Archive for October, 2011

The Lord Will Not Do Iniquity

The just LORD is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame.

Zephaniah 3:5

I am encouraged by several things that I noticed in this verse.  Hopefully, they will be an encouragement to you as well.

“The just LORD is in the midst thereof.”  It is encouraging and comforting to me to think that the “just LORD is in the midst thereof.”  No matter what the situation I can be assured of two things, 1) the Lord is just and 2) the Lord is right there in the middle of it.  No matter what problem you may be facing, those facts will be a help to you.

“…he will not do iniquity.”  God is never going to do wrong.  I will do wrong.  You will do wrong.  Other people will do wrong.  But God will never do wrong.  I may not understand everything He does, but I can rest assured that whatever He does is right.  And it is when we do not understand what He is doing or why He is doing it that we can take comfort in knowing that He will never do wrong.

“…he faileth not.”  Not only is He always in the midst of whatever situation we may be in, and not only will He never do wrong, but He will also never fail.  If God wants to do something, it will be done.  He has never failed and will never fail.  Again, I have failed often.  You have probably failed often.  Every person has failed.  But not God.  He will never fail us.

Those are things that can all be a huge comfort and a huge encouragement if we will think about them and meditate on them.  He is always there, He will always do what is right, and He will never fail!

Filthy, Polluted, and Oppressed. Why?

Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!  She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God.

Zephaniah 3:1-2

This is yet another sad passage directed to the nation of Israel.  It is another sad passage that could very easily be directed to us.  According to these verses, this is the “oppressing city” that is “filthy and polluted.”  That is not a position in which we would like to find ourselves.  Fortunately, the Bible gives us some reasons that this city became “filthy, polluted and oppressing.”

First, “she obeyed not the voice…”  We hear God’s Word all the time.  We have ready access to the Bible all around us.  I don’t even know how many Bibles I own.  I have a Bible program on my computer that allows me to “search the Scriptures” for anything I want to look up or study.  We can listen to sermons at church, and we can listen to sermons on the internet, and we can listen to sermons on cd while we drive or work, and we can listen to sermons on an ipod while we do just about anything else.  If anyone in the history of the world has had access to “the voice,” it is us.  But have we listened?

Second, “she received not correction.”  It’s not easy to be told that you are wrong.  But that is part of life.  When we do what we should not, we are corrected by God.  We are expected to correct the problem.  Do we receive correction when we God gives it to us?

Third, “she trusted not in the LORD.”  The prophets warned the people over and over about trusting in their riches and trusting in the their strength.  It seems to be human nature to want to trust in anything other than the Lord.  What are we trusting in?

Fourth, “she drew not near to her God.”  Even if we have the other three things down, this one can get tricky.  It is easy for us to try to put our Christian lives on “autopilot,” and be content and comfortable with where we are.  But the Lord wants to draw closer to Him.  He wants us to continually seek Him.  Sometimes we can get a little lax in this area.

Those four things destroyed this city, and they can destroy our lives and churches today.  How are we doing in these areas?

The City That Dwelt Carelessly

This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in!  every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.

Zephaniah 2:15

“The rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me…”  sure sounds like just about any city in the United States today.  It sounds like all of America.  In fact, it sounds like all of Western Culture today.  Although this was written to the nation of Israel well over 2,000 years ago, it is perfectly applicable and relevant to our society today.

We were a “rejoicing city.”  And, we would have to admit, we have “dwelt carelessly.”  I think that most people would also readily admit that we have been lifted up with pride; we could say with the prophet that we have said “I am, and there is none beside me.”  I think that would be a nearly perfect description of our nation.  Sadly, these things brought God’s judgment on Israel, and they will bring His judgment on us if we continue down this road.

I wonder, if the Lord tarries His coming, what the United States will look like in 25 years?  50 years?  100 years?  Will people passing by “hiss, and wag their hand,” mocking the ruins of a once great nation?  Or will we, as a people, turn back to the Lord and experience a revival of Biblical Christianity?  Our place in history will be determined, as will every other nation’s, by how we respond to the Lord.

Let us not be “that city that dwelt carelessly.”

Seek the Lord

Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger.

Zephaniah 2:3

In this verse, we are told to “seek ye the Lord.”  It then goes on to give us a couple of things that we should be seeking:

First, we should “seek righteousness.”  That one should be obvious and clear.  The Bible often commands us to seek righteousness.  We are told over and over again to do right and to be holy.  We should live our lives seeking righteousness.

Second, we should “seek meekness.”  Meekness is one of those things that I don’t think I fully understand.  I looked it up in the dictionary and here is the definition: “enduring injury with patience and without resentment.”  When I read that, I thought “wow.”  That is totally opposite of most people’s attitudes.  That is totally opposite of how we are taught to think.  That is totally opposite to our sinful human nature.

“Enduring injury with patience…” is tought enough.  It’s hard to endure injury.  When someone hurts us, we want to hurt them right back.  We know it’s wrong, but it’s in our nature.  We don’t like being injured and we don’t like having patience, especially with someone who has injured us.

That is definitely hard enough, but it is the second part of the definition that really gets me: “enduring injury… without resentment.”  That is “a hard saying.”  We might have patience.  We might be able to be patient even with those who hurt us.  But to bear injury with patience and without resentment is very hard indeed!  Not only are we supposed to have patience with those who hurt us, but we are supposed to not get bitter or resentful against them.  That may be hard to do, but since the Lord has told us to do it, we can rest assured that He will help us do it, if we will submit to Him.

I don’t know about you, but I know that meekness is an area in which I can definitely improve!

Where Is Your Trust

Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.

Zephaniah 1:18

We find truths like this one often in the Bible.  God’s Word often gives us warnings about trusting in anything other than Him.  Here is a warning about trusting in silver and gold instead of the Lord.

“Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath…”  When the “day of the Lord’s wrath” comes, money is not going to help you and it is not going to save you.  There are many who trust in their “riches” to save them.  There are those who hire teams of expensive lawyers to keep them out of trouble.  There are those who would bribe people in exchange for preferential treatment.  There are those who just like to sit back and look at their large bank accounts; the money in them makes them feel “secure.”  But there is coming a day when those things won’t matter at all.

There is coming a day when the only thing that will be able to help you and save you is your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.  The blood of Jesus Christ can and will save us from that “day of wrath.”  Nothing else will be of any help.

There is not anything inherently wrong with money, and there is not anything inherently wrong with having money.  But there is something very wrong about putting your trust in money.  There is something very wrong about thinking that it can save you.  Let us keep our eyes on Jesus, and not on whatever temporary riches we may have.

Have You Any Room for Jesus (Hymn)

Have You Any Room for Jesus
Daniel Whittle (1878)

Have you any room for Jesus,
He who bore your load of sin?
As He knocks and asks admission,
Sinners, will you let Him in?

Refrain

Room for Jesus, King of Glory!
Hasten now His Word obey;
Swing the heart’s door widely open,
Bid Him enter while you may.

Room for pleasure, room for business,
But for Christ the Crucified,
Not a place that He can enter,
In the heart for which He died?

Refrain

Have you any room for Jesus,
As in grace He calls again?
O today is time accepted,
Tomorrow you may call in vain.

Refrain

Room and time now give to Jesus,
Soon will pass God’s day of grace;
Soon thy heart left cold and silent,
And thy Savior’s pleading cease.

Refrain

This is a great song with a great message and a great question.  Do we have any room for Jesus?  As the song says, we have plenty of room for business and room for pleasure, but do we have room for our Saviour?  How often have we put Him off, put off reading His word, put off talking to Him, so that we can do something for ourselves?  That is a tough question.

Working for Someone Else

And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their hear, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.  Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.

Zephaniah 1:12-13

There are several passages in the Old Testament that say things similar to this, and I have commented on them before.  But it always strikes me as a terrible thing to see your work being consumed by another.  That is something that is often given as a judgment or a curse.  This verse words it like this:

“…their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.”

What a sad statement!  Their goods are going to become the spoils of another man.  Someone is going to take the things for which they have worked.  They are going to work to build houses, but they will not get to live in those houses.  They are going to plant vineyards, but they are not going to be able to enjoy the fruit of those vineyards.  Everything that they have worked for: their goods, their houses, their jobs and investments, are going to be for naught.  All of their work will have been wasted.  What a sad, sad existence.

Thus is the state of those who reject God.  They work their lives away, only to see all taken from them at the end.  Thus is the state of the Christian who wastes his life pleasing his own flesh.  At the Judgment Seat of Christ, he will see his “life’s work” burned up as wood, hay and stubble.  As the Bible tells us to do, let us “lay up treasures in heaven, where neither moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”  (Matthew 6:20)

Looking Like God’s People

And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.

Zephaniah 1:8

There are quite a few Old Testament verses that, while not written directly to us or about us, do provide us with important principles that can help us if we will pay attention to them.  They also serve to give us a glimpse into the nature of God and help us to understand Him more.  This is one of those verses.

Zephaniah is a book of judgment, and, in this verse, God gives a short list of people that He is going to judge: “princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.”  I don’t know about the princes and the king’s children, but I can comment a little about strange apparel.

Apparently, from this verse, we see the principle that God expects His people to look a certain way.  Plenty of good books have been written on the subject of what types of clothing are good and appropriate, so I won’t delve too much into that area, but again, I will point out the principle.

This verse refers to “strange apparel.”  I don’t know exactly what “strange apparel” is, but I think if take a look at the average teenager in any mall, you will find some good examples.  Strange apparel does not belong on God’s people.  God expects His people to look like they are His people.  It is sad that so many Christians so desperately want to look and act just like the world.  If we are Christians, we should want to look like Christians.  That’s not some crazy, old-fashioned thing, it’s common sense.

I am a Chicago Cubs baseball fan.  This summer, I went to see the Cubs play the Royals in Kansas City.  I wore my Cubs shirt and hat.  I didn’t care if there were 40,000 Royals fans there and I didn’t care if I was the only person in the stadium wearing a Cubs shirt and hat.  I wanted to make it abundantly clear what “team I was on”.  Even though the Cubs have not won a Championship since 1908 (103 years and counting) and are one of the worst teams in baseball, I am not embarrassed to be identified with them.  I wear Cubs hats and shirts all the time.  That seems natural.

If it seems natural to want to be identified with your favourite team, why would be weird and strange to want to be clearly identified as a Christian?  Food for thought.

God Won’t Do Anything…

And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.

Zephaniah 1:12

In the book of Zephaniah, God gives the Israelites several things that are going to bring His judgment on them.  We can learn from all of them.  This verse tells us that God is going to punish those men who “are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.”

God does not like it when we are “settled on our lees.”  We aren’t supposed to be sitting down relaxing.  The time to rest is later.  Now is the time to serve the Lord and get something done for Him.  Every person has a different “job” to do and we are supposed to be busy doing that job.

The reason that people get relaxed and stop serving the Lord is the same as the reason given here: they “say in their heart, the Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.”  That is why people get complacent in their Christian lives.  They start assuming that the Lord isn’t going to punish them if they disobey Him and they start assuming that the Lord isn’t going to reward them if they obey Him.  They become “practicing atheists.”  While they might never verbally admit that they believe that there is no God, their actions betray them.  They might “believe” in Him, but they live their lives ignoring Him.  And that attitude is something that God will not tolerate.

We should be serving Him more, loving Him more and drawing closer to Him each and every day.  Let us guard against this “God will not do good, neither will He do evil” attitude in our lives!

The Reason for Hope

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.  To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Yesterday, we looked at the simple fact that, no matter what happens to us or what is going on around us, we can and should be rejoicing in the Lord.  Today, we will look at the last verse of the book of Habakkuk and see why we should be rejoicing, no matter what comes our way.

We will rejoice in the Lord and joy in the God of our salvation because “the Lord God is my strength…”  We we are weak and when everything around us is failing, we can take solace in the fact that the Lord is our strength.  We can be encouraged by that every day.

It also says that “…and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.”  I live in an area that has quite a few deer, and they are incredibly graceful animals.  To have “feet like the hinds’ feet” would be quite a thing.  But that is what the Lord can do for us (maybe not physically, but certainly spiritually).  He can also make us to “walk upon mine high places.”  Even when we feel like we are walking through a valley, the simple fact that the Lord is with us is enough to make us “walk upon high places.”  When you think about the difference that the Lord makes in a person’s life, you can see that the lowest, darkest valley for a Christian is better than the highest mountain top for the person who doesn’t know the Lord.

We certainly have a reason to rejoice!