Time Is Running Out

Zephaniah 1:1-18

When small, picked on eldest daughter about tomorrow – never gets here, when it does it’s today. Lots of folks live like that really is true… and like will always have today. If something comes along that threatens way of thinking, like serious health issue, get angry, go ballistic, refuse to accept. Act as if think today is permanent guarantee, no need to give much if any thought to what might come next.

Bible strongly urges different viewpoint: great day of the Lord is near and coming quickly. Judgment Day is coming, nothing to joke about; if was near in Zephaniah’s day, is that much closer now. Those who have strong confidence in God and right relationship with him need not fear – will be a good day for them. Those estranged from God or avowed enemies, different kind of day – will truly be worst day of their life.

Great day of the Lord not the only time of judgment. Have been occurrences already – Flood, Babel, Babylonian exile, fall of Jerusalem, to name a few. Each one an example and warning – think of Kilauea, rumbles, smokes and squirts, then bigger sights and sounds, might even be really big one. Same for preliminary or intermediate judgments brought by God – each a small-scale example of what is yet to come. Also very minor preview of what eternity has in store for the lost. And… each one a reminder God is serious, has not forgotten, will not abandon his purpose to judge the world. Has already appointed the day and the Judge. What is left is remainder of God’s plan to take place first, then the Day.

Our security should not make us complacent. Should incite us to be like Evangelist who warned Pilgrim to “Flee the wrath to come” and pointed him to the light that would lead to eternal life. Don’t need to look far to see what there is to warn people about, is in our text.

A. creation unmade v.2-3

sweep away everything

is poetry, so do need to keep that in mind – more apt to be figures of speech like hyperbole, parallelism for emphasis

is also just as clear God not speaking about small event – Judah and Jerusalem specifically named objects of his displeasure but God’s actions will have global impact

man and beast – beginning with man, process of purifying works in reverse through creation order, sweeping away what God made good and man corrupted

the birds of the heavens, fish of the sea – obviously not flood this time, some other form of purifying, reserved for Great Day

the stumbling blocks (rubble, ESV; ruins, CSB) along with the wicked – given specific issue God is addressing (syncretism), rubble probably ruins of trappings of idol-worship

target: sinful man and what he worships, both real and representation

God’s aim never off, always achieves his precise purpose – has no reason to go after true believers in judgment… Jesus will take care of that 6 centuries later

will judge evildoers in Judah, destroy all wrong things they worshiped by adding to YHWH-worship – eventually will sweep away things represented by idols

on Great Day of the Lord, earth will be swept clean of all impurity – will be nothing left to remind of sinfulness, hinder worship / fellowship with one another and God

purpose: demonstrate true God’s absolute sovereignty and superiority

God regularly “intervenes” in affairs of mankind to remind of his presence, power… his ongoing commitment to use power to achieve his purpose

sinful mankind may deny his existence / authority, invent own ways / objects of worship… until day when God says “Enough”

all of this in preparation for new heavens and new earth – existing created order finally purified and renewed, fully redeemed from curse accompanying fall into sin

B. groups targeted v.4-13

idolators (4-6)

worship (what is) popular – people of God always in minority, far outnumbered by followers of competing worldview(s)

from God’s perspective, not problem for righteous to go against the flow, worship differently – problem is when flow comes into worshiping community

differing degrees of idoaltry – from “true God plus a little” to “true God maybe an afterthought” – often result of creep, slow change as false religion infiltrates the church – happens more quickly when invited in

God’s judgment would erase worship of fertility gods, worship of celestial bodies, creatures instead of Creator from Israelite life

risk for worshipers: adding things from culture to worship of true God that he has not sanctioned – Hallmark holidays, unsanctified elements in worship (greet your neighbor, musical performance)

princes and oppressors (8-9)

worship power – influence of foreign cultures had devastating effect on Jewish people – example given is their adoption of foreign fashion standards / practices

likely that fashion advertised and promoted lifestyle and ethical choices associated with idolatrous and immoral culture – implication is that underlying values came along with fashion statements

shown by Israelite adoption of superstitions and behaviors of pagan neighbors – really is no divide between faith and reason

Holy Yoga email…

merchants (10-11)

worship possessions – Wall Street crash small potatoes compared to devastation God’s judgment would bring on Jewish economy

agricultural economy had become market-driven one – making money by trading money, profit by transfer of ownership without adding any value to product

measure of the person had become measure of personal wealth – God no longer on the radar, people trusting in own genius, amount of accumulated wealth, no longer trusting in God for his provision

Global Leadership Summit – “fresh actionable and inspiring leadership content” – targeting church leaders, hosted by a church, sponsored by a church association – senior VP of Retail, Apple; faculty, Harvard Law School; restaurateur; Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley

complacent (12-13)

worship private god – have developed own definition of God, deny his power or interest – think the 18th century Deist’s view

what is in effect said when minister reads short Bible text, makes disparaging comments, puts Bible away, gives warm/fuzzy talk

happy with status quo, claim God won’t mind what they do, content to focus on what can be seen / touched, ignore the rest

claim name of Christian but resist any kind of change in thinking / behavior – come to church week by week, leave each time unchanged by what they have heard

C. time running out v.14-18

day is near, near and hastens quickly

day when Jerusalem would be defeated, plundered, left in ruins not far in future – within lifetime of most of Zephaniah’s listeners

message intensity ramps up quickly, hard to hear especially for true believers, absolutely essential warning for all at risk of judgment

if in God’s view of things “Great day of the Lord” was near and coming in a hurry 2600 years ago, must be even closer now

is good incentive for us to be diligent, doing our part to convince those at risk no guarantees of good tomorrow, even next hour

noise of the day is bitter – certain defeat

a bad day even for heroes – even big boys gonna cry over this one, frustrated, totally powerless in face of God’s righteous anger

no secret about it either, will be done out in open for all to see – may be Babylonian army in uniform, God is Commander-in-chief

day of: wrath…

not a temper tantrum, rather God’s just punishment on evildoers for their willful sin against him and one another

Zephaniah piles up words and pictures to shock people into hearing / heeding his warning – not anything to just blow off

hardship: trouble and distress — devastation and desolation — not to be quick passing inconvenience, something easily endured… will totally change way of life, permanently

fear: darkness and gloominess — clouds and thick darkness — things often associated with God’s presence, e.g. Sinai, intended to strip Jewish people of false confidence, bring face to reality of their sin

for them, for us today, still time to repent and turn back to true God in true worship; on Great Day… no such opportunity

war: trumpet and alarm — in Zephaniah’s day God would work through means (Chaldean army) to bring about judgment

on Great Day, will be God himself in person of Lord Jesus leading the charge, riding on white horse, followed by armies of heaven clothed in fine linen, white and clean

will be Lord Jesus himself who will tread winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, bringing final justice to earth, preparing way for new heaven and earth (see Rev. 19:11ff)

no relief (17)

once again reminded that will be God bringing consequences on his people for their sin against him – will be all-consuming for those who persist in rebellion

no escape (18)

no purchase amount will buy deliverance from God’s wrath, no place will escape his judgment… w/i boundaries of Israel in Zephaniah’s day, entire face of the earth on that day

D. God has guests!

Not all is lost, not hopeless situation for everyone. Look at verse 7:

will be an awesome day

God’s power and immensity and holiness and glory will silence everyone in his presence – no one will have anything to say

will be a remnant preserved

God has guests!! – he has invited them, he has consecrated them, purified them so they can rightly be at his table

must be diligent to include genuine reason for hope along with warning of judgment


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