reforms have been made for this people because of your foresight. We welcome this in every way and everywhere with utmost gratitude. But, to detain you no further, I beg you to hear us briefly with your customary graciousness. We have, in fact, found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn from him concerning everything of which we accuse him.’
The Jews also joined in the charge by asserting that all this was true.
When the governor motioned to him to speak, Paul replied:
‘I cheerfully make my defence, knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation. As you can find out, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. They did not find me disputing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd either in the synagogues or throughout the city. Neither can they prove to you the charge that they now bring against me. But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets. I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience towards God and all people. Now after some years I came to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifices. While I was doing this, they found me in the temple, completing the rite of purification, without any crowd or disturbance. But there were some Jews from Asia—they ought to be here before you to make an accusation, if they have anything against me. Or let these men here tell what crime they had found when I stood before the council, unless it was this one sentence that I called out while standing before them, “It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.” ’
But Felix, who was rather well informed about the Way, adjourned the hearing with the comment, ‘When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.’ Then he ordered the centurion to keep him in custody, but to let him have some liberty and not to prevent any of his friends from taking care of his needs.
Gracious God, you call us to fullness of life: deliver us from unbelief and banish our anxieties with the liberating love of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.