O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old--
what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
They would not be like their forefathers-- a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.
The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle;
they did not keep God's covenant and refused to live by his law.
They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them.
He did miracles in the sight of their fathers in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
He divided the sea and led them through; he made the water stand firm like a wall.
He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night.
He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers.
But they continued to sin against him, rebelling in the desert against the Most High.
They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved.
They spoke against God, saying, "Can God spread a table in the desert?
When he struck the rock, water gushed out, and streams flowed abundantly. But can he also give us food? Can he supply meat for his people?"
When the LORD heard them, he was very angry; his fire broke out against Jacob, and his wrath rose against Israel,
for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance.
Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens;
he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven.
Men ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat.
He let loose the east wind from the heavens and led forth the south wind by his power.
He rained meat down on them like dust, flying birds like sand on the seashore.
He made them come down inside their camp, all around their tents.
They ate till they had more than enough, for he had given them what they craved.
But before they turned from the food they craved, even while it was still in their mouths,
God's anger rose against them; he put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel.
In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.
So he ended their days in futility and their years in terror.
Whenever God slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again.
They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.
But then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with their tongues;
their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant.
Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.
How often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved him in the wasteland!
Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel.
They did not remember his power-- the day he redeemed them from the oppressor,
the day he displayed his miraculous signs in Egypt, his wonders in the region of Zoan.
He turned their rivers to blood; they could not drink from their streams.
He sent swarms of flies that devoured them, and frogs that devastated them.
He gave their crops to the grasshopper, their produce to the locust.
He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamore-figs with sleet.
He gave over their cattle to the hail, their livestock to bolts of lightning.
He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility-- a band of destroying angels.
He prepared a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death but gave them over to the plague.
He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt, the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham.
But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the desert.
He guided them safely, so they were unafraid; but the sea engulfed their enemies.
Thus he brought them to the border of his holy land, to the hill country his right hand had taken.
He drove out nations before them and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance; he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.
But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep his statutes.
Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow.
They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols.
When God heard them, he was very angry; he rejected Israel completely.
He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among men.
He sent [the ark of] his might into captivity, his splendor into the hands of the enemy.
He gave his people over to the sword; he was very angry with his inheritance.
Fire consumed their young men, and their maidens had no wedding songs;
their priests were put to the sword, and their widows could not weep.
Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, as a man wakes from the stupor of wine.
He beat back his enemies; he put them to everlasting shame.
Then he rejected the tents of Joseph, he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loved.
He built his sanctuary like the heights, like the earth that he established forever.
He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens;
from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.
I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows.
And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows--
was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.
I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.
Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the "super-apostles," even though I am nothing.
The things that mark an apostle--signs, wonders and miracles--were done among you with great perseverance.
How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!
Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.
So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?
Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery!
Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent you?
I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not act in the same spirit and follow the same course?
Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening.
For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.
I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.
This will be my third visit to you. "Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses."
I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others,
since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.
For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you.
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?
And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.
For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.
We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection.
This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority--the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the saints send their greetings.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.
They have given the dead bodies of your servants as food to the birds of the air, the flesh of your saints to the beasts of the earth.
They have poured out blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury the dead.
We are objects of reproach to our neighbors, of scorn and derision to those around us.
How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?
Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that do not call on your name;
for they have devoured Jacob and destroyed his homeland.
Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.
Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name's sake.
Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?" Before our eyes, make known among the nations that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants.
May the groans of the prisoners come before you; by the strength of your arm preserve those condemned to die.
Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times the reproach they have hurled at you, O Lord.
Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us.
Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
O LORD God Almighty, how long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us.
Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches.
It sent out its boughs to the Sea, its shoots as far as the River.
Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes?
Boars from the forest ravage it and the creatures of the field feed on it.
Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine,
the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself.
Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish.
Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.