James the Deacon, companion of Paulinus, 7th century
Give praise, you servants of the Lord, O praise the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore. From the rising of the sun to its setting let the name of the Lord be praised. The Lord is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God, that has his throne so high, yet humbles himself to behold the things of heaven and earth?
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ashes, to set them with princes, with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a place in the house and makes her a joyful mother of children.
Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory, for the sake of your loving mercy and truth. Why should the nations say, ‘Where is now their God?’
As for our God, he is in heaven; he does whatever he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak; eyes have they, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear; noses have they, but cannot smell;They have hands, but cannot feel;
feet have they, but cannot walk; not a whisper do they make from their throats.
Those who make them shall become like them and so will all who put their trust in them. But you, Israel, put your trust in the Lord; he is their help and their shield.
House of Aaron, trust in the Lord; he is their help and their shield.
You that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; he is their help and their shield.
The Lord has been mindful of us and he will bless us; may he bless the house of Israel; may he bless the house of Aaron; may he bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great together.
May the Lord increase you more and more, you and your children after you.
May you be blest by the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth he has entrusted to his children. The dead do not praise the Lord, nor those gone down into silence; but we will bless the Lord, from this time forth for evermore.
2 Kings 19.1-19
When King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. And he sent Eliakim, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz.
They said to him, ‘Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that the Lord your God heard all the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the Lord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’ When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, ‘Say to your master, “Thus says the Lord: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. I myself will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumour and return to his own land; I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” ’
The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah; for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. When the king heard concerning King Tirhakah of Ethiopia, ‘See, he has set out to fight against you’, he sent messengers again to Hezekiah, saying, ‘Thus shall you speak to King Hezekiah of Judah: Do not let your God on whom you rely deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. See, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, destroying them utterly. Shall you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my predecessors destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?’
Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: ‘O Lord the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.
Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have hurled their gods into the fire, though they were no gods but the work of human hands—wood and stone—and so they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, I pray you, from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.’
Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you—and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But Timothy’s worth you know, how like a son with a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope therefore to send him as soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I will also come soon.
Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus—my brother and co-worker and fellow-soldier, your messenger and minister to my need; for he has been longing for all of you, and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, in order that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honour such people, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me.
O God, forasmuch as without you we are not able to please you; mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.