God will do whatever it takes to make churches into His church, which is the only church that will prevail. Final judgment is coming for all people not because God's purpose is to destroy, but to deliver people out of the chaos of false belief into a right relationship with Him.
A Song We All Want to Hear Sung
Wherever You Are, Get Ready to Meet the King of Who You Are
A Kick in the Pants from the King of Us All
Who He Was, What He Said and Why He Said It
I wanted to share with you that about a week ago, I was down in the Hill Country speaking to a group of folks at a camp trying to get them ready for their summer of ministering to thousands of kids. I had a chance to take their staff through three different sessions together. We talked about the theme, which is Whatever It Takes. We talked about how they need to be ready to do whatever it takes to serve the Lord faithfully, because if they're not, the Lord is willing to do whatever it takes to use them the way he intends to use them.
God has said the gates of hell will not stand against the church, but he didn't say any church. He said his church. His church has to be built on his foundation and built the way he wants that church to be built. I will tell you what. The gates of hell will have a tremendous amount of resistance to a church, but they will have no resistance to his church.
The question we want to ascertain or answer as we go through these weeks in Zephaniah together is…Are we his church? We know we're a church. We are a 501(c)3 organization. You can write a check to us, and you won't get hit up from the IRS for that tax-deductible amount. We have all our little things worked out where it looks like we're a church.
We meet on Sundays. We have a nursery. We have a choir. We have an organ. We have a pastoral staff we pay. That means we're a church. The question is, are we his church? The Lord is willing to do whatever it takes to take churches that claim to be his churches but aren't and to make them his churches.
We looked at a little period of time in Zephaniah where he wasn't working with a body called the church. He was working with a people called the Jews. He's intending to do the same thing with them, and to make them a people who were a guide to the blind, a corrector to the foolish, a light to the Gentiles. Those are all descriptions of what the Jews were to be from Romans 2.
They, frankly, just didn't pull it off, so God has brought them under severe discipline for a time. The purpose of this discipline is to get their attention, because God will do with them what he has said he will do. Only when they come to him and, by faith, trust him that they might love and serve him the way he intends for them to love and to serve…
We have the exact same challenge now during this parentheses that is what's called the church age, or the interadvent age, when Jesus Christ, God himself, came, walked on this earth, announced judgment on the Jewish people, and said, "You're going to have a bunch of years of turmoil until I get your attention. I'm going to break you off. I'm going to graft in a wild branch. I'm going to connect them to me, the Root. They're going to produce a great fruit. When you realize how worthless and fruitless you are as a nation…"
Individual Jews can still come to Christ, even as individual non-Jews can come to Christ and be a part of the people whom God is working with today which is called the church, which is a part of his body. There is no distinction between Jew and Greek during this interadvent time, during this period of time called the church age.
God says, "When I finally get your attention, and when I convince you there is no fruitfulness apart from me, then I will graft you back in. I will make you a fruitful people again." Some folks were going, "How in the world is God going to do that with Israel again?" They had a real hard time with that, because Israel didn't exist as a nation. They were just a dispersed people.
God has brought them back together once. I don't believe the Israel we have now living in that track of land we call the Middle East is believing… I know it's not believing Israel. As a nation, as individual leaders, they do not believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Until they do, apart from him, they can do nothing. I believe there's probably going to be a time when they'll be dispersed again, or at least come under tremendous pangs of their continued disobedience until he does his good and intended pleasure with them.
That's what Zephaniah is about, but there are applications to us, because if God did not stand for sin in the people he determined to use for their good and his glory of old, he will not stand for it today. We must determine if he will need to do whatever it takes to get us to be useful to the Master. Will we say, "Lord, thy will be done with our lives. We'll do whatever you ask, as faithful Jews have for centuries," as when Isaiah responded, "Here I am, Lord. Send me. What do you want with me"?
We laugh, though, at the judgment of God. We laugh that judgment will fall. I shared with you last week that about 75 percent of Americans believe Jesus Christ existed, and that he will return again to judge. About 85 percent of Americans believe there is a God who is holy, just, and righteous in all he does and one day will judge the living and the dead. We say we believe that but, frankly, our country, as individuals, doesn't live very well in response to that.
In fact, I was down in South Texas last week after I got done speaking with this camp and had the privilege of taking my family for a half-day to SeaWorld. I was standing in line at the Great White Roller Coaster. Have y'all seen the commercials for that thing? It's this new roller coaster. You hang on. You go upside down. It spins you like a corkscrew. It is great. All right?
I'm sitting there in line to go on this roller coaster… Which, it looks like no way a human being would willfully get on this thing. I'm standing there in line, and I am talking to some of the folks around me. I get up right there at the front where they can let you stand wherever you want. You can ride in the front, back, middle, or however you want to go.
I get shifted by somebody I wasn't standing next to before, and I look at his shirt. His shirt said, "Fishing in hell." Then it had Satan standing there at a little checkout counter, and a bunch of guys in a line. It said, "Beer. Bait. Choose only one." So, this guy's opinion of hell was that he was going to get to fish, but he couldn't have his beer and his bait. He was either going to get drunk and not catch any fish or catch fish but not have fun because he couldn't drink.
I was looking at his shirt trying to read it. He looks at me and goes, "Which one are you gonna to choose?" I said, "Well, brother, that guy ain't gonna be tending bar where I'm fishing. I'm going to choose both and many things more. You don't have Cheetos on that list. You don't have a number of things which I'm going to get to take with me fishing." He kind of laughed.
I said, "You think that's where you're gonna fish?" He went on to say, "No, no, no. I don't want to fish there." We had a little conversation about how he could be sure when that great white shark flung his little sorry self out of that thing, he would know he could have beer and bait when he went fishing. We laughed.
You know, it's funny, because folks don't think of judgment. They don't really think it's coming. In fact, our society has a hard time with what Zephaniah is teaching right here. It doesn't believe there is one God who will judge all people, because all people are accountable and responsible to him. The fact is, all people will be judged by this Lord.
Pluralism is more than just, "Hey, people are different." That's true, but pluralism…which is really the spirit of the age; it is the idea that is prevalent in our society and growing…says more than that people are different. It says more than that people will have different ways of worshipping. The fact is, it is true there are different ways to worship the one true God.
That does not mean, by the way, there are different paths to get to that one true God. Let me tell you, we are a pluralistic church in this sense: In the morning, it is very liturgical. It is very traditional. We have a choir. We wear coats and ties. We worship well with hymn books. We do responsive readings. But we are not so narrow as to believe only deep and sincere believers worship that way.
In fact, we've come to know many deep and sincere believers will never worship that way, myself among them. They don't feel the freedom to worship there. So, in the evening we worship a different way, but we worship the same Lord. We share the exact same doctrine. We love the same truth. We serve the same Master.
Pluralism is more than just saying there are different people. Okay. We don't have a problem with that, but when people say all of reality is pluralistic, nothing is steadfast, nothing is true, nothing is absolute, all things are according to how you perceive them, and "You don't be so arrogant as to tell me that because you see it one way, that way is necessarily right," I would join them to say, "I will never be so arrogant as to say because I see it one way, that necessarily is right," but I will be so arrogant as to say if God says it's one way, that way absolutely is right.
The question is…Is God real? Does he exist? If he does exist, he, therefore, has the right to reign, to rule, and to judge. He has claimed that he does exist. He has entered into history in the person of Jesus Christ to prove he does exist. There is one man in the history of all of the world who has been not resuscitated from the dead. There were a number of folks whom that has happened to. Elijah. He resuscitated some people from the dead. Jesus. Three different people were resuscitated from the dead. Those folks all died again.
There is one resurrection. There is one leader of a world faith whose tomb you cannot go visit and see that he is there, because he is not because he is God. The wages of sin is death. This is a Man who came without sin, whose enemies found no sin in him. Though he paid the penalty of sin, God removed him from the grave because this Man was greater than death, greater than sin. The debt he paid, he paid for us. We sing that we hide in that rock, and we hide in that cleft.
I will tell you what he has said. God has made it easy. He said, "The man whom the world pivots its calendar on his birth and his death, he is God. The man who alone has been raised from the dead, he is God." If 75 percent of you profess to believe, if 85 percent of you acknowledge to know it's true, he will judge. What he begs you to know is when he judges and when he comes, you want to be in that rock. You want to be in that cleft, so when that tornado comes across your Jarrell, you are spared. It's coming.
There's that saying: A guy walked up to a man one time and said, "Hey, what's the death rate in your town?" The guy looked at him and said, "One apiece." He said, "People are dying here who have never died before." Gang, you need to know that is it. God says the wages of sin is death, and God has built into our very being an illustration of sin. From the moment you are born, your sweet little tender fallen self grows and grows and grows and eventually moves toward death.
Your body is a physical picture of a spiritual truth which is inside of you. From the moment you are brought forth from your mother's womb, you are doomed to die. You are separated from the Giver of life. When you are pulled from that plug, if you will, from the moment you are unplugged from Jesus Christ, who alone is the source of life, it's just a matter of time before you wither and die.
Some of us are stronger. We'll make it longer unplugged from the power source than others, but the fact is all men sin and fall short of the glory of God. The fact is the wages of that sin is death. God, being the master Teacher, has given every one of us a picture of what is coming in a spiritual world that is true in our physical world, even as he does in marriage.
God, the master Teacher, takes marriage, this mystery where you have two people who are distinct and unique in person, who will come together and become one in essence. They will choose to relate in a way where one leads and one follows. One always does what is the best will, who beckons to serve and to do nothing that is not in the best interests of the wife. The wife responds to that initiated act of love and gives herself fully to the man. Not because she is less than the man, but because, as they seek to operate this way together, it brings full glory to the two of them.
It's the only picture, the clear picture, we have of the Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all equally God. One is not greater than the other, but the three individual persons are one in essence. All God, and they relate in subordinate ways. Not because the Spirit is less than the Son. Not because the Son is less than the Father. God in the physical realm gives you a picture of a great spiritual truth. He is a great teacher. We can learn.
We can observe through nature that he is a masterful designer, that he is beyond our greatest imagination in his ability to create, in his ability to order, in his ability to persevere, in his ability to sustain. God does that, and he teaches us. He's showing you that there is a death rate in the human race. It is one to a man. He has told us graciously that after this comes judgment. He wants you to prepare for that judgment which comes.
It is no laughing matter to read in Zephaniah, chapter 1, what we read last week. Look at this judgment which is coming. It is a great day of distress. Verse 14 says it is "…near and coming very quickly…" Listen. Judgment is coming. It's a day of wrath. It is not just going to be "beer or bait." Chapter 1, verse 15, says, "A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness…" No. He says a day of "…thick darkness."
Our country is amazing. We go back… There's a lady by the name of Meg Greenfield who writes for Newsweek. She had this little article where she said she was so sick of intolerant people who say there's a God who is going to judge. She says something like, "I wish we could go and be like ancient Rome. I wish we could go back where the people regarded all the modes of worship as equally true, all religions as equally true, where the philosophers and intellectuals regarded all religions as equally false, and the politicians and magistrates regarded all religions as equally useful."
In other words, do what men have always done. Let's go back like Rome where it was always useful, and they were all true. They were all… A bunch of junk, if you were a real intellectual. What's amazing is she quoted from a guy whose name is Edward Gibbon. He wrote this, and I'm going to read it again because I butchered it the first time.
"The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful." He wrote that in his book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, but Greenfield writes it like it's some idealistic time. She goes through and says, "Oh, for us to be like Rome again." I want to go, "Meg, have you read the history books? Do you see where that got Rome?"
There's a guy named Butterfield who wrote at the end of World War II in France. He's a French historian. He said that the fabric of judgment is embedded in history. You look at Rome. You look at the French Revolution. You look at Nazi Germany. He goes on and on and on. He says judgment happens. God does not endure with the people long who do not repent, who do not acknowledge he is King.
What you're going to find here in Zephaniah, chapter 2, where we pick up in verse 4 this week is God wants you to escape the sure and certain judgment. It is not something we laugh at. It is something to be feared and dreaded. It's not "beer or bait." It is, "Are you ready for this day of darkness, of thick darkness?"
Look at verse 4. What he's going to do here is he's going to pick up, and he's going to start by saying, "Israel, I'm going to get your attention." Judgment always begins with the household of God, because God longs to purify his people so they might be useful. Anybody who doesn't get the message will eventually come into a very strict judgment, and it is a permanent judgment.
He's going to go, and he's going to give you four different regions. To the very far west of Israel today is the Mediterranean Sea, but during the time of Zephaniah to the very far west, just on the borders of the Mediterranean Sea, was a little group of folks called the Philistines. They had major cities. They were Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron. There's another one he doesn't list right here. He's saying, "To the west, watch what I'm going to do."
"For Gaza will be abandoned and Ashkelon a desolation; Ashdod will be driven out at noon…" What do you think that means? I'll tell you. In an oriental culture, it's much like the South American culture. They took siestas. It was the hottest part of the day. You could try and go shopping during that time of day, and chances are from noon to two the doors were closed. You couldn't do anything. It's when they took a break. "At the time of day when you least expect it," he's saying right here, "judgment will come to the Philistines."
"Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the Cherethites!" Another word for the Philistines. It says, "The word of the LORD is against you…" Gang, you don't want to hear that. "O Canaan, land of the Philistines; and I will destroy you so that there will be no inhabitant." Can you all name any great athletes who have won gold medals, silver medals, bronze medals, competed in the Olympics, for the country of Philistia? You can't. There is no country there anymore. As a people they have been extinguished. Final judgment fell on them as a nation, and they will not be regathered.
Look what verse 6 says. "So the seacoast will be pastures…" I want to tell you that this country was greatly developed. They were a people who had emigrated there from Crete, and they had become very prosperous because of their maritime ways. What happens, he said, is "This seacoast, which is right now a great cause of your glory, will be pastures." All that is going to be there is "…caves for shepherds and folds for flocks. And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah…"
Now think about this. It's like saying Daytona Beach will become desolate. You go to Daytona, and it is bustling. It is full of college students at Spring Break. What he's saying is, "If y'all keep living like that, in disregard for who I am, and if you keep treating each other selfishly and not loving each other, with your manipulative sinful ways, there will be a day that Daytona won't be the hot Spring Break spot. It'll be a great place to let the cows graze."
Galveston will become a ghost town. Padre will get punished. What God is saying is there will be a day. Now look back over there at chapter 1, and verse 12. Remember, because some of you out there are going, "Man, beer or bait. Just get on with it. Here comes hellfire and brimstone." All I'm doing is being faithful as we teach through the book to tell you what God says, and he loves you enough to say it.
Just like I'll tell my little girl, "When you get older, and you're in a classroom and the teacher tells you to do something, if you don't do it, consequences come. If you live this way, consequence will come. If you let boys treat you this way, there are consequences on your psyche. There are consequences on your soul. There are consequences on your self-esteem."
I'll tell my little girl, "If you drive this way, the police are going to want to talk to you. If you live this way, the police are going to want to talk to you. That's if you live to get through dad to talk to the police. Because I love you, I'll bring consequence into your life. If I don't do a good job, then the law will do a good job. Government will bring order into your life." That is just a picture, according to Romans 13, of the ultimate judgment which will come from God.
That is why, parents, you are culpable for not disciplining your child, because you are not faithful to bring into that child this truth. He is not king. He is not sovereign. He is not lord. The world does not pivot around him. It pivots around Jesus Christ, and he serves him. When he acts in his little selfish ways in the home, when you don't get his or her attention, you are not representing ultimate truth. You are setting that kid up, it says in the Scriptures, for sheol, the resting place of the dead.
That is why government does not judge sin. God will judge. When the righteous are called wicked and the wicked are called righteous, God says, "I'm going to deal with that people. Rome will decline and will be demolished, because government is to represent me and be an ultimate picture of who I am."
Chapter 1, verse 12. " [You] who are stagnant in spirit…" You who just sit there in your complacency and act like there's nothing wrong. "…who say in their hearts, 'The LORD will not do good or evil!'" You say, "God is indifferent to my sin. He's impotent. He can't do anything about it. He's ignorant of sin. He is unable to judge." He says, "Don't mess with me."
This is the fact, gang. There is sometimes a second chance. I want you to know this. God is patient. The reason, 2 Peter and Romans say, he is patient is he longs for you to return to him. He is calling, "Get on the ark. The flood is coming." Some people out there are going to go, "Yeah, man, right. The flood is coming. My daddy said that. His daddy said that. I'll string you a bunch of false prophets from here to Jesus' death who told me he's coming back."
Peter writes and says, "When they say this, they neglect to remember God told them he was going to judge before, and he did, with the flood. This time he won't judge with the flood. This time he'll judge with a much more thorough way." They neglect to remember God has judged and will judge again.
Gang, there is sometimes, there is often, a second chance, but mark my words, there is a final chance. I don't know that tonight is not it. I don't suspect the Lord will come before I'm done speaking. I live in fear like he might. Not fear, but in healthy respect that he might. That's what I mean by the word fear. I long to see him. I will not shrink back at his coming, because I am prepared to meet him. I long to live a holy life, as should you.
We should welcome him if this roof parts, but if you're a materialist, if you're a self-exalting person, the return of Jesus Christ is not a good thing. He's going to destroy your harbor. He's going to destroy your Atlantic City. He's going to judge your self-enthroned being. There's often a second chance. Some of you might be here for the next six years and hear the Word of God, prayerfully and faithfully taught. You'll go, "Yeah, I've heard him say that for six years." The fact is there will be a final chance. It says. "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever…"
What do you think about a culture that says Elvis is alive and God is dead? That's where we're at. "He ain't coming. Nah." But God says, "I'm coming." Philistia didn't believe it. The Philistines thought it wasn't going to happen, and it did. As it says in verse 7, that the remnant of the house of Judah will pasture in it, today on the coastline where the Philistines used to dwell there is an oil refinery owned by the Jews. There are apartment complexes dwelt in by the Jews. There is a settlement there of God's people.
It finishes in this verse, "In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; for the LORD their God will care for them and restore their fortune." You see, there is a people whom God is ultimately going to do a good work through. It is his people. The question you must answer tonight is…Are you of his fold?
He took the west. Now here comes the east. He says, "I have heard the taunting of Moab…" Christian, this is encouraging to you. Do you have people who taunt you, who tell you, "Man, you believe in God? He's dead. Don't tell me this. All intellectual people believe that all religions are equally false. Politicians go to all religions because they're equally useful. Don't you tell me you have the way, the truth, and the life. What a joke."
They taunt you. They call you narrow and bigoted. They call you hateful. There are Moabites and Ammonites who live today who absolutely affront God's people. What he says back then is… You need to know this. The Moabites and the Ammonites were great enemies of God's people. For hundreds of years, they fought against God's people. Every advantage they had, every time God disciplined Israel, they moved right in and said, "I'm taking advantage of the fact that you're, right now, over God's knee."
Look what God says to them. He says, *"I have heard…" * You all need to know this. God is not deaf. He is not dumb. He has heard. He will speak. He is avenging. He is awesome. There will be a day that the Moabites and Ammonites will be responded to. God tells us not to be the ones who try to respond. Just keep living faithfully. He will one day speak for us. Verse 8 continues:
"'And the revilings of the sons of Ammon, with which they have taunted My people and become arrogant against their territory. Therefore, as I live,' declares the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, 'Surely Moab will be like Sodom and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrah—a place possessed by nettles and salt pits, and a perpetual desolation. The remnant of My people will plunder them and the remainder of My nation will inherit them.'"
Now think about this. This is a great nation, and he says, "Not my whole army is going to come. Not a bunch of chariots, but just a remnant." That is a small portion of people. "That's who is going to deal with you, because that's all it takes. God plus one is a majority. My one or two or three are going to come, and they're going to drive you out, because," it says there in verse 8, "you have become arrogant, because you have enlarged yourself, because you have made boasts against me."
One of my favorite words in the Greek, which sometimes is a very colorful language, is the Greek word typhoō. It's one of the words used for pride in the Greek language. Typhoō literally means wrapped in smoke. God says that is who these prideful people are, who enlarge themselves. They're like somebody wrapped in smoke.
One day God is going to blow away the smoke and expose them. He is going to be Toto, who pulls back the curtain and exposes that you're just a little midget pulling a bunch of levers claiming to be Oz. God says you need to come out from behind the curtain right now and humble yourself.
Tell Dorothy and the Tin Man. Tell those with no heart that you haven't got a heart either. Tell the Scarecrow you don't have a brain, and that apart from the wisdom of the Lord, you're hopeless. You tell them, like Dorothy, this place isn't your home, and it isn't the Wizard who is going to take you there. It's the God who does pull the levers, and it's the God who does bring judgment. He alone is who you need to be accountable to.
It's amazing. The Moabites and Ammonites, it says, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah. These were folks who were descendants of Lot. Do you know who Lot was? Lot was the one, Abraham's nephew, who dwelled in Sodom. When they escaped, when the angels of the Lord went and plucked out Lot and said, "Don't even look back. The judgment of God is falling on these people, as it will fall one day on the whole earth," he said, "Don't look back. You flee. If you do look back, you will turn into a pillar of salt."
We know Lot's wife did that, but Lot and his two daughters escaped. Now when they got there, Lot's daughters were not as righteous as he. They got their daddy drunk, and to continue their good fortune (so they thought), they slept with their father. Moab means father's flesh. Father's son. He's the product of an incestuous relationship.
He comes from a shameful background, but he's not humble. He goes back to the debased lifestyle which he is delivered from, and he relishes in it. God has a hard time with people who take advantage of others' sin and others' punishment, especially when you yourself have been plucked from judgment.
Just yesterday, I came home, and my wife had my little girl in her room, Ally. I said, "Why is Ally in her room?" She said, "Go talk to her." I walked in there. I said, "Ally, why are you in your room?" Ally says to me, "Because I told Kirby to say a bad word." I said, "What's the bad word?" She goes, "Poopy." I said, "Well, why did you tell her to say, 'Poopy'?" She said, "Because I wanted to see her get a spanking."
This little girl, who knew if she could get Kirby to do something we've asked her not to do, was going to relish in the sin of her sister, so she alone could play Candy Land and go for Queen Frostine with her mom and her dad. She looked at the sin and the advantage she could take of a younger sibling and sought to work her way in. I want to tell you what. We came down on Ally hard for that.
I told Ally, "Ally, let me tell you something. You are a leader. You're somebody who people are going to listen to and learn from. When you lead people down a path of destruction, not only will you have a judgment which will come on you, but it will be a double judgment because you've led other people down a foolish path. You don't ever encourage somebody to do something that is wrong. You encourage people to do something that is right. You lovingly tell them when they do something that is wrong. You don't look to gain from other people's mistakes."
We had a little chat, and Ally had probably one of the largest consequences of her life in terms of time she had to spend alone thinking about what she did. Early on I want to stamp into her life, "You are not to relish in the punishment of others as Moab and Ammon did. You are to lead others to the righteous path." Look what it says.
It says, like I said, "You're going to be a place of perpetual desolation." I'll tell you, if you go take a tour of the Holy Land, you're not going to be taken to Moab and Ammon. There's nothing there. "The remnant of My people will plunder them…" **Verse 10 says,"This they will have in return for their pride, because they have taunted and become arrogant against the people of the LORD of hosts. The LORD will be terrifying to them, for He will starve all the gods of the earth; and all the coastlands of the nations will bow down to Him, everyone from his own place."**
Now listen to this. What God says there in verse 11 is a really interesting thing. When he destroys, or it says in the margin makes lean, the gods of the earth… He'll starve the gods of the earth. These are imaginary gods. God is not going to really take on totem poles and idols and Allah and Buddha, because there is no other God. There is one God. These other gods only exist in the minds of the people who worship them.
The way God is going deal with false religions is to deal with the people who possess these false gods in their spirit and in their mind. It says this in Romans, chapter 1. It says every single man has known this. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that [every man is] without excuse."
Look at verse 21 now. It says this. Listen. "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools." What God says is, "When I judge the gods of this world, the way I'm going to do it is by judging the people who worship these gods. I will one day eradicate all false religions, and I will do it by eradicating those people who hold to them."
There is not going to be a day when, if you will, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, are done with and judged, yet Allah continues. When the people who worship these imaginary gods are gone, so will the worship of those gods. You don't see a lot of people worshipping Zeus today, do you? You don't see very many people who worship the goddess Artemis, or Diana. No, because those people have been judged already. God says, "I will do that one day with all gods."
Paul says this same thing in 1 Corinthians, chapter 8, when there's a discussion going on about meat sacrificed to idols. He says, "Listen. I don't really care about whether or not this meat has been sacrificed to idols, because I know there is no idol. There is no such thing as another god. There is one God who rules in heaven."
His argument is, "Don't worry about paying less for this meat that's been sacrificed to idols," but then he goes on to say, "I won't even eat meat if it offends somebody, for the sake of the gospel." His point is there is only one God. Anybody who believes there's more than one God is futile in their speculation.
What verse 11 is saying right there is that God one day will deal with false religions, and he's going to do it by dealing, not with Allah, because Allah can't come to fight. He's going to deal with the figment of imagination placed in people's minds that are futile in their speculation by dealing with those individuals.
Look what it says there. He's going to do it for this purpose. Verse 11: "…all the coastlands of the nations will bow down to Him, everyone from his own place." See, gang? Know this: The ultimate purpose of the judgment of God, the ultimate purpose of God's wrath, is not to destroy. Basically, it's to do away with evil. It's to overrule evil for the purpose of good. It's to bring people out of their hopeless chaos, if you will, into a right and living relationship with the one true God.
Some people have a real hard time with judgment, but the purpose of judgment is to show you what you seek after is a lie. That is why I, as a father, discipline my daughter, and that is why God will one day judge everybody to make it right. He would not be a loving God if he let us forever live in the midst of sin and rebellion and lies, and because he is the God of love, he will one day execute perfect justice.
Now, very quickly. He goes to the east. Amman and Moab are to the west. Verse 12 takes care of the south. He says, "You also, O Ethiopians, will be slain by My sword." That's it. He says, "Let me tell you something, Jerusalem. I'm judging the whole world." The whole known world at the time was made up of what was to the west of them, the north of them, the east of them, and the south of them. He's just going in a little circle. He's saying, "I'm going to judge it all."
I kind of get a funny picture in my mind when I read verse 12 because here are the Egyptians down there. They hear about what just happened to those folks in the west. They hear about what happens to the folks in the east. They're probably laughing, like Dick Dastardly's dog Muttley. Do you remember him? Laughing at what's going on. Then all of a sudden, Muttley gets crowned in the head. Then he's not laughing anymore.
Or you have Scooby Doo, right? "Ruh-Roh!" He thinks this thing that happened to Shaggy, that Shaggy alone is getting whooped by the monster. All of a sudden, the monster is behind him. "Ruh-Roh!" That's exactly what God is saying. There are people laughing at judgment that falls to Rome, to Nazi Germany, maybe to homosexuals with AIDS. They, in their little self-righteous condition, sit there and go, "Yep. That'll serve 'em right."
Well, the fact is when you see judgment, don't put yourself in the position of being pure in relation to another. You compare yourself… You may not struggle with homosexuality, but you have a problem that is despicable to the holy God of the universe. You're sitting down there one day, and you're laughing. He's going to go, "You too." "Ruh-Roh, Raggy." That's trouble.
There may just be a little verse stuck in there for you tonight. If you come in your self-righteous mindset where you're not as bad as the wicked of the world…the rapist, the child-molester, the homosexual…I rejoice that sin has not found that type of grip in your life, but the fact is you are not without sin. You need a shelter. You need a Rock of Ages you can find a cleft in and be delivered from the wrath that is to come.
Look at verse 13. We haven't hit the north. We're going to hit it now. It says, "And He will stretch out His hand against the north and destroy Assyria…" Assyria was the greatest nation on the face of the earth at that time. Gang, it would be like reading right now on the front page of the Dallas Morning News that God will do away with Moscow, Beijing, Washington, DC… You plug it in. Everybody would laugh. "Whatever happens, Moscow will endure. Beijing will endure. DC will endure." That's what Nineveh was.
Nineveh was made up of an outer city and an inner city. The inner city was covered by a wall all the way around it that was 100 feet tall that you could race three chariots on at once. This is 800 or 900 BC. That's an amazing feat back then. Then you had an outer city which was also covered by a wall. You had the king's armaments in Assyria. It was an amazing thing to come across and to see the glory. This guy had acres of chariots, acres of horses, acres of embattlements.
When Zephaniah wrote this about 620 BC, the world must have read that and gone, "Man, I'll tell you what. This is where you lose me. The Philistines? I got you. The Moabites? Yeah. The Ethiopians? I can see Nebuchadnezzar having his way with them. But Assyria? Come on." That is the world power of the day but, just 20 short years after he wrote this, Assyria fell. Nebuchadnezzar came and had his way.
Let's see who was behind old Nebby doing his work. It says, "…And He will make Nineveh a desolation…" That's the capital city. "…parched like the wilderness." This world-renowned place. It's funny he says, "…parched like the wilderness." Nineveh was well known for its irrigation system. He said, "You who pride yourself in your irrigation, I'm going to make you like a desert land."
"Flocks will lie down in her midst…" Going to go from a bustling city to a bird sanctuary. "…All beasts which range in herds; both the pelican and the hedgehog will lodge in the tops of her pillars; birds will sing in the window…" Have you ever been out in the country and you see an old farmhouse that used to be inhabited, and 100 years later there are just little birds sitting in the window? That's exactly what he's saying.
If you look at Dallas, Texas, today, you go, "Man, this place will be around forever." He's saying, "Nope. There's going to be a day when the hedgehog, the pelican, and the birds are all you see, because I'm going to clean up Dallas, and that might be all that's left." He says then that this is ultimately the problem, in verse 15.
"This is the exultant city which dwells securely, who says in her heart…" Now catch that. As we come in here tonight, none of us are so foolish to walk in and say, "I am God. I have no needs. I am, and there is no other." We're not that dumb. I mean, the people who attend this church aren't that dumb. You need to know this. There are people who live today who are that dumb. Let me read you some parts of the "Humanist Manifesto" as it stands today.
"The world is self-existing. There is no God. No deity can save us. We must save ourselves. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological sanctions. As in 1933, we humanists still believe that traditional theism, especially faith in the prayer-hearing God assumed to love and to care for persons, to hear and understand their prayers, and to be able to do something about them, is an unproved and outmoded faith. Reasonable minds look to other means for survival." That's part of the "Humanist Manifesto," which was rewritten in 1973.
You know what we say today? Do you know what the largest portion of our world says today? You can read it right here in Zephaniah, chapter 2, verse 15. "I am, and there is no one besides me." Gang, if you don't catch that as an ultimate description of our day and age, I don't know what is. "I am the master of my soul. I am the captain of my destiny. I am, and there is no one besides me."
That offends the Lord, because self-sufficiency alone is a characteristic that alone Jesus Christ and God has. He alone is the uncaused cause. He alone is the sustainer of self. Everything else gets life from him. When you set yourself up, stand eye-to-eye across the room from him, and say, "I alone am, and there is no other," he says, "We need to talk about that." Our world today is moving away from any dependence on the God of creation and trusting in self.
Now that's interesting, but again, we're not going to be so stupid as to come in here and make that claim. Right? There might be humanist meetings. There might be atheists who get together and chant that, who scream that, if you will, but notice again what I read in chapter 2, verse 15. Where did Nineveh make that claim? It wasn't with their mouth so much. It was with the attitude of their heart.
What we have to ask ourselves tonight, as we close our study, is simply…This people here honor him with our lips, but are our hearts far from him? When you come in here tonight, is it ultimately your attitude that, "I really don't need the Lord. Oh, I'll throw him a bone every now and then. I'll show up at worship. I'll drop a few bucks in his kitty. I'll basically be nice to his people. I'll tolerate this thing called fellowship. I will be a part of this organized family called a church where I draw some strength, but ultimately, I'm calling the shots"?
If that is your attitude, the attitude of your heart, God says, "I'll do whatever it takes to straighten you out, because I can't use a people who think apart from me they can do something. I don't want you to be a church. I want you to be the church." Let's pray.
Father, as we look through and spend some time, tonight, seeing that you're judging the whole world…you're judging the north, the south, the east, and the west…it's not a laughable thing. It's not "beer or bait." It's not, "Hey, good. They're getting it. We can take advantage of them." It's not, "Hey, good. They're getting it, and you've missed me." We know and we have seen that the wages of sin is death, and that the Scriptures teach that after death comes judgment. Not another life cycle. Not a different karma, but a confrontation with the living God of the universe.
We know, Lord, you won't wait for everybody to die. We believe your Scriptures are true, and there will be a day when you will enter into history and speak against it. You will deal with all false religions by dealing with those who have been futile in their speculations to invent them. So, Father, we are grateful you have given us things which eye has not seen and which ear has not heard, things which have not entered into the hearts of men.
You have given us your Word, which alone is a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path, that we might not have to wonder which is the way to God, but that we might respond to the way which you have shown us. That we might find shelter, not in a cave that looks good to us, but in the Rock of refuge, the Rock of Ages, that cleft which alone will spare those who shelter themselves in it.
Father, we are a people who believe we have found the way, the truth, and the life. Not because we have been brilliant, not because we are wise, but because we have been recipients of grace. In your incredible kindness, you have allowed us not to laugh at judgment. You have allowed us not to scoff at sin, but we have been horrified by it.
We have felt the sting of it in our own lives, so we've looked for a Savior to deal with the temporal pain and, ultimately, the consequence which will come, which is what we deserve when we meet you. We have looked to escape that, and by grace, Father, you've allowed our eyes to see what we could not see. The scales have fallen off.
I pray we would respond to that truth we've been given, that we would be a light on a hill, that we would be salt to a tasteless world, that we would be faithful and true, that we would be correctors of the blind. We pray, Lord, we would be a guide to the foolish. We pray, Lord, we would be humble people who draw others into a living relationship with the one who alone can save us from the wrath that is to come. We thank you, Lord, you are going to judge. We thank you that one day you'll deal with sin. You'll deal with pain. You'll deal with horror. You'll deal with rebellion.
Father, we pray tonight, in your justice, remember mercy. We thank you that we have found mercy in Jesus, and we pray that no matter how vile the act, no matter how horrible the sin we see in other people, that we would call them to get on our ark, to find rest with our Noah, who is Jesus, knowing we are as vile to you as they may be to us. No, we are viler still, and you have found a way to allow us passage onboard. May we invite those other animals who need to escape the coming flood to have a ride on your yacht. I pray, Father, we'd do it with gentleness and respect. In Christ's name, amen.
From one of the least-read books of the Bible's twelve minor prophets comes a message that could not be more relevant for us today. Pronouncing "the day of the Lord", Zephaniah warns of inescapable judgments against Jerusalem because of its sins. He declares that God is gracious and compassionate, but that when all His warnings are ignored, judgment can be expected.In these four messages Todd Wagner relates the warnings and blessings of this ancient book, highlighting the unmistakable application today both for Christ-followers and those far from God. We are reminded that while those who are faithful to God may be relatively few, He is faithful to remember His own and that in His justice He is still merciful.