Outward Show or From the Heart?? – ZEPHANIAH – 3i [17 OUT OF 17]

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. – 2 Timothy 4:7                               running through tape

 

Then God, through the prophet Zephaniah, ends the Book of Zephaniah with strength and authority —

20))  On that day I will gather you together
    and bring you home again.
I will give you a good name, a name of distinction,
    among all the nations of the earth,
as I restore your fortunes before their very eyes.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!

This short, three chapter, Book of Zephaniah started out as a message of terror in chapter 1, but concludes in chapter 3 with a message of hope.

We read in this book that one man, King Josiah, attempted to reform the people of Judah/Jerusalem encouraging them, more like ordering them, to follow God.  Although the people appeared to follow God, this was just facade (a way of behaving or appearing that gives other people a false idea of your true feelings or situation), because in their hearts they were far from God.

Hopefully reading Zephaniah has got you thinking about your own relationship with God.  Is your relationship just an outward show?  Do you go to church on Sunday, and don’t think about God again until the next Sunday?  Or, when you leave church you get road rage when cars seemingly take forever to get out of the church’s parking lot?  road-rage                                                     Or do you praise God in church,   singing_in_church     but with that same voice use God’s name in vain, or speak negatively about another?  Talking-Behind

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. – James 3:9

Because we are fallen people, everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard – Romans 3:23, we all need reminders, found in the Bible, of how to live life God’s Way.  It is so easy to get caught up in the world’s expectations of us.  Have this kind of house, this kind of job, send your kids to this kind of school, and on and on and on.  But what God tells us is that what we need most is a Savior (Jesus). One who can free us from the bondage of our sins – anger, envy, greed, etc.

If you are currently living your life apart from God, or appearing outwardly to be a God-follower, but your heart is far from Him, honoring God with your lips, but your heart is far from Him – Matthew 15:8 you can choose today, right now, to exercise your free will and begin to experience restoration and healing in your life.

The message is close at hand, And that message is the very message about faith that we preach:

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.  As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”  Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him.  For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  – Romans 10:8-13

 

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Can I Find Hope, Healing, Restoration??? – ZEPHANIAH – 3h – [16]

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction and confusion, out of the muddy clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure. – Psalm 40:2

           psalms40_2               feet_on_rock_thumb

 

As we begin to wrap up the Book of Zephaniah, let’s look at a common pattern seen throughout the Bible, as well as, our own lives.

  • People follow their own way, believing they are able to navigate life on their own, without God, His principles and guidance.
  • Life becomes messy.  In relationships, at work, at school, in finances, families, morals and values are compromised, addictive behaviors surface, and destruction/unhealthy choices dominate.  We’re LOST!!  We’re not sure where to turn, or even what we’re hoping to find.  All we know for sure is that something is missing from our lives. But WHAT is it?
  • People hear about God.  In the Bible it was through prophets, and through miracles. In present day, people hear about God through preachers on the radio or TV, through various churches offering an array of worship experiences from quite/reflective to foot stomping/interactive, and everything in between.  Miracles may sadly go unnoticed. Thought of as “coincidence”, rather than “providence”.
  • People choose to make a change in their lives.  To repent, acknowledging that the path they have been on is not leading them where they hoped to go. Instead of continuing on their current path, they choose to do a 180 and follow God’s way.                                                                                        my way gods way
  • People experience restoration and healing. – It is like the restoration of this painting –   paintingrestoration                                                                                          The beauty we see in the restoration (right side of the image) was not added or changed, but was cleaned up (refreshed and restored) after years of neglect, sin (an analogy), hurt and pain experienced (an analogy) – (image on the left side).

NOTE:  Complete restoration and healing doesn’t often happen in an instant, a week, a month or even a year.  But, by making a choice today to say, YES, I want restoration and healing in my life, in my relationships, at my job, with my classmates, teachers, etc. the process can begin.  And you will be able to see God’s image restored everyday, while the distorted, marred image that was once so painful to look upon, begins to disappear.

 

 

God Pulls Us Close :) – ZEPHANIAH – 3g – [15]

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is  –  Ephesians 3:17

 

With all the love God is showering over His people, verses 15-17 ,http://wp.me/p5nZpi-4G, you might think that God has forgotten all those that have caused you pain, rejected you, hated you, etc. You might think that God is going to let them off the hook.  Let by gones be by gones.  Not so!!!  Remember, although God is a god of mercy, He is also a god of justice.  And those that have chosen to reject God, have chosen to go their own way, and have caused hurt, God promises in verse 19 that He

 19))  WILL DEAL SEVERELY WITH ALL WHO HAVE OPPRESSED YOUI will save the weak and helpless ones;  I will bring together those who were chased away. I will give glory and fame to my former exiles, wherever they have been mocked and shamed.

20)) On that day I will gather you together
    and bring you home again.
I will give you a good name, a name of distinction,
    among all the nations of the earth,
as I (will) restore your fortunes before their very eyes.

These verses, and many others found in the Bible, are there to be an encouragement and reminder of God’s immense love for His followers. That He is giving each one a GREAT BIG BEAR HUG, image

pulling us close to Him, protecting and comforting us, and NO ONE can snatch (us) away – John 10:28

The Day of Hope WILL Come!!!!! – ZEPHANIAH – 3f – [14]

Our God is a God who saves! The Sovereign LORD rescues us from death. – Psalm 68:20

What will it be like when the “day of hope” comes?

Verse 15 tells us that the Lord will remove his hand of judgment
    and will disperse the armies of your enemy.
And the Lord himself, the King of Israel,
    will live among you!
At last your troubles will be over,
    and you will never again fear disaster.

It is interesting to note that on the “day of hope”, God once again reminds and encourages His people saying, Don’t be afraid! – v.16

What will rid us of our fears?  The Lord, of course!!  Why?  Because,

17 )) For the Lord your God is living among you.  (AND)
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

This is all possible because God is love, 1 John 4:8.  Not that God loves, is willing to love, tries to love, …  No, God IS love. And every person innately seeks out love.  Not always in the most healthy ways, but nevertheless, everyone has a desire to be accepted and unconditionally loved.

Can “people” fulfill our desire to be loved the way God promises to love us?  I think we can all speak from personal experience, that the answer is a strong NO!!  So, if you want to be loved in a way that only God can love you, ask Him into your heart, your life.  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. –  Matthew 7:7-8

                      ask seek knock3                         kneeling-before-glory-1120x750

The Humble WILL be Rewarded – ZEPHANIAH – Chapter 3e [13]

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. –  Philippines 3:14

 

9))  “Then I will purify the speech of all people,
so that everyone can worship the Lord together.
10))  My scattered people who live beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
will come to present their offerings.
11))  On that day you will no longer need to be ashamed,
for you will no longer be rebels against me.
I will remove all proud and arrogant people from among you.
There will be no pride on my holy mountain.
12))  Those who are left will be the lowly and humble,
for it is they who trust in the name of the Lord.
13)) The remnant of Israel will do no wrong;
they will never tell lies or deceive one another.
They will eat and sleep in safety, and no one will make them afraid.”

 

Comparing Genesis 11:1-9, http://wp.me/p5nZpi-2W, and Zephaniah 3:9-13 we see that people were/will be coming together for a single purpose, yet their motivations are quite different. In Genesis 11:1-9, the people are coming together to make themselves famous, Genesis 11:4. Whereas, in Zephaniah 3:9-13, they will be coming together to humbly worship God.

Verses 11-13 tell us that we can look forward to the day when the humble will be rewarded. Rewarded because they lived their earthly lives trusting God, listening and following Him.  They not only listened to God’s word, but they did what it said,  James 1:22.

This is the same day, the day of hope, we pray and look forward to, when we pray, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,  Matthew 6:10.

The day of hope is a “real” day.  A day when those who have humbled themselves, yielding themselves to God vs. self-reliance and pride, will enjoy fellowship with God and God-followers.

Teamwork?? – ZEPHANIAH – Chapter 3d – [12]

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

 

In the account of the The Tower of Babel from Genesis 11:1-9, http://wp.me/p5nZpi-2d, we were left to answer 3 questions,

  • What did the people come together to build?
  • What was the reason the people wanted to build ______, and
  • What was God’s reaction/response to their plan?

Reading this passage you would have discovered that the people came together to build a great city with a tower that reaches the sky (v.4).

The reason they wanted to build the city and tower was that they believed it would make them famous and keep them from being scattered all over the world. (v.4)

Lastly, seeing what the people are doing, God’s reaction/response is, “the people are united, they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Let us go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”  (v.6-7)

God’s reaction/response may seem a bit puzzling. You might be thinking, what is the harm of people coming together, working as a team, and having a common goal?  Good question!!  Working in harmony with others would seem to be a something God would encourage, not sabotage.  So what’s going on here?

Before answering this question, let’s look next at Zephaniah 3:9-13, and see if those verses can give us additional insight.

 

What if I Mess Up? – ZEPHANIAH – Chapter 3c – [11]

I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. – Revelation 20:12

 

We learned in verses 1-8, that although we may choose a path contrary to God’s, God does not immediately wash His hands of us. He’s always providing opportunities for us to repent and restore our relationship with Him. Remember that in verses 1-8, http://wp.me/p5nZpi-1X and http://wp.me/p5nZpi-21, we saw that God allows all people, to exercise free will.  And it’s free will that often gets us into trouble, forcing us to make choices between our way/culture’s influence vs God’s way.

Be reminded from these verses that those who choose their own way will one day be punished, while those who seek to follow God’s ways will be blessed.

Before looking at Zephaniah 3:9-13, let’s take a moment to read about The Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9.  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+11%3A1-9&version=NLT.

As you read this passage see if you can determine:

  • what the people came together to build
  • the reason they wanted to build ______, and
  • God’s reaction/response to their plan

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What Do I Need to do to Get Through to My People?”, asks God – ZEPHANIAH – 3b – [10]

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. – 2 Peter 3:9

 

Continuing with verses 5-8, God-followers are reassured of His presence, while God’s frustration remains for those who choose their own way.  (My thoughts in bold.)

 

5)) But the LORD is still there in the city,           

We’re reminded again, God doesn’t leave us.  He is the rock, never moving.  We move farther and farther away from Him with the choices we make.
                                                                             
Day by day he hands down justice,                 
and he does not fail.                            

God is reprimanding and redirecting people. He is available to the remnant that calls on His name.

But the wicked know no shame.    

“It works for me”, “I’m happy” – Ohhh, really ????  How many times have we thought to ourselves, “Don’t they have any self-respect?”  “How could they react so laze-faire about _____, a moral wrong?                                                                                                                          

6)) “I have wiped out many nations, devastating their fortress walls and towers. Their streets are now deserted; their cities lie in silent ruin.
There are no survivors— none at all.

It seems like God is wondering, “What does it take to get through to these people? Their lives are a mess, relationships, families, bodies, and culture.”

7)) I thought, ‘Surely they will have                   
reverence for me now!                               
Surely they will listen to my                            
warnings.
Then I won’t need to strike again,
destroying their homes.’

“I’m sure they can make the connection that the choices they’re making, following Satan’s ways vs. my ways, have devastating results.”

But no, they get up early                                    
to continue their evil deeds. 
                                                                                 
“People just don’t seem to get “it”.  They could experience abundant life through me (God), but instead they follow Satan who comes to steal and destroy.” – John 10:10

8)) Therefore, be patient,” says the LORD.            
“Soon I will stand and accuse                          
these evil nations.                                                   
For I have decided to gather the                        
kingdoms of the earth and pour out                      
my fiercest anger and fury on them.

There will come a time when God says, “that’s enough chances.  You’ve had plenty of time to choose Me. I’ve explained to you the   consequences of your choices.” – http://nlt.to/Deuteronomy+30

All the earth will be devoured by the fire of my jealousy.                                                 

“In the last days I will judge all according to what they have done.”  – Revelation 20:12     Evil doers will be punished, and the obedient will be blessed.

Can We Continue Avoiding God’s Ways Without Consequences? – ZEPHANIAH – 3a – [9]

… as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD. – Joshua 24:15b

 

Chapter 3 begins with frustration and head shaking.  (My thoughts in bold.)

 

1))  What sorrow awaits rebellious,           
polluted Jerusalem,                                 
the city of violence and crime!  

Jerusalem may think that they can continue down a polluted, immoral, selfish path without consequences. God is clear, however, that they will not escape justice.

2))  No one can tell it anything; 
it refuses all correction. 
It does not trust in the LORD
or draw near to its God.  

Sounds like what you may hear in school, in the workplace, propagated on TV shows. Those who are wise in their own eyes – Isaiah 5:21.  They don’t know God, let alone have a relationship with Him.

3))  Its leaders are like roaring lions
hunting for their victims.                          
Its judges are like ravenous wolves
at evening time, who by dawn have
left no trace of their prey.                        
4))  Its prophets are arrogant liars
seeking their own gain. Its priests
defile the Temple by disobeying
God’s instructions.   

Verses 3-4 describes the misguided leadership of the day. Leaders are supposed to guide, direct, help navigate people to safety and growth. Yet the leaders of the day did anything but that.  Who are the leaders of our day?  Music and movie/TV personalities, the   “popular” kids at school? Who do we look up to?  Who are we looking to when as we seek to know Truth?  Are we complacent, satisfied with relative truth or do we seek and apply the absolute truth of God’s Word?

What’s a Remnant? – ZEPHANIAH – Chapter 2e – [8]

“Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”
1 Kings 19:18

Continuing in Zephaniah, Chapter 2:4-6, we’re told of God’s judgement and destruction of various cities. However, Zephaniah points out that there will be a remnant of people,
The few survivors of the tribe of Judah, a remnant, will pasture there. In the evening they will lie down in the houses of Ashkelon. The LORD their God will care for them; he will restore their prosperity, fortunes again. – Zephaniah 2:7

God goes on to say in verses 8-11, that Moab and Ammon will be judged and destroyed because they are mocking God-followers.  They will receive the wages of their pride, laughing at the people of God. – Zeph. 2:10

God said He would also judge and destroy Ethiopia and Assyria, along with it’s great capital, Nineveh. Again because of their pride. A side note — For Zephaniah to predict the destruction of Nineveh 10 years before it happened would be equivalent to predicting the destruction of Tokyo, Moscow, or New York.  Nineveh, like the our current epicenters, were the center for culture, technology, and beauty. Yet the entire city was destroyed so completely that the very existence was questioned until it was discovered, with great difficulty, by 19th-centry archaeologists. – (NLT study Bible notes)

No place, or person, is safe from the wrath of God.  But a common tread throughout the Bible is the remnant.   222024-Royalty-Free-RF-Clipart-Illustration-Of-Silhouetted-People-Dancing-Against-A-Gray-Starry-Background   A small number, by comparison, of God-followers, who remain faithful to God through the whirlwind tornado-mdof life, and in turn, God promises to remain faithful to them.

Don’t get discouraged if you look around you, and you feel like everyone is “doing there own, selfish, thing”.  Instead, trust that God will fulfill His promises. Ask Him to show you other people who desire to follow His ways. He will !!  There is always a remnant of God-followers 🙂