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From Wrath to Riches

Major Lessons from the Minor Prophets  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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One of the key doctrines as Baptists are concerned is the eternal security of the believer. This means that once we place our faith in Jesus Christi as our Lord and savior, we are secure in the knowledge that we will spend eternity in heaven. a. This is not something that should be taken for granted. The people of Israel faced an issue like this. They believed that because they were God’s chosen people, they could live how they wanted and there would be no consequences to their actions. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Salvation is not something we should take for granted, and it is definitely not just something to keep us out of hell. There is a responsibility of the children of God, as His chosen people, that we have to be good stewards of that gift of salvation. God can and will judge His people if they drift too far off from what He expects, and that is exactly what the people of Israel were facing as we look at the book of Zephaniah.
Not much is known about Zephaniah other than he was the great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah, and his name means, “The Lord Hides.” He was born around the end of the reign of King Manasseh and received his prophecy during the early years of the reign of Josiah (between 640-609 BC), and this would place him and one of the last prophets (if not THE last) to speak prior to the exile of Judah to Babylon.
Historical context:
With Zephaniah being born somewhere toward the end of Manasseh’s reign, he would have seen Judah at its worst and on its way to improving (cf. ; ). Manasseh reigned for a little over forty years and his son Amon reigned only two years. During that time, Manasseh led the nation of Judah to worshipping Baal and sacrificing children at the idols of the false gods. When Josiah took the throne, the nation was in a spiritual shambles, and in 622 BC, the high priest Hilkiah was repairing the house of the Lord and found the book of the law of Moses. When Josiah read the book, he instituted massive spiritual reforms, but that would seem to be too little too late because the nation would eventually slip back into idol worship and eventually be dispersed into Babylon for 70 years.
Zephaniah was able to watch all of this happen (from its worst to trying to return to the Lord and then falling away again), and right before the reforms of Josiah, he would be given his prophecy.
Canonical Context:
Zephaniah is said to have prophesied around the same timeframe as Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Joel, Obadiah, and Habakkuk, and his prophecy focuses on the “Day of the Lord.” This theme occurs in this book more than any other in the Bible (aside from Revelation), and it shows the twofold purpose of the “Day of the Lord”: (1) The imminent judgment of Judah by God and (2) The ultimate consummation of God’s plan (the end of days), and we see in scripture that the “Day of the Lord” focuses on God’s wrath, and we should take care to understand what God’s wrath is: God’s settled hostility toward son, His refusal to compromise with it, and His resolve to condemn it (Source: Unknown).
The book can be logically be divided into three parts:
1 - Chapter one deals with the picture of the coming judgment of Judah and paints a stark picture of what it entails. God says that He will “sweep away everything (1.2)”. In verses 4-6, God tells ho he will deal with Judah specifically because of their false idol worship, and in verses 7-18, He goes into a detailed description of the coming judgment calling it “imminent” (1.7) and hastening fast (1.14), verses 14 and 15 get to the heart of the extent of the “Day of the Lord” and describe in detail the judgment to come.
2 - Chapter 2 begins with a call to repentance for the nation of Judah. God basically says that His judgment is near and it is going to happen, but they still have time to repent (2.1). Verse 5 begins the indictments against those that are set against God and His chosen people, and describes what will happen to those that set themselves against God willingly, and in verse 9, we are introduced to a group called a “remnant” (more on this in a moment).
3 - Chapter 3 breaks down into three different movements in what some describe as “today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow.” Verses 1-6 deal with the current situation of sinfulness in Judah (and more specifically Jerusalem), verses 6-7 deal with the coming, imminent judgment facing Judah, and verses 8-20 deal with what will happen in God’s final judgment over all the nations.
Our text:
Zephaniah 3:8–20 ESV
8 “Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed. 9 “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord. 10 From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, the daughter of my dispersed ones, shall bring my offering. 11 “On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. 12 But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord, 13 those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.” 14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. 16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. 17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. 18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach. 19 Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20 At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the Lord.
The people of Judah saw themselves as “God’s chose people” and because of that they assumed no harm would come to them and they could do as they pleased. This is simply not the case. Because of their pride, they fell into false idol worship and sacrifices to non-existent gods. Today many Christians suffer from the same issue that Judah faced. Believing in once saved, always saved can bring in some complications. If we remember from a couple of weeks ago, we discussed a point in the sermon that said, “True faith requires true repentance.” Salvation is not fire insurance. Just because we can rest in the knowledge of not being condemned eternally for our sin does not mean that we can just go about a sin-centered life and still rest in the knowledge of being saved. This is simply not the case. That is arrogance before God, and God will deal with that in some fashion, so we look to our text to see how it speaks to a people that get complacent in being chosen by God.

The call to wait on the Lord (3.8-10)

Verse 8 opens with on the Lord. Last week, we talked about being surrounded by evil and injustice and we often cry out to God, “Why is this happening?” and we are told to remain faithful and God will handle those people in His time, Here we have the same thing: Wait for the Lord, except we see a picture of God’s holy wrath set against those that are set against Him, including His chosen people, and look at how He describes what is going to happen to them. He uses terms like, “pour out my indignation,” “all my burning anger,” and the “fire of my jealousy.” Again, we must remember that these emotions aren’t driven by a sinful nature, they are driven by a holy and just character that has been set at odds against evil because evil cannot exist in God’s presence.
In verse 9, there is a phrase that says, “I will change the speech of the people to a pure speech.” This does not mean that there will be a one-world language, the way it is worded in the Hebrew gives us the idea that the speech comes from the heart, so this is a change of heart that affects the speech of a person. When a person has had their mindset change, their speech changes as an outward sign of that inward change.
We also see in verse 10 the idea of the remnant again. This group that remains will be the ones that are found faithful in turning away from sin to God. This will be a relatively small number compared to the general population, but it is this remnant that God will eventually come to the defense of. The main point of this part of the passage is God, in His time and at His choosing, will testify against those that are set against Him in order to redeem those that remain faithful to His calling.

The promise of restoration (3.11-13)

Here’s the good news (there’s always good news with God’s message). God promises to restore His people to glory. Verse 11 says they will not be put to shame because of their rebellion because they have repented of their evil ways. God will deal with those that are proud and self-righteous. Eventually He will bun away all of the impurities from the hearts of the people regardless of who their are (His chosen ones), and ultimately, those that were faithful in their hearts will be left. To those of His children that are prideful now, there is a stark warning, “you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.” People may be proud of their religion now, and proud of the things they have done (or haven’t done), but there will come a day when God will remove all of that from His people, and they will have their bare bones faith (or what’s left of it.)
Verse 12 says those that are humble and holy will be left, and they will seek refuge in the name of the Lord. Ultimately, God calls His people to faithfulness, and those that rely strictly on God’s power to survive the trials of life will survive everything and come out on top:
Matthew 5:3 ESV
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Verse 13 then speaks to those that remain faithful. Those that are found to be pure in heart will have that pure speech spoken of earlier. They will do not injustice, speak no lies, deceit will not be found in their mouth, and the last part of this verse reminds us of where it says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” If we totally and faithfully rely on God, we will have nothing to fear.

The call to celebration (3.14-18)

Verses 14-18 paint such a beautiful picture of what it means to be faithful. There is a call to celebration. God delights in His people, all people, regardless of who they are or where they come from, and that is a wonderful thing to know that God delights in people like me. God delights in setting His love on us and loving us regardless of our past.
This becomes a reciprocal celebration. We celebrate because God celebrates over us. Celebration is often listed as a spiritual discipline, and we are called to rejoice in everything:
1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV
17 pray without ceasing,
1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV
18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
While all situations may not be good or opportune, we must always find a reason to celebrate and give thanks to God because that is what we are called to do, and here are just a few reasons to celebrate:
1 - If we have accepted Jesus in our lives, we can celebrate knowing that we are secure in our place in eternity with God.
2 - If we have sin in our lives, we have every opportunity to turn away from that sin and receive God’s forgiveness and not have to face judgment for that sin.
3 - Those that are against us will be dealt with by God, and He will take care of us in the process.
4 - No matter how hard life gets, God is right there with us.
We sing the song 10,000 reasons (Bless the Lord). The motivation behind that song was for the song writers to list all the reasons they had for praising God’s name, and when they determined that they had much more to be thankful for than what they realized, they decided that even 10,000 reasons were an understatement. One of the writes of the song is quoted as saying, “if you cannot find just one reason to celebrate what God has done for you, you need to check your pipeline because something is wrong.” What reason(s) do you have to celebrate this morning, and are you celebrating those reasons?

A confirmation of regathering (3.19-20)

God promises to deal with those that are set against Him, and He will eventually make His people known throughout the entire earth. Those that are faithful here and now will be exalted before everyone in the future, and that is reassuring for those that feel like they are always on the receiving end of oppression and persecution in life, and it will all happen in a very open and public manner.
So now we face the question of “what does this all mean?” It can be best summed up like this:

Because the Lord is mighty to save, we can rely on His promises and rejoice in His presence in our lives.

We sing the song, “savior, He con move the mountains, My God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save, forever author of salvation, He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave.” This is the power of God to save people from their sins. God showed His might as a human being in the form of Jesus Christ. He showed His power of sin. He showed His power of death and the grave, all because He wanted us to see that it is very much possible for us to have that very same victory if we just rely on Him and His promises of victory.
Zephaniah 3:17 ESV
17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
God rejoices over imperfect people that remain faithful to Him regardless of the external forces around us because those that remain faithful rely on His power and His power alone to get through life.
God desires that His people be taken care of, and in His sovereignty, He allows those that are set against Him some latitude here on earth, but there will come a time that those people will be dealt with (in the present world and in the world to come):
In the present world: those that stand against God, usually don’t stand very long in this world. Even though we may not see the end result, they usually fall and are humbled severely.
In the world to come: There will come a time when ALL those that remain set against God will ultimately face a judgment by God, and it is at this time that they will be humbled in front of the entire world, and those that are God’s chosen people will be exalted over them. So the question now becomes “What does that me for us now?”

Assess your present level of obedience

Do you take your salvation for granted? Complacency is just as bad as anything else. People that are comfortable in their salvation knowing that they are going to be saved from eternal condemnation and do nothing to share that with others can be pretty tough. Just because we know that we will come out on top is no excuse for not sharing our experience with the world. Salvation is not a “fire insurance.” It demands a change of heart and mindset within a person, and that change will manifest itself in actions toward others, and that is how we share our faith. It’s not empty words, it’s a joy that overflows from us to others. Life is not a walk in the park as it is, but we can rest in the knowledge that real security can be found in a life of obedience to the Lord. The greatest joy, the greatest life and above all, the greatest security can be found in obedience to God’s call.

Be awed by the magnitude of God’s delight in sinners

God’s grace is marvelous, and when we realize that, then we become awestruck by just how much God’s grace really means for us. It brings to mind a couple of hymns:
“I stand amazed in the presence”
I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned unclean. How marvelous, how wonderful! And my song shall ever be; how marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!
“Grace greater than our sin”
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt, yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, there where the blood of the lamb was spilt. Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin.
If this doesn’t make you awestruck, if it doesn’t stagger you at just how forgiving God can be, and how much he delights in you and me regardless of where we have come from or what we have done, I don’t know what will. Once we realize the magnitude of God’s grace and forgiveness we can then learn to celebrate and rejoice in the fact that God truly loves us no matter what, and that can only be found in Jesus Christ.
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