Thru the Bible – Day 139

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Day 139 – Thru the Bible

Today we read Zephaniah and continue Psalms. Here is the overview video for Zephaniah.

Video – Read Scripture: Zephaniah

 

How does today’s video help you understand Zephaniah better?

 

Zephaniah 1 – After a brief opening, Zephaniah begins the announcement of God’s judgment. The “sweeping away” of all people and animals is reminiscent of the flood, a moment of God’s judgment on sin (Genesis 6–9). The judgment God warns about is total: all living things are included in it, not just humans. And its cause is religious: Zephaniah singles out the priests and false worship as the cause of God’s judgment. The Judeans had become captive to the fundamental problem of idolatry, worshiping created things as if they were the Creator. This is a constant theme throughout the Bible (see Romans 1:25). Worship is unavoidable—the only question is, what we will worship?

The proclamation of judgment that precedes the gospel, then, demands that we examine our lives and discern the falsehood of our worship and the implications—even the cosmic implications—of our sin. And we do so mindful of the redemption—cosmic in scope—that God is working out through Jesus (Romans 8:19–23).

This section is consumed by “the day of the Lord”, a day of wrath and judgment. Zephaniah exhorts God’s people to “Be silent before the Lord God” because of it. While sometimes in the Old Testament the “day of the Lord” is a day of salvation and blessing (Joel 2:31; Isaiah 35:1–10), here it is framed as a day of judgment, a day when God will “punish the men who are complacent.” The “sound of the day of the Lord is bitter,” for a “day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish.”

The idea of the “day of the Lord” is an outgrowth of the reality that God is holy and just. All that is wrong, all that denies the reality of God’s lordship, will be judged accordingly. However, God’s judgment on sin is not meant to be the last word. The certainty and severity of God’s judgment should be a catalyst for repentance. In 2 Peter 3:10, Peter describes “the day of the Lord” when “the works that are done on [the earth] will be exposed.” But this is presented as a reason to pursue holiness relentlessly: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness!” (2 Peter 3:11).

As harsh as Zephaniah 1:7–16 is, it is not devoid of hope. The section begins with a reminder that “the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated His guests.” In the context of the judgment themes surrounding it, this verse probably indicates that the “guests” are the sacrifice God is preparing to vindicate His holiness through the judgments coming upon Judah. But the only reason these words make sense is that the people understand the nature of the atoning sacrifice that God has established as the means for turning aside His just wrath. Thus, though the words are threatening here, they are meant to turn the people in humbleness back to the God who makes a way for them to come to Him.

For those who remain impenitent, God’s holiness and justice will be a fierce and terrifying reality on the day of the Lord. Yet those who trust in God’s merciful way of salvation by grace through His own Son, Jesus, are given the confidence that their judgment day has already taken place—on the day when Jesus died on the cross. Jesus Himself endured “a day of distress and anguish” in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). Be at peace. In Jesus, sinners are forgiven and secure.

How do you celebrate this good news!?

 

Zephaniah 2 – This chapter opens with a direct appeal for Israel to gather and humble themselves. Where God’s judgment had been against those “who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him,” the exhortation comes in 2:3 to “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land,” with the hope that they would be “hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord.” Zephaniah goes on to foretell God’s judgment on the other nations, in order to warn Judah if they do not repent.

In a sense, the divine judgment against the other nations empties the need for any retribution against them to be made by Judah, and this overcoming of Judah’s enemies is a sign of God’s faithfulness to His people. Even amid judgment, God offers hope of restoration and provision to those who humbly renew their loyalty to Him.

God is the one who judges our enemies. When wronged, we can endure, as our Savior did (1 Peter 2:20–23). A day of vindication is coming. But we ourselves will also be judged—and rightly so, if we will not humble ourselves before the Lord. The heart of God is drawn to those who bow before Him, whatever their failures. It is contrition despite failure, not feigned perfection, that brings the mercy of God raining down on sinners. Jesus Himself said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).

Knowing that no one is too far from God to be saved, how do you pray for those around you who are not yet brothers and sisters in Jesus?

 

Zephaniah 3 – God’s heart is fierce in its protectiveness of His own holiness and unyielding in His demand that His people be faithful to Him. In this passage God declares the destruction that is coming upon not only the nations but also His own people.

Because the Lord is unswervingly righteous, He cannot let the guilty go free. To do so would undo the moral order of the universe. It is axiomatic that God “will not acquit the wicked” (Exodus 23:7). Yet in sending His own Son as a propitiation (substitution), satisfying God’s righteous wrath toward all those who receive His Son’s work as a free gift, a way out from the horror of the judgment of Zephaniah 3:1–8 is provided. The scandal of the gospel is that God “justifies the ungodly,” if the ungodly will put their faith in Jesus (Romans 4:5). And just as judgment will come upon the impenitent both of God’s own people and of the nations, so too does His salvation flow freely not only to His own people but also to the nations (Romans 4:9–12).

Despite the nations’ and Judah’s record of evil, Zephaniah foretells a day when their arrogance would be expelled and they would be a humble people who worship God alone. The transformation is all God’s doing, first for the nations: “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech,” declares the Lord, in order that they may call upon His name; then, the children of Israel who have been dispersed by God’s judgment will also be allowed to return to true worship, bringing God’s offering to Him.

Those who then engage in true worship “shall not be put to shame,” despite their past rebellion, because the proud will be removed and the “humble and lowly” will “seek refuge in the name of the Lord.” Thus, Zephaniah teaches us fundamental truths about a true relationship with the Lord. Having the benefits of His provision and blessing requires becoming “a people humble and lowly,” who do not proudly seek to distinguish themselves but find their identity and security “in the name of the Lord.”

Such persons reflect the grace they have received from God in their community as they “do no injustice” and “speak no lies”. Philippians 2:3 similarly describes how those who know the grace and character of Jesus are to “in humility count others more significant” than ourselves, and goes on to describe how Jesus models that humility for us and makes it available to us through His sacrifice on the cross. As Paul says to the Colossians, Jesus is our life (Colossians 3:4), and He provides all the blessings that Zephaniah promises. United to Him and indwelt by the Spirit, we begin to manifest, from the inside out, the fruit of such a radical internal transformation.

Zephaniah’s closing exhortation begins by calling Judah to sing in triumph because God’s mercy has delivered His people from judgment. This is a marked contrast to 1:7, where Zephaniah had told them to “Be silent before the Lord God” because of His wrath that would be poured out on the “day of the Lord.” The gospel of forgiveness, of cleansing and healing, is a gospel that turns us from a people who shake our fist in the face of God to those who seek the face of God.

The people of Judah sing because God first sang over them (3:17), just as we are able to love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). The Lord rejoices in His people, delights in them, and cares for them. The majesty and the mystery of this passage is heightened by the severity of the judgment message that reverberates throughout the preceding sections of Zephaniah’s prophecy. That God’s wrath is so clearly on display in the book heightens our sense of wonder at His astonishing mercy.

Zephaniah’s final word points us toward the gospel of grace: God’s people can live in freedom, in joy, because of the good news that their judgments have been removed by God’s merciful provision and not earned or achieved by them. In Zephaniah we see the severity of God’s judgment against sin, the passionate wrath that He is willing to pour out, and the “fire of His jealousy.” Yet as the book closes we see God’s equally fierce love for His covenant people. He delights over them. He rejoices in them. He loves them. He saves them. In Jesus, we ultimately see this great love and provision in flesh and blood.

How have you experienced God’s fierce love for you?

 

Psalm 134 – This final Psalm of the Psalms of ascent calls the people of God generally, and those ministering at the temple on behalf of the people specifically, to join together in offering praise to their God. The lifting up of holy hands is an outward expression of adoration and worship. It acknowledges the true greatness, not of the people themselves, but of the God whom they love, serve, and worship.

Yet in their very worship of God they recognize how very much they need His continued blessing on their lives. Their worship therefore leads naturally to expectation of God’s continued blessing on them. Rightly seen, both the offering to God of worship, and the receiving from God of what we need, are the twin sides of all true worship. God is honored both as we give expression to His greatness and glory, and as we open our hearts and hands to receive from Him what only He can give. After all, He alone “made heaven and earth”, and hence He alone stands above all need. What a marvelous conclusion to the songs of ascent—a reminder of the invitation and joy of God’s people both to offer praise worthy of God’s greatness and to receive His blessing which we need day by day. We, the needy ones, give glory to God as we receive what He graciously shares out of the bounty of His infinite fullness—a grace ultimately made manifest in His own Son, Jesus.

When do you like to lift your hands in praise to the Father?

 

What other thoughts or questions does today’s video and reading bring up?

 

Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.

Videos produced by www.TheGospelProject.com.

All links you need to be a part of this are here – Thru the Bible in 2018.

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