May 1, 2011

Minor Prophets LXXX: Indicted, Judged and Joy

We see a progression of thought towards the end of Zephaniah ending in a culmination of joy.

Zephaniah 3:1-5: In verse 1-5 we see Jerusalem called to task and indicted as a city of oppressors that are rebellious. Disobedient and do not call on God. The officials of the city are “roaring lions” & “evening wolves” (predatory animals stalking prey). The prophets are corrupt and the priests violate the sanctuary. Both of these so-called representatives of God defame God by their actions. Sadly, self-proclaimed Christians that rake people over the coals today lying and bilking them of their money in the name of God do the same today. In contrast, the One these leaders, priests and prophets should be obeying and modeling their behavior after does just the opposite. They are clearly not following His example which is: “righteous and he does no wrong”. As a matter of fact, the Lord is so righteous He dispenses his justice to the unrighteous. Jerusalem though is so screwed up that God can exercise justice but yet the unrighteous know no shame. They are dead to their sin.

Zephaniah 3:6-8: So the Lord will judge them in a manner similar to other nations that were not of the covenant. Having seen the demise of these nations you would think Jerusalem would’ve turned to God but to no avail. You would’ve thought God’s own people that were suppose to have known God through His covenant with them would’ve gotten their act together. Instead they only acted like idiots. They were corrupt to their core. So the Lord would testify and pour out His wrath on all the nations/kingdoms He was about to gather. The entire world would be consumed in God’s wrath.

Zephaniah 3:9-13: The word “then” in verse 9 delineates a turning point in the prophet’s/God’s tone. The tone shifts from dire predictions of doom to promises of blessings and peace. He will “purify the lips of the peoples” so they can “call on the name of the LORD”, His “scattered people, will bring me offerings”. God will purge them of their “arrogant boasters”. They will be left “meek and humble” and a “remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the LORD” and “they will do no wrong”. They will be safe “and no one will make them afraid.”

Zephaniah 3:14-20: There will be and outward visible joy in Israel evidenced by singing and shouting to the Lord. People will be glad and rejoice. The Lord will have taken away His punishment and turned away Israel’s enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, will be with them. They will not live in fear because of His presence. God will be their defender, He will be a mighty warrior that will take great satisfaction in His people. If God will be happy and take satisfaction from them it will mean that they are obedient to Him also since God will not look upon sin. He will rejoice in them with singing. Imagine that, God singing! Verse 18 mentions the mourning due to loss of festivals. I have to assume this is because the people in exile were not able to take part in appointed feasts. This mourning would be removed because not only would they be able to worship the Lord, He would be in their presence. God will deal with those that did them harm. He’ll rescue the lame, gather the exiles, give them praise and honor in every land where they have suffered shame. Finally, they will be gathered an brought home. They will be honored among the nations of the world. Their fortune will turn towards blessing right before their eyes.

Something of special note needs to be paid attention to in Zephaniah. God is a sovereign God and is the God of all nations. The judge of all nations. It wasn't a stretch for God to annihilate other wicked nations as object lessons for His own people. In the same capacity God would one day turn to the Gentiles themselves and graft them into the vine. He would give the Gentiles the ability to worship Him as faithful subjects just as He had the Jews. By doing this we see God totally reverse the judgment at Babel and the dispersion that took place immediately after the confusion insued.

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