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.
1 Kings 22.1-28
For three years Aram and Israel continued without war. But in the third year King Jehoshaphat of Judah came down to the king of Israel. The king of Israel said to his servants, ‘Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, yet we are doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?’ He said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?’ Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, ‘I am as you are; my people are your people, my horses are your horses.’
But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, ‘Inquire first for the word of the Lord.’ Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred of them, and said to them, ‘Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?’ They said, ‘Go up; for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.’ But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?’ The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favourable about me, but only disaster.’ Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let the king not say such a thing.’ Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, ‘Bring quickly Micaiah son of Imlah.’ Now the king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing-floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them. Zedekiah son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron, and he said, ‘Thus says the Lord: With these you shall gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’ All the prophets were prophesying the same and saying, ‘Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.’
The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, ‘Look, the words of the prophets with one accord are favourable to the king; let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favourably.’ But Micaiah said, ‘As the Lord lives, whatever the Lord says to me, that I will speak.’
When he had come to the king, the king said to him, ‘Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?’ He answered him, ‘Go up and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.’ But the king said to him, ‘How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?’ Then Micaiah said, ‘I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep that have no shepherd; and the Lord said, “These have no master; let each one go home in peace.” ’ The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy anything favourable about me, but only disaster?’
Then Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, with all the host of heaven standing beside him to the right and to the left of him. And the Lord said, “Who will entice Ahab, so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” Then one said one thing, and another said another, until a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, “I will entice him.” “How?” the Lord asked him. He replied, “I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” Then the Lord said, “You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do it.” So you see, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has decreed disaster for you.’
Then Zedekiah son of Chenaanah came up to Micaiah, slapped him on the cheek, and said, ‘Which way did the spirit of the Lord pass from me to speak to you?’ Micaiah replied, ‘You will find out on that day when you go in to hide in an inner chamber.’ The king of Israel then ordered, ‘Take Micaiah, and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son, and say, “Thus says the king: Put this fellow in prison, and feed him on reduced rations of bread and water until I come in peace.” ’ Micaiah said, ‘If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me.’ And he said, ‘Hear, you peoples, all of you!’
Up to this point they listened to him, but then they shouted, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.’ And while they were shouting, throwing off their cloaks, and tossing dust into the air, the tribune directed that he was to be brought into the barracks, and ordered him to be examined by flogging, to find out the reason for this outcry against him. But when they had tied him up with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, ‘Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who is uncondemned?’ When the centurion heard that, he went to the tribune and said to him, ‘What are you about to do? This man is a Roman citizen.’ The tribune came and asked Paul, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ The tribune answered, ‘It cost me a large sum of money to get my citizenship.’ Paul said, ‘But I was born a citizen.’ Immediately those who were about to examine him drew back from him; and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.
Since he wanted to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jews, the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire council to meet. He brought Paul down and had him stand before them.
While Paul was looking intently at the council he said, ‘Brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God.’ Then the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near him to strike him on the mouth. At this Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting there to judge me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law you order me to be struck?’ Those standing nearby said, ‘Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?’ And Paul said, ‘I did not realize, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, “You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.” ’
When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.’ When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.) Then a great clamour arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and contended, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’ When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks.
That night the Lord stood near him and said, ‘Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.’
God of all tribes and peoples and tongues, who called your servant John Coleridge Patteson to witness in life and death to the gospel of Christ amongst the peoples of Melanesia: grant us to hear your call to service and to respond trustfully and joyfully to Jesus Christ our redeemer, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.