In you, O Lord, do I seek refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free; incline your ear to me and save me. Be for me a stronghold to which I may ever resort; send out to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the evildoer and the oppressor. For you are my hope, O Lord God, my confidence, even from my youth. Upon you have I leaned from my birth, when you drew me from my mother’s womb; my praise shall be always of you.
I have become a portent to many, but you are my refuge and my strength. Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long. Do not cast me away in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength fails. For my enemies are talking against me, and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together. They say, ‘God has forsaken him; pursue him and take him, because there is none to deliver him.’ O God, be not far from me; come quickly to help me, O my God. Let those who are against me be put to shame and disgrace; let those who seek to do me evil
be covered with scorn and reproach.
But as for me I will hope continually and will praise you more and more. My mouth shall tell of your righteousness and salvation all the day long, for I know no end of the telling. I will begin with the mighty works of the Lord God; I will recall your righteousness, yours alone.
O God, you have taught me since I was young, and to this day I tell of your wonderful works. Forsake me not, O God, when I am old and grey-headed, till I make known your deeds to the next generation and your power to all that are to come. Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens; in the great things you have done, who is like you, O God?
What troubles and adversities you have shown me, and yet you will turn and refresh me and bring me from the deep of the earth again. Increase my honour; turn again and comfort me.
1 Kings 21
Later the following events took place: Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. And Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.’ But Naboth said to Ahab, ‘The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.’ Ahab went home resentful and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, ‘I will not give you my ancestral inheritance.’ He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat.
His wife Jezebel came to him and said, ‘Why are you so depressed that you will not eat?’ He said to her, ‘Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, “Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it”; but he answered, “I will not give you my vineyard.” ’ His wife Jezebel said to him, ‘Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.’
So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal; she sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. She wrote in the letters, ‘Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth at the head of the assembly; seat two scoundrels opposite him, and have them bring a charge against him, saying, “You have cursed God and the king.” Then take him out, and stone him to death.’ The men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. Just as it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the assembly. The two scoundrels came in and sat opposite him; and the scoundrels brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, ‘Naboth cursed God and the king.’ So they took him outside the city, and stoned him to death. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, ‘Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.’
As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, ‘Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.’ As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. You shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: Have you killed, and also taken possession?’ You shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood.’
Ahab said to Elijah, ‘Have you found me, O my enemy?’ He answered, ‘I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin. Also concerning Jezebel the Lord said, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.” Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the air shall eat.’
(Indeed, there was no one like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord, urged on by his wife Jezebel. He acted most abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord drove out before the Israelites.)
When Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth over his bare flesh; he fasted, lay in the sackcloth, and went about dejectedly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: ‘Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster on his house.’
Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, ‘May I say something to you?’ The tribune replied, ‘Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?’ Paul replied, ‘I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.’ When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:
‘Brothers and fathers, listen to the defence that I now make before you.’
When they heard him addressing them in Hebrew, they became even more quiet. Then he said:
‘I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment.
‘While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered, “Who are you, Lord?” Then he said to me, “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.” Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I asked, “What am I to do, Lord?” The Lord said to me, “Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do.” Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took my hand and led me to Damascus.
‘A certain Ananias, who was a devout man according to the law and well spoken of by all the Jews living there, came to me; and standing beside me, he said, “Brother Saul, regain your sight!” In that very hour I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.”
‘After I had returned to Jerusalem and while I was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw Jesus saying to me, “Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.” And I said, “Lord, they themselves know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And while the blood of your witness Stephen was shed, I myself was standing by, approving and keeping the coats of those who killed him.” Then he said to me, “Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.” ’
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.