Great is the Lord and highly to be praised, in the city of our God. His holy mountain is fair and lifted high, the joy of all the earth. On Mount Zion, the divine dwelling place, stands the city of the great king. In her palaces God has shown himself to be a sure refuge.
For behold, the kings of the earth assembled and swept forward together. They saw, and were dumbfounded; dismayed, they fled in terror. Trembling seized them there; they writhed like a woman in labour, as when the east wind shatters the ships of Tarshish. As we had heard, so have we seen
in the city of the Lord of hosts, the city of our God: God has established her for ever.
We have waited on your loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of your temple. As with your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is full of justice. Let Mount Zion rejoice and the daughters of Judah be glad, because of your judgements, O Lord. Walk about Zion and go round about her; count all her towers; consider well her bulwarks; pass through her citadels, That you may tell those who come after that such is our God for ever and ever. It is he that shall be our guide for evermore.
Why do you glory in evil, you tyrant, while the goodness of God endures continually?
You plot destruction, you deceiver; your tongue is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than the word of truth.
You love all words that hurt, O you deceitful tongue.
Therefore God shall utterly bring you down; he shall take you and pluck you out of your tent and root you out of the land of the living.
The righteous shall see this and tremble; they shall laugh you to scorn, and say:
‘This is the one who did not take God for a refuge, but trusted in great riches and relied upon wickedness.’
But I am like a spreading olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the goodness of God for ever and ever. I will always give thanks to you for what you have done; I will hope in your name, for your faithful ones delight in it.
Then Job answered:
‘Listen carefully to my words, and let this be your consolation.
Bear with me, and I will speak; then after I have spoken, mock on.
As for me, is my complaint addressed to mortals?
Why should I not be impatient?
Look at me, and be appalled, and lay your hand upon your mouth.
When I think of it I am dismayed, and shuddering seizes my flesh.
Why do the wicked live on, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?
Their children are established in their presence, and their offspring before their eyes.
Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them.
Their bull breeds without fail; their cow calves and never miscarries.
They send out their little ones like a flock, and their children dance around.
They sing to the tambourine and the lyre, and rejoice to the sound of the pipe.
They spend their days in prosperity, and in peace they go down to Sheol.
They say to God, “Leave us alone! We do not desire to know your ways.
What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
And what profit do we get if we pray to him?”
Is not their prosperity indeed their own achievement?
The plans of the wicked are repugnant to me.
How often is the lamp of the wicked put out?
How often does calamity come upon them?
How often does God distribute pains in his anger?
How often are they like straw before the wind, and like chaff that the storm carries away?
You say, “God stores up their iniquity for their children.”
Let it be paid back to them, so that they may know it.
Let their own eyes see their destruction, and let them drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
For what do they care for their household after them, when the number of their months is cut off?
Will any teach God knowledge, seeing that he judges those that are on high?
One dies in full prosperity, being wholly at ease and secure, his loins full of milk and the marrow of his bones moist.
Another dies in bitterness of soul, never having tasted of good.
They lie down alike in the dust, and the worms cover them.
Oh, I know your thoughts, and your schemes to wrong me.
For you say, “Where is the house of the prince?
Where is the tent in which the wicked lived?”
Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony,
that the wicked are spared on the day of calamity, and are rescued on the day of wrath?
Who declares their way to their face, and who repays them for what they have done?
When they are carried to the grave, a watch is kept over their tomb.
The clods of the valley are sweet to them; everyone will follow after, and those who went before are innumerable.
How then will you comfort me with empty nothings?
There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.’
You will say to me then, ‘Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is moulded say to the one who moulds it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
As indeed he says in Hosea,
Those who were not my people I will call “my people”,
and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved”. ’
And in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people”,
there they shall be called children of the living God.’
And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, ‘Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.’ And as Isaiah predicted,
If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us,
we would have fared like Sodom and been made like Gomorrah.’
What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling-stone, as it is written,
See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth: send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you. Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.