Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 20 December 18:
Note: Here is a short video summary of Zephaniah: https://youtu.be/oFZknKPNvz8
Note: Once again, when was the last time you heard a sermon on Zephaniah? Congratulations again on reading all of God’s word this year.
1. Zephaniah 1:4, 5 – “I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests, those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens, those who bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by Milcom….” Syncretism has always been one of the greatest threats to the church – the blending of beliefs. In Jerusalem, God’s people had allowed Baal worship to creep into their religious practices. Today, we allow secular humanism, and sometimes eastern religious ideas, to creep into our churches.
2. Zephaniah 1:7 — “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near.” Silence before the Lord indicates humble, repentant submission to God’s work in your life, including His discipline and testing.
3. Zephaniah 1:12 — “I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.’” God punishes the complacent, those who are not willing to take God’s commands seriously, those who don’t diligently fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission.
4. Zephaniah 1:17 — “I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord.” Many act as if God will not punish sin. God holds all accountable for sin, whether they claim to believe in God or not.
5. Zephaniah 1:18 — “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord.” Faithfulness to God is the only hope for security. Personal or national strength is an illusion if it is not built upon the foundation of integrity before the Lord.
6. Zephaniah 2:3 — “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord.”
– Seeking the Lord involves humbly obeying His commands. When others drift from God, that is the time to draw even closer to Him. Faithfulness may not keep you from suffering the consequences of communal sin, but God will honor your fidelity nonetheless. Obedience is an act of humility and trust.
– The Bible says that if you seek the Lord with all your heart you will find Him. However, it is impossible to seek the Lord in proud disobedience. Seeking the Lord involves obeying His commands and humbly seeking righteousness. A heart that truly desires God is a heart that desires to do His will. A heart that desires to do His will desires to study God’s word diligently and to live by it. How we approach God’s word says something about the condition of our hearts.
– Deuteronomy 4:29 — But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.
– 1 Chronicles 16:10 — Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
– 1 Chronicles 16:11 — Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!
– 1 Chronicles 22:19 — Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.
– 1 Chronicles 28:8 — Now therefore in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, observe and seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God.
– 1 Chronicles 28:9 — [ David’s Charge to Solomon ] “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.
– 2 Chronicles 12:14 — And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.
– 2 Chronicles 26:5 — He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.
– Psalm 34:10 — The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
– Psalm 105:4 — Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!
– Proverbs 28:5 — Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.
– Isaiah 51:1 — “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Isaiah 55:6 — “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.
– Lamentations 3:25 — The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
– Hosea 10:12 — Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
– Amos 5:4 — For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: “Seek me and live;
7. Zephaniah 2:9 — “The remnant of my people shall plunder them, and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.” God always preserves His remnant of faithful to restore the order of His will on earth.
8. Zephaniah 2:15 — “This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else.’ What a desolation she has become.” In security and prosperity, people have a tendency to turn from God. Those who are not faithful with little will not be faithful with much. Often prosperity magnifies what you already had in your heart, giving you more capacity to sin in ways you did not have the freedom to do previously. To strengthen an unfaithful person only makes them a more capable devil and speeds destruction. God might test your heart with trials but also with prosperity and comfort. The easy life ruins the half-hearted.
9. Zephaniah 3:2 — “She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God.” Your goal in life should be to trust in the Lord more and more by drawing closer and closer to Him each day. We draw closer to God when we increasingly love Him and trust Him to obey Him. You will not obey who you do not trust, and you will not trust who you do not love. Conversely, the more you obey Him, the more you learn to trust Him and love Him.
10. Zephaniah 3:4 – “Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men; her priests profane what is holy; they do violence to the law.” When a nation’s religious leaders do not remain true to God’s word, the nation goes from bad to worse. God holds religious leaders accountable for their lack of spiritual leadership within a nation.
11. Zephaniah 3:5 — “The Lord within her is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice; each dawn he does not fail; but the unjust knows no shame.” Distance from God is our fault, not God’s. He doesn’t wander off, we do. God remains faithful and desires the same from us.
12. Zephaniah 3:6-7 – “I have cut off nations; their battlements are in ruins; I have laid waste their streets so that no one walks in them; their cities have been made desolate, without a man, without an inhabitant. I said, ‘Surely you will fear me; you will accept correction. Then your dwelling would not be cut off according to all that I have appointed against you.’ But all the more they were eager to make all their deeds corrupt.” God did everything to bring His people to trust Him.
13. Zephaniah 3:9 — “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.” God’s plan is to convert the nations. However, He knows that they will not willingly change their hearts, though His witnesses have always been dispersed within their midst as examples to them, as faithful priests, as messengers of His truth.
14. Zephaniah 3:9-13 – Judgment leads to purifying of a humble remnant to serve God.
15. Zephaniah 3:12, 13 — “But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord, those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.”
– In the midst of judgment, God’s faithful followers are humble, lowly, and unafraid.
– In the Marine Corps there is a saying often repeated: “Complacency kills.” In our readings today, Zephaniah reveals how complacency led to the destruction of Israel (Zephaniah 1:12). Merriam-Webster defines complacency as “self-satisfaction… accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” In their comfort, security, and wealth, the nation had forgotten God’s Word, despite God’s many warnings: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8).” They became guilty of the sin of syncretism, and casual sin became the norm (Zephaniah 1:4, 5, 12). Zephaniah pleads to the “shameful nation” to repent but laments that “She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord (In God we Trust?), she does not draw near to her God (Zephaniah 3:2).” He is careful to point out that both the government officials and the religious leaders were complicit in the downfall of the nation (Zephaniah 3:3, 4). Watching the nation fall apart Zephaniah (in Zephaniah 3:12-13 — the verse provided above) calls upon God’s true followers who actually attempt to obey God’s commands to continue to pursue righteousness, apart from the pattern of the world around them:
– Zephaniah 2:3 — Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger ()….
– Matthew 6:33 — “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.”
– Hebrews 10:23-31 — “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
16. Zephaniah 3:19 — “Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors.” There is a time of oppression before God brings judgment against those who persecute God’s people.
17. Proverbs 20:3 — “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” To be clear, quarrelling is a sign of foolishness, a lack of wisdom and ungodliness.
18. Proverbs 20:6 – “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” Fidelity is proof of love and one of the most valuable character traits.
19. Proverbs 20:9 — “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’?” The humble Christian who recognizes their own sin and their need for mercy, grace, and forgiveness from God through Jesus, finds it easy to forgive others. It is false pride that makes forgiveness hard.
20. Proverbs 20:11 – “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.” What you do reveals what you really believe.
21. Proverbs 20:15 – “There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.” Few people truly speak wisdom, and truly wise people use words most sparingly.
22. Proverbs 20:22 — “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.”
– When someone hurts you, is your first thought is to get back at them? Do look at the situation selfishly and with a prideful spirit? In the heat of the moment, do you forget that God knows exactly what is going on and has allowed the offense in question to occur for purposes you cannot understand? Your responsibility is to glorify God in your response (response-able-ty), trusting Him to honor your obedience. Do you tend to demand “justice” upon others who have offended you because you have forgotten your complete guilt and dependence on God’s grace? It is when you think of yourself as “good,” wise, and innocent that you tend respond to others inappropriately. However, it is when you have been humbled by the Lord that you tend to be more loving and forgiving toward others. This was the case with David. When he felt honorable, he tended to inappropriately defend his own honor. However, after he had sinned terribly with Bathsheba, he had not the heart to defend himself, recognizing in humility the true state of his unrighteousness – see 2 Samuel 16. I pray the God will continue to strengthen my faith that I might trust Him with my defense rather than sinning in pride.
– It is not our place to get even, play tit for tat, or to settle the score. We are called to return good for evil, to bless those who curse us, and to take up our cross in all relationships. Yes, this is extremely difficult, unless the Cross of Christ is a true reality in our hearts. Nothing we suffer in our forgiveness of others will come close in comparison to what Jesus suffered in forgiveness of us. When you offer mercy, grace, peace, and love to others in the midst of persecution, you are in fellowship with Jesus, drawing closer to Him. It is quite an honor God have given you. Can you see restraint as an act of strength rather than an act of weakness?
23. Proverbs 20:30 – “Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts.” Some people can only learn the hard way.
24. Revelation 16:6 — “For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets.” God allows the persecution of His people that sinners might come either to repentance or judgment. God’s people are perfectly loved and blessed by God nonetheless. Our reward is not prosperity on earth; our reward is Him.
25. Revelation 16:7 – “And I heard the altar saying, ‘Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!’” God’s judging acts are true to His character and promises, and righteous in restoring justice.
26. Revelation 16:10, 11 — “People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.” The unrepentant sinner receives the consequences of his sins and blames God.
27. Revelation 16:12-16 – “The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” God prepares the way for the final battle in the Valley of Megiddo.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 Dec 18: Be a true leader today; lead people to Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Life.