Restoration Promised

Zephaniah 3:9-20

Good reminder from John Calvin, applies not only to this portion of Zephaniah, also to Prophets in general:

“The Prophet now mitigates the asperity [harshness, severity] of his doctrine, which might have greatly terrified the godly; nay, it might have wholly disheartened them, had no consolation been applied. God then moderates here what he had previously threatened; for if the Prophet had only said this—My purpose is to gather all the nations, and thus the whole earth shall be devoured by the fire of indignation, what could the faithful have concluded but that they were to perish with the rest of the world? It was therefore necessary to add something to inspire hope, such as we find here.

We must at the same time bear in mind what I have reminded you of elsewhere—that the Prophet directs his discourse one while to the faithful only, who were then few in number, and that at another time he addresses the multitude indiscriminately; and so when our Prophet threatens, he regards the whole body of the people; but when he proclaims the favor of God, it is the same as though he turned his eyes towards the faithful only, and gathered them into a place by themselves.” Calvin

Two verses of incredible significance that were not written until 3 decades before close of NT canon, yet they span human history from beginning to end and more. Eph. 1:3-4

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,”

What God had in his mind before Creation was that he would have a holy and blameless people living in intimate fellowship with him in his very presence. Mankind’s Fall into sin did not derail or delay God’s plan, it was a purposeful part of it. Just as much a part of God’s eternal purpose: how he would redeem his people from lost sinful condition, restore what was lost in Fall and subsequent curse. Redemption has always been in God’s view, even before first day of creation, has never been obscured by anything else.

God’s commitment to redemption and Gospel found throughout pages of Scripture, not just in first four books of NT or along Romans Road. Our text one of those places where is especially obvious God is the Mover, the Doer, the One who is still committed to redeeming his people.

“No less than thirteen times in these twelve verses the Lord declares a sovereign “I will.” (“He will” in v.17) His promises, as given in this passage, are never associated with an “if.” The passage is entirely God-centered.” Parker

God intends to purify a people for himself, to receive the praise of his people rejoicing over them in return, protecting and preserving from harm.

A. purify v.9-13

pure language

right speaking restored

Babel reversed – forced dispersion because of language barriers, caused by wrong speaking… that came from wrong thinking… led to wrong doing

hints of how great blessing this will be: how unified language (Greek) facilitated spread of Gospel in 1st century

no lies, no deceit (13)

something supernatural about this return to one language – only valid explanation for how language will be used… for good

pure thoughts

calling on name of the Lord (Gen. 4:26) replaced with making a name for themselves (Gen. 11:4) – misuse of language evidence of root cause, wrong mindset toward God/authority

wrong thinking taken away

outward evidence: call on the name of the Lord (9), trust in the name of the Lord (12), using their words in right ways

inward change: no longer haughty (11), instead meek and humble (12) – not the kind of change fallen sinners initiate on their own

pure worship

pure remnant left behind… intentionally (12)

not simply an “accident” of all else that God has done – is what God intends for outcome – he selected both ones removed and ones remaining

this the core essential providing hope – those in hearing of Zephaniah, rightly considered YHWH’s worshipers would be preserved

serving one God with one voice (9) – enabled to worship YHWH in unison, speaking same language – iow, same desires, loves, priorities, goals

bring an offering (10) – by no means compulsory worship, rather heartfelt and loving… desiring to give back to God

pure living

no cause for shame (11) – past deeds of rebellion forgiven, erased from record – former rebels converted into loving and obedient subjects with good witness

do no unrighteousness (13) – kind of lifestyle that brings true peace of heart and mind… nothing to trouble conscience, disturb contentment with God’s provision

B. praise v.14-17

full-orbed expression of joy (14)

sing / shout – use your voice… and your words – means mind has to be engaged to give proper voice to thoughts and feelings

be glad – emotions give rise to expression, expression fuels emotion – talk trash and you’ll feel like trash, express positive truth and feelings will come along

jump for joy – get body involved in praise – cannot be satisfied to simply be spectator, need to be active participant displaying joyful praise for God and his goodness

has sound basis in reality (15)

not denying uncomfortable truth – is too often the way, refuse to accept sinfulness, pending judgment, pretend happiness that is really only surface

this expression of joy comes from accepting what God has done – changed people in changed circumstances

God has taken away guilt, means he can justly take away sentence of condemnation – truly are different people from inside out

in process, has dealt with greatest enemies – sin and Satan – sin that corrupts, Satan who ensnares and accuses

source of confidence and strength (16)

sincere praise reorients thoughts and emotions, reminds of things outside self – reminds/reinforces truths about God, his character, how he takes care of his own

regular praise stirs up confidence… in God, takes away fear… of unknown, circumstances, replaces with trust in God himself

God himself joins in (17)

boisterous exuberant joyful delight – not mild, laid-back words… expressive of strong emotion and vigorous action… applied to God – certainly not what we would expect

loud and startling – needs to quiet his people – picture: father, cuddling child, bursts out singing at top of his lungs, scares child

so surprising, needs to quiet child, reassure that everything is ok / good – time for joy and happiness, the kind of exuberant joy that goes beyond capacity of words to express

source of joy for God is what he has accomplished in his people… their redemption, restoration to perfect and complete fellowship with him

and… is kind of joy God expects us to join in with, to participate with him – rejoicing in him as he rejoices in us

C. protect v.18-20

from those who would cause shame/reproach (18)

are those who see the poor condition of people of God and place of worship as a bad thing, something that is burden to them

then there is everyone else, who at best don’t care about the “church in the culture”, at worst do their part to validate God’s judgment, bring shame to Christ’s church

God will separate one from the other, gather together under one Head the remnant, all that are his – brought into his protecting embrace and care

from those who would cause harm (19)

have been (since almost the beginning), will be until the end those who purposely cause harm to people of God, work to hinder progress of the Gospel

none of his sheep will be lost – God himself will go after the left behind (lame), the despised (driven out), ones viewed by world as insignificant and unnecessary and hindrances to their agenda

along with gathering his sheep together, God will deal with their enemies, removing all danger… in whatever ways God deems best

so as to cause respect (20)

God will not only command respect and worship for himself – every knee… every tongue… – God’s people will receive respect due them… for what he has done in and through them

Pretty idealistic picture painted here, yet intended to give genuine hope to believers. And don’t forget: this is all of God’s doing. Since God is fully committed to his purpose, the outcome is certain. No question, no possibility of any other result than what God intends. Will take place in part in this age, total fulfillment must wait for next age.

One last thing: language God uses to declare his intent requires relationship. Most of the “I will” verbs are in imperfect tense, not the perfect tense. These things are described as a process rather than an event – something that makes necessary ongoing action by God toward and on behalf of his people.

All this gives us confidence to hope in the present and the future – God’s work of restoration is ongoing, taking place now, will continue until Jesus returns. Meanwhile… My Hope Is Built on nothing less than the solid rock of Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

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