Tag: Minor Prophets

A Call to Holiness of Life

Haggai 2:10-19 

Brief timeline to catch up: first message September 21, 520, people repented and got to work; second message of encouragement October 17; now third message, December 18 with further cautions and exhortations. This particular date, 24th day of 9th month not associated with festival but… is most important date in all of Haggai – repeated 3 times (v.10, 18, 20), significance identified in v.18

“from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid;”

A day of great significance / importance to Jews living in Jerusalem and surrounding area, the date when the Temple destroyed by Babylonians was refounded. 3 months after work started up again – ok, we’re doing the right thing but we’re still poor; what’s up with that? Had the outward marks of obedience, conformity to God’s expectations, but little had changed for the workers personally.

Would appear was not only construction crew that needed help, Temple staff hadn’t been doing all their job either. Got out of practice during time in captivity, had not recovered all their skills during 15 years back in Jerusalem. Were at least covering basics of religious rituals – regular sacrifice, observance of at least some of the feasts… no record of Passover being observed from time Solomon’s temple destroyed until after Zerubbabel’s completed. One thing lacking in interim: regular pastoral instruction designed to teach God’s people how to live pleasing to him. Haggai’s questions (supplied by God) help point that out to priests. Haggai’s dialogue carried on between him and priests but had people as whole in view.

Important part of work belonging to priests and Levites – Neh 8:8 “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.” At least in matter of holy living, had not given adequate teaching and application of God’s Word. Haggai begins with holiness – where does it come from, how do you get it, why do you need it. Then he moves ot how the past relates to the future in relation to their way of life and their circumstances. Finally, addresses the possibility of change in the present bringing about change in the future.

A. what about holiness?  v.10-14

where it comes from

holiness is not contagious – not airborne, not transmitted by contact – something holy cannot make something else holy

holiness cannot be self-acquired or self-administered – no action can give it, no place can make person or thing in it holy

any ritual that is carried out may signify that something is holy, set apart for God’s use, but does not make it intrinsically so

holiness must ultimately come from the one who is perfectly holy – God alone meets that condition, he alone has authority to define terms of holiness

how you get it

holiness is not something you do, it is a condition of who you are – no one has the ability to change their nature or status before God

is something that God supplies, most powerfully by the presence and action of his Spirit – is what God does in us that also has external evidence

individual can make choices, engage in behaviors and ways of thinking to encourage growth in holiness – one who is genuinely holy (converted) will do so in some measure

e.g., regular sacrifice, attendance / participation in stated feasts, instruction from Law of God, close association with others who feared God and kept his laws, pattern of daily life consistent with godly principles

why you need it

God’s desire and intention that his work be done by holy people – according to his standard unholy people cannot offer satisfactory gifts to God

principle articulated earlier still applies: 1 Sam. 16:7 “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

external appearance of person and gift might appear to meet God’s requirements but… without changed heart dedicated to pleasing God out of love for him, will not receive God’s approval

so… here’s starting place: if work on temple since restart to be acceptable to God and receive his blessing, people must be God’s kind of people doing it God’s way… in all respects – right work done right way by people living right and desiring what is right

B. how does the past relate to the future?  v.15-17

3x – “consider it” (v.15, 18, 19), looking forward – if you want a different future, you need to take these things into account

what you were doing

situation perhaps best expressed in way we can all relate to: the faster I go the behinder I get – harder I try to get ahead, more ground I lose – exactly what Haggai described in 1:6, summarized in 2:16-17

were doing right things, probably many of them good things – problem was they were not the “first” things, most important

God expected that his work would have first priority, then they could attend to own needs – in that order, would be adequate resources for both

putting personal needs / goals first, failing to meet them, adding more time and energy but with no positive change in results

what your circumstances were

didn’t matter how hard they tried, was never quite enough – more effort actually resulted in them losing ground, further behind

once again, God takes direct credit for their hardship – God caused their calamity… on purpose… to give  reason to turn to him

and yet… persisted in pursuing own solution… to their great disappointment – good reminder: if our way isn’t working, stop and check.. is it God’s way

does this sound familiar? anyone you know that might fit same pattern? a good set of principles here to challenge saved / unsaved family or friends

if God thought was good idea to remind both saved & unsaved of what he expected, what he was doing to get their attention, we shouldn’t be shy about using same reminders

C. how does the present potentially change the future?  v.18-19

what changed

people had changed in response to Haggai’s message – they obeyed God, they came and worked on the house as they were challenged

construction began again, serious enough effort that got Tattenai and Shethar-Boznai’s attention – correspondence w/Darius

apparently from God’s perspective: was a change but… was an outward / external change prompted by fear of God’s presence

same kind of motivation that keeps (at least for now) majority of citizens law-abiding – fear of consequences motivates compliance

what didn’t change

had returned to Jerusalem expecting certain things: basically smooth sailing in spheres of life… home, church, public arena

encountered opposition to their efforts – had material help, supplies and money, but… were opposed in their work by enemies and then (after they had changed focus) by God

from soon after first work on temple stopped, life got hard and stayed that way – everything came at great sacrifice w/ little joy

by God’s design, since in face of hardship they continued to do same thing same way for same reasons but maybe with more energy and greater effort, results did not change

what needs to change

was all about what they could see, what they could achieve or acquire… but see what God said he wanted, v.17 – he made life hard and they turned back to the work – God wanted them to turn back to Him

at beginning they had a desire for the temple, needed a desire for the God of the temple – lots of nostalgia for the way things were… sights, sounds, rituals of a religious culture, longing for the good ol’ days

God’s desire was for something different – he wanted hearts of his people first, then the work of their hands – he wanted them to want him first and most

desire for God is soon followed by desire to please God which then leads to desire for God’s benefits… as evidence of his favor

what will change

when all God had done – sent calamity and then sent prophets – brought about his desired result, then he promises to bless them

does require trust – that when we devote time and energy to God first, what we have left will be enough to meet our own needs

would actually be the reverse of their experience – more work brought less results, when God is first less work brings more results

means they had to trust God to provide results of his choosing when they lived and acted his way

Simply doing work of ministry guarantees only one thing – you’ll be tired at end of day. If we are to experience God’s blessing, must be committed to doing all of life his way… at home, at work, in community, in church.

What is “real” goal – that lots of people would show up, or that God would be present? The real goal as in what comes first and without it nothing else matters. That we would have this that or the other, or that God would bless the work of our hands as he sees fit?

Have opportunities each day to engage people who are just like Haggai’s neighbors. We know the principles to tell them, something else can have even greater influence – our own story, when/how God has blessed our devotion and obedience. And… let’s be sure we have right desires and attitudes about ministry work.

A Call to Find Courage in God’s Promises

Haggai 2:1-9

Entire time of “serious” building approx. 4-1/2 years:

Hag. 1:14-15 they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, in the second year of King Darius. (Sept. 21, 520 BC)

Ezr. 6:15 Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. (Mar. 12, 515 BC)

Wasn’t all smooth sailing. Tattenai, Shethar-Boznai and allies challenged Zerubbabel and Joshua – who gave permission for this? (Ezr. 5:3ff) Gave straight answer, was Cyrus who issued decree, etc. Persians, of course, had to verify – sent to Darius, check the archives, tell us what to do. Darius took situation seriously, work on temple had first begun during his lifetime before his time as king with access to royal archives. Commissioned a search, decree of Cyrus found. Darius responded; gave partial quote of Cyrus’ decree, then gave his own orders:

Ezra 6:6-7 “Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and your companions the Persians who are beyond the River, keep yourselves far from there. Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site.”

Doesn’t take long to tell the story, took much longer for it all to play out – mail back and forth, extended search (first at Babylon, then Achmetha 300 miles away). Meanwhile, Jews back at Jerusalem wondering how would all turn out, continuing to work and look over their shoulders. Several things that could certainly cause discouragement:

almost immediate opposition… again; left-over shame from prophet’s rebuke in first sermon; perhaps questioning by those who had not heard message (you sure about this?); and then the whole thing about comparisons… this worship center compared to that worship center.

7 weeks after first sermon… time for another – this to be a one-two from Haggai and then Zechariah a couple weeks later. Not meant to beat God’s people down, rather to build them up. Yes, there are elements of rebuke in last three prophets, but far outweighed by focus on glories yet to come. Even though intended to incite people to “labor for the kingdom”, prophets made it clear would be God’s power, God’s plan, God himself working his purpose through his people. Also keep in mind: prophetic lens doesn’t always give clear indications of perspective… how near or distant events in view are.

A. expanded audience v.1-2

cp. 1:1 and 2:2 – ” the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest” vs “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people

first message to political and religious leaders

would need their leadership if work was to get started again – and could not be half-hearted or people wouldn’t get on board

first sermon focused on principle, need to make God and his work the prioirity… even for those in ministry – simply being busy about church work doesn’t guarantee right / best things are being done

included ones leaders were directly responsible for

expected that Zerubbabel would call together government workers, declare to them what prophet had said, make sure they all knew what right response would be

similar scenario for Joshua and all religious workers associated with Temple (priests and Levites) – would hear from Joshua if not directly from Haggai

both groups of leaders needed to be on-board, committed to the work – in face of opposition, any weakness from leaders would spread like wildfire through the people

second message directed to same plus the remnant (2)

reinforcing message to leaders, one of encouragement to leaders and people – Haggai spoke as if they were all present and all on same page

was next to last day of third pilgrimage festival, excellent time for addressing crowd and drawing attention to work yet to be done

B. encouraging message v.3-5

doesn’t look like much (3)

real need for encouragement – seventh month the busiest one on calendar… three feasts: Feast of Trumpets (1), Day of Atonement (10), Feast of Tabernacles (15-22)

all taking place in middle of construction zone – “competing” interests… keeping the feasts, getting the work done, hard to do both

foundation had been laid, walls started, opposition halted progress but… obvious from what was done would never rival Solomon’s

be strong (4a)

is easy to hurry through verse 4, shouldn’t do that – those words were spoken by Haggai face-to-face with intended hearers

looking directly at Zerubbabel, making eye contact, maybe even up close and personal, given God’s personally directed exhortation

same for Joshua, the high priest, given God’s individual message to them in sight and hearing of crowd gathered for festival

then was crowd’s turn to hear same words – “be strong, all you people of the land” – some powerful associations: “be strong” 3x, the land… end of the Exodus / beginning of Entrance to Canaan, Josh. 1:6-9

almost a given: big promise coming up – just as God did big things in giving them land he promised, would again do big things

work (4b)

but… for promise to be fulfilled, God’s people needed to do their part – go back to work, complete assignment while trusting God

reminder that God’s presence is not always obvious – looked like God had left the job site, why progress halted… not true

could / should begin work again… even though nothing obvious had changed… yet there was change: two prophets on site, tangible representations of God’s presence and care

do not fear (5)

and… no need for fear if they move forward in his strength and directed / accompanied by his Spirit – after all, it’s God’s project

God who kept promises 1000 years before has not forgotten – God’s purpose to redeem his people from both slavery and sin still very much in force… and moving forward

C. expectant future v.6-9

God has the power (6-7a)

entire universe will be shaken up – heaven and earth – and all the inhabitants – sea and dry land and all nations

not something that could be mistaken for “forces of nature” at work, even in response to mankind’s presence and meddling

this the kind of response of earth in particular to immediate presence of God – Haggai’s listeners would make quick connections

during Feast of Tabernacles, time established by God for them to remember Lev. 23:43 “that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

at beginning of wilderness time Ex. 19:18 “Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.”

Sinai was preliminary example, Calvary another, will be final shaking when current order of things totally upended, restored

NOTE: don’t forget – people were being called to work, to do job God had assigned but… would be God exercising his power that changed the world

God has the Person (7b, 9a)

this poor substitute temple will be filled with glory, glory that far exceeds any associated with former (Solomon’s) temple

the place where this remnant were laboring would be place where desire of all nations would be met, would satisfy them

on that spot God would worship God – the Son worshiping the Father, the place where effect of Christ’s atonement first displayed… the rent veil, signifying free access to Father through Son

God has the provision (8)

God declares he owns all the resources, that statement the “filling” between “I will fill this temple with glory” and “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former”

yet God never states his intention to make gold and silver the glory of the temple – people needed to look for glory in something other than construction materials

whatever God provided for materials would satisfy him, should satisfy them – glory would come from who was there, who was worshiped there – Person greater than Solomon (Matt. 12:42) would give greater glory to Temple

God will perform (9b)

God, YHWH Sabaoth, repeatedly declares what he will do – their future and future of Temple entirely in God’s hands

their responsibility to do the work, God is responsible for outcome/results – not to be distsracted by appearances… either potential hindrances or humble building

God could give the world a king from a stable; a savior from a criminal’s cross and borrowed tomb in city governed by pagans

Should not be either distracted or discouraged by appearances… if is clear God is at work. Is presence and power of God that gives glory to individuals as temple of Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19), a place of worship whether dedicated sanctuary or simply place where God’s people gather (Acts 16:13). Our responsibility to trust in God and his promises, work diligently at task he has assigned, count on God to bring about results according to his eternal plan.

A Call to Rebuild the Temple

Haggai 1:1-15

Big Theme: Redeemed from Ruin. Was God’s intent in 6th century BC, still is today to redeem a people from ruin (and not just the Jewish people). Zephaniah ended with Jewish people headed for exile (Josiah, prior to 612 BC, last good king of Judah), Haggai picks up the story 100 years later after return to Jerusalem (Darius, 520 BC). Zechariah was called into service two months later.

Small Theme: “the power of God’s redemptive purposes in overcoming the half-heartedness of His people. …The Lord will work with divine power to overcome the half-heartedness of His people in fulfilling His eternal worldwide redemptive purposes in Christ.” Parker

Post-exilic prophets much different tone from pre-exilic

Pre-exilic Prophets

Jonah — Joel — Isaiah — Amos — Hosea — Micah — Nahum — Habakkuk — Zephaniah — Obadiah

aExilic Prophets

Jeremiah — Ezekiel — Daniel

Post-exilic Prophets

Haggai — Zechariah — Malachi

Pre: warning, exhortation to come to their senses while still time; mostly about gloom and doom and destruction with bright spots here and there. No prophet from any period entirely without hope. During: focused on explanation and hope; here’s why it happened, not the end of the world… yet. More content dealing with what is still future than pre-exilic prophets. Post: encouraging God’s people to renewed faithfulness, focusing hope more explicitly on coming Messiah.

Important to remember: Haggai and Zechariah ministering to a “remnant of the people” (1:12, 1:14; 2:2), small portion of entire people group. Were the ones who expressed desire to return to homeland, rebuild a community there after Babylonian exile. Would be by means of that remnant that God would pursue his redemptive plan by sending a Redeemer. In fact, that Redeemer would bring an unsurpassed glory to God’s temple, even greater than that of Solomon’s temple (2:9). That in itself should stir God’s’ people to action!

A. setting v.1

immediate context: Ezra 4:24-5:1

after Babylonian captivity, Cyrus decreed return

set up altar, reinstituted worship, laid foundation for temple

opposed by enemies, stopped by Artaxerxes; languished for ~15 years

four “sermons” in four months

A Call to Rebuild the Temple1:1–15;A Call to Find Courage in God’s Promises2:1–9; A Call to Cleanness of Life2:10–19; A Call to Confidence in the Future2:20–23

not intended to beat the saints down, rather build them up – needed to understand God intended to use them in his long-term plan of redemption

their work to rebuild worship place and worshiping community essential for Jesus’ life and ministry

they didn’t need to fully grasp all the details (when, how, why) in order to carry out task immediately before them

Cyrus’ decree strongly implied he intended those who returned to Jerusalem would rebuild and start using the Temple

B. rebuke v.2-6

people express their inaction (2)

at time of first return 16 years earlier, had abundant resources – government support, many of furnishings/utensils returned, contributions given by themselves and those who stayed behind

ordered supplies, arranged contracts with craftsmen, then hit a wall – opposition by local enemies who manipulated political allies and halted work

simplest, least confrontational position to take: must be message from God, not right time to be working on Temple project

God asks about their indifference (3-4)

God through prophet Haggai challenges way of thinking about work of ministry – really amounted to choice for them how to use available resources

could use time / treasure / talents to further their own ends or use same things to further God’s kingdom… at that time by working on Temple project

laboring to feather their own nests equivalent to showing indifference to God’s work, progress of his redemptive plan

God notes their impoverishment (5-6)

were in fact missing one obvious and important detail – as hard as they were working, they were not getting ahead

work overtime to put money into hat only to find out hat has a hole – something must be wrong, not how God said it would be

was what God promised, for disobedience: Dt. 28:38-40“You shall carry much seed out to the field but gather little in, for the locust shall consume it. You shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes”

C. resume v.7-8

think about it (7)

can picture someone, head down, feet in gear, headed for certain disaster – whoa, whoa, hold up, think about what you’re doing

happens often, get so focused on putting one foot ahead of the other just to try and keep up, can’t see the big picture

brother, stopped for gas, back on interstate… thought it odd which way mile markers were counting – figured out 50 miles later was going the wrong way

get going (8a)

need to turn around, refocus, go back to original plan… building the Temple – go get the stuff and go back to work like before

God told them that knowing all about the politics, knowing what his plan was to deal with it – expected them to act in faith

that was really the root problem – had been acting based on what they could see, not what God intended them to do

for God’s glory (8b)

their first priority needed to be God’s first priority… his glory – had put something else first for last 16 years, to no avail

now God sent prophets to encourage change – God could have gotten job done another way, didn’t choose to do so

all we need to know is that this way God used would bring greatest pleasure and glory to him while achieving his good purpose

D. reason v.9-11

impoverished because they let the temple lie in ruins (9)

great evidence here of God’s mercy – he sent messengers to his people to instruct them what was going on – didn’t leave them to stumble around in the dark

God puts it right out there, in plain language – life is tough for you because I made it that way; I did that because you didn’t put me first like you should have

God withheld His provision (10-11)

don’t blame it on climate change, untreated bird flu, trade war with China, GMO tinkering by Monsanto, weather control by Russia

was because God himself intervened and created their calamity (Isa. 45:7) – altering expected behavior of natural world, outcome of human and animal labor

God used means at his disposal to remove profit from disobedience… and can still do same and more today… and probably does

E. response v.12-15

leaders and people respond in fear and obedience (12)

certain level of indifference / complacency reached all the way to the top – Zerubbabel, godly governor of Judah and Joshua, high priest content with status quo

faithfully doing routine part of daily job, managing best they could “under the circumstances”, at least temporarily abandoned big goal of completing Temple

Haggai (and Zechariah) coming on scene with “YHWH’s message” a wake-up call – their normal not even close to God’s normal

nothing else mattered: recognized God’s messenger with God’s message… only one option: respect (fear) and obey

God reassures them of His presence (13)

had not only lost sight of goal, also lost sense of God’s presence – needed reminder: political opponents they could see did not outrank God they couldn’t see

God was present with his people even though no pillar of cloud / fire, other dramatic visible signs of his presence and availability

people are stirred up to begin work (14-15)

seeing and hearing from God necessary means to rouse people… but wait, there’s more that is absolutely essential

in order for everyone, leaders and people, to respond well, God had to “stir up the[ir] spirit” – energize and encourage (NET)

God not only sent the message by his messengers, God made the message effectual by His Spirit working with their spirits

Two things: pray that God will stir up the hearts of his people to do his work. Pray that God’s people will respond in fear and obedience when they hear his call. And remember – we are included in the group. To pray sincerely requires we be committed to obedience also, not content with status quo either in own immediate circle of influence or larger community of believers and the world.

Haggai Introduction

Pre-exilic Prophets

Jonah — Joel — Isaiah — Amos — Hosea — Micah — Nahum — Habakkuk — Zephaniah — Obadiah

Exilic Prophets

Jeremiah — Ezekiel — Daniel

Post-exilic Prophets

Haggai — Zechariah — Malachi

1st – exile of Northern Kingdom, 734 BC, Tiglath Pileser (2 Kings 15:29); completed 722 BC, Shalmaneser and Sargon (2 Kings 17)

2nd – siege of Jerusalem, first deportation 605 BC, eventual fall in 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar and his general Nebuzaradan; 3 waves of captives / exiles (Jer. 52:28-30)

Deut. 29:24-28 – fundamental reasons for exile; restated 2 Kings 17:7ff – “For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods”

problemwhat happens to God’s plan of redemption with no viable Jewish community in the land? Has Satan derailed once again?

essential proclamation ending captivity – Cyrus, 538 BC – caravan organized, 42,000+ returnees plus goods and livestock; 800+ mile journey, arrived in Jerusalem area the following year

several months to line up contractors, suppliles for rebuilding the Temple, clear away rubble from site and make ready for rebuilding

foundation laid, great mixed emotion: rejoicing that Temple would be rebuilt, sorrow over how poor and unassuming compared to previous

great enthusiasm, visible progress, evidence of God’s blessing, real mountain-top kind of experience – valley coming up very soon – immediate action by adversaries

enlisted help of “spin doctors”, persuaded Artaxerxes to command halt to work – succeeded in stopping progress… on Temple… for 16 years

had been riding the wave, then it crashed – momentum of progress stopped, no quick restart, then discouragement / defeat / distraction – focus and energy directed to other things

had lost zeal / drive / energy for work that would change the world – moving God’s program forward toward next big event: coming of Redeemer

job of prophets Haggai and Zechariah to light the fire, refocus attention/energy of people to make God’s redemptive plan the priority

are in similar situation today… and Haggai just as relevant now as 2500 years ago

our assignment: building the church anticipating next big event: return of Redeemer/King – need to stir up fire, make God’s work priority… in all our neighborhoods


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.

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


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


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


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


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.

God Deals with His Enemies

Zephaniah 2:4-15

One kind of criticism aimed at Bible and what it teaches about God focuses on OT narrative. According to that view, God is portrayed in OT as harsh, vengeful, using various means to slaughter hordes of people he didn’t like. Give as examples: Flood, first Passover, crossing of Red Sea, conquest of Canaan… then prophecies / promises like present text. Might not go quite as far in criticizing God but many evangelicals contrast mean, brutal God of OT with loving, forgiving God of NT.

Might at quick glance appear to be POV with some merit, but does it hold up to closer inspection? Know from God’s declaration of name to Moses some of attributes God thought important:

“The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin”Ex. 34:6-7

Was that way God was only toward his people, saving rest for enemies? part about “by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” Clearly people of God given far more attention in Bible than other people groups. Does not mean should judge how much contact existed between peoples by how often mentioned in Biblical accounts. Also important to remember in those days people / nations not as particular about precise national boundaries as today. Sheep / camels / cows don’t read maps, those tending them mostly figured out how to coexist peacably with neighbors in spite of other details.

One more particular: international highway ran length of Israel. One of major trade routes between Persian Gulf area and Africa with connections to Silk Road passed along eastern coast of Mediterranean. Trade routes also served as communication paths between peoples and lands. Was God’s purpose that Israel be light to nations, not light under a bushel. Strategically placed for that role. Had their moments during history as nation when they did it well, other times not so much. Important to keep in mind: every one of these people groups singled out here knew who the true God really was, knew who his people were. And… though Zephaniah’s warning primarily for Jews, Gentiles could have responded and God would have received them too.

A. west – Philistia v.4-7

name and place

name means “migrant” – came from away, had presence in Philistia from around time of Abraham, settled in general area (coastal plain) we know as Gaza Strip

were five major cities, four named in v.4, Gath being the fifth – Gath the home of Goliath, place where ark of covenant taken for a time

religious influence

Philistines ongoing source of irritation to Jews, taking territory from them then “losing” it back; enslaved Jews on several occasions during time of Judges

much mingling between Jew and Philistine, enough so much of Philistine worship rubbed off on Jews to displeasure of God; was certainly opportunity for influence to go in other direction, at least on individual level

and… don’t forget outcome of capture of ark – thorough humiliation of their own god Dagon – clearly evident which God was superior


most notable among them during time of minor prophets: signfiicant involvement in human trafficking described by prophet Amos

in days of Judges, were responsible for convincing Jews of benefits from worshiping idols: “Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the people of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; and they forsook the LORD and did not serve Him.” Judg. 10:6

notice Philistines persisted in their own idol worship and drew God’s people away from worshiping true God… in face of truth accompanied by evidence… for generations


Philistines some of enemies Hebrew children most fearful of, significant part of reason for spies’ discouraging report, subsequent 40-year stay in desert

among those Jews failed to drive out when conquering Canaan – Judg. 1:9 – now God promises to finish task, give land to his people… the faithful remnant

B. east – Moab and Ammon v.8-11


enemies of God and his people from beginning – had roots in conflict between Abraham and Lot, really based on worldview

Moab and Ammon the offspring of Lot and daughters after destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – much more of city culture in daughters than might expect in ones who agreed to flee

in later years Moab not without godly influence – Elimelech and family, perhaps others went to Moab during famine, brought back at least one convert we know about


is one thing to have different worldview, belief system, and mind own business – you do your thing, I’ll do mine, live and let live

descendants of these two were activists – ridiculing Jews and Jewish God, refusing to give passage after deliverance from Egypt

arrogantly did all they could to impose their belief system on Jewish people – tolerance not enough, tried to require acceptance

God’s response

their pride would have payback – same kind of outcome as S & G – land made barren and unproductive, people disappear from historical record

once again true God would demonstrate total and absolute superiority over gods of mankind’s making just as did in Egypt

God tolerated their arrogant pride for nearly 1000 years, gave countless opportunities to hear truth and respond, would delay no longer but deal decisively with enemies of righteousness

–slight break in action of God’s judgment for him to declare purpose and result: God intends to be worshiped from every corner of earth – will be a believing remnant preserved through his acts of judgment up to and including that on Great Day

C. south – Ethiopia v.12


probably represented end of world going south to Zephaniah – God making clear through prophet that his judgment would have global scope and effect, no exaggeration

not only no escaping God’s righteous judgment, no part of earth left out of Gospel presence or his purifying work


had sent massive army more than once to conquer Israel during time of Rehoboam, sent million-man army when Asa was king

would eventually be under rule of Ahashuerus and his 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia… according to God’s divine plan

even Ethiopians had contact with people of God, opportunity for good influence from time of Moses – he married one (Num. 12:1)

like all others, wilfully rejected good opportunities God graciously gave – refused to live according to light they had, would reap harvest of their rebellion

D. north – Assyria v.13-15

judgment deferred

had visitation from God’s prophet Jonah little more than 100 years earlier – heard warning of judgment, responded right way

should have expected if they went back to old ways, all bets were off as far as God’s response – likely what he threatened then would come about

tells something about God’s expectations on individual level – true repentance and saving faith has permanent effect, no relapse

epitome of self-delusion

in some ways goes beyond simple atheism, idea that need no god – Assyrians decided they could make their own god, the king

in reality, each thought himself his own god: “I am, and there is none besides me.” cp. Isa. 45:6 “That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting That there is none besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other;”

put absolute trust in themselves, their army, local and national defenses, reputation for unthinkably barbaric treatment of enemies

believed because of size and wealth and power were invincible, especially walled city of Nineveh – thought had nothing to fear

enduring example

would not only lose the city, would lose the empire as well – Nineveh fell 612 BC, Assyrian empire 609 BC at Battle of Carchemish

city of affluence and excess surrounded by nations in abject poverty so thoroughly destroyed some not rediscovered for 25 centuries or more

Battle one still studied in war colleges – good example of how seemingly invincible force can be overcome by right strategy… as we know, inspired by God, of course

A number of take-away’s from text like this. God wins. God knows what his enemies the enemies of his people are up to, will deal with them decisively according to his perfect plan. In all things, God has his glory and good of his people in view, does all things to that end. God is committed to preparing place for his people, preparing his people for that place. No matter how dire circumstances look, can count on God to take care of us. Not true for everyone. Means while we are resting in comfort of that knowledge should be warning the lost about their danger, showing them way to safety.