O Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You mark out my journeys and my resting place and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but you, O Lord, know it altogether. You encompass me behind and before and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go then from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand shall lead me, your right hand hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will cover me and the light around me turn to night,’ Even darkness is no darkness with you; the night is as clear as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike.
For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are your works, my soul knows well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my form, as yet unfinished; already in your book were all my members written, As day by day they were fashioned when as yet there was none of them.
How deep are your counsels to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
If I count them, they are more in number than the sand, and at the end, I am still in your presence.
O that you would slay the wicked, O God, that the bloodthirsty might depart from me! They speak against you with wicked intent; your enemies take up your name for evil.
Do I not oppose those, O Lord, who oppose you?
Do I not abhor those who rise up against you?
I hate them with a perfect hatred; they have become my own enemies also.
Search me out, O God, and know my heart; try me and examine my thoughts. See if there is any way of wickedness in me and lead me in the way everlasting.
Set forth your case, says the Lord; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.
Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, so that we may consider them, and that we may know their outcome, or declare to us the things to come.
Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be afraid and terrified.
You, indeed, are nothing and your work is nothing at all; whoever chooses you is an abomination.
I stirred up one from the north, and he has come, from the rising of the sun he was summoned by name. He shall trample on rulers as on mortar, as the potter treads clay. Who declared it from the beginning, so that we might know, and beforehand, so that we might say, ‘He is right’?
There was no one who declared it, none who proclaimed, none who heard your words. I first have declared it to Zion, and I give to Jerusalem a herald of good tidings. But when I look there is no one; among these there is no counsellor who, when I ask, gives an answer.
No, they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their images are empty wind.
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols.
See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgement of the great whore who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the inhabitants of the earth have become drunk.’ So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; and on her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations.’ And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.
When I saw her, I was greatly amazed. But the angel said to me, ‘Why are you so amazed? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the inhabitants of the earth, whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will be amazed when they see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
‘This calls for a mind that has wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; also, they are seven kings, of whom five have fallen, one is living, and the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain for only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are united in yielding their power and authority to the beast; they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.’
And he said to me, ‘The waters that you saw, where the whore is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the whore; they will make her desolate and naked; they will devour her flesh and burn her up with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by agreeing to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.’
Eternal Father, whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord and King: keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.