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He Will Comfort You with His Love

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Dearly loved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

Recognizing the consequences of your actions can be a terrifying thing.  I’ll say that again: Recognizing the consequences of your actions can be a terrifying thing. 

You can see that terror in the eyes of the suspect on the TV show COPS: at first she got pulled over for a minor traffic offense.  As the officer investigated, he found little sachets of cocaine, crystal meth, and some joints of marijuana. 

All at once the driver of the car realized the game is up. Her face crumpled. She’s been caught.  She is facing a trial and jail time.  She’s terrified.  You can see it in her eyes.

Or the teenage boy, sitting beside his girlfriend.  He’s staring in disbelief and dread at the little plastic wand she has in her hands.  It’s a pregnancy test.  It’s a positive pregnancy test.  The result of their “fooling around” sends a shock through his whole system.  He’s terrified.  He wants somewhere to hide until it’s all right again.

That’s the fear – the terror – that gripped the people of Jerusalem in King Josiah’s day.  Things were bad then.  After the death of righteous King Hezekiah, things went downhill. 

During the reign of Manasseh and the short reign of his son Amon, the temple of the Lord was neglected.  High places sprang up all over the place.  The gods of the nations became the gods of Judah – Baal, Molech, Dagon, even the sun, moon, and stars were worshipped.

It was so bad in the Temple, that the Book of the Law of God was lost.  “Hey Joseph, have you seen the Book of the Law?”  “No.  Matthias had it a few years ago, but he can’t find it now.  I haven’t seen the Book of the Law in years.”  That was in the Temple.

It’s similar in the Palace: on the throne was a boy king.  Josiah became king when he was just 8 years old.  That’s not the kind of king who can give visionary leadership and rally the people around, calling them to a different way of life.

It wasn’t until Josiah had ruled for 18 years, that the Book of the Law was found.  Finding that Book brought repentance and renewal in the Temple and the Palace.  In time, Josiah called the whole nation back to the Lord.  They cleaned up the temple and tore down the sanctuaries to other gods.

But Zephaniah is preaching to the nation before any of these reforms took place.  He is speaking of the anger of God.  God’s fierce anger will consume the whole world: not just Judah, but Nineveh, Philistia, and Cush as well.  There are consequences for sin.

We’re not just talking about the social upheaval when people are addicted to drugs or alcohol.  We’re not just talking about children born out of wedlock or the wreck that is made of people’s self-worth and personal value when they have sex outside of marriage.  We’re talking about our righteous God’s anger about sin.  It’s serious business.

Zechariah delivered a Word of God’s judgement:

I have decided to assemble the nations,

to gather the kingdoms

and to pour out my wrath on them—

all my fierce anger.

The whole world will be consumed

by the fire of my jealous anger.[1]

It’s God’s anger at sin: sin against God; sin against others.  The punishment is the fire of God’s jealous anger.

Secret sins can crush us.  We thought our sin was hidden, that no one would find out.  But unexpectedly, in love, a Christian brother or sister confronts us and calls us to account for some sin that we’re trapped in. 

We’re surprised, at first, perhaps defensive.  But then when it’s all out in the open we get overwhelmed with the burden of guilt, repentance, and needing to rebuild trust and relationships again.  It’s so hard to do.

Sin and brokenness are devastating.  It makes you want to call for time-out or quit altogether.  You wish there was a lap you could crawl into the way you did when you were young. 

You wish that your Dad could throw his arms around you, rock you gently, and whisper: It’s gonna be alright.  It will all be okay.  I’ve got you.  I’ll fix everything.

That’s the beauty and comfort of Zephaniah’s prophecy.  When the people of Judah are overwhelmed with their guilt, God’s Word of Love comes to them when they are filled with terror at the consequences of their sin, when all they want to do is run away and hide for guilt, shame, and fear.  Zephaniah, the Lord’s prophet, paints a picture of comfort and reassurance.

The consequences of sin and brokenness are terrifying, but we have a refuge.  Our heavenly Father invites his children into his lap – because he loves them.  He cannot bear to see them so filled with fear and shame.  Tenderly he wraps his arms around us – and suddenly, it’s like we’re four years old again.

We can nestle in and the Lord God Almighty quiets our fears.  He cannot help himself.  Our heavenly Father begins to hum, to croon over his child:   

Be still and know that I am God. (3X)

I am the Lord, who heal-eth thee.

In Jesus, God purifies his children of sin and brokenness.  In Jesus, we are washed clean and welcomed into the family.  The Lord has taken away your punishment, your king is with you!


[1] Zeph 3:8.

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