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The reasons for God's judgment are threefold: 1) to vindicate His people, 2) to humble the rebellious, and 3) to judge false gods. God's children can rejoice because God will one day remove judgment from us and reclaim us as His bride.
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'm really glad a lot of y'all are back. We have been in Zephaniah now. This is our fourth week, and it's not been an incredibly encouraging book up until this point. It's talked a lot about judgment and how it's coming, how it's falling, why it's necessary, how God will do it and he will it well, but I will tell you that Zephaniah (we'll finish the book tonight), chapter 3, verses 1-20, is worth putting up with all that judgment to hear these 20 verses.
You'll find out the purposes of judgment. There are a number of them. One of the reasons God brings judgment is to vindicate his people, those who have trusted in him, sheltered themselves in him, believe he is the Rock of Ages. Another reason God brings judgment is to humble the rebellious and those who have made themselves say, as it did there in chapter 2, verse 15, "Who says in her heart, 'I am, and there is no one besides me.'"
It's just to have a little conversation with them to let them know they are not eternal and existent in and of themselves but that they have always been dependent upon him and his common grace. Rain, water, food, air have been a provision from him, and they have been sustained only by his goodness so to humble them.
The third reason is to judge false gods, really gods that don't exist, to expose them, that anybody who trusts in any god other than him is trusting in nothingness, trusting in the figment of their imaginations, something they have created, it says in Romans 1, in the futility of their minds. God has brought about judgment to expose that these gods don't really exist, and he'll eliminate the wicked who work them to eliminate those gods which only exist if the minds of Grimm, those who write those fairy tales.
The fourth reason God will judge is to bring about righteousness. Again, if justice didn't exist, we couldn't say that God is love because, for God just to kind of continually let happen what is going on is enough of a proclaim. If you try and share your faith with very many people, it will not be long before somebody says, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. How can a good God allow such evil to happen?"
I haven't seen Con Air, the movie. I'm not sure whether I will or not. The point is, a friend told me that, at the end of that movie, there's an interesting scene that goes on. I don't think it'll ruin the movie for you, if you choose to go see it. If so, then you can just give me the $8 you would've spent.
The point is that he tells me there's a scene in this movie where there are these convicts who had hijacked this plane. One of them had gotten off and is in this room. This guy happens to be a pedophile. He's in this room with this little girl, and they don't show the incident which eventually will take place, but it makes it very clear this guy is beginning to establish a relationship of trust, as pedophiles always do, with this child and is about exploit that and about to take her down a road which she will struggle with for many years to come.
As they sit there, he says to her, "Do you want to sing a song?" The girl says, "Yeah, let's sing a song." "What song do you want to sing?" She says, "Let's sing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." Apparently, in this movie, they jump back and forth from this pedophile with this sweet, little, innocent dove singing "He's got the whole world in his hands. He's got you and me brother in his hands."
It goes from there to an airplane where there are about to be a bunch of people who are going to fall victim to the evil and the wickedness of those who have hijacked it who are on it. This plane of innocent people is going down, and this pure, innocent dove is about to be defiled and about to be taken down a dark road which will cause her much pain. Meanwhile, she sings, "He's got the whole world in his hands."
It's as if they're trying to say, "Some God this is who would let a child be molested. Some world this is that innocent people would go down over the Atlantic Ocean in a plane. What kind of God is that?" They want you to believe there is no God. They want you to believe it is, as many have said, that basically it is "the opiate for the masses," that God is something men have invented just to get them through the darkest nights, but ultimately, "Can't you see that there is no God?"
One of the reasons God will judge is to let you know that he is there. He is not silent. He will deal with evil. The whole world is in his hands, and he is infinitely more patient than me because, in my self-righteousness, in my line of thinking, I wouldn't let an innocent plane full of people go down. You might have a hard time finding an innocent planeload of people, we could say, but I wouldn't let it go down, and I certainly wouldn't let a little girl who's singing a song about the greatness of God, who does have the whole world in his hands, meet such a fool as that.
The fact is, we live in a world where sin is having its way for a season. It reigns in the hearts of people. It reigns in great ways that we are, frankly, uncomfortable with and bothered with but not in the same way a holy God is, and there will be a day when he will rise up, and he'll make things right. If God did not judge, if he did not do away with evil, you can't say, "You have a loving God."
For us to live continually with the horrors of child molesters, with the horrors of lies, with the horrors of pride, with the horrors of unfaithfulness… What kind of loving God is that? Some people bail out on God now because he hasn't judged it yet. What God says is the reason he is patient is because he longs for more to repent, to find him as the shelter from this wrath that is to come, so he sends his prophets. He sends his people. He sends his Word, and he begs people to know and to prepare themselves for the judgment that is to come.
You need to know about the thoroughness of judgment, and you need to know that God will deal ultimately with evil. I, like you, wrestle with why he hasn't done it yet, but I will tell you this. I am so grateful he didn't do it before that hot June day in 1979, when he allowed me to move from the camp of darkness and become a child of light.
Some of you are thankful he didn't do it last week because it was this last week where you have come into a relationship with him. I sat with somebody Thursday night who just had tears come out of their eyes and just said, "I am so grateful that God did not judge evil Wednesday night because now I know where the Rock of refuge is that I might find shelter from the coming wrath." God's purpose of judgment is to one day do away with evil. We must go through the night of judgment that we might see the light of hope and the light of a new creation.
What you have in the book of Zephaniah is a tale of how God is going to judge the whole earth. What he did in chapter 2, frankly, we kind of get excited about. As God's people, in a sense, we get excited when we hear, "Man, he's going to judge the hedonists, those who live for pleasure and love self. He's going to judge the humanists."
We go, "Yeah! Right on! He's going to judge those who create false gods, that say they heard from the Lord from some angel Moroni or who believe you can earn your way to salvation or worship Allah or any god we believe is not the God of the Scriptures." We kind of get excited when we hear God is going to come and make things right.
What you're about to find in chapter 3 is that he did that in a sense with the people of Israel who were in a relationship with him. Now not all of them took advantage of it, but they were in a relationship, and God in chapter 2 said, "I'm going to take care of your enemies to the west. I'm going to take care of your enemies to the north. I'm going to take care of your enemies to the east. I'm going to take care of your enemies to south." They go, "That's good."
Now in chapter 3, God comes back and says, "Haven't you clued in? I'm not playing favorites." Romans 2 says that there is no favoritism in God's eyes. He will judge all people, and it says in 1 Peter 4:17 that judgment must "…begin with the household of God…" What he's trying to do is get Israel's attention. He desires that they would repent and find deliverance before God ultimately has to deal with them.
There's a story told of a woman who heard some evangelist was preaching, and she heard he was going to preach on sin. She got kind of excited about that, being a fine legalist, so she went, and this guy stood up there and said, "I want to tell you something. Alcohol is an evil thing. You shouldn't drink it. Strong drink is wrong, and those who are drunk will find the condemnation of God on their hands." She went, "Amen, brother. Preach it."
He moved from alcohol over to tobacco, and he said, "Oh, the wiles of tobacco, the wicked people who smoke it who defile the temple of the Lord, who cause me to breathe that evil smoke, who will bring me to an early death… Tobacco is a sin. To be anything around it is a sin." The woman sat there and said, "Oh, preach it, brother. Preach it."
Then he said, "Another thing I want to address tonight is gossip, those who sit out there in their self-righteousness and talk about the struggles of others and talk about the things they have done and try and make themselves look good because they speak of others." That woman sat there, and she turned to her friend and said, "He ain't preaching now. He's meddling."
A lot of us feel like that. We think it's great that God is going to judge sin, and we never think of it as our sin. I mentioned last week that we sit there, and we go, "Oh man, homosexuality!" If that's not a sin you struggle with, you go, "Oh yeah, God surely is going to come and deal with the homosexual."
Well, I'll tell you. I believe he will, but he's also going to deal with the heterosexual who doesn't bring himself into a relationship with the Lord where he confesses that his heterosexual lust is every bit as appalling to God as their homosexual lust, and just because our culture finds it more acceptable, it doesn't mean God does.
Even if you want to leave around the whole sexual preference thing so we don't make such a big deal out of the way we slander one another in here or that we have gained prideful attitudes in our hearts… When you really see that God is going to deal with sin the way he defines sin, you go, "He ain't preaching now. He's meddling."
A lot of folks just do away with the Bible. Some guy said this, "Either this book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book." There are a lot of people who realize God is going to call them to a standard that, frankly, they don't want to be familiar with, so they just shun the book. They scoff at the book. They make light of the book.
I had a guy ask me this the other day. He said, "How come so many smart people don't believe the Bible is God's Word?" I said, "For the same reason a lot of dumb people don't. They don't want to." This book wants you to come and look at it and check it out and go back and look at the roots of this faith and see if it is indeed an inspired Word. If it is the Word of God, then no amount of scrutiny can affect it.
Check out God's Word before you write it off, before you say in your heart, "I don't have to listen to it. It's just the works of men." Is it? Do you know that's the case? Is there a reason to believe it's not? I will tell you, there is. In chapter 3, God goes from preaching to meddling, and he leaves these worlds around God's people, and he comes right back at them. Let's read verses 1 through 7 together. It says:
"Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the tyrannical city! She heeded no voice, she accepted no instruction. She did not trust in the Lord, she did not draw near to her God. Her princes within her are roaring lions, her judges are wolves at evening; they leave nothing for the morning. Her prophets are reckless, treacherous men; her priests have profaned the sanctuary. They have done violence to the law.
The Lord is righteous within her; He will do no injustice. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He does not fail. But the unjust knows no shame. I have cut off nations; their corner towers are in ruins. I have made their streets desolate, with no one passing by; their cities are laid waste, without a man, without an inhabitant. I said, 'Surely you will revere Me, accept instruction.' So her dwelling will not be cut off according to all that I have appointed concerning her. But they were eager to corrupt all their deeds."
What God does is, one last time, he comes back at Jerusalem, and he's going to say, "You have not heeded my way, and judgment is coming upon you." Now honestly, some of us have an easier time with judgment coming upon the nation of Jerusalem or God's people or even those of you who sit here tonight who hear about the fact that there's a loving God who exists who will one day judge evil, that he has provided a way of salvation in the person of Jesus Christ who alone is the way, the truth, and the life because you have a chance to reject that salvation.
For these other nations, this Aborigine in the deserts of Australia or the African who has never seen a Bible or heard of a Lord, we go, "How can God judge them?" What's interesting is, in chapter 2, a little bit of that answer is given to you. It's that none of these nations were judged… The Philistines, the Syrians, the Moabites, the Amenities, the Ethiopians were not judged because they rebelled against God directly because they shunned the words of his prophets.
No, if you go back to Amos, which is really a parallel to the book of Zephaniah, you will see that all these nations are judged for different reasons than Jerusalem is judged. They're judged, not because they rejected God's law, which they hadn't been given. God will judge them, he says, because they have violated the moral code, the standard of human rightness which is imprinted upon every soul, and they have violated their own standard which is within them.
They are guilty of cruelty to fellow humans, some who they should be in relationship with, some who they should have trust with, and others who are just simply weak that they exploit themselves over. Romans 2 makes this clear. Let me tell you this. Judgment will not come upon those who have never heard of Jesus Christ because they rejected a Jesus Christ of whom they have never heard. Judgment will come upon them because they've rejected and they've violated the conscience God has put in every man that tells them that there is a right and a wrong.
It's interesting. Is it not? No matter what country you're from or where you're from, the whole world agrees that men and women, even during times of war, are accountable for their actions. See, we can't agree of very many things, but you will always find some supreme international body that will come together and will convict individuals of going beyond what is right, even in times of war. There are human rights violations and war crimes which are just, frankly, we all say, unacceptable.
Now where do we get that common moral standard? C.S. Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity, argues from that for the existence of God. Romans 2 supports that argument, and that's what it says. Now there are those who are out there who have not heard of Jesus Christ. There are some who have heard that there is a loving God who exists who has sent his Son to die for you sins, and if you reject him, far more is the judgment which will fall upon you.
In chapter 2, it said, "Moab and Ammon, you will die, and you will be judged even as Sodom and Gomorrah." In Matthew 11, Jesus spoke to some people who saw him, heard of him, watched what he had done and said, "I'll tell you this. If Sodom and Gomorrah would've seen what you've seen and heard what you've heard, they would've repented, so it will be worse for you in the day of judgment then it was for them."
You need to know this. There is some sense of proportional judgment. I don't think it's going to be, if you will, hotter in their hell or our hell if we reject Jesus Christ, but I'll tell you what will happen. There are going to be some folks who probably will sit next to some of you in an eternity of darkness and separation from Christ, where you're going to sit there and maybe have a conversation with them, where they will hear that you heard what you're hearing tonight and you rejected it.
Yes, maybe they rejected the conscience which God put within them. Maybe they rejected the revelation of God in nature, but you rejected not only those two things, but beyond that, you rejected a plea from his Word from his prophets, which still speaks, to shelter yourself from the wrath which is to come. It's one thing to flunk a test because you never heard the lecture. It's another thing to have slept through the lecture and get kicked out of school.
What you're about to find out is that God is fed up with Jerusalem because they, of all people, should've been in a right relationship with him, but verse 1 says this, "You, instead of being a separate people, have done what I told you not to do, which is to adorn yourselves in foreign garments." Do you remember chapter 1, verse 8?
"You looked like everybody else. You didn't want to separate yourselves. You didn't want to be a holy people set apart for me who would make a difference. No, you have been just like everybody else. You have been rebellious from my prophets, from my Word, and from my Spirit, and you have been defiled. You've been a tyrannical city.
You've exploited the weak, and you knew, beyond what was imprinted in your hearts, you rejected what was written in my Word and have not listened to me, and you have not heard me say this is pure and undefiled religion, to love the widow and the orphan. You have not heard me talk about how to treat the poor among you, or you have heard, but you haven't heard with ears that can hear," so God comes at them very directly.
I want to tell you. On this Father's Day, one of the things I pray for, specifically for my two little girls all the time is this. I pray they would not surround themselves with nations that reject the testimony of God within them and, in our culture, that reject the testimony of God which will be put before them.
I pray that my little girls specifically will have godly friends who hate darkness, who hate evil deeds, who love the Lord. If they don't, if they surround themselves with people who will influence them away from God, away from righteousness, away from truth, they're going to find themselves suffering the consequences of running in that particular crowd. It says in Proverbs 13:20:
"He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." What God is saying to Jerusalem is, "You have been a bunch of companions of fools. You have not listened to the prophets. You have not walked with wise men, so you've not become wise, but you've been the companion of foolish nations. You've been like the Philistines. You've been like the Ninevites who erected altars to gods which were no gods at all."
I pray for my little girls that they would have godly friends who would love kindness, practice justice, and walk humbly with the Lord. I pray that they have friends who pierce their hearts with God's Word, so they won't pierce their belly buttons, and I pray that God tattoos his Word on the brains of their friends, so they won't get tattoos all over their bodies. I pray that they love country music and not rap and hard rock.
Now I know some of you are saying, "I can't believe you're praying that your little girls' friends will love country music," but you get my point. By the way, you do know what happens when you play country music backwards, right? They did that in a study this week, and when you play country music backwards, they found out that you get your wife back, your dog back, and your job back.
I'm pray for my little girls because, what Jerusalem did, is they did not have godly friends. They did not walk with the wise. By the way, this is why 1 Corinthians 15:33 speaks right to you. Who are your friends? What do you surround yourself with? Do you surround yourself with people who influence you toward righteousness?
Do you surround yourself with guys who are going, "Hey man, check her out," or "Hey, let's go to The Men's Club and have a business meeting," or "Hey, you know what? He's cute. Just go out with him. I'm sure he's nice. Do you have friends who are encouraging you toward righteousness? It says in 1 Corinthians 15:33: "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'"
Jerusalem in Zephaniah, chapter 3, verses 1 through 8, fleshes that out. My dad used to say it this way, "You sleep with the dogs, you wake up with fleas." You have to make sure you separate yourself, not this way but this way. You walk as a people who are holy, and you surround yourself with friends who will exhort you toward righteousness.
That is why, first, you pray for your friends, that they would be godly; secondly, you surround yourself with wise friends, that you yourself might be wise; and thirdly, you don't forsake your own assembling together as is the habit of some. One of the reasons we come together is to be transformed. How do you get transformed?
Romans 12:2 says it this way: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." We get together to go, "This is the standard. This is right." All week long we're getting bombarded from our culture, from billboards, from television, from friends, from work of a different standard of righteousness, and we need to get back together and go, "This is what's right. This is what's true."
We need to pull ourselves together at different times and encourage each other this way. Hebrews says you do it, "…day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today'…" Do you have friends who, day after day, are encouraging you that way? I'll tell you, the greatest gift in my life is godly friends who encourage me toward righteousness, and that is why I pray my girls will have that, and that is why I seek to be their best friend because love is a given.
As Tiger Woods says in his commercial today, "I will have to earn trust and respect from my kids." I seek to be that man my little girls will trust and respect, that they will look to me as a friend, that they will see me as somebody they can go to, to speak with to figure out the difficult things in life. Who surrounds you, and who are you surrounding that they might turn to you that you can spur them to love and good deeds?
Man, I know some of the work environments some of you folks in here work in. It isn't easy. In the midst of those work environments, you have to make sure you get yourself some solid brothers who will exhort you toward righteousness, lest you incur the judgment of those who walk with fools. This is a rebellious city. It's a tyrannical city.
Verse 2 says: "She heeded no voice…" They obeyed no one. They ignored the prophets. "…she accepted no instruction." I'll tell you what's amazing about Jerusalem as you look at it. There was a time when God brought 185,000 Assyrians right to their doorstep, and they were about to come in and wipe them out just like they did their rebellious brothers to the north. God in his grace delivered them from those Assyrians because their righteous king, Hezekiah, threw himself before the Lord and said, "God, deliver us from this wrath which is sure to come."
God let them off the hook. He shook the fish. The big fish was about to swallow them away one more time, but they didn't heed that instruction. They just kind of went, "Well, that's good luck. Ain't it?" Off they went one more time. They were corrected by no one. Of course, in verse 2, it says this. "She did not trust in the Lord…" No, they trusted in themselves, in their idols, and in their allies. "…she did not draw near to her God."
See, it's one thing to get blown up in an air raid. It's another thing to know an air raid is coming, to know who it's coming from, and to have the key to the bomb shelter and not go down and put yourself in it. God says, "You trusted no one, and you don't draw near to me. I am the Rock of Ages. I am a Rock of refuge to which you may continually come."
Israel had the key. They had the map. They knew where it was. What kind of sympathy do you think they would find in that infirmary when that person would turn to them and say, "Hey, you knew this air raid was coming, and you had a bomb shelter, and you didn't go to it? Don't complain about your shrapnel to me"? Look what it says there in verse 3 very quickly.
"Her princes within her are roaring lions…" They're hungry. They're searching. They're intimidating. They're not shepherds. They're lions. The leaders of the people were to be shepherds, and they weren't. "…her judges are wolves at evening; they leave nothing for the morning." Instead of protecting the people, which is what judges should do, they are themselves exploiting the people. That's not good.
Verse 4: "Her prophets are reckless, treacherous men…" They make levity, if you will, of serious things. They don't treat God's Word as holy and as right and true. Do you see that in our culture today? Men kind of make light of God's Word. We don't really have a prophet who speaks with honor. They're reckless, and they're treacherous. They're unfaithful. "…her priests have profaned the sanctuary." Do you see that? Do you see men in the role of pastor to our culture who have profaned this profession?
It used to be that men who, by the grace of God, were allowed to do what Kurt and I do were the most respected people in society. I'll tell you what. It is not a surprise to me that we are not anymore when you have the likes of different men beamed out over all the airwaves who are exploiting the people, manipulating the people, and making a mockery of God and his goodness.
I don't blame you for not respecting guys who have the name of Pastor like I have, I guess, in this job, but I hope you respect me, Kurt, Dr. Clark, and others at this church and others at good churches around here who have hopefully walked humbly as God would have his priests walk, who don't profane the sanctuary. There are many of these guys today who make a joke of this profession. It's just another place to get rich, to get famous, to get strokes. He says, "I have a problem with your prophets, with your politicians, your priests, and your princes."
Verse 5: "The Lord is righteous within her…" Though I'm not like you. "…He will do no injustice. Every morning He brings His justice to light…" Every day through his Word, through his servants, through judgments that happen everywhere, through death, God is faithful in reminding you, "Hey, this trouble is coming." It says, "But the unjust knows no shame." Proverbs 29:1 says, "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy."
There are individuals in this room who, again and again, have been delivered from 185,000 Assyrians right at your doorstep. God shakes them away by his grace, and you heed no instruction. You have no shame. I'll tell you, one of the greatest comforts I have that I'm a believer is right here. When I sin (and I do), I hate it. I will tell you, if when you sin, you love it and you wallow in it and it just doesn't bother you, that is the surest reason you can know you're not a child of God.
Pigs love the pigpen. Sons of God do not love the pigpen. We go there sometimes, but we don't love the mud. The Prodigal Son did not love the pigpen. He was never at peace there. He could never get happy. He could never be content. Pigs love the pigpen. He said, "I must go home to my father." That is the attitude of every one of us who finds ourselves every now and then wallowing in the mud. We do it in relationships. We do it individually in our relationship with the Lord. We do it with others.
Again and again, we find ourselves at different times there, but the greatest assurance you can have that you're not a son of God is to find yourself in that pigpen and go, "I kind of like this. This is kind of fun. This is really where I belong. I'm a pig." Now you may wish you weren't, but you find yourself satisfied there.
You might go, "You know what? It'd be great to be a man and eat the corn on the cob before they throw me the rind, but I'm a pig, and this ain't bad." One of the greatest assurances I have that God has changed me is that I hate it when I sin. I hate it a lot. These people knew no shame. Look what he says in verse 6. "I have cut off nations…" All around them. "Look, I cut off the Philistines. I cut off the Moabites. I cut off to the north the Assyrians, and I cut off to the south the Ethiopians. Have you wondered what I'm doing when I do that?"
He says, "…their corner towers are in ruins. I have made their streets desolate, with no one passing by; their cities are laid waste, without a man, without an inhabitant.""Why did I do this?" "I said, 'Surely you will revere Me, accept instruction.'""You will wake up and smell the coffee. Judgment is coming. I have done it."
"So her dwelling will not be cut off…""I want to do a good work with you, Christian, or in this sense with Israel." "According to all that I have appointed concerning her. But [instead of learning from it you] were eager to corrupt all[your] deeds." In the King James, it says, "… [you] rose early [to sin] …" God says, "I'm through."
Verse 8 is probably the most overwhelming verse of condemnation in the Bible. In fact, it's the only verse in your Old Testament where every Hebrew letter is used. God says, "I have to use every symbol to communicate to you that trouble is coming." I think this is a big representation of a great day of judgment. I think this is Armageddon. He says in verse 8: "'Therefore wait for Me,' declares the Lord, 'For the day when I rise up [to the prey] …"
Do y'all watch nature shows on TV? I love it when that little lion is sitting there. He's quiet. He has a bunch of grass around him. He's sitting there, and this big old wildebeest is just kind of walking up, getting ready to have some water, and you can't see that lion. You can't see that alligator. It's still. It looks like a log. It looks like a bush. In fact, at first, if you're not as dumb as a wildebeest; which happened to be, I think, food for everything in Africa; if you're a gazelle…
You know the gazelle gets out there, and it's kind of nervous and jittery. In its heart, it knows that judgment will one day come if it's not careful, but then, eventually, they get kind of comfortable, and they don't watch carefully in the weeds. What God says is, "You wait. Wait, therefore, for me, and I will rise up to the prey." There's going to be a day when…boom…he comes up out of that swamp or he comes out of those bushes, and he seizes his prey. He says:
"Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them My indignation, all My burning anger; for all the earth will be devoured by the fire of My zeal." You can look at my burning anger, my devouring, my zeal, my indignation, my decision to gather for judgment. God uses every letter in the language to tell you, "This is a bad day."
I think, ultimately, there was a near view of this when God brought about Babylon to wipe out Jerusalem. I believe there was a far view in mind which we call the battle of Armageddon, when literally all the nations of the world will gather against Israel, which as of that time will not be a believing nation, which is interesting… Let me show you something again. Look at chapter 3. Look at the second part of verse 2, where it says, "She did not trust in the Lord…" Did you know that, 20 years after Israel was founded in 1948, it was regathered as a people?
They came out with a national decree. Do you know what their national decree was in 1968? Science will bring peace to this land. Is that not amazing? What they're saying is, "We trust in science. We trust in the minds of our men to defend us. We trust in the growth of technology, which will deliver us from all trouble that is to come."
It's interesting that there has been war after war after war. Science has, indeed, not delivered them from trouble because they are trusting in the wrong thing. It's interesting that Jacob, which is the original name of the man whose name God changed to Israel, means he grabs at the heel or he deceives. In other words, Jacob thought he was going to be great because he himself could connive his way into greatness in God's eyes or in the eyes of his father who would give him the blessing.
God wrestled with him one night, and God took him and said, "I'm going to change your name from Jacob. I'm going to make you walk with a limp so that, every step of the way, you'll remember you're not as strong as you think you are, that every physical step is a reminder of your need for me. I'm going to change your name from Jacob, the deceiving one, to Israel, which literally means God strives for or God strives with. That's your hope, Jacob, that God strives with you."
That's our hope, not that science will teach us something, not that we'll become a people who are more moral. No, it's that God will do a work in our hearts. There's going to be a day when God will take Israel, which again is trusting in self and allies and idols, whether it be the mind or something else, and he will gather all the world's armies against them, and Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, and other places tell us that what God will do during that time is he himself will deliver Israel from that gathering of armies who come against God's people.
Even though Israel isn't a holy people, even though they're not trusting in him, God will deliver them by his grace because he intends to be kind toward them, and then there will be a group of people who will be preserved, who will be God's remnant that he will use to set up his millennial kingdom with, his righteous rule will with.
I believe that we'll return to reign with them during that time. Catch this. He says, "There is going to be awful judgment which will come upon a number of you," and right there in verse 8 it is. In verse 9, comes this. It says, "There's something new that's about to break forth." In fact, taking this whole idea of judgment, if I told you this story…
If I said, "This week, there was a guy who ran into a room. There was a little girl who was whimpering in the arms of her mother, and this man raced in without asking the girl, pushed the mother aside, grabbed this little girl out of the comfort of her mom's arms, ran out of that room and out of the house, threw her into a car, raced her someplace, took her into another room where there was a man. It was cold in this room. There was no one there she knew, and he threw this little girl down, and that other man came and stuck a knife in her abdomen."
That's a true story. Awful. Isn't it? It's awful if you don't know the perspective of the man who did that. The man, indeed, was not a wicked man. It was her father who ran in hearing the cries of the girl. He grabbed this little girl, took her and put her in the car, and raced her to the hospital, where he put her in the operating room, a cold room where she knew nobody, where this man she did not know stuck a knife inside her and did a work to take care of the appendicitis which would have taken her life had her father not done that.
It was a drastic and awful thing to do, but the father knew that, eventually, life would come from it. That's judgment. See, God has done this awful thing, and he will do this awful thing to this earth because one of the things he'll use this awful knife to do is to bring people to him. There will be a people who will learn righteousness from judgment. The question is…Will you and I learn righteousness from judgment? Will we learn that sin is an awful thing that God himself had to die for and turn to him because of the judgment which is coming?
Look at verse 9 now. Here's the good news. Because of that judgment that has come, God is going to start to turn the table. "For then…" After my judgment. "…I will give to the peoples purified lips…" Now some people think that means all people are going to begin to speak the same language. Some think it's Hebrew. Some think it's a new heavenly language. Indeed, what he's really saying there is not that there's going to be a universal language but that God is going to give people pure lips.
Now how do you get pure lips? God says, "It's not the lips which defile a man. It's the heart." God says, "I'm going to do a work in people, and I'm going to create a remnant, and I'm going to transform many people's hearts." Check out why judgment will come. When this happens, there are going to be a number of people who go, "Surely, God reigns in the universe, and surely, he alone is good."
They will call out to him for protection, and God will transform their hearts which will be evidenced on their lips. "That all of them…" Because they have pure hearts. "…may call on the name of the Lord…" The remnant will learn, if you will, righteousness through judgment. They will worship him in faith. Then verse 9 ends with, "…to serve Him shoulder to shoulder." They will serve him, which is what true people of faith always do.
God is going to do a work through judgment one day in history just like he has done with us. He has exposed us of the coming wrath upon sin, and you have said, "I don't want that wrath, and I want to find righteousness. I want to find deliverance from that sin," so you've cried out to God. By faith, you have done what verse 9 says.
You called in the name of the Lord, and then because you have found in that name of the Lord a strong shelter, you then have said, "Let me serve now shoulder to shoulder with other people who have called in the name of that Lord who also have purified lips because they have purified hearts." That is what Ephesians says. "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification [of those who hear it] according to the need of the moment…" You are a people who have a heart that has been changed.
God wants our lips to be different. We should speak differently. Our speech, it says, should be "…seasoned with salt…" as it were, because God has done a work in our lives and, from our lips, ought to be words of life and not words of death like "…the thrusts of a sword…" Proverbs says. Is the way we talk significantly different? Does the world know God has done this work in us? There'll be a day when he'll do it with a remnant. Look what he says in verse 10.
"From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, My dispersed ones, will bring My offerings." There will be a day when God will bring about many people to know him. Not just Jews but people from all over the world will come, and they will offer to the Lord this same thing, pure lips because they have a pure heart. They will worship him in faith and serve him to accomplish his eternal purposes as recorded in this book.
Verse 11: "In that day you will feel no shame because of all your deeds by which you have rebelled against Me; for then I will remove from your midst your proud, exulting ones, and you will never again be haughty on My holy mountain." Now look at this. What he says is there's going to be a day when you will feel no shame. Think about that. That's going to happen specifically to those in Israel who believe at that time, but it's also going to happen to us.
Why do people feel shame today? They feel ashamed for two reasons. First is because they themselves continue to struggle with sin. Before we came out here tonight, we were back there praying for this evening, and a number of us just said, "God, I just don't feel so right with you. I feel like I've made some decisions, I've talked to this person today, I've had this attitude, and here I am supposed to go out and lead worship or pray with you or teach your people."
There's going to be a day when God will remove shame from us. Shame comes because we struggle yet with a wicked heart. Shame also comes because there are people in your midst who don't represent you the way you want to be represented in the human race. God says, "I'm going to remove the shameful ones from you, and I'm going to remove your wicked, struggling heart. I'm going to remove your flesh from you, and I will make you like me."
God will bring about to completion this good work he began in you. Let me just show you something. The very first words Jesus Christ spoke when he came on this earth that are recorded in Matthew are this. "Blessed are the…what?" "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Then he says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." He comes back and says, "Blessed are the gentle [the meek], for they shall inherit the earth."
Look what God says he's going to do. Let's see if we can find, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Look what it says, "…ones, will bring My offerings." What is the offering of God? God says, "I don't desire your sacrifices." The sacrifices of God are…what? A broken and a contrite heart.
God says, "There's going to be a day when I bless certain individuals. It's those who bring forth my offerings. What's my offering? It is a broken and contrite heart. It is a heart that says, 'I have nothing that I can offer you, O King. I am poor in spirit and corrupt, and apart from your graciousness toward me, there's no way I could ever find myself pleasurable in your sight, but I do. I come to you broken and poor in spirit.'" He says, "Yours is the kingdom of heaven."
Look what else he says. The next thing I said is, "Blessed are those who…what?" Mourn. Look at verse 11. "In that day you will feel no shame…" "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." What's the next thing? "Blessed are the gentle [the humble] …" Why? "…for they shall inherit the earth." Look what he says in verse 11. "…I will remove from your midst your proud, exulting ones, and you will never again be haughty on My holy mountain.""I will give you the land."
It's the meek who will inherit the earth. All Jesus was saying in Matthew, chapter 5, is Zephaniah, chapter 3, verses 10-11. Then what comes after, "Blessed are those who are meek"? "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Well, look at verse 12.
"But I will leave among you a humble and lowly people, and they will take refuge in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths; for they will feed and lie down with no one to make them tremble." If you hunger after what is right, what is true with a freedom from sin, you will be satisfied.
How do you get to be that? You are a person who is poor in spirit, and you say, "God, I can't ever do anything that would make me pleasing in your eyes, so I come, and I cry for your grace," and he says, "You will receive the kingdom." Then you say, "But Lord, I am so discouraged and disturbed that I continue to wrestle with sin. Even though you've done a good work in me, I still struggle with my flesh."
He says, "Don't worry. I'll comfort you. I will deal one day with the flesh which continues to try and pull you toward sin. There will be a day when you'll feel no shame, you'll feel no pull toward evil, and there will be no evil around you. You shall be comforted. Then you're gentle in me because you know the reason you've been put in a place of righteousness and protection and provision is because God himself has put you there; you, even though you're strong."
It's the idea of that word. It's a wild stallion that has been brought under control that is now rideable, that the reins can be put on him and controlled by a master horseman. You are humble, and you are meek. You are strong in how God created you, but you are completely his. You're going to get the earth, and if you want righteousness around you so you don't have to struggle with sin anymore, you're going to be satisfied.
Now verse 14 through the end is why we taught Zephaniah. This is a great way to close. "Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!" Now what did I say at the beginning of the service? Psalm 1 says, "Blessed is the man who doesn't walk with fools." Psalm 1 says, "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!"
How blessed is the man who doesn't act like the Philistine, like the Moabite, like the Assyrian, like the Ethiopian; who doesn't even act like the Jew who's in a righteous city but doesn't fulfill the commandments God has offered them. How blessed is the attender, not of a church but the person who responds to the Spirit of God? How blessed is that man?
What should he do? Psalm 150 says how blessed should praise the Lord. If you are here and you have responded to God's Word, these are some verses that you can share. "Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!" Oh, daughter of the king's city is what it means. "Shout in triumph, O Israel!" Those who God strives for. "Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!" Why? Here's the reason.
Verse 15: "The Lord has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you will fear disaster no more." Have you ever heard him say this: "Go and tell people what I've told you. Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age"? That's God saying that. Should that cause you to sing? It sure ought to. Celebrate, for the Lord is good.
Look at verse 16. "In that day it will be said to Jerusalem: 'Do not be afraid, O Zion; do not let your hands fall limp.'" Don't become movable. Remain steadfast. Verse 17 says, "The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy." You're going to hear a song in just a minute that you love to sing. It goes like this:
When the is falling
And the day is done
I can hear you calling, 'Come'
I will come, while you sing over me
Do you know where Dennis Jernigan got that idea for that song? Zephaniah, chapter 3, verse 17. There's going to be a day, when Jesus Christ, the bridegroom will look at his bride, and he will bring her. I married Jim Dries and Ginger Crossley yesterday downtown at Hotel St. Germain. We had an outdoor wedding. Everybody about melted, but we were sitting out there, and there was that tension when all the bridesmaids had already come up and taking their places.
I looked at Jim, and he was anxious. He was kind of peering around the ivy looking for Ginger as she made that turn. I looked at him, and I said, "Jim, right now the anticipation with which you wait to see Ginger make that turn… You need to know this. It's when Jesus stands in anticipation of that day when, in all the wisdom of the Father, they say, 'Go. Go get your bride.' He longs for that day, Jim. He looks for you. He anticipates you."
I said, "Now wait," and Ginger came around that corner, and right away, you could just see Jim just get a big smile on his face. The mother of the bride looked at him and said, "Aren't you lucky? Isn't she beautiful?" She was. Watch what happens. This is a beautiful verse. Verse 17 says this.
"The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior." You aren't marrying a chump! "He will exult over you with joy…" At the wedding reception, man, Jim Dries was walking around there proposing toasts, telling everybody, "Look who I married." and that he's happy. You know, at most wedding receptions, you have them dedicating songs, and the bride and the groom dance. That's what Jesus is going to do with you.
Then what happens after the reception, after the celebration, after the toasts? You get to take your bride, and you get to go. You get to share a bed with her, and she falls asleep in your arms, and you sit there, and you go, "Never again will I have go through the hell that is the dating life of Dallas, Texas. Never again. Never again will I pick up the phone and practice dial and go, 'Hello. Is Ginger there?' Never again will I wonder if I'm going to be single the rest of life and lonely, but I have her right in my arms."
You're going to sit there with that beautiful girl asleep on your chest, and you're just going to be quiet and so content because you have the love of your life. Do you know what Zephaniah 3:17 is saying? That is what Jesus is going to do with you. He is going to throw a party, and he's going to say, "Look at my bride. I'm going to get her." He's going to sing, and he's going to get her.
He's going to put you in his arms, and he's going to just be quiet in his love. Then after a night, he's going to wake up, and he's going to sing again over you. That's amazing. That's good news. Have no mistake in your mind about why this is going to happen. In verses 8-20, no less than seven times, you're going to find these words: I will.
"I will gather those who grieve…" Verse 19: "…I am going to deal at that time…I will save the lame…I will turn their shame into praise and renown…" Verse 20: "…I will bring you in…I will give you renown…I restore your fortunes…" Christian, there is no room for pride in our lives because this good work which God has done is not according to deeds which we have done in righteousness. We are not a beautiful bride.
I say it at every wedding that I do. If Ginger would've overslept, if she wouldn't have gotten her bridal gown on, if she wouldn't have had people to do her hair, if she wouldn't have had three wedding consultants telling her how to look and where to stand, if she'd have run around that corner after just being hit by a taxi and crawled up the aisle, Jim would've said, "I'm glad you're here, and I accept you, and I love you, not because you spent all day in a $50,000 dress and getting ready but because I offered to love you and by faith you accepted my offer."
That's what we do. We don't find ourselves to be so arrogant as to believe that Jesus picks us because we're the best-looking people. He's never chosen anybody for that reason. He chose them according to the kind intention of his will. It was that way with Abraham. It's that way with you. What we are is we're that ugly sheep, that ugly duckling that the captain of the football team has decided to take to prom for one reason.
He wasn't just a stud on the gridiron, but he was a man beyond anything we can imagine who would look to the hurting, the lonely, the lame, and the outcast and say, "How can I use what is great in me to instill confidence, love, peace, security, hope, and significance in another," and he chose the ugliest girl in school who couldn't believe it was him on the other end of the phone and called him back and said, "Is it really you?"
"Yes. It is."
"And you want to go with me? I don't know why you would. I think it's a cruel joke."
"I'll accept your offer, and by faith, I'll be ready."
When he comes, he's not going to sneak you into the back of the dance. This is not a mercy trip. He's going to exalt you. He's going to walk you up on stage and say, "This is the queen of the prom. I'm the King, and I love her, and I want to dedicate a song to her. I want to sing over her. I want to hold her in my arms and be so content that this is my loved one." That's you. That's me.
If you are poor in spirit and you bring the sacrifices of those who are poor in spirit, a broken and contrite heart; if you mourn because of the shame of your struggle with sin, you'll be comforted. If you're humble and ask God to be your King, you will inherit his kingdom. If you hunger and thirst after righteousness, he'll put you there, and he'll sing over you in the process. Amen? Let's pray.
Father, we endured a lot of judgment so we could hear some sweet singing. One of the things we realize is that, as we see judgment fall on those who have invented gods in their minds, when we see judgment fall on those who are wicked in ways that are overt that we can see, we take a good look in the mirror, and we say, "You know what? Lord, judgment should've fallen on us. We're uglier in ways than we ever could've imagined."
Because of your grace, you allowed us to take a good look in the mirror and realize we should never have a date as holy and as wonderful and a beautiful as you and, because we buried our faces in our hands in tears, we felt your tender fingers move up under our chins. You pulled our heads up, and you had us look into your eyes, and you told us you loved us. You asked us just to accept this relationship with a broken and contrite heart that knows it doesn't deserve such a loved one as you. O God, we found that easy.
In fact, it's been so wonderful, we find it hard to believe it's true at all, yet that's where faith comes in because we've seen your love toward us and we've felt it, because you've buried your Spirit in other people who have now shoulder to shoulder come around us and valued us and loved us in a way that is not selfish, and we've seen a taste of your love. We've been drawn to you through the fellowship of other believers, through the worship of those who know you, who sing back to you because you're going to sing over them.
Tonight, we find ourselves again unbelievably in your hands. As David said, "You're a shield around me. You're my glory. You're the lifter of my head." Father, when you lift our heads and you see the leprosy which covers our skin, you see the acne which makes us disgusting in our sight, you touch us, and you make us beautiful.
You take us to the dance, and you throw a party in our honor, and at night, when everyone leaves, you draw us near. In eternity, you will put us on your bosom, and you will be quiet, satisfied in your love for us. Then you'll allow us to sing to you, and you'll sing over us, and we'll share a glory in heaven.
We don't know why you love us, but Father, we believe by faith that you do, and we thank you that, in your judgment, you've remembered mercy and you've remembered us, and according to the kind intention of your will, when the night was falling, when the day of judgment had come, you called out to us specifically, "Come," and we came, and you sang over us.
Father, may you use us then as people who will work shoulder to shoulder to labor to bring others into this prom, where they can have you as their date with us and we can share in glory through all eternity a dance with the King. We praise your great kindness, and we sit now and are encouraged by your love for us.
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.