Judgment Starts at Home

Zephaniah 3:1-8

Syncretism – attempted union of two or more conflicting systems of religious belief. Is the prophets biggest beef with his audience. Church was in danger before exile, continues to be at risk today. Is one of worst if not the worst problem to have, was what ailed church in Thyatira (Rev. 2:20, 24), results in compromise of truth… especially true Gospel. Church called on to not compromise the truth, rather to be “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) – proclaim, support, defend truth. The church that fails to do so will surely earn God’s displeasure, perhaps more if they persist long enough in error.

The “issues” God addresses especially serious in light of verse 5: in keeping with patterns of passage, v.5 declares 4 character traits belonging to God. Are a couple qualifying phrases warrant particular attention:

in her midst” – contrast between righteous God and unrighteous people completely surrounding him couldn’t be more shocking. In spite of all their bad behavior, God remained fatihful to covenant promises. Also, God not content to sit on sidelines watching people pass by on way to ruin – “morning by morning He brings His justice to light”, putting his character on display daily for his people to see.

Had all the advantages (8 listed in Rom. 9:4-5), primary one being caretakers of God’s word (Rom. 3:2), yet purposely walked away from truth and righteousness when was right in their midst. No wonder God was angry with them, threatened dire consequences for sinful behavior. Are not left to wonder what the problems were – issues identified, various levels of leadership affected are pointed out. Reminded of kind of God who promised judgment for their sinfulness, not left to wonder about who and how. Misfortune soon to plague them would be direct result of God moving in judgment and using means to achieve his purpose.

A. four issues v.1-2

described as rebellious and defiled – generalizations with sinful behavior in view… like child dressed for church, goes outside, anybody watching? jumps in puddle… intentionally, repeatedly, persists even when busted

is general warrant for Jerusalem’s arrest, specific points in indictment follow quickly in verse 3 – God intends his case against them to be absolutely clear w/no room for misunderstanding/misinterpretation

no, God not overdoing it, not being mean – if his knowledge is exhaustive, knew when speaking through prophet and inspiring written record who would read it… including us, tonight

Rom. 15:4 “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (see also 1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:16)

not obeyed His voice

not due to ignorance or misunderstanding – God had spoken plainly, his people had not obeyed – had not done what God required, had done what God had forbidden

over their history as people of God, had spoken to them in various ways: dreams, visions, prophetic utterances and writings – all counted as voice of God

not received correction

point not that correction has been sent but not received yet – disobedient people have refused to accept correction, maintaining their way is right way

could say they were unteachable – told they were doing wrong, that would lead to certain disaster, refused to heed warning and change their behavior

not trusted in the LORD

not a surprise given refusal of correction – one who will not heed message from God has already chosen another authority

trusted in other small “g” god(s), ultimately trusting in self rather than YHWH – believing could decide on own who/what was best/right

not drawn near to her God

no time for God, too busy seeking other things to seek God and his ways – not complicated, not difficult to take advantage of God’s nearness and blessings/benefits that accompany right relationship

were more concerned with pursuing tangible things instead of pursuing God – thought they could find satisfaction / meaning / significance by their own efforts / means

B. four levels of leadership v.3-4

targeting leadership not to imply they bore all responsibility for city’s sinfulness – everyone w/o exception responsible for own sinfulness

those in leadership bear extra weight of responsibility – for themselves, for how rightly they endeavor to teach / lead by example – leaders identified responsible for both civil and religious spheres of society

princes

is duty of prince to protect well-being of those under his rule – pursue godly principles themselves, encourage same in others as summarized in Rom. 13:1-4

should make just laws, also make decisions and implement policies that uphold and encourage just treatment of citizens and nations

judges

should be able to count on judges to correct abuse and injustice, restoring to those treated unjustly what is rightfully theirs

instead, executive/legislative and judicial branches working together to line own pockets at expense of others, take away any possible recourse / hope for justice

absolutely contrary to both command and character of God – complete failure to maintain God’s designed order for a society

prophets

role of true prophet in OT to be authorized mouthpiece of God – Moses & Aaron, Ex. 4:16 “he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God”

expected to declare and maintain truth so as to instruct people in right understanding of God and his word so they know how to live pleasing to God, correct when disobedient

priests

primary function to lead in worship, facilitating right worsihip of true God – along with prophets were leading people away from truth and acceptable worship

C. four character traits v-5

The LORD is righteous

unlike the aforementioned, God isn’t like that – people and leaders alike have right example to follow, God himself, who dwelt among his people and sets standard of righteousness

He will do no unrighteousness

God always does what is right, never mixes in what is wrong – follows straight course whatever is taking place as should his people

He brings His justice to light

God knows we need repetition – don’t get it all the first time, have short memories, so… morning by morning, day by day, reminds us by revealing what is just and right

not that we get to pick but…. what should those who do look for in next Supreme Court Justice? among other things, a track record of commitment to justice and righteousness both personal and professional

He never fails

God always faithful, shows up every morning ready for work – puts earthly leaders (and others) to shame but they refuse to acknowledge and repent

D. four consequences v.6-8

God has not left his people without witness or warning – made his expectations clear in his covenant, reinforced / reminded by his prophets numerous times over many generations

God showed his power and authority by dealing with evil in surrounding nations – was God’s hand directing course of history, rise and fall of nations, according to his purpose

intended that his people should see what he was doing in other places, take heed and correct their own sinful behavior; however,…

instead, they got up early to have more time to pursue evil, perversely doing opposite of what would have pleased God

so… God turns attention to faithful remnant, giving them assurances that will be a limit to what God permits, and he has the remnant’s good in view

rise up for plunder

they will be stripped of all their ill-gotten gains, profiting at expense of the faithful only temporary and will end in their total ruin

gather the nations

God makes plain he has much more in mind than simply the future of Israel and surrounding nations – his plan is global in scope

pour on them My indignation

may be times of judgment before Great Day, should serve as examples and warning that God is furious about sin and will deal with it

devour with the fire of My jealousy

is message of hope and restoration for the faithful, comes in the next section – meanwhile, have confidence that GOd will indeed bring about perfect justice

when that Great Day comes, everything that defiles this universe… brought about by the Fall and curse… will be totally removed

created order will be restored, new heavens and earth (universe) purified and better than new – better because will never be corrupted by sin ever again

Between now and then, things are gonna get hot… for the wicked. Things will also get a little toasty for those who have contributed to deception and distortion of truth in Christ’s church. Yet God can be trusted to bring his people safely through whatever takes place. Meanwhile, need to do our part to know the truth, act according to the truth, declare the truth in love to others. Don’t need to defend the truth, God’s truth can defend itself. Do need to declare it, put it out there so those still in darkness can hear it, respond in faith.

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