Posts Tagged ‘Zephaniah’

Turning Back Captivity

Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.  At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the LORD.

Zephaniah 3:19-20

The books of the Old Testament prophets are generally books of judgment.  God’s people have rejected and disobeyed Him and He is having to chasten and judge them.  There are not too many positive things in most of these books, which is probably why many people don’t like to read them or study them.  But I am encouraged by the fact that, no matter how great the chastening is going to be, God always gives them hope.  He always has a remnant that will follow Him and He always promises to not chasten them forever.

At the time of the writing of this book, the nation of Israel was about to be taken captive.  They would remain in captivity of one sort or another for many years.  These would not be easy years.  When we find ourselves under the chastening hand of God, it is never easy and it is never pleasant.  But, no matter how much it may hurt, we can take comfort in these words:

“At that time will I bring you again… I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes…”  What a comforting thought.  Even though the nation of Israel was about to go through a terrible captivity, God tells them that He will not forget them and that He will eventually “turn back their captivity.”  He does the same with us.  The Bible tells us that He has “led captivity captive.”  He controls everything.  We may feel like we are “in captivity.”  But He has the ability to turn back that captivity.  Just keep trusting Him!

The Restoration

Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.

Zephaniah 3:19

Verses like this one give us a small glimpse into the tenderness and lovingkindness of our Lord.  This passage is a prophecy regarding the future restoration of the nation of Israel, but we can glean from it a little better understanding of the Lord and of His character.  And, many of the things that He will literally and physically do for the nation of Israel, He has already done spiritually for us and in us.

Just look at the tenderness of the Lord here: “I will undo all that afflict thee…”  He is going to confound and punish those who afflict His people.  “I will save her that halteth…”  He is going to pick up those who are falling.  How many times has He done just that for us?  How many times have we stumbled and fallen, only to have Him pick us back up again?  He will “gather her that was driven out…”  Sometimes being a Christian can make you feel like an outcast in the world.  He is going to help those who were “driven out.”  “I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.”  Many in the world would scoff at Christians and Christianity.  But the day is coming when that shame will be turned around.

The fact that the Lord will help the afflicted, save the halting, gather the outcasts, and turn back those who have been shamed is just another example of the extraordinary mercy, grace and tenderness of our Lord.  We can read verses like this one and be thankful to know such a wonderful Saviour!

Rejoicing Over Us?

The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

This verse contains an amazing truth that is hard for me to comprehend.  It says that the Lord will “rejoice over thee with joy” and that He will “joy over thee with singing.”  I can understand how we would rejoice over the Lord with rejoicing and singing, but how and why would be have that kind of joy over any of us?

The beginning of the verse tells that a) He is mighty, and b) He will save.  Those alone are great truths in which we can rejoice.  Not only is He willing to save us, but He is mighty and has the ability to save us.  But it goes beyond that: not only is He willing to save us and able to save us, but He delights in saving us.  He rejoices over His people (in this passage, that would be the nation of Israel, but the principle remains) “with joy” and “with singing.”

Can you imagine that?  Can you imagine the God of Heaven and Earth, the creator of the world, the Eternal God, singing with joy over His people?  What an amazing thought!  That should show us just how much He loves His people.  I John 4:8 tells us that “God is love.”  I John 4:10 says “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  There could be no greater love that, my friend.  He gave His own Son for us.  He love us and rejoices over us with joy and singing.  That should serve to draw us closer to Him!  What a thought!

The Lord is in the Midst

Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.  The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.  In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.

Zephaniah 3:14-16

Doctrinally, I believe that this passage is referring to the future millennial Kingdom, when Jesus Christ sets up His earthly kingdom.  That will be a glorious day and it will give us (and Israel) reason to “Sing…, shout…, and ‘be glad and rejoice with all the heart’.”  But we can find some things in verse 15 that the Lord has already done for us and in us that should give us reason to “sing, shout and be glad and rejoice” even today.

“The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy.”  The Christian has been saved from the guilt and penalty of sin.  His judgments have been taken away, being borne by Jesus Christ on the cross.  He is “not condemned.”  He has “passed from death unto life.”  What a truth!   The Lord has also “cast out thine enemy.”  While the Devil is still around and will still be a thorn in our flesh until the day we die, we are promised victory over him.  We are told to resist him and he will flee.  We are told that “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.”  The Devil has been defeated.  We do not have to serve him and we do not have to live under his power and longer.

Also, we can take comfort in the fact that “…the Lord, is in the midst of thee.”  As Christians, wherever we go, the Lord is in the midst.  That is both encouraging and convicting at the same time.

While these truths will not be literally fulfilled until after His Second coming, we can enjoy them in our hearts even today through our Lord Jesus Christ!

The Unjust Knoweth No Shame

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

Yesterday, we looked at the encouraging aspects of this verse.  But as I was thinking about those wonderful things (the Lord always being with us, never doing wrong and never failing), I started thinking about the phrase at the end of the verse: “the unjust knoweth no shame.”  I think that phrase has an important lesson for us, as well.

When you think about shame, it seems that many people in our society have no shame whatsoever.  They will do anything and say anything without even blinking.  I don’t understand that.  I am ashamed of things that I have done, I am ashamed of things that I have said, I am ashamed of things that I have thought, I am ashamed of attitudes that I have had.  I have often been ashamed of myself.  My shame comes from the fact that I have transgressed God’s law.  I have disobeyed my Heavenly Father.  Thinking about those failures is humbling and is a cause for shame.  So why can so many other people do things seemingly without any shame at all?  I think the answer is in this verse:

“The unjust knoweth no shame…”  According to Romans 3:24, I have been “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  While I have surely done “unjustly,” positionally (due to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ), I am just.  It is the Holy Spirit within me that I have grieved when I have sinned, and thus the shame.  A person who does not know the Lord would be much less likely to feel shame as they have rejected the One they have sinned against.

Do we feel shame for our sin?  While it may seem strange, let us thank the Lord for that.  Realizing that we have done something wrong is the first step in getting it right.  There are those who feel no shame for their sin.  We should be praying for them.

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.