Monday, September 08, 2014

Reading Through Zephaniah

Zephaniah is the 3rd of the books of “un-creation,” that focus on the un-creation of the present system so that it can be cleansed and God’s new system, His kingdom, put in its place. Nahum deals with the removal of the Gentile oppressor Assyria, while Habakkuk discusses the removal of the oppressor from within Judah by Babylon and then the removal of Babylon toZephaniah Structure make way for God’s kingdom which will fill the earth “just as the waters fill up the sea (2.14).” Zephaniah uses the coming destruction of Judah by Babylon as a paradigm for the “un-creation” of the entire world in the final eschatological judgment that happens when God steps into history to defeat and judge and judge His enemies to establish His peaceful rule over those who trust Him.

The message of Zephaniah is “A great and terrible Day of the Lord is coming soon in which all nations will be judged. Turn away from sin and seek the Lord now so you will receive grace and peace instead of destruction.”

Quotes below are from the New American Commentary, Zephaniah by Kenneth L. Barker

Baal worship has its modern reincarnations: “Baal was another name for the gross national product, and wherever people see bank balances, prosperity, a sound economy, productivity, and mounting exports as the essence of their security, Baal is still worshiped.… Wherever excitement in religion becomes an end in itself and wherever the cult of ‘what helps’ replaces joy in ‘what’s true,’ Baal is worshiped.” Zephaniah 1.4, 420.

“The day of the Lord will expose the transience of ownership, the insubstantiality of property, and the uncertainty that materialism will bring its promised fulfillments.” Zephaniah 1.13, 436.

At heart the idolatry of today is not much different than that of Jerusalem of Zephaniah’s day. The people worshiped a god of their own making and the point of the idolatry was to bend their god to their own wants and desires. When god becomes all about “getting what I want” we are worshiping Baal.

Being righteous toward other human beings means meeting the demands of the relationship with God and others. How we treat other people should never be divorced from the relationship with God. Rather, how we relate to others is defined by our relationship with God...Zephaniah wanted to see people seeking the Lord and as a result of their worship of God seeking right actions and profound dependence on God.   Zephaniah 2.3, 449.

From all this Zephaniah stands back and sees that it is the Lord only who is sovereign, who decrees the destinies of all alike. His is a calm kingship, unswayed by worldly power, religious affiliation, proximity or remoteness on the face of the earth.”  Zephaniah 2.4-15, 453.

All of the leaders of the city took advantage of the poor and humble. Instead of heeding the words of the Lord, they looked for their own gain. Though they should have taken correction from the Lord, they went after their own stubborn ways. Their end would be God’s wrath poured out on Jerusalem and on the whole world. Only then could the prophet begin to speak of hope for Jerusalem. Zephaniah 3.1-8, 472

One of the key issues by which God will judge people. Our treatment of others is a clear picture of how we really relate to God. If we are in right relationship with God we will treat his people as he would. The impartiality by which this standard is applied is a consistent message throughout the New Testament.

Every generation faces this issue: how can we reform our social order? How can our nation become a better people. Zephaniah implies an answer: “true society arises from committed obedience (not rebellion) and from personal holiness (not defilement).… Social reformation arises from a return to God and to individual moral integrity. To seek to reform society in the hope that this will produce high standards and good people is to put the cart before the horse; it is converted and godly individuals that make good society.” Zephaniah 3.1, 474–475.

The only way to fix society is for us to personally seek relationship with the LORD. This involves humility which recognizes our own inability and trusts Christ, obedience which submits to God’s plan for our lives and proves it by our actions, and righteousness that recognize that God’s standards are right and commits to them. Societal change comes as God transforms people who reach out to others and so on ….

As God’s judgment would go out to the ends of the earth (2:4–15), so also God’s grace and forgiveness would go out to the most remote places...God would purify the speech of foreigners who had rebuked and reviled the divine name so they could now join Judah in praising it. Zephaniah 3.10, 489-90.

This amazing love of God for human beings is inexplicable. Human minds would never dream up such a God. Human actions or human character could never deserve such love. God’s love comes in his quiet absorption because this is who God is. In the core of his being, God is love. Zephaniah 3.17, 497.

It is God’s love the motivates his plan for the world. It was always God’s plan to call all the nations, in all their diversity, to Him to be one kingdom. God relates to the world based on grace. He removes sin, guilt, fear, punishment from those who humbly trust and seek Him. He brings people together in fellowship as Babel is reversed in Christ. He gives people the ability to serve and worship Him. God your Savior is happy to have a loving, protecting relationship with you.

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