Call to Repentance

Zephaniah 2:1-3

Evidence of problem – a “shameless nation” ESV. See Jer. 6:15; 8:12 (Zephaniah’s contemporary and his assessment) When think about kinds of things that should cause people to blush, not hard to imagine what kinds of behaviors might be in view. Saying or doing wrong thing at wrong time, causing personal embarassment, talking about someone then realizing they are w/i earshot. Often involves getting caught in some kind of questionable behavior – lying, stealing, some form of immorality.

Not the kind of absence of embarassment, lack of shame either prophet has in view. Certainly are connected concepts but foremost issue needing attention / correction that of worship practices detestable to God. When worshiping wrong god or right God wrong way, sins addressed in chapter 1 not far from sight. Natural desire to worship what will gratify desires – when desires are sinful, want to worship god(s) that will sanction / enable that kind of behavior. Wrong worship leads to increasing outrageous behavior.

It is believed the 56 children, found alongside the remains of 30 young llamas, were killed as part of a ritual to stave off devastating rain and flooding caused by a major El Niño event that hit the region around 600 years ago. …In April, the bodies of 140 children and 200 young llamas were found in Huanchaquito’s Las Llamas sector, just a few kilometres from the site of the 56 newly discovered skeletons. Archaeologists described the find as the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in history.

George Mason University archaeologist Professor Haagen Klaus said that societies along Peru’s northern coast may have sacrificed children to fend off the devastation caused by the event. He said groups likely turned to sacrifice children after rituals involving adults failed to stop the onslaught of rain and floods.

‘People sacrifice that which is of most and greatest value to them,’ he told National Geographic in April. ‘They may have seen that was ineffective. The rains kept coming. Maybe there was a need for a new type of sacrificial victim.'” Daily Mail, 06/08/2018

Had been slow gradual drift over extended period of time to get to point where God said enough. Yet even then, God did not pounce. Made sure, speaking through prophets, people knew judgment was certain, so also opportunity for repentance and restoration to right relationship. Would not avert national catastrophe, would permit God to show mercy on individual basis. Window of opportunity still open during Zephaniah’s day, would not remain open indefinitely.

A. gather together v.1-2

pay attention

no time to be going off in all different directions, pursuing individual goals – nation is in crisis, you need to come together, refocus

purpose stated v.3, need solemn national gathering (NDoP) to turn from seeking own ends and seek the Lord while still time

before the decree

God’s declared intent to bring judgment already made public – is possible he might relent as for Nineveh if right response from people

if genuine repentance not forthcoming, decree would certainly take effect, would become their reailty – no turning back then

meanwhile all preliminaries being put in order – forces and means God would use to bring about judgment coming into place according to his plan – human powers had their reasons for aggression, God had his reason

before the day passes

right now is day of opportunity, different kind of day coming – this day will come to end with no warning, time to respond

just like gust of wind blows chaff away never to be recovered, nothing left behind to show for the day – only thing that will make day of opportunity worthwhile is if includes repentance

uncertainty makes right action even more urgent – really is matter of life and death… for eternity… not mostly about degree of pain and suffering future holds… in this life

before the Lord’s anger comes

Zephaniah uses pretty strong language talking about God’s anger – fierce / burning / raging anger, could rightly call it consuming anger… the fire of his judgment that consumes evil and purifies

might think kind of extreme on God’s part to treat people that way – is really measure of his love for his own, will stop at nothing to bring about their redemption from ruin

to allow evil to continue unchecked would draw even more away from truth, not something God will permit to happen

final incentive to repentance – God’s judgment when it comes will be inescapable… it will come upon them, overtake them, even if trying to run away from it

B. seek the only option v.3a

don’t need Google or smartphone – probably would hinder more than help in search; truth is everyone knows basics, purposely looking in other directions

the Lord

Following the news of ex-Beatle George Harrison’s death, “Today” show anchor Anne Curry interviewed Anthony DeCurtis, a writer for “Rolling Stone” magazine. DeCurtis talked at length about Harrison’s search for a meaningful spiritual life. Curry said, “Apparently Harrison was the most spiritual of the group [speaking of the Beatles]; in a recent interview he said, ‘Everything else in life can wait, but the search for God cannot wait.'”

prophet seems to turn attention from masses to faithful few (meek of the earth…) but message one all could profit from heeding

can learn from Ezekiel – might seem fruitless to prophesy to dead bones… when Spirit of God moves on those bones through proclamation of God’s word, will come to life

good to remember other places in Bible: “Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” Isa. 55:6 “Today, if you will hear his voice: do not harden your hearts…” Psa. 95:7-8

righteousness

even for those who uphold his justice, who carry out what he commands, righteousness… right doing does not come naturally – something that must be continually pursued

no one except Jesus can be righteous enough to satisfy God – everyone can strive to be more righteous than presently are, including unbelievers too

shouldn’t underestimate degree to which righteous person or group can be influence for change – conversation, community, course of nation

examples from Bible: Joseph, Daniel, Esther – each one used by God within their sphere of influence, extending up to highest levels of foreign govt, to change course of history

humility

attribute of Lord Jesus himself (Zech. 9:9), opposite of haughty – really is having proper self-image according to God’s estimation

like righteousness, does not come naturally – thinking more highly of self than should is default attitude, must continually guard against cuz will develop quickly

is not the proud and haughty God does most of his redemptive work through – is the humble willing servants most useful to him

could summarize all this, now, for us: be like Jesus – strive with all our effort to do right, think right… in total dependence on God

C. don’t give up v.3b

wrath is coming

for Zephaniah’s contemporaries, God exercised judgment by sending entire nation back into slavery – first by Assyrians, then Chaldeans

at best, day might be delayed by revival during time of Josiah… after Bible was discovered… again, and genuine effort made to follow it esp. in matters of worship

no question whatever that Great Day is coming – day has been set, Judge appointed – God knows specific details but could be tomorrow, must be prepared

but God is merciful

God will never give his people what they deserve – Lord Jesus experienced that in their place so they can receive mercy

even in Zephaniah’s time, God could and did shield faithful followers from unnecessary hardship… hiding them from harm

when God chooses not to prevent suffering or even death of those who are his, outcome radically different for them than ungodly

he is the only hope

not popular sentiment in pluralistic society where all belief systems supposed to be equally valid – to say only one way frowned on

unpopular or not, is truth according to God’s word the Bible – we know it, others need to hear / be reminded of it

just as important, there is hope for those who have none… and we know where they can find it

CDC report: 45,000 deaths by suicide in 2016, 58,000 American casualties in Vietnam War – is leading cause of death in US and rising

often multiple contributors: Relationship problem (42%); Crisis in the past or upcoming two weeks (29%); Problematic substance use (28%); Physical health problem (22%)

largest single contributor that embraces all of above is hopelessness – no hope that problems are survivable, that things can get better

the Christian ideally equipped to help the hopeless – we have a hope, know who/what/where, can lead others to that hope

Timeless message, just as relevant for unrepentant sinners in our world as Zephaniah’s. Just as necessary now as then, good reminder for us also. Don’t be looking for love or anything else in all the wrong places. Seek to be like Christ, to follow him closely and faithfully.

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