Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Revelation 18
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie

When I ride my bike I usually go out alone. Part of the reason is schedule. It's easier to go out on my own than to look for someone who can ride at the same time. Primarily, however, I normally don't join in group rides because then I have to ride at their pace, and that is frequently a quicker pace than I would take on my own, since I am often the oldest rider in the group. One time since I've moved to Texas another cyclist who is on the same website on which I log my own rides contacted me for a ride. We went out together and I had to struggle for the next two hours to keep up. Group rides are often like this. They turn into what cyclists call "hammerfests" as everyone tries to show how fast they are and the whole group suffers along out of pride.

Of course, there is the danger of the "pack mentality" or "group think" in almost every human situation. It's easy to get caught up in and go along with whatever a crowd of people might be doing. I remember when I was a kid and a group of boys would dare someone to do something foolish. One dare probably wouldn't do it, but a whole group egging on the individual would generally get the job done, and usually with disastrous results for that person.

In Revelation 18:4-5 we hear a warning against joining the "pack." There John warns against the wicked city called Babylon, "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes." (Revelation 18:4-5) In a similar vein Proverbs 23:20 warns: "Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat." And Proverbs 24:21 cautions: "Fear the LORD and the king, my son, and do not join with the rebellious."

It's important to watch what company we keep. "Bad company corrupts good character." (1 Corinthians 15:33) The influence of others can be strong, especially when we as God's people are in the minority. So just as I might ride harder than I should in a group ride just to keep up, so too, we as God's people might condone or even participate in evils that we would otherwise condemn, if we are influenced too strongly by the larger group.

If we don't separate ourselves from the sinful society that opposes God will, then we can find ourselves dragged down by it, and in the end experience the same plagues of judgment that our sinful, unbelieving neighbors endure. So when you think about what to do for entertainment, or where to go for relaxation, or what to watch or listen to for liesure time, think about this danger of the "pack mentality". Remember this warning, "Come out of her, my people" and steer clear of those groups or situations that might influence you to sin.

Pastoral Commentary for Revelation 18
Author: Pastor Zach

I don't like moving. I don't like the packing. I don't like the hauling. I don't like the unpacking, sorting, and finding new places for everything in my new place. I don't like moving. But perhaps the thing I dislike most when it comes to the whole moving experience is the obligatory call I have to make to the cable guy. You know how the conversation goes. I call and say, "I've just moved in to a new place and I would like someone to come out and hook up my cable TV and internet." "Okay," the associate responds in her best cheerful tenor, "We can schedule an appointment for two weeks from today between 8 am and 5 pm." "Two weeks from today? Don't you have anything sooner? And can't you give me a more specific window of time than nine hours?" I ask. "No sir," comes the polite reply. "I'm sorry, we can't." And so I wait. And after two weeks, the day finally comes. And I wait again. And I wait and I wait and I wait. And finally, at 4:30 in the afternoon, the cable guy shows up. And 15 minutes later, he's finished. All that waiting for 15 minutes of labor. How frustrating.

After reading about a vile prostitute named Babylon in Revelation 17 (cf. Revelation 17:5) and how she became "drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus" (Revelation 17:6), we now read about this woman's demise in today's reading from Revelation 18. And her demise is a spectacular one. A chorus laments:

"Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come! Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin! Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!" (verses 10, 16-17, 19)

Babylon, the ultimate symbol of power, excess, and greed, has been utterly obliterated. As another chorus sings in the following chapter, "The smoke goes up from her forever and ever" (verse 3). But did you catch the pattern of the laments in chapter 18? Each lament begins with a double woe, accompanied by a reckoning of how long it will take to destroy her: "one hour." One hour to for this giant of a spiritual harlot to meet her demise? That seems awfully swift.

One of the promises that we Christians receive concerning God's judgment is that it will be swift and irrevocable. As Paul elsewhere writes, "For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape" (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). Thus, in John's vision, the enemies of God are destroyed in a mere hour while the people of God, in that same time frame, receive their anxiously anticipated salvation.

In the mean time, however, it can sometimes feel as though Christians are left waiting for a cable guy who has given them a painfully vague time frame as to when he will finally arrive. Jesus promises only that he will come "soon" (Revelation 22:20). Can't he get any more precise than that? Actually, he can't. For as Jesus himself admits, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matthew 24:36). But rest assured, even if it's at 4:30 in the afternoon, Jesus will come. And when Jesus does come, the wait will most certainly be over. For his judgment will only take a moment.

Thankfully, while we're waiting for Jesus to come, we need not sit around in our houses all day like I had to while waiting for the cable guy. Indeed, Jesus doesn't want us to sit around all day waiting for him. Instead, he wants us to use this precious time to share his precious message of salvation. This is why Jesus declares, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). Jesus, not desiring the destruction of sinners, is waiting as long as possible for us to share his message of grace before he ushers in his End. So don't just sit there, share Jesus! After all, who knows? Jesus might just be waiting for you to share him with someone today. I hope you will.

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2019-11-15 09:46:01