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your Son battled with the powers of darkness,
and grew closer to you in the desert:
help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer
that we may witness to your saving love
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh, the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent;
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war.
Disaster overtakes disaster,
the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed,
my curtains in a moment.
How long must I see the standard,
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
‘For my people are foolish,
they do not know me;
they are stupid children,
they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil,
but do not know how to do good.’
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and lo, there was no one at all,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the Lord, before his fierce anger.
For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
Because of this the earth shall mourn,
and the heavens above grow black;
for I have spoken, I have purposed;
I have not relented nor will I turn back.
At the noise of horseman and archer
every town takes to flight;
they enter thickets; they climb among rocks;
all the towns are forsaken,
and no one lives in them.
And you, O desolate one,
what do you mean that you dress in crimson,
that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold,
that you enlarge your eyes with paint?
In vain you beautify yourself.
Your lovers despise you;
they seek your life.
For I heard a cry as of a woman in labour,
anguish as of one bringing forth her first child,
the cry of daughter Zion gasping for breath,
stretching out her hands,
‘Woe is me! I am fainting before killers!’
Why stand so far off, O Lord?
Why hide yourself in time of trouble?
The wicked in their pride persecute the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.
The wicked boast of their heart’s desire;
the covetous curse and revile the Lord.
The wicked in their arrogance say, ‘God will not avenge it’;
in all their scheming God counts for nothing.
They are stubborn in all their ways,
for your judgements are far above out of their sight;
they scoff at all their adversaries.
They say in their heart, ‘I shall not be shaken;
no harm shall ever happen to me.’
Their mouth is full of cursing, deceit and fraud;
under their tongue lie mischief and wrong.
They lurk in the outskirts
and in dark alleys they murder the innocent;
their eyes are ever watching for the helpless.
They lie in wait, like a lion in his den;
they lie in wait to seize the poor;
they seize the poor when they get them into their net.
The innocent are broken and humbled before them;
the helpless fall before their power.
They say in their heart, ‘God has forgotten;
he hides his face away; he will never see it.’
Arise, O Lord God, and lift up your hand;
forget not the poor.
Why should the wicked be scornful of God?
Why should they say in their hearts, ‘You will not avenge it’?
Surely, you behold trouble and misery;
you see it and take it into your own hand.
The helpless commit themselves to you,
for you are the helper of the orphan.
Break the power of the wicked and malicious;
search out their wickedness until you find none.
The Lord shall reign for ever and ever;
the nations shall perish from his land.
Lord, you will hear the desire of the poor;
you will incline your ear to the fullness of their heart,
To give justice to the orphan and oppressed,
so that people are no longer driven in terror from the land.