10 Pray to the Eternal, asking for rain in the spring;
He is the One bringing the storm clouds.
He fills them with heavy rain,
showers of rain for the plants of the field for everyone.
2 For household gods[a] speak nothing but tricks,
diviners see deceptions, dreamers tell lies,
And all offer useless comfort.
And so, the people wander without purpose,
Suffering like sheep because they have no shepherd.
3 Eternal One: My anger burns against these imitation shepherds,
and I will bring punishment to those goats.
The Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies,
brings caring to His flock, the people of Judah,
And will make them like His brave royal steed, arrayed for battle.
4 The people of Judah will supply the leadership:
the stable cornerstone, the secure tent peg, the powerful battle bow.
Every commander will come from there.
5 Together they will be like a formidable force of champions in battle,
trampling the enemy in the muck and mire of the roads.
They will fight on because the Eternal fights with them;
they will bring shame and defeat to riders on horseback.
6 Eternal One: I will give strength to the people of Judah
and liberate the northern descendants of Joseph.
I will restore their standing because I care for them,
and they will live as if I never sent them away,
For I am the Eternal their God, and I will answer their call.
7 The Ephraimites, too, will grow strong like warriors
and feel deep joy as if they were warmed by wine.
Their children will see all this and be happy;
their hearts will celebrate what the Eternal has done.
8 Eternal One: I will whistle for My people and gather them in,
for I will redeem them, rescue them, ransom them,
And restore their numbers to what they were before I turned My back on them.
9 Even though I will scatter them among the nations,
they will remember Me in faraway lands.
They will make sure their children will survive to return one day.
10 From the lands of Egypt and Assyria I will restore them.
I will gather them to the lands of Gilead and Lebanon
Until no room remains in this good land for them.
11 An ocean of trouble will meet Him, but He will pass safely through;
sea waves will be quieted, and the Nile will dry up.
Assyria’s prideful domination will be reduced to nothing,
and Egypt’s rule of other nations will end.
12 I will give strength to My people,
and in My name will they live.
So says the Eternal One.
11 Eternal One: Open your gates, O Lebanon;
let the fire in to destroy your cedars!
2 Wail, O cypress, for the cedars have fallen
and their glory lies smoldering in the dust.
Wail, stately oaks of Bashan,
for your thick forest lies on the ground!
3 Listen to the shepherds in the land,
wailing for their power and splendor that lies smoldering in the dust!
Listen to the roar of the lions,
the pride of the Jordan that lies smoldering in the dust!
One of the most beautiful and pervasive images in prophetic poetry and praise psalms is that of the good shepherd. It’s an appropriate and recognizable image for such a pastoral people. The Eternal One, the psalm says, is the Shepherd (Psalm 23). The Anointed King also comes to shepherd His people. But there are wicked shepherds, too; self-appointed and self-interested, they use and abuse the people.
4 The Eternal my God has this to say:
Eternal One: Take care of the flock headed for slaughter. 5 The people who buy My sheep kill them without repercussion. Their sellers mockingly say, “I’m rich. Praise the Eternal One!” Even their own shepherds have no mercy on them. 6 Because of this I promise that I, the Eternal One, will no longer show pity to the citizens of this land. Instead, I will hand each one over to his neighbor, each one over to his king. Those power mongers will oppress them and abuse the land, and I will do nothing to free the sheep.
7 And so I became the shepherd of the sheep headed for slaughter because of the poorest sheep. I took two staffs in my hand—one I named Favor of God and the other I named Unity of the People. With those I took care of the sheep. 8 In the span of one month, I expelled three shepherds who cared nothing for the sheep. I had become tired of the way they have cared for my flock, and they have cared nothing for me.
Zechariah (to the sheep): 9 I will watch over you no longer. Those who are meant to die will die. Those who are meant to perish will perish. Whoever is left behind will devour his neighbor!
10 Then I took my staff named Favor of God, and I snapped it in half, dissolving the covenant I had made with all the people. 11 On that very day when the covenant was broken, the sheep traders[b] watching me knew it was the word of the Eternal One.
Zechariah (to the sheep traders): 12 If you think it is right, give me what I have earned. If you don’t, then keep it for yourselves.
They took 30 pieces of silver, the price set as my wages, the price of a slave.
Eternal One (to Zechariah): 13 Give My deserved portion of your fee to the potter.
And I did as He told me. I took the 30 shekels of silver—the noble price of my valuable service—and gave them to the potter in the Eternal’s temple.[c] 14 Afterward I broke my other staff, Unity of the People, which severed the bond between the people of Judah and Israel.
Eternal One (to Zechariah): 15 Take up once again the tools of a shepherd, this time a foolish shepherd, 16 because I am going to raise up in this land a new breed of shepherd: one who does not care for the perishing, search for the young, heal the injured, or feed the hungry. This new shepherd will feast on the fat from his own flock, tearing their hoofs from their flesh.
17 Watch out, worthless shepherd who abandons the flock!
You will be made defenseless.
May the sword strike his right arm
and pierce his right eye!
May his arm hang limp at his side so he has no strength,
and may his right eye be forever blinded so he can’t shoot an arrow!
Because Babylon is the city responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem’s first temple in 586 b.c., John uses this ominous symbol to describe the Babylon of his day—Rome, the city on seven hills. In a.d. 70, the Roman armies march against Jerusalem, destroy the second temple, and scatter the Jewish people.
The whore, who is identified as Babylon, is a symbol to readers in John’s day of Rome and its allure. Its beauty and power are legendary, but beneath the surface lies the truth of its nature. People who ally themselves with Rome and all that it represents are partners with ruin. In the years since John’s Revelation was first written, the whore has been seen as many different world forces. What Rome represents in John’s day has been replicated by many different world powers and their material attractions.
18 Next I saw another messenger descending from heaven. I knew he possessed great authority because his glory illuminated the earth.
2 Heavenly Messenger (with a powerful voice): Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great city!
It has become a habitat for demons,
A haunt for every kind of foul spirit,
a prison for every sort of unclean and hateful bird.
3 For all the nations have drunk deeply
from the wine of the wrath of her immorality,
And the kings of the earth have disgraced themselves by engaging in gross sexual acts with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown fat and rich, profiting off the power purchased with her luxury.
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven urge,
A Voice: My people, get away from her—fast.
Make sure you do not get caught up in her sins.
Put some distance between you so that you do not share in her plagues,
5 For her sins are higher than the highest mountain. They reach far into the heavens,
and God has not forgotten even one of her missteps.
6 Deal out to her what she has dealt out to others,
and repay her double according to her deeds.
In the cup where she mixed her drink, mix her a double.
7 Whatever glory she demanded and whatever luxury she lived,
give back to her the same measure in torment and sorrow.
Secretly she says in her heart:
“I rule as queen;
I am not like a widow;
I will never experience grief.”
8 Because of this arrogance, in a single day, plagues will overwhelm her.
Her portion will be death and sorrow and famine,
And she will be incinerated with fire,
for mighty is the Lord God who exacts judgment on her.
9 And the kings of the earth, who committed lewd, sexual acts and lived lavishly off of her, will weep and wail over their loss when they see the smoke from her burning body rise into the sky. 10 They will stand at a distance, fearing they, too, might fall victim to her torment. They will moan,
Woe to you, our great city!
Babylon, the most powerful city in the world.
In a single hour, your day of judgment has come.
Since greed and seeking unjust gain are two of Babylon’s greatest sins, economic collapse becomes the basis of God’s judgment.
11 And the merchants and the magnates of the earth weep and mourn over her demise because no one is buying their goods any longer: 12 warehouses remain full of gold, silver, jewels, and pearls; fine fabrics, purple, silk, and scarlet cloth; fragrant woods, items made of ivory, and items finely crafted out of expensive wood; bronze, iron, and marble; 13 cinnamon, spices, incense, myrrh, and frankincense; wine, olive oil, rich flour, and wheat; cattle, sheep, horses, chariots, and human cargo (the trafficked souls of humanity).
14 Everything your heart desired
has gone away;
All the glitz and glitter
are lost to you forever;
you’ll never have them again!
15 The sellers of these goods, who made a fine profit from her, will stand at a distance. Like the kings, they will fear her punishment might fall on them too. They will weep and mourn their loss.
16 Woe to you, our great city,
dressed in finest linens, in purple and scarlet fabrics,
dazzling in gold and jewels and pearls.
17 In a single hour, all this wealth is gone.
And all the sea captains, all those who sail the seas, sailors, and those who make a living by the sea, stood at a distance. 18 Strong men were reduced to tears as they gazed on the smoke that rose from her ruins. “Was there ever any city like her?” they asked. 19 They threw dust in the air covering their heads. They wept bitterly and mourned their loss.
Woe to you, our great city;
all who had ships at sea
became rich off your wealth!
In a single hour, you have been utterly ruined.
20 Rejoice over her torment, O heaven. Join in the celebration, you saints, emissaries,[a] and prophets because God has judged in your favor and against her.
21 Then a mighty messenger picked up a huge stone—it looked like a great millstone—and he cast it into the sea.
Mighty Messenger: Watch and see. This is how Babylon, the great city,
will be thrown down; violently will she go down,
and they will search for her in vain.
22 Never again will the sound of music grace your streets.
The melodies and harmonies of the harpists and musicians and flutists and trumpeters
will never be heard again.
And never again will an artisan of any craft
be found in your markets,
And never again will the grinding of the millstone
provide rhythm to your city,
23 And never again will the light of a lamp
bring warm light to your houses,
And never again will the voices of the bridegroom and bride
bring joy to your festivities.
For the merchants were the magnates of the earth,
and all the nations fell prey to your sorceries.
24 And in her streets the blood of the prophets, saints,
and all who have been slaughtered upon the earth, ran freely.
- 18:20 Literally, apostles
1 Praise the Eternal!
Praise the Eternal, O my soul;
2 I will praise the Eternal for as long as I live.
I will sing praises to my God as long as breath fills my lungs and blood flows through my veins.
3 Do not put your trust in the rulers of this world—kings and princes.
Do not expect any rescue from mortal men.
4 As soon as their breath leaves them, they return to the earth;
on that day, all of them perish—their dreams, their plans, and their memories.
5 Blessed are those whose help comes from the God of Jacob,
whose hope is centered in the Eternal their God—
6 Who created the heavens, the earth,
the seas, and all that lives within them;
Who stays true and remains faithful forever;
7 Who works justice for those who are pressed down by the world,
providing food for those who are hungry.
The Eternal frees those who are imprisoned;
8 He makes the blind see.
He lifts up those whose backs are bent in labor;
He cherishes those who do what is right.
9 The Eternal looks after those who journey in a land not their own;
He takes care of the orphan and the widow,
but He frustrates the wicked along their way.
10 The Eternal will reign today, tomorrow, and forever.
People of Zion, your God will rule forever over all generations.
Praise the Eternal!
33 For pressing down milk makes butter,
pressing your nose makes it bleed,
and pressing anger makes trouble.