Tag: Zephaniah

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

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.

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

crimes

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

housecleaning

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

heritage

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

behavior

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

location

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

aggression

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.

 

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.

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

 

Yahweh Hides

Zephaniah 1:1-3

Message of Zephaniah reinforces that of Habakkuk – in case you missed it, God has not / will not turn blind eye toward his enemies. And remember… those who are enemies of God also enemies of God’s people, who we think of as “the church”. Don’t take hardship / persecution personally, Jesus is real target. Christ’s church takes the heat because Jesus out of reach, yet He takes it personally. Primary essential theme of Zephaniah – God will certainly bring judgment on all his enemies, all nations. In process he will redeem and purify and deliver his people, they will not be casualties caught in cross-fire. He will just as surely keep them from harm while at same time deals with enemies.

Don’t read wrong things into that principle – when God makes promises about protecting / preserving his chosen remnant, does not mean this life will not have uncomfortable parts, suffering and hardship and even death. Under God’s protective care none of that can touch our souls or our future. Is at most limited to what we experience in this life only. And God designs that all things that come our way make us more like Lord Jesus.

A. the prophet

name

not uncommon name – the prophet; one of Kohathites (1 Chr. 6:22) responsible for ark, table, lampstand, altars, vessels; one or more fathers of Zechariah’s contemporaries (Zech. 6:10, 14); priest opposed to Jeremiah (Jer. 21:1)

Zephaniah = Yahweh hides / protects / treasures; ” Tsephanyah means “the LORD has hidden,” or “the LORD has caused to be hidden.” Parker

see Zeph. 2:3 – often connection with prophet’s name and ministry

pedigree

extensive “pedigree” – goes back several generations, is debate over Hezekiah: king or not? if so, then cousin of Josiah

probably born during time of Manasseh, Israel’s most evil king, if cousin of Josiah would have had “edge” on access

time

active ministry during reign of Josiah – 640-609 BC, probably midway in reign soon after Deuteronomy scroll recovered: see 2 Kings 22:8-13

way prophecies of Zephaniah ordered, covenant language used seem to indicate strong influence from “Book of the Law”

Jeremiah began prophetic ministry 627 BC, 13th year of Josiah; scroll found in 18th year; if Zephaniah soon after, ministry contemporary… dual influence encouraging Josiah’s “revival”

B. his theme

yom Yahweh

top news stories of last few days – Kilauea eruption, Cuban plane crash w/10 Nazarene pastors and wives, school shooting

“where was God when…” – answers vary: offerings to Pele, ignore God and rage against government inaction

comes down to problem of evil, injustice and will it ever end – Bible’s answer same today as for Israel and prophets

“day of the Lord”, “great day of the Lord”, “that day” – 14 direct references in ch. 1, 5 more in remainder of book

when great day comes, God will bring about final perfect justice – in meantime, lesser periods of judgment reassure God’s people, warn God’s enemies

redemptive purpose

God’s “big picture” has one goal, two pathways: goal is his glory, pathways are justice for enemies and mercy for elect

as he leads the elect along path of mercy, God’s remnant is made pure, even in the midst of terrible religious syncretism

big problem

syncretism – “a combination, reconciliation, or coalescence of varying, often mutually opposed beliefs, principles, or practices, esp. those of various religions, into a new conglomerate whole typically marked by internal inconsistencies”

usually starts out with “god shelf” – distinct systems of belief / worship, followers try to practice both side by side… but don’t stay distinct, things migrate

one example: church grows in size, needs to be managed, look to business world for ideas – starts with mgmt structure, then mgmt principles, then marketing, then packaging the product, then product itself

C. structure

I. Judgments Against Canaan – 1:1-18

the entire first chapter of this stunning book is given over to the divine outcry against religious syncretism

attention to the manifestations of this same corruption in the present day – just one example of many… for Amer. Christianity

another great danger: trying to retain too much of another culture / belief system in mission / evangelistic work… here and in other countries

II. Call to Repentance – 2:1-3

the call is to “seek the Lord” – multiple streams of emphasis: Isaiah’s call “…while he is near”; seek the Lord and his favor instead of ; requires turning back for God’s people who have wandered away

reality of this repentance will be manifested in the life of the genuine believer, as righteousness and meekness become more and more evident

III. Judgments Against the Nations – 2:4-15

the clear-cut choice between the believing remnant, and the heathen in judgment – God makes no mistakes in dealing with his enemies… rejoice in justice, at same time warn “heathen”

intended to “turn” the remnant to repentance – meanwhile, take notes: God deals with his people individually

IV. Threat of Judgment on Jerusalem – 3:1-8

God threatened judgment upon Jerusalem unless she turned from her syncretism – their repentance only temporary, so also God’s holding back judgment

the Lord certainly will judge His church unless she turns from her syncretism – must maintain pure teaching and living regardless of apparent cost

V. Restoration Resulting from God’s Judgments – 3:9-20

thirteen times in these twelve verses the Lord declares a sovereign “I will.”

ample material for instilling hope in the hearts of his people – no matter how bleak it looks, God never leaves his people without hope for future

outcome does not depend on political party, missile defense, even strong healthy active evangelizing church – each has place, even significant one

but… outcome depends on YHWH’s “I will” – is God working his sovereign redemptive plan out through time and history that gives hope to all who seek him

“The only hope any son or daughter of Adam has of becoming thus God-centered lies in the redemptive work to which the Lord is calling men through these prophetic books. All who fail to hear His call have little hope. The best they can hope for is a religious syncretism that falls far short of true redemption in Christ.” Parker