("Hidden by Jehovah")
|JUDGMENT IN THE
DAY OF THE LORD
|SALVATION IN THE
DAY OF THE LORD
|DAY OF WRATH
|Sure Doom of
|Sure Doom of Jerusalem
"The Day of the LORD"
Zeph 1:7, 14
See key words &
"Seek the LORD"
Zeph 2:5, 3:1
"The LORD is with you"
Zeph 3:15NIV, Zeph 3:17NIV
|Sin||Offer of Salvation||>>>||Salvation|
|"I will utterly consume"
|"I will save"
|Key Verses: Zeph 1:4, Zeph 2:3
Judgment: Zeph 1:14-18
Restoration: Zeph 3:14-17
|Theme: Judgment and doom are certain unless there is repentance.
Only repentance will bring hope and restoration.
Time: 630BC (640-612)
To: Judah & the Nations
Christ in Zephaniah—Jesus alluded to Zephaniah on two occasions (cf. Zeph 1:3; Mt. 13:41 and cf. Zeph 1:15; Mt. 24:29). Both of these passages about the day of the Lord are associated with Christ’s second advent. Although the Messiah is not specifically mentioned in Zephaniah, it is clear that He is the One who will fulfill the great promises (Zeph 3:9–20). He will gather His people and reign in victory: “The Lord has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall see disaster no more” (Zeph 3:15). (Wilkinson, B., & Boa, K. Talk thru the Bible)
Key Words/Phrases in Zephaniah (See key words & marking key words) = Day of the Lord (see another discussion of this Day), remnant (Zeph 1:4, 2:7, 9, 3:13), nations (plural - Zeph 2:11, 3:6, 8), destruction/destroy (Zeph 1:15, 2:5, 13), b (Zeph 1:13,15, 2:4, 9, 13, 14, 15, 3:6), midst (Zeph 2:14, 3:11, 15, 17), Woe (Zeph 2:5, 3:1), Seek (Zeph 2:3), Anger (Zeph 2:2, 3, 3:8), Wrath (Zeph 1:15, 18), Indignation (Zeph 3:8); Gather (Zeph 2:1, 3:8, 18, 19, 20); Earth (Zeph 1:2, 3, 18, 2:3, 11, 3:8, 19, 20)
Christ in Zephaniah - Jesus Christ hides us from God's wrath and is the One Who will someday rule the earth as King of Israel (Zeph 3:15-17)
Christ in All the Scriptures (A M Hodgkin): This short book has been called “The Compendium of all prophecy.” It is a survey of the universal government of Jehovah, His judgment of the whole earth.
Zephaniah (“the watchman of Jehovah”) gives his own genealogy to the fourth generation, showing his descent from Hizkiah, who is probably identical with King Hezekiah. He prophesied during the early part of the reign of Josiah, before idolatry had been put away by the reforms of that king.
Zephaniah’s prophecy is marked by the emphasis he lays upon the Day of the Lord. The final application is to the Day of Christ. The impressive language can only find its fulfillment in the great Day of His wrath, described in Revelation 6. “A day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasting and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm” (Zephaniah 1:14–16).
But meanwhile, a day of judgment was near for Judah on account of her sins. He urges her to seek the Lord while there is still time. He then proclaims God’s judgment upon various nations which have oppressed God’s people—upon Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Ethiopia, Assyria, prophesying the fall and utter desolation of Nineveh.
The third chapter shows God’s coming judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem, and the future restoration and joy of God’s people in the day of the Messiah.
The Lord in the Midst. The third chapter contains a beautiful lesson, taken spiritually. It describes the sinful condition of a soul apart from Christ— Zephaniah 3:1, sins of commission; Zephaniah 3:2, sins of omission. Those who should have been leaders in righteousness are leaders in iniquity—princes, judges, prophets, priests. Then the Lord Himself takes the place of these leaders, and we see Him “in the midst,” fulfilling each office in turn.
The chapter closes with six beautiful “I wills” (Zeph 3:18, 19, 20) of what the Lord will do for us (Ed: See following note - yes for "us" but first for restored nation of Israel!).
Editorial Note: Although the above paragraphs make spiritual application of this passage to believers of the present age, remember that the primary application is to the believing remnant of Israel, which the Lord has promised to restore, according to His unfailing love and the unconditional aspects of His covenant with that nation, when in the Messianic Kingdom, He is in the midst of them. These promises will be fulfilled ''at that time'' (read Zeph 3:19,20; cp. Isa 11:12; 27:12; Eze 28:25; 34:13; 37:21-28; Amos 9:14; Zech 2:10,11; 8:3).
OT Reflections of Christ - Zephaniah - Paul Van Gorder - Zephaniah prophesied during the time of Josiah, a time of temporary revival. He saw the dark clouds of apostasy and judgment creeping over the horizon. The book of 2Kings 22:1-20, gives the historical background of this period. Zephaniah has been called the ''compendium of prophecy.'' He saw the judgment that was soon to fall upon Israel for her apostasy. Then, he looked down the ages to the judgment of the whole earth. And beyond that, he envisioned the time of universal blessing to follow. We read one phrase repeatedly in Zephaniah's prophecy: ''The day of the Lord.''
Habakkuk stood high and looked far;
Zephaniah stooped low with the candle of searching and looked closely.
OUTLINE OF THE BOOK OF ZEPHANIAH
|S R Driver
Commentary on Zephaniah
Caveat: Not always literal
|Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah: The Problem of Assyria
Zephaniah: Your God Will Sing
A C Gaebelein
The Day of the Lord, the Day of Judgment
The Call to Repentance in View of the Judgment
Judgment and Glory
James Rosscup writes "This 1858 work supplies much help on matters of the text, word meaning, resolving some problems, etc. Some have found it one of the most contributive sources in getting at what a text means." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)
H A Ironside
Best "devotional flavor" commentary on the Minor Prophets
|Zephaniah 1 Commentary
Zephaniah 2 Commentary
Zephaniah 3 Commentary
Jamieson, Fausset, Brown
Note: JFB is one of the more literal, conservative older commentaries (prior to 1900). Sample excerpt of eschatological (prophetic, apocalyptic) passage Zechariah 14:2 - "gather all nations, etc. — The prophecy seems literal (compare Joel 3:2). If Antichrist be the leader of the nations, it seems inconsistent with the statement that he will at this time be sitting in the temple as God at Jerusalem (2Thessalonians 2:4); thus Antichrist outside would be made to besiege Antichrist within the city. But difficulties do not set aside revelations: the event will clear up seeming difficulties (Ed: Interesting statement!). Compare the complicated movements, Daniel 11:1-45-note." Comment on Zech 14:11 - "no more utter destruction — (Jer 31:40). Literally, “no more curse” (Rev 22:3-note; compare Malachi 4:6-note), for there will be no more sin. Temporal blessings and spiritual prosperity shall go together in the millennium: long life (Isaiah 65:20-22), peace (Isaiah 2:4-note), honor (Isaiah 60:14-16), righteous government (Isaiah 54:14; Isaiah 60:18). (Zechariah 14 - Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible)
Commentaries, Sermons, Devotionals
The Theological Journal Library on galaxie.com
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|Minor Prophets Study Guide - Questions/Lessons Learned||Don Anderson|
Walter Kaiser-Preacher's Commentary-conservative, literal, futuristic- excellent for preaching - Rosscup on Kaiser: A careful evangelical gives contemporary outlines usable to pastors. He has occasional illustrations and serious explanation of the text. He is premillennial, as on Zechariah 14, and packs in much expositional help, relating it strategically to life. (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)
James Montgomery Boice - conservative, literal, futuristic - excellent for preaching Rosscup comments: The large, two-column pages contain much good material on the relevance of the words for then and for now, dealing with such topics as love, repentance, and sincerity (Hosea 6). A prolonged contemplation of these pages and an application of their principles will produce substantial Christian growth. The author could improve the work by being more definite sometimes in specifying in what framework God will bless Israel in the future (e.g., Hosea 14). Vagueness such as in Joel 2:1-11, where he says the invader is neither locusts nor a human army, is a drawback. Wordiness and wandering in his discussions is another shortcoming, as in using Joel 2:28 to take off into a long discussion of clericalism. He finds fulfillment of Joel 2:28 at Pentecost, yet it would help to point out some aspects that were (Rosscup)
Exploring the Minor Prophets John Phillips - Rosscup on John Phillips - A respected popular expositor on a number of biblical books here has two introductory chapters, then a chapter of about 20–30 pp. on each prophet (50 on Zech.). Several charts aid readers, and a detailed outline runs before each exposition. The exposition is in general surveys of sections, at times taking a view on a main problem. In Hosea 1:2, he feels that God had Hosea marry an immoral woman but Phillips offers no help on the moral issue. Phillips is premillennial, seeing Israel’s future kingdom blessings as in the Millennium after Christ’s Second Coming (Hosea 3:5; Joel 3:14ff; Amos 9:15; Zeph. 3:9ff; Zech 2:10–13; 14:1–21). In Mal. 2:15 he has “one” refer to God making husband and wife into one, and in Mal 4:5 he thinks the Elijah will be fulfilled in one of the two witnesses in Rev 11:3-13-note. The work helps on broad coverage, and is quite readable for preachers, church teachers, students and lay people wanting a general devotional sweep. (Ibid)
Zephaniah (Nahum, Habakkuk) Commentary - Richard Patterson - essentially verse by verse (free online!) - Recommended - Rosscup says "This is an outstanding conservative, detailed work backed by scholarly awareness and expertise. Comments reflect fine-tuned ability in the Hebrew text, philology, exegesis, history, and literature. Patterson has premillennial convictions in the final verses of Zephaniah. He shows the shaky reasoning of critical arguments against the unity of Nahum, and defends unity of Nahum and Habakkuk. In a long Excursus he defends New Testament uses of Habakkuk 2:4-note (pp. 21–23), But some will doubt that he captures the significance of the picture of a hind in Habakkuk 3:19-note when he sees only swiftness ascending and gracefully gliding (262–63). But in most details he is excellent, and the work is well worth the cost and time. (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)
See discussion of the Day of the Lord = Zeph 1:7, 8, 14, 15, 18, 2:2, 3
|Zephaniah - Theology||Baker's Evangelical Dictionary|
|The Prophets and the Promise - 433 Page Book||W J Beecher|
|Zephaniah Notes||J G Bellett|
|Zephaniah - Seer of the Apocalypse||Ingimar DeRidder|
Dr Gene Getz gives brief (5-15') pithy, practical videos by which present powerful principles for life application! Instructions: Click Holman Christian Standard Bible Study Bible. Type in the Scripture and click Video Player Tool in right column for Dr Getz's practical points related to that Scripture.
Example Excerpt: I cannot refrain from calling attention very particularly to the promises for the future as contained in Zeph 3:8-20, and which show that although these Minor Prophets, so-called, refer but briefly to that period, (and yet perhaps in proportion after all, to the length of their discourses), still their deliverances thereupon are all in harmony with the teachings of the whole school of the prophets. For example, in Zeph 3:8, observe the agreement with Joel concerning the gathering of the Gentile nations to judgment at the end of the present age ("in those days… at that time" - Joel 3:1, 2). In Zeph 3:9, we seem to see these nations (Ed: Gentiles), or the spared and sifted remnant of them, at length converted to GOD and serving Him with a ready will. In Zeph 3:10 they are bringing the sons of Israel back to their own land, the second gathering of them, so to speak, as was explained in Isaiah (Isa 11:11-note). In Zeph 3:11-18, the cleansed, humble, trustful, rejoicing, nation of Israel appears, dwelling in their own land. In Zeph 3:19, 20 we find the restored and beloved people a praise and a blessing in the whole earth as foretold in the original promise to Abraham, and again and again pictured before us in the millennial Psalms. Zeph 3:17 of this chapter will well repay careful meditation. The old marriage covenant (cf "My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them" = Jer 31:31-32) between the Lord and Israel is there depicted as gloriously restored anew (Isaiah 62:5; Hosea 2:19); the husband is rejoicing in His wife (Ed: Israel in belief - cf Ro 11:25-29-note), resting in His love and joying over her with singing. The word for "rest" (charash = 02790) is translated in the margin "be silent," and this silence of the Lord towards His people (Israel) is no longer the silence arising from forbearance in order to punish at last (Psalm 50:21-note), but because He has nothing more to reprehend.
Example Excerpt: We have mentioned this several times in our study of the prophets, but I will point it out in case someone has not heard the explanation. Several of the things Zephaniah says will happen, could have been fulfilled by the Babylonians when they destroyed Judah and took them into captivity. But many of the prophecies concerning the destruction of the nations and the earth have obviously not been fulfilled. This is where it helps to understand what the prophet saw in his visions.
RESTORATION OF THE GENTILES (Zeph 3:9-10) -The word “Peoples” refers to the Gentiles. The “purified lips” may be a reference to a reversal of the curse at the tower of Babel. Or an allusion to Isaiah’s unclean lips in Isaiah 6:5-note. In “that day” God will bless the Gentiles who turn to Him. “All the people” will call on the name of the Lord in that day. Have we reached that day yet? Obviously not. Over and over again we have seen that Gentiles would be saved and included in the kingdom of God. It shows how far off the religious leader’s of Jesus’ day were in their practice of Judaism. RESTORATION OF THE JEWS (Zeph 3:11-20) God will also bless the Jews and bring the remnant back to Jerusalem (My holy mountain). And there will be justice and peace in the land (Zeph 3:11-13). There will be no shame either. This was the same thing promised in Joel 2:26,27. Again, it is obvious that this has not happened. There will be rejoicing in the future kingdom, for God will be reigning in their midst and the nations will praise and honor Israel as God's people (Zeph 3:14-18,19, 20).
|Hampton Keathley IV|
Holman Christian Standard Bible - Study Notes - Enter Scripture. The HCSB Study Bible notes are well done and can be accessed in the right panel entitled "STUDY BIBLE NOTES TOOL". Select "Study Bible Notes". To read all the notes on a given chapter click "READ" tab. Very nice!
Hint: Be sure and check the brief (5-15') pithy, practical videos by Dr Gene Getz which present powerful principles for life application! Instructions: Click Holman Christian Standard Bible. Type in the Scripture and click Video Player Tool in right column for Dr Getz's practical points related to that Scripture.
|Book of Zephaniah||International Standard Bible Encyclopedia|
|The Minor Prophets||Hampton Keathley IV|
|Zephaniah Speaks Again, Part 1 (from "Rapture Ready")
Zephaniah Speaks Again, Part 2 (from "Rapture Ready")
|Zephaniah -Intro, Date, Setting, Themes, Interpretative Challenges, Outline
In a Separate Article the Question is answered: When were the Bible books written?
|Zephaniah 1:4 The Chemarim (Idolatrous Priests)||Manners and Customs by
|Zephaniah and Haggai - Introductory Notes, Outlines||J Vernon McGee|
|Outline Studies - Zephaniah
Prediction of future restoration and blessing for Israel, Zeph 3:3, 7-20. The future according to Zephaniah. - This brief prophecy is full, as are all the other prophets. After the frightful picture of wrath which he so vividly draws, he changes to a sweet and triumphant theme, a song of gladness and of victory in which the glory of Zion, favor to the Lord’s people, God’s delight in His redeemed, the holiness and devotedness of the restored Israel are set forth in rapturous strains. He closes with a vision of hope and joy and peace. And so Zephaniah is apocalyptic and telesmatic. “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love; He will joy over thee with singing,” Zeph 3:17.
Redeemer and Redeemed.
|W G Moorehead|
G Campbell Morgan's devotional/practical thoughts make good fodder for sermon preparation! Zephaniah - Living Messages
|G Campbell Morgan|
|Zephaniah -Intro, Date, Setting, etc||NIV Study Bible Notes|
|Keys to Zephaniah||William Orr|
|Preface to Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah||Richard D. Patterson|
|Through the Bible - Zephaniah||Myer Pearlman|
|Precept Study - Lesson 1 - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Zephaniah||Precept Ministries|
|Book of Zephaniah Overview||Ross Rainey|
|Book of Zephaniah Overview - Insight for Living Ministries||Charles Swindoll|
|James Van Dine|
SERMONS AND COMMENTARIES
|Zephaniah Sermon Notes||Rich Cathers|
|Concise Bible Commentary on Zephaniah||James Gray|
|Zephaniah - Wait For Me||Bob Deffinbaugh|
|The Book of Zephaniah||Bob Deffinbaugh|
|Be a Berean - Not always a literal interpretation. Caveat Emptor!
Zephaniah - Commentary for English Readers
Zephaniah 1 Commentary for English Readers
Zephaniah 2 Commentary for English Readers
Zephaniah 3 Commentary for English Readers
|C J Ellicott|
|Zephaniah Seeing Beyond the Darkness||Bruce Goettsche|
|Zephaniah Sermons - Most are Mp3||Gospel Coalition|
|Zephaniah Sermon Notes||Joe Guglielmo|
|Zephaniah: Commentary on the Entire Book||Hampton Keathley IV|
|Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on Zephaniah||Keil and Delitzsch|
|Zephaniah Commentary||William Kelly|
|Zephaniah 8 part sermon series - Introductory Notes and Mp3||Jeff Miller|
|Zephaniah Commentary - essentially verse by verse - Recommended
Rosscup says "This is an outstanding conservative, detailed work backed by scholarly awareness and expertise. Comments reflect fine-tuned ability in the Hebrew text, philology, exegesis, history, and literature. Patterson has premillennial convictions in the final verses of Zephaniah. He shows the shaky reasoning of critical arguments against the unity of Nahum, and defends unity of Nahum and Habakkuk. In a long Excursus he defends New Testament uses of Habakkuk 2:4 (pp. 21–23), But some will doubt that he captures the significance of the picture of a hind in Habakkuk 3:19 when he sees only swiftness ascending and gracefully gliding (262–63). But in most details he is excellent, and the work is well worth the cost and time. (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)
|Zephaniah 3:1-7 The Path to Spiritual Ruin||Don Robinson|
|Zephaniah, Joel, Obadiah, and Habakkuk - Well Done||John Stevenson|
|Micah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah - survey
Habakkuk and Zephaniah
|Valley Bible Church|
|Zephaniah 1 Commentary||Net Bible Notes|
|Zephaniah 1-3 The Gospel According to Zephaniah||John Stevenson|
|Zephaniah 1:5||Spurgeon Devotionals|
|Zephaniah 1:5, 6, 11||C I Scofield|
|Zephaniah 2 Commentary||Net Bible Notes|
|The Prophet Haggai (Overview)||Arend Remmers|
|Zephaniah 2:4 Gaza||John Kitto|
|Zephaniah 2:3 Study Notes - May Be
Zephaniah 2:5 A Warrant for Your Apprehension
|Zephaniah 2:7, 13||C I Scofield|
|Zephaniah 3 Commentary||Net Bible Notes|
|Zephaniah 3:2, 7, 9, 13, 15||C I Scofield|
|Zephaniah 3:12, Zephaniah 3:13, Zephaniah 3:15, Zephaniah 3:17, Zephaniah 3:19||Spurgeon Devotionals|
|Zephaniah 3:2 An Indictment with Four Counts
Zephaniah 3:2 Study Notes - Fourfold Fault
Zephaniah 3:16-18 Sermon for the Time Present
Zephaniah 3:17 The Saviour Resting in His Love
|Zephaniah 3:14-17 When God Sings - see "Sermon Notes"
Zephaniah 3:17 The Mighty God in the Midst of Thee - see "Sermon Notes"
|Zephaniah 3:14-17 The Lord Will Rejoice over You||John Piper|
|Zephaniah 3:17 The Pleasure of God in the Good of His People||John Piper|
|Zephaniah 1 Commentary
Zephaniah 2 Commentary
Zephaniah 3 Commentary
Recommended: NETBible notes are in the right panel. You can also select the tab for "Constable's Notes." As you scroll the Bible text in the left panel, the notes are synchronized and will scroll to the same passage. Also has a nice parallel Bible feature (see Tab = "Parallel"). Select a different Bible translation (see Tab = "Bible"). Open Greek/Hebrew tab. Mouse over shows corresponding English word and has short definition at bottom of right panel.
Edward B Pusey
James Rosscup writes "This work originally appeared in 1860. The present publication is set up in two columns to the page with the text of the Authorized Version reproduced at the top. Scripture references, Hebrew words, and other citations are relegated to the bottom of the page. The work is detailed and analytical in nature. Introduction, background and explanation of the Hebrew are quite helpful. Pusey holds to the grammatical-historical type of interpretation until he gets into sections dealing with the future of Israel, and here Israel becomes the church in the amillennial vein." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)
C I Scofield
NOTE: If you are not familiar with the great saint Charles Simeon see Dr John Piper's discussion of Simeon's life - you will want to read Simeon's sermons after meeting him! - click Brothers We Must Not Mind a Little Suffering (Mp3 even better)
|Zephaniah 1:12 The Secure and Atheistical Condemned
Zephaniah 2:1-3 Repentance Urged
Zephaniah 3:7,8 What Recompence We May Expect for Our Neglect of God
Zephaniah 3:12 The Poor Living by Faith
Zephaniah 3:14, 15 The Duty of Thankfulness for God's Mercies
Zephaniah 3:17 God's Delight in Saving Sinners
George A Smith
James Rosscup writes "Though old this is well-written and often cited, with many good statements on spiritual truths. Users will find much that is worthwhile, and sometimes may disagree, as when he sees the Jonah account as allegorical (Ed: See Tony Garland's article on the Rise of Allegorical Interpretation)." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works or Logos Format)
C H Spurgeon
C H Spurgeon
Today in the Word
The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah. - Zephaniah 1:1
TODAY IN THE WORD
Let’s start the year 2003 right: by fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ. But don’t just begin this way–keep your eyes on Him throughout the year with Today in the Word.
“Let Us Fix Our Eyes on Jesus” will be the running theme throughout this year of devotionals. Topics to come include “Images of Christ in Revelation,” the Sermon on the Mount, and ? Corinthians: The Church of Jesus.” But Christ isn’t found only in the New Testament, and that’s why we’re beginning the year with Zephaniah and Zechariah. As we study these prophets’ messages in their historical contexts, we’ll see that God had been promising a Savior all along. Long before the manger in Bethlehem, His people were eagerly awaiting and rejoicing in His coming and His redemption.
Zephaniah, whose name means “the Lord protects” or “the Lord treasures,” was of royal birth, since the genealogy in verse 1 lists him as the great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah. He prophesied during the reign of King Josiah (see 2 Kings 22–23; 2 Chron. 34-35). Josiah was the last godly king who reigned prior to the conquest and exile of Judah.
As nobility, Zephaniah probably lived in Jerusalem, moving among and ministering to powerful people in the king’s court. He worked contemporaneously with Jeremiah, Nahum, and perhaps Habakkuk.
Based on the genealogy, Zephaniah was probably only in his 20s when he began to prophesy in about 625 b.c. He started his ministry early in Josiah’s reign, when the effects of the king’s evil predecessor still dominated the religious life of Judah. In 621 b.c., priests working to restore the Temple found a copy of the Law, which sparked a national revival. In fact, it’s likely that Zephaniah’s preaching also helped bring about this revival. (Today in the Word. Moody Bible Institute. Used by Permission. All rights reserved)
Be silent before the Sovereign Lord, for the day of the Lord is near. - Zephaniah 1:7
TODAY IN THE WORD
One day, Jesus warned His listeners against greed and told this parable: The lands of a certain rich man produced a fruitful harvest. He decided to build new and bigger barns to hold his growing wealth, and felt secure in his prosperity--with so much in the storehouses, his worries were over. He said to himself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.”
But because of his complacency and self-centeredness, God’s judgment fell on that man that very night. Jesus concluded: “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:13-21).
Today’s reading also describes God’s judgment on sin, especially as it will take place on the Day of the Lord (vv. 2-3, 7). Verses 2–3 overview His judgment at the end of history, and this serves as a preview to what will happen to Judah in the near future. In the metaphor in verse 7, Judah is the sacrificial victim, while the invited guests are the armies of Babylon. God will “consecrate” this pagan nation to accomplish His plan.
The pictures here promise the total destruction of evil. Not a single trace of wickedness will be allowed to remain–it will all be swept away, cut off, and punished. This is definitely a zero tolerance policy! If it seems harsh, remember that God is utterly holy, yet has shown remarkable patience through-out history.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
As you ponder the perfection of God’s judgment today, seek out applicable cross-references from other locations in Scripture. Find and jot down at least five cross-references that boost your understanding of His holiness, justice, or judgment. What main truths does the Word of God communicate to us? (Today in the Word. Moody Bible Institute. Used by Permission. All rights reserved)
C H Spurgeon
Morning and evening
“I will cut off them that worship and that swear by the Lord, and that swear by Malcham.”
— Zephaniah 1:5
Such persons thought themselves safe because they were with both parties: they went with the followers of Jehovah, and bowed at the same time to Malcham. But duplicity is abominable with God, and hypocrisy his soul hateth. The idolater who distinctly gives himself to his false god, has one sin less than he who brings his polluted and detestable sacrifice unto the temple of the Lord, while his heart is with the world and the sins thereof. To hold with the hare and run with the hounds, is a dastard’s policy. In the common matters of daily life, a double- minded man is despised, but in religion he is loathsome to the last degree. The penalty pronounced in the verse before us is terrible, but it is well deserved; for how should divine justice spare the sinner, who knows the right, approves it, and professes to follow it, and all the while loves the evil, and gives it dominion in his heart?
My soul, search thyself this morning, and see whether thou art guilty of double-dealing. Thou professest to be a follower of Jesus—dost thou truly love him? Is thy heart right with God? Art thou of the family of old Father Honest, or art thou a relative of Mr. By-ends? A name to live is of little value if I be indeed dead in trespasses and sins. To have one foot on the land of truth, and another on the sea of falsehood, will involve a terrible fall and a total ruin. Christ will be all or nothing. God fills the whole universe, and hence there is no room for another god; if, then, he reigns in my heart, there will be no space for another reigning power. Do I rest alone on Jesus crucified, and live alone for him? Is it my desire to do so? Is my heart set upon so doing? If so, blessed be the mighty grace which has led me to salvation; and if not so, O Lord, pardon my sad offence, and unite my heart to fear thy name.
Our Daily Homily
F B Meyer
I will search Jerusalem with candles. Zephaniah 1:12
The state of things in the chosen city was scandalous. The people worshipped the host of heaven on the housetops; the temple-courts were filled with the priests of idolatry; the court affected foreign dress and manners. Nothing could prevent the invasion of the Chaldeans as ministers of the Divine vengeance. These were the terrible guests whom the Almighty had summoned to the feast; and the feast consisted of the spoils of the city (Zephaniah 1:7).
No sin of his people can escape the notice of God. He searches out the secret evils of our hearts with lighted candles, not for his vision alone, but for ours; that we may know, and abhor them, and put them from us. There is the candle of conscience. The spirit of man is as the candle of the Lord. In some men the candle is present, but not lit: in others it is lit by the power of the Divine Spirit; and there is something of the incandescent flame about it then.
There is the candle of outward events. How often does God allow some incident of which we hear in social conversation, or read in the newspaper, to cast a sudden and unexpected light upon some passages in our lives which we have carefully shrouded in darkness. Right into a hidden closet the searchlight falls, saying “thou art the man.”
Then there is that candle of his Holy Word. A text or sermon unkindled by the Spirit of God is like an unlighted candle. But when God’s Holy Spirit rests on it, interfusing it with fire, then how mighty is its effect! It searches the heart and tries the reins; it reveals to man his thought and the real object of his existence, that he may repent.
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. - Zephaniah 2:3
TODAY IN THE WORD
Early in the 20th century, the city of St. Pierre, on the island of Martinique in the Caribbean, was known as the “Paris of the West Indies.” But it all came to a crashing halt on the morning of May 8, 1902.
On that morning, a volcano named Mount Pelée erupted, sending hot ash, toxic gases, and magma down the mountainside at terrific speeds. Within minutes, the entire city had been destroyed, and 30,000 people had been killed. St. Pierre has never been completely rebuilt, and today only a fraction of the previous population currently lives there.
As deadly a disaster as this volcanic eruption was, it’s nothing compared to what will happen on the Day of the Lord. In the Old Testament, the phrase “day of the Lord” is often associated with divine judgments. In Zephaniah, God’s judgments in both the immediate and distant futures are linked as parts of His unified plan for history. “The great day of the Lord is near–near and coming quickly,” the prophet proclaimed (1:14).
The description of this “day” in today’s reading is poetically miserable. It will be filled with bitterness, anguish, ruin, and fire. Why will it occur? Because of sin (1:17). God’s justice and power will completely purge and purify the land of evil. Since He is the one true Lord, His “jealousy”–that is, His wrath against those who worship false gods–is totally legitimate and His punishment appropriate, no matter how extreme it sounds (1:18).
If the cause of judgment is sin, then the fitting response to Zephaniah’s warnings is repentance. He exhorted the people to seek the Lord, humble themselves, and pursue obedience (2:3). To repent means to turn away from sin toward righteousness. As commentator Matthew Henry said, Zephaniah’s purpose was “not to frighten them out of their wits, but to frighten them out of their sins.” And apparently he succeeded, since Josiah’s reforms delayed the short-term fulfillment of this prophecy (2 Chron. 34:27-28).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
In today’s passage, Zephaniah urged sinners to repent before it was too late. That same message still applies today! Have you repented of your sins and asked God to give you the gift of eternal life, found only in Jesus Christ? This is a choice between life and death. If you haven’t yet chosen life, listen to the apostle Peter: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). You can have the assurance of everlasting life in the presence of God! (Today in the Word. Moody Bible Institute. Used by Permission. All rights reserved)
Our Daily Bread
"TIMES OF TROUBLE"
The great day of the Lord is … a day of trouble and distress.- Zephaniah 1:14-15
Turmoil continues to seethe in many parts of the former Soviet Union. Unrest, revolt, hunger, unemployment, and severe shortages still plague most of the land. It prompted a leading Russian journalist to refer to these days as smut- noye vremya, the "time of trouble."
The Bible uses a similar phrase to describe the events of the endtimes. They will occur during the prophetic era called "the day of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:12-22). It will be a time of terrible tribulation, during which mankind will suffer as never before. There will be earthquakes, famine, war, and death (Rev. 6).
During this period, the Jews will be singled out. Their persecution will be so intense that the era is prophetically referred to in Jeremiah 30:7 as "the time of Jacob's trouble." But that verse ends with the wonderful promise that the Jews "shall be saved out of it." That period of intense tribulation will bring them to faith in the true Messiah.
As followers of Christ, we encounter personal times of trouble. The apostle Peter wrote, "If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him … glorify God" (1 Pet. 4:16). Our personal "times of trouble" are opportunities for the Lord to show us His provision, protection, and love. - David C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
God's unseen presence comforts me,
I know He's always near;
And when life's storms besiege my soul,
He says, "My child, don't fear." - Dennis J. De Haan
Times of trouble are times for trust.
Our Daily Homily
F B Meyer
It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger. Zephaniah 2:3
The name of this prophet means, “Whom God hides or protects.” The hidden man invites others to his hiding-place; and shows how we may be hidden in the day of God’s anger. It is said that in the center of the wildest cyclone there is a point of absolute calm: so amid the wildest storms that have swept the face of the world there have always been some of God’s hidden ones:—
“The secret place, the refuge from the blast, The glorious Temple, Lamb of God art Thou; Our feet shall tread the golden courts at last, Our souls have entered now.”
“I cannot deny,” writes Tersteegen, “the corruptions of the external Church; but I think my dear friend has more necessary things to attend to. Within! Within! With God alone!” There is truth here, though not all the truth. We must have Elijahs as well as Zephaniahs.
Only those may know the hidden life who fulfill the conditions here described. They must be meek; they must work his judgment; they must seek righteousness and meekness. It is the soul that bends before the blast of the terrible ones; that gives place to wrath, not because of pusillanimity, but because of the fear of the Lord; that hands over its cause of alarm and fear to the Most High, which abides in his secret place, and hides under his shadow.
Let us seek these things, and then there will be no may-be in our being hidden. We shall certainly be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger; hidden in the wounds of Jesus, hidden in his heart, hidden in God with Christ, hidden in the fiery glory of his intolerable holiness.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!
Then men will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.” - Psalm 58:11
TODAY IN THE WORD
The Day of the Lord will find unbelievers unprepared and insecure, even if they live in San Jose, California.
Following the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, San Jose gained national recognition as the American city best prepared for terrorist threats, including nuclear, biological, and chemical assaults. The city has prepared its emergency personnel, stockpiled antibiotics and other medical supplies, and trained a thousand ordinary citizens in civil defense. “National defense is local defense,” said one leader.
On the Day of the Lord, it will be not physical preparedness but spiritual preparedness that determines life and death. Those who stand in their own strength will fall.
Today’s reading gives more images of judgment, this time specific judgments on the Gentile nations surrounding Israel. Their cities will be abandoned, ruined, uprooted, and destroyed. Once-bustling places will become open fields or wastelands; they will share the destiny of Sodom and Gomorrah. As with those two cities, and as we’ve already seen in Zephaniah, the cause of judgment was sin. All of these nations were guilty of disrespect for God’s people, aggression toward them, pride, and idolatry (plus influencing Israel toward idolatry).
Through judgment, God will demonstrate His superiority to all idols, and will receive His rightful worship (v. 11). One hint that the worship will be universal is found in the fact that the passage moves geographically, from west (Philistia) to east (Moab and Ammon) to south (Cush/Ethiopia) to north (Assyria usually attacked from this direction). He is the God and Judge of all the earth, not just of one region or nation!
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Today, we suggest that you examine your heart for the kind of self-exalting pride for which Assyria was condemned in Scripture (v. 15). Do you base your security on your own abilities or success? Do your words and actions show arrogance? Have you put yourself at the center of your own universe? Does God have a minimal impact on your priorities and decisions (Today in the Word. Moody Bible Institute. Used by Permission. All rights reserved)
The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice. - Zephaniah 3:5
TODAY IN THE WORD
Pilgrim William Bradford recounted the story of a sailor on board the Mayflower: He was “proud and very profane,” and often ridiculed the colonists about their seasickness. He even went so far as to say he hoped to bury half of them at sea, then to “make merry with what they had.” He swore at those who reproved him.
“But it pleased God before they came half seas over, to smite this young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself the first that was thrown overboard. Thus his curses [fell] on his own head, and it was an astonishment to all his fellows for they noted it to be the just hand of God upon him.”
In today’s reading, the justice of God is contrasted to the corruption of Jerusalem. In Zephaniah, we’ve moved from judgment in general to judgment on Gentile nations to judgment on Judah. Wickedness is wickedness wherever and whenever it’s found, and God responds to it in the same way, no exceptions.
What were Jerusalem’s sins? Oppression, tyranny, rebelliousness toward God, pride, idolatry, and a general lack of faith. The people didn’t draw near to their God (vv. 1–2). The leaders in particular were targeted for condemnation for their role in leading the nation astray (vv. 3–4).
Given their behavior, did Judah really think they could escape the same fate as the other sinful nations? The northern kingdom of Israel had already been taken into captivity by Assyria, and Zephaniah had proclaimed the doom of their Gentile neighbors. After these historical and prophetic warnings, one would think that they would be anxious to repent, but in fact “they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did” (v. 7).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
One way that you can respond to today’s Scripture is by planning a special worship time for yourself, your family, or your small group. Let the theme of the hymns and songs you choose be the holiness and justice of God. (Today in the Word. Moody Bible Institute. Used by Permission. All rights reserved)
Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder. - Zephaniah 3:9
TODAY IN THE WORD
The perspective of the biblical prophets has often been compared to a person looking at a distant mountain range. From his perspective, the majestic peaks soar upward, one after the other in quick succession. The mountains appear quite close to one another. In fact, though, there may be plains and valleys between them that aren’t visible from his perspective.
The prophets spoke of “mountain peak” events, and from their point of view, these events appeared quite close to one another. In fact, though, there are intervening times during which God is continuing to work out more hidden dimensions of His plan.
One implication of this is that sometimes a prophet foretold events as if they would happen at nearly the same time. But one part of the event might have happened a long time ago, while another part is still future--for example, the First and Second Comings of Christ. These are interpretive differences that we’ll often find while studying Zephaniah and Zechariah.
In today’s reading, for example, God promised to purify and redeem His people, and this prophecy has both near and distant time implications. In the near future, He would bless a remnant who would return from the Exile to their homeland. But the entire prophecy wasn’t fulfilled at that time, and so in part it also refers to the future reign of Christ over all the world. What did God promise to do? To purify the people from sin--to completely remove it from Jerusalem. Pride will not be found in God’s domain, as haughty people will already have been judged and expelled. The meek will inherit the earth (v. 12; cf. Matt. 5:5).
God will enable His people to worship and serve Him as they ought. Their righteous actions will reflect His character--they’ll do no wrong, just as He does no wrong (vv. 5, 13). And since He Himself will dwell with them, they’ll live in perfect security (cf. Micah 4:1–4).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Only the meek and humble, not the proud, will be allowed to live in the city of God (vv. 11–12). Humility and faith are inseparable. A true sense of God and a true sense of self go hand-in-hand. (Today in the Word. Moody Bible Institute. Used by Permission. All rights reserved)
C H Spurgeon
A Trustworthy Name
“I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.”—Zephaniah 3:12
WHEN true religion is ready to die out among the wealthy it finds a home among the poor of this world, rich in faith. The Lord has even now His faithful remnant. Am I one of them?
Perhaps it is because men are afflicted and poor that they learn to trust in the name of the Lord. He that hath no money must try what he can do on trust. He whose own name is good for nothing in his own esteem, acts wisely to rest in another name, even that best of names, the name of Jehovah. God will always have a trusting people, and these will be an afflicted and poor people. Little as the world thinks of them, their being left in the midst of a nation is the channel of untold blessings to it. Here we have the conserving salt which keeps in check the corruption which is in the world through lust.
Again the question comes home to each one of us: am I one of them? Am I afflicted by the sin within me and around me? Am I poor in spirit, poor spiritually in my own judgment? Do I trust in the Lord? That is the main business. Jesus reveals the name, the character, the person of God: am I trusting in Him? If so, I am left in this world for a purpose. Lord, help me to fulfill it.
C H Spurgeon
A Shepherd Secures Them
“They shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.”—Zephaniah 3:13
YESTERDAY we thought of the afflicted and poor people whom the Lord left to be a living seed in a dead world. The prophet says of such that they shall not work iniquity nor speak lies. So that while they had neither rank nor riches to guard them, they were also quite unable to use those weapons in which the wicked place so much reliance: they could neither defend themselves by sin nor by subtlety.
What then? Would they be destroyed? By no means! They should both feed and rest, and be not merely free from danger, but even quiet from fear of evil. Sheep are very feeble creatures, and wolves are terrible enemies; yet at this hour, sheep are more numerous than wolves, and the cause of the sheep is always winning, while the cause of the wolves is always declining. One day flocks of sheep will cover the plains, and not a wolf will be left. The fact is that sheep have a shepherd, and this gives them provender, protection, and peace. “None,” which means not one, whether in human or diabolical form, “shall make them afraid.” Who shall terrify the Lord’s flock when He is near? We lie down in green pastures, for Jesus Himself is food and rest to our souls.
He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. - Zephaniah 3:17
TODAY IN THE WORD
Ethelda Bleibtrey, the first woman ever to win a gold medal for the United States in the Olympics, was quite an unlikely hero.
Affected by polio as a child, Bleibtrey took up swimming to help her overcome the effects of her illness. By the time women’s swimming was added to the 1920 Olympic program, she held the world record in the 100-yard backstroke. Unfortunately, only three events were scheduled, and her specialty wasn’t one of them. She entered the races anyway--and won three gold medals! In fact, she won every race in which she swam between 1920 and 1922.
Victory brings gladness and joy. On the Day of the Lord, God’s triumph will spur praise from His people. Today’s verses are actually the second and third stanzas of a prophetic oracle begun in yesterday’s reading. Now that we understand that the Day of the Lord is a day of redemption (not only wrath or judgment), the natural conclusion to the book of Zephaniah is praise.
In fact, praise is the primary responsibility of God’s people. When God does what He has promised for Israel, they are to sing, be glad, rejoice, and fearlessly trust in Him. The same principle holds true for us--when God does what He promises, we praise His name and trust Him to guarantee the future.
In an immediate sense, we see in Scripture how some of these words were fulfilled when God brought a remnant back from Exile. In a future sense, we know He’ll still keep these promises to Israel during the glorious reign of Christ. Since the prophecy and encouragement flows from God’s character, all believers can rejoice in these words of hope.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
If you wish, do additional Bible study today or sometime soon on the phrase “the day of the Lord.” Where else does it appear in Scripture? In what contexts? What meanings are associated with this phrase and what events take place on this day? How might this concept affect your daily spiritual life? (Today in the Word. Moody Bible Institute. Used by Permission. All rights reserved)
Zephaniah 3:17 Judges 4:17-22; 5:24-31
The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. - Zephaniah 3:17
TODAY IN THE WORD
On February 21, 1980, New York Times columnist Dave Anderson wrote, “Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle … the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments.” On February 22, 1980, the U.S. Olympic hockey team—comprised mainly of college students—defeated the mighty Soviet hockey juggernaut. As sportscaster Al Michaels called the final seconds of the game, he exclaimed, “Do you believe in miracles? YES!”
If Dave Anderson had been writing about the chances for Israel to defeat Sisera, he probably would have described it as an easy win for the Canaanites. And if Al Michaels were calling the play-by-play on the battle, he might have declared Israel’s victory a miracle. Scripture notes the great power and military prowess of Sisera (4:3). But this oppressive general wasn’t slaughtered on the field of battle or overpowered in a duel with another soldier. God had a far more deliciously poetic justice in store.
As Sisera’s army was routed by Barak, he fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of a nomad who had a friendly relationship with the Canaanite king. She offered him milk and then delivered a mallet, driving a tent peg through his skull. Sisera’s death was God’s judgment for his tyranny over Israel; the means of Sisera’s death was God’s judgment on Barak for his lack of faith (4:9).
Deborah’s song of victory and praise to the Lord highlights the irony of Sisera’s demise. As his mother waited for the “clatter of his chariots,” the symbols of his brutality, her servants assured her that he was likely delayed by enjoying the spoils of victory and ravishing the women (vv. 28-30). But in fact, Sisera was destroyed by a woman who spoiled his victory. The dramatic downfall of Sisera revealed the miracle of God’s deliverance. He rescued His people, and He used surprising means to do it. He is a God who works miracles.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Do you feel overwhelmed by the challenges facing you? Perhaps temptation seems too strong to resist, or a long season of suffering feels like it will never end. You might endure opposition from colleagues or loved ones or face obstacles that threaten to smother your joy in Christ. God has not changed—He still works miracles on behalf of His people. He still defeats mighty strongholds of sin and oppression. He tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 4:9; see 1 Cor. 1:26-31).
The documentary film Young@Heart gives a rollicking look at a senior chorus of 24 singers whose average age is 80. Filled with humor and poignant moments, the film includes this remarkable singing group’s deeply moving performance at a New England prison. When the concert concludes, the singers walk into the audience, greeting the surprised prisoners with handshakes and hugs.
The inmates’ unexpected amazement at this personal touch reminds me of the book of Zephaniah in which the prophet brings a powerful message of God’s presence and love to His people during a dark time: “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph 3:17).
According to Bible teacher Henrietta Mears, Zephaniah “begins with sorrow but ends with singing. The first of the book is full of sadness and gloom, but the last contains one of the sweetest songs of love in the Old Testament.”
God’s love for us is always astonishing, especially when it touches us at a low ebb of life. During our darkest times, the Lord comes to us with His joy, His love, and His song.
If your heart is filled with sadness,
Or you struggle with despair,
Turn to God, who’ll bring you gladness
When you sense His love and care. —Sper
In God’s garden of love, you are His forget-me-not.
C H Spurgeon
He Routs Our Enemy
“He hath cast out thine enemy.”—Zephaniah 3:15
WHAT a casting out was that! Satan has lost his throne in our nature even as he lost his seat in heaven. Our Lord Jesus has destroyed the enemy’s reigning power over us. He may worry us, but he cannot claim us as his own. His bonds are no longer upon our spirits: the Son has made us free, and we are free indeed.
Still is the arch-enemy the accuser of the brethren, but even from this position our Lord has driven him. Our advocate silences our accuser. The Lord rebukes our enemies and pleads the causes of our soul, so that no harm comes of all the devil’s revilings.
As a tempter, the evil spirit still assails us and insinuates himself into our minds, but thence also is he cast out as to his former preeminence. He wriggles about like a serpent, but he cannot rule like a sovereign. He hurls in blasphemous thoughts when he has opportunity, but what a relief it is when he is told to be quiet and is made to slink off like a whipped cur! Lord, do this for any who are at this time worried and wearied by his barkings. Cast out their enemy, and be thou glorious in their eyes. Thou hast cast him down; Lord cast him out. Oh, that thou wouldst banish him from the world!.
Our Daily Homily
F B Meyer
The Lord thy God is in the midst of thee, a Mighty One who will save. (r.v.) Zephaniah 3:17
If this announcement is compared with the foregoing verse, it becomes apparent that only those may take its blessed comfort who have made the Lord their King. It is when the Lord, the King of Israel, is in the midst that we cease to fear the incursion of evil. Entire surrender and consecration must precede that deliverance from the power of evil which we all desire in our holiest hours.
O tempted one, who fearest every hour because of the fury of the foe, that seems only waiting to destroy, look no longer upon him, but behold thy glorious Lord. “He will save.” Dare to repeat those words again and again, as a sweet refrain. Dare to believe that the battle is not yours, but his. Fear not; nor let thine hands be slack! Do thy work in the world, and let God keep thee.
But God will do more than save the yielded trusting one. He will rejoice over the soul that finds its all in Himself. Such exquisite satisfaction will fill his glorious nature, that it shall be as when the heart can no longer contain itself, and wells over with liquid music. It is much to hear a nightingale sing; more to hear an angel; more to hear some child of Adam redeemed from sin sing the new song: but most to hear the great God break out into song. So a mother sings over her babe. O my God, may my life give Thee joy; not grief, nor tears, but a song.
But He does not always express Himself thus. He is sometimes “silent in his love.” At such times He does not speak or sing, but broods over the soul that has dared to trust Him. “He will rest in his love.” There are times when the heart is too full of blessedness to speak—it has learned to abide in the secret place. An ocean too full to permit of waves!
C H Spurgeon
The Reason for Singing
“The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”—Zephaniah 3:17
WHAT a word is this! Jehovah God in the center of His people in all the majesty of His power! This presence alone suffices to inspire us with peace and hope. Treasures of boundless might are stored in our Jehovah, and He dwells in His church; therefore may His people shout for joy.
We not only have His presence, but He is engaged upon His choice work of salvation. “He will save.” He is always saving: He takes His name of Jesus from it. Let us not fear any danger for He is mighty to save.
Nor is this all. He abides evermore the same; He loves, He finds rest in loving, and He will not cease to love. His love gives Him joy. He even finds a theme for song in His beloved. This is exceedingly wonderful. When God wrought creation He did not sing, but simply said, “It is very good.” But when He came to redemption, then the sacred Trinity felt a joy to be expressed in song. Think of it and be astonished! Jehovah Jesus sings a marriage song over His chosen bride. She is to Him His love, His joy, His rest, His song. O Lord Jesus, by thine immeasurable love to us, teach us to love thee, to rejoice in thee, and to sing unto thee our Life-psalm.
C H Spurgeon
Word to Him Who Halts
“I will save her that halteth.”—Zephaniah 3:19
THERE are plenty of these lame ones, both male and female. You may meet “her that halteth” twenty times in an hour. They are in the right road, and exceedingly anxious to run in it with diligence; but they are lame, and make a sorry walk of it. On the heavenly road there are many cripples. It may be that they say in their hearts, what will become of us? Sin will overtake us. Satan will throw us down. Ready-to-halt is our name and our nature; the Lord can never make good soldiers of us, nor even nimble messengers to go on His errands. Well, well! He will save us, and that is no small thing. He says, “I will save her that halteth.” In saving us, He will greatly glorify Himself. Everybody will ask how came this lame woman to run the race and win the crown? And then the praise will all be given to almighty grace.
Lord, though I halt in faith, in prayer, in praise, in service, and in patience, save me, I beseech thee! Only thou canst save such a cripple as I am. Lord, let me not perish because I am among the hindmost, but gather up by thy grace the slowest of thy pilgrims, even me. Behold He hath said that it shall be so. Therefore, like Jacob, prevailing in prayer, I go forward though my sinew be shrunk.
THERE is a "may be" about all temporal things; and in pleading for them we ask with much diffidence.
Yet we may plead confidently when our appeal is made to God in the day of his anger. Then our need is pressing: it is for our life that we are pleading, and the Lord is very gracious in our extremities.
In spiritual things we may draw encouragement from the faintest sign of hope when it proceeds from God: "it may be ye shall be hid."
The seeking for refuge, here commanded, is directed only to the meek and righteous; but it is our joy to proclaim a hiding place for the guilty, and to bid them seek the Lord even on the least encouragement.
The three seekings commanded are—
But our point is this: that we may seek the Lord upon the faintest encouragement. There are strong inducements and large promises; but if we cannot grasp these we may come even with a "may be."
I. IN MANY A RECORDED INSTANCE "MAY BE" HAS PROMPTED AND JUSTIFIED A RIGHT ACTION.
From the cases which we will mention lessons may be learned.
1. A "may be" led Jonathan to attack the garrison of the Philistines (1 Sam. 14:6)."It may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few." This should nerve saints for holy enterprises.
2. A "may be" Cheered David when Absalom rebelled, and Shimei cursed (2 Sam. 16:12). "It maybe that the Lord will look on mine affliction." Let us hope in God in our darkest hours.
3. A "may be" induced the lepers to visit the Syrian camp (2 Kings 7:4). Their desperate venture should be laid to heart by those who are in like condition. They can but perish in any case; let them seek the Lord, and try whether he does not save.
4. A "may be," diluted with an "if so be," moved the afflicted to humble himself. See Jeremiah's Lamentations 3:29. Let no tried soul refuse the like hope.
5. A "may be," in the form of "Who can tell?" brought all Nineveh to repentance (Jon. 3:9).
If others have acted so vigorously upon such slender encouragement, may not we, when dreading the ruin of our souls, act with like decision and hopefulness? If we fly to Jesus by childlike faith, there is more than a "may be" that the result will be happy.
II. IN THE INSTANCE OF A SINCERE SEEKER THE "MAY BE" HAS UNUSUAL STRENGTH.
There is every probability of the penitent obtaining salvation if we—
1. Consider the gracious nature of our God (Mic. 7:18).
2. Consider the glorious work of Christ for sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).
3. Consider the mercy they have already received. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed (Lam. 3:22). 4. Consider the number and character of those who have been saved. (Rev. 5:9; 7:9; 1 Cor. 6:11).
5. Consider the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8).
6. Consider the glory which is to be the Lord's at the last: surely it will come by saving souls, and saving many of them.
III. BUT IN THE SEEKERS CASE HE HAS FAR MORE TO GO UPON THAN A MERE "MAY BE."
There are innumerable sure promises in the Word of God, and these are made to:
Let these promises be studied, and their encouragement accepted by immediate compliance with their requirements.
He comes to you in Christ Jesus. Look to him at once, and live.
Possibly ye may be hid from punishment, probably ye shall escape sorrow: but pardon of sin ye shall be sure of; mitigation also o£ sorrow, if not prevention of it. Saved ye shall be, or more gently handled, or so inwardly calmed, that ye shall be able to call your souls to rest when others are at their wits' ends. You shall be safe under the cover of God's wings, and in the hollow of his hand; when others, that are without God in the world, shall be as a naked man in a storm, as an unarmed man in the field of battle, or as a ship at sea without an anchor, subject to dash and split against rocks and quicksands. — Trapp
Dr. John Duncan was once heard thus addressing a beggar-woman in Edinburgh — "Now, you'll promise me that you'll seek: but mind, seeking will not save you, yet it is your duty; and it: you seek you'll find, and finding will save you."
Our hope is not hung upon such untwisted thread as "I imagine so", or, "it is likely"; but the cable, the strong rope of our fastened anchor is the oath and promise of him who is eternal verity; our salvation is fastened with God's own hand, and Christ's own strength, to the strong stake of God's unchanging nature. — Rutherford
How long a beggar will wait, and how eagerly he will plead, although he has no promise of an alms, but only the bare chance of winning a penny from a passer-by! How laboriously will fishers cast their nets again and again, though nothing has been taken as yet, and their only encouragement is the possibility that fish may come that way! How desperately will men dive into the sea with the expectation of finding pearls in oyster-shells, encountering fierce monsters of the deep with the uncertain hope of being enriched! And will not men draw near to God when their outlook is so much more bright, their expectation so much more justifiable.? As for me, I will lay down my sick soul at Christ's feet, in sure and certain belief that he will heal me, and then I will follow him whithersoever he goeth, in calm assurance that he will lead me to his eternal kingdom and glory. — C H. S.
She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God.— Zephaniah 3:2
WHEN the Lord is judging men he does not spare those who are called his people: Moab and Ammon and Nineveh are visited, and Jerusalem is not spared.
There are sins which outsiders cannot commit, such as those of the text. When peculiar privileges only create peculiar sins, they will be followed by peculiar punishments.
The offenses mentioned in this verse are to be found in nations, churches, and individuals unto this day: and in a measure among God's own people.
I. IN THE TEXT WE PERCEIVE FOUR MANIFEST SINS.
1. We will make upon them, as a whole, four observations.
2. We will note each one of the four separately.
These four sins abound around us, and among us.
Inattention, Obstinacy, Unbelief, and Aversion to God are all common.
They involve men in misery in this life, and in eternal ruin in the world to come. Are they not destroying some of you?
II. IN THE TEXT WE SPY OUT FOUR HIDDEN ENCOURAGEMENTS TO SEEK BETTER THINGS.
Let those who confess their sin look at the text with hope, for it is clear that—
1. God does speak to men. He may speak to us again.
2. God corrects for our good. It is meant for instruction, not for destruction (see the margin).
3. God would have us trust him. He would not blame us for not trusting if we were not permitted to trust him.
4. God would have us draw near to him. Else it were not mentioned as our sin that we do not draw near to him.
All this applies to us at this day.
Still the Lord is in the midst of us, reading our inmost souls.
Let us lay our sins to heart, and seek his face through Christ Jesus.
A Few Small Fishes
Remember, O my soul, the fig tree was charged, not with bearing noxious fruit, but no fruit. — Thomas Fuller
Zephaniah 3:17 The Saviour Resting in His Love
“He will rest in his love.” — Zephaniah 3:17.
ONE Of our sweetest hymns commences with this verse, —
“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?”
Well might the poet have put that question, if he had risen up from reading this third chapter of the prophecy of Zephaniah. O people of God, open your ears and your hearts while Jehovah thus speaks to you by the mouth of his ancient prophet, “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil anymore. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” The words are very simple, but the promises they convey are so weighty that the verses roll along like the triumphant periods of a jubilant poem. The truth of God, even when told in the simplest words, is very much akin to the loftiest poetry; and I might, without the slightest hesitation, declare that there never was any poem, composed by human intellect, which could match for a moment, in the sweetness of its notes, the succession of precious promises which God here proclaims in the ears of his chosen ones.
We cannot, on the present occasion, enter into the wondrous depths of the promises here revealed. We should need, indeed, a long period of time before we should be able to explain them; and, possibly, the whole of life will scarcely be sufficient for us fully to realize these great truths in our own experience. We will, therefore, at once turn to the few words I have chosen as my text, “He will rest in his love,” and we shall consider these words as referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, and as relating to his divine and matchless love, which he hath manifested toward his people in the wondrous works of grace which he has accomplished for them and in them.
“He will rest in his love.” This short sentence is capable of several interpretations, and each view we take of it has in it something extremely delightful.
I. Here is, first of all, The Doctrine, That Christ Will Keep Ever Faithful To Those Upon Whom He Has Set His Heart’s Affection.
The love of human beings is a fitful and flickering flame; it may be set, for a season, with apparent constancy upon a certain object; but you can never tell how long it will remain steadfast. However firm, however true, and however fervent it may seem to be, and even really may be, yet trust it not so implicitly as to come under that ancient sentence, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” Trust not too much to any friend whom you may have; put not all your confidence in any man, for the best of men are but men at the best, and the firmest of men are subject to the infirmities and the frailties of their race. But God’s love is no flickering flame; it does not flare up for a little while, like the crackling of thorns under a pot, and then die out in darkness; it is not to be set forth by the image of a fool’s mirth, which lasteth but for a little season. It beginneth, it waxeth vehement, it diminisheth not, but it groweth from strength to strength, till what seemed at first to be but a single spark, becomes a mighty flame, and what was a flame becomes like the beacon-lights of war, and what was but as a beacon becomes as the sun itself, in the fierceness of its heat and in the majesty of its goings.
There are some who teach that Christ’s love may be set upon a man, and yet that it may afterwards be removed from him. Where, then, remains the comfort of God’s people if their teaching is true? But, thank God, it is not true; for the promise of the text is that Jesus “will rest in his love.” If their doctrine is according to the Scriptures, where is the value of Christ’s affection at all? In what respects can he be said to stick closer than a brother? How can it be true that many waters cannot quench his love, neither can the floods drown it? If these men are right, must not the apostle Paul have been wrong when he declared that he was persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in the whole of creation should ever be able to separate the saints from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus their Lord? Shall we imagine that the apostle was mistaken, and suppose that this erroneous teaching is the truth of God? Shall we turn away from the positive testimony of Holy Scripture, and believe the falsehoods of men in its place, especially when that Scripture is itself so full of consolation to God’s people that, if it can ever be proved to be untrue, they may put their hands upon their loins in agony of woe, and go to their graves full of misery and despair?
But, beloved, ye know right well that Jesus Christ’s love, when once it has engraved your name upon his hand and his heart, will never suffer that name to be erased. Ye believe, and ye believe aright, that he who has a portion in the heart of God has an eternal portion. He who can claim for himself a share of the Father’s love, of the Son’s redemption, and of the Spirit’s care, need never be afraid that all the thievish hosts of hell shall rob him of his divine inheritance. For look ye here, brethren, what is there, to separate you and me from Jesus Christ’s love, which has not been tried already?
Can sin ever make Jesus cease to love me? If so, he would have ceased to love me long ago. If there be any iniquity that I can commit that would divide me from Christ’s love, methinks that I should have been separated from him long ere this; for, in looking back upon my own life, I am compelled, with shame and confusion of face, to fall upon my knees, and confess that he has had a thousand reasons for thrusting me out of doors if he had chosen to do so, and he might have framed millions of excuses if he had resolved to blot my name out of the book of life. He might have said, “Thou art unworthy of me, and therefore I will be unmindful of thee.”
Further, if Christ had intended to cast us away because of our sins, why did he ever take us on? Did he not know, beforehand, that we should be rebellious, and did not his omniscient eye see all our sins, and detect all our follies? Are we ungrateful? He knew that we should be. Are our sins extremely heinous? He knew how heinous they would be. He could foresee all; every spot that was to be upon us, was upon us, before his omniscient eye, when he chose us; every fault that we should commit was already committed in his estimation. He foreknew and foresaw all; yet he chose us just as we were. If he had intended to abandon us, and cast us away, would he ever have accepted us at all? If Jesus meant to divorce his bride, foreknowing all her faults, would he ever have espoused her? If he determined to cast away his adopted child, since he knew that child’s unfaithfulness, would he ever have adopted him? Oh, think not, beloved, that Christ would have done all that he has done for nothing, that he would have come from heaven to earth, and have even gone from the cross to the grave, and allowed his spirit to descend into the shades of Hades, on a bootless errand! Would he not have started back, and said, “I know my bride will prove to be unworthy, therefore I will not espouse her”? But since he has espoused her, and has put the red ring of his own atonement on her finger, and has hitherto been faithful to her, what shall ever constrain him to divorce her? What can ever induce him to cast from his bosom her whom he died to save? It must be true that “he will rest in his love,” for he has hitherto rested in it, though he has had much to mourn over in his chosen ones.
Our sin, then, has not divided, and, we believe, never shall divide us from the Savior’s love. What remains? Will sorrow ever separate us from our Savior? Can tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword, separate us from the love of Christ? Nay, for all these things do but make the Savior manifest his love to us the more. If Christ loves his people well in prosperity, he never loves them any the less in their adversities. Do you believe that Christ loves his children when they are arrayed in purple, and that he will forsake them when they wander about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, tormented? If so, ye know not the heart of Jesus. He loves his people well enough everyday; but if he sees them stretched upon the rack, and about to die for his sake, if it be possible, the infinity of his love must then surpass itself. Well said the apostle, when he had mentioned all these sufferings and pains, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
Sin and sorrow, therefore, are perfectly incapable of rending us from the heart of Christ, for he must, “he will rest in his love.” And this truth will seem all the more plain and clear if we just pause a moment, and think of our relationship to God the Father and to God the Son. Is not every Christian God’s child? And did you ever know a true father who hated his own child? You may have known such a father, but it was unfatherly for him to hate his own son. Have you known a father who has cursed his son, and driven him forth from his home, and declared that he was not his child? You may have known some men of that kind, or you may have heard of such unnatural creatures; but, mark you, the father’s curse could not unchild his child; — he was still his father’s son, even when he was cursed by him. Not even the foulest words that ever came from the most embittered heart could ever take away that child’s right to call that man his father; a child is a child forever if he is once a child, and a father is a father for aye if he is once a father.
Now, beloved, in the usual course of nature, we find that men will do anything for their children that they possibly can do. Here is a poor creature, born into the world, nearly an idiot; — it has not its senses right, it is nearly blind and deaf, and its parents know that, even if they can bring it up, it will always be a trouble to them; yet you see with what studious care the father and mother endeavor to save the poor child’s life. While others say, “If it were to die, it would be a happy release,” both father and mother feel that they would be losers by its death. “Ah!” said one good old divine, “if a father could have a child that had lost eyes and ears, and feet and hands, though he could not breathe in a natural fashion, though he could not feed without some extraordinary means for the digestion of his food, event then his father would do his best to keep him alive; and so surely shall it be with that great Father, who, when he speaks of himself, and of us, always puts his Fatherhood far higher than ours, as Christ did when he said, ’If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?’ And truly I may say, if an earthly father does not wish to lose his child, if he would endeavor to save his child’s life though it was loaded with ten thousand diseases, how much rather shall our Father who is in heaven see to it that none of his little ones shall perish, but that every one of them shall be preserved!” Do you not see that, because we are God’s sons, we are, therefore, Jesus Christ’s brothers, and “he will rest in his love”?
But there is yet another thought, for we have a relationship also to Christ, and therefore “he will rest in his love.” We have never yet heard of a man who hated his own flesh. Strangely wicked as it is, we have heard of men who have hated their flesh in the mystic sense of the marriage tie, and who have driven their wives from them with all manner of brutality and cruelty. She whom the husband promised to cherish and to nourish, he has driven away, yet he has never thus treated his own flesh; the man may have become cruel and unnatural towards her who is his own flesh by marriage, but not towards his own literal flesh. Now, Jesus Christ has taken his people into such a connection with himself that they are nearer to him even than the wife is to the husband; they are as near to him as our own flesh and blood are to our own head. What will not a man do to save his hand, or the least member of his body? Would he ever cease to care for even the feeblest portion of his frame? No; men are generally careful enough of their own flesh and blood; much more, therefore, will our Lord Jesus Christ protect the members of his mystical body, for we are his fullness, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. And will Christ lose his own fullness? Shah his body be dismembered? Shall the head become a bleeding head, and the trunk become a corpse? Shall any one member be left to die, to burn, to be destroyed? Oh, no! As surely as we are brought into this relationship with Christ, so surely are we saved beyond any hazard. This is one meaning of the text, and most consolatory to the tried, tempest-tossed child of God.
II. I think, however, that there is another very sweet meaning to it; that is, Christ Has Labored In His Love, And He Now Rests In It.
Let me draw a picture for you. Here is a man, who loves his hearth, and his home, and his country, and his Queen. The sound of battle is heard in the land, so he girds his sword upon his thigh, and marches forth to defend all that is dear to him. He fights, he struggles, his garments are stained with blood, and he himself is wounded. It is love — love of his own safety, and of his family, and of his country, that has made him fight so bravely. And now that the deed is done, he comes back to his home. The foe has been swept from the white cliffs of Albion, and the land of liberty is still free; Britons are not slaves. The man retires to his house, and you see how quietly he sleeps, how joyously he sits down under his own vine and fig tree, none daring to make him afraid. With what joy does he now look upon the faces of those whom he has defended, and upon the home for which he has fought! What satisfaction does it give him to know that the honor of his country is still unstained, and his land is still the home of the free! Now he rests in his love; that which made him fight, now gives him joy; that which impelled him in the day of battle to do great deeds of heroism, is its own sweet reward. Now he rests because the battle is fought, the victory is won, and he, therefore, rejoices in the very love which once caused him to labor.
Now see the Lord Jesus Christ. laboring in his love. Love fetched him from his throne in heaven; love disrobed him of his glories; love laid him in Bethlehem’s manger; love led him through this weary world for three-and-thirty years; love took him to Gethsemane; love oppressed him till his sweat great drops of blood; love made him the great Standard-bearer in the fight; love made him stand erect, the focus of the war, when the storm gathered round his brow, and every arrow of the foeman found a target in his heart; love made him — “Calm ’mid the bewildering cry, Confident of victory;” — love made him bow his head, and give up the ghost, that he might redeem his people from their sins. Now, he is more than conqueror, he rises to heaven, and he rests in his love. Oh, what a wondrous rest that is! If rest be sweet to the laboring man, how much sweeter to the bleeding Man, the dying Man, the crucified Man, the risen Man? If rest be sweet after toil, how sweet must be the rest of Jesus after all the toils of life and death, the cross and the grave! If victory makes the soldier’s return joyous, how joyous must have been the return of that conquering Hero who has led captivity captive, and received gifts for men! Truly doth our Lord Jesus “rest in his love.”
Do you not see that the very thing that drove him to labor, now makes a pillow for his head? That which made him strong in the day of battle makes him joyous in the hour of victory, and that is the love which he bears to his people. For, lo! as he sits down in heaven, he thinks within himself: “I have done it, I have finished the work of my people’s redemption; not one of them shall ever perish; no drop of the hail of God’s vengeance can fall on them, for it has all fallen on me. I have been smitten, I have borne the curse; and, now, they cannot be cursed, they are delivered.” And then his holy mind roves on in meditation: “I have taken away the curse, and I have given them the blessing; I have brought many of them to know and love me; and, in due season, I will bring all the rest; they shall come that are ready to perish, for I must have every one of my blood-bought sheep with me forever. They shall be blessed on earth, and by-and-by I shall have them where I am, and they shall feed in these rich pastures; they shall lie down where the wolf cannot come, and where desolation cannot enter. The time shall come when I shall have their very bones resuscitated, when their flesh, that has lain in the dust, shall live again to be with me; so shall they all, every one of them, body, soul, and spirit, regain all the inheritance that they had lost, and, with all that double portion which I have gained for them, share the spoil, and wave the palm, and be more than conquerors, through what I have done for them.” This thought gives sweet rest to the Savior, who once labored here below, and who now, in heaven, “rests in his love.”
III. I find that Dr. Gill gives this as one of the meanings of the text, for he is always noted for giving a great variety of meanings to a text; and, sometimes, nobody knows which is the true one.
When he is going to explain a passage of Scripture, he says, “It does not mean this, it does not mean that, and it does not mean the other.” Probably, nobody ever thought it did mean anything of the kind. After he has mentioned several things which it does not mean, he mentions some that it may mean, and then, last of all, he tells us what it actually does mean. He says our text :means, “He Shall Solace Himself In His Love.”
There is something very sweet in love; whether it is sweeter to be loved or to love, I know not; but, certainly, when the two experiences meet together, they are like two noble rivers which have flowed through a rich and fertile country, and then combined to make some great lake, or inland sea; then are they broad waters indeed. Now, Christ sees our love; the love which he has put into us meets the love which he has poured out towards us; and in both of these he finds a sweet solace. He solaces himself in love; this it is that cheers and comforts him. Some men, when they would be cheered on earth, drink the wine which stirs their blood; some men find comfort in company, and the noisy, thoughtless talker makes them glad; others, when they would be solaced, turn to books; these are their joys. Others, when they would be satisfied, chink their gold, look over their mortgages, their estates, their bonds, and things of that kind; and some men there are, who in this world have nothing sweeter for solace than the love of those who are near and dear to them. The man who loves his home and his family, and finds his little earthly heaven around his own hearth, is one of the happiest men I know. Treasure that thought for a moment, and think of Christ as taking delight in his family.
I never yet heard that Christ rests in his power. He has great power; see what he has done. He has built the heavens; he has stretched out the earth, and he upholds the clouds with his might: but he never rests there. I know, too, that he has great wisdom: he knows all things in the ages past, in the time present, and in the centuries yet to come. He can unravel mysteries, and foretell all things, yet I never heard that he rested in his wisdom. There is a great crowd of angelic spirits, ever waiting in his courts above, and he, as King, sits in the very center of them all, and before him principalities and powers cast their crowns; but I never heard that he rested even in their homage. No; our Lord Jesus Christ is like the man who loves his family; he rests in the midst of his own beloved ones, — his spouse’s bosom, the place where he hears his children cry, where he listens to their prayers, the door at which he receives their thanksgiving, and bestows his blessing, the house where they wait on him and he waits on them, where they commune with him, and he communes with them; — that is the place where he rests. He rests in his love, in the midst of the objects of his love; there it is that he finds his own eternal satisfaction, the solace of his heart.
Is not that a sweet thought? It has ravished my soul, while turning it over, to think that Jesus Christ should ever find his rest among the poor sons of men. Long ago, it was said of him, “His delights were with the sons of men,” and now that is his rest, too. Oh, how pleasant it is for us to know that our Lord will not sleep anywhere but in the house of his beloved, and ’neath no other tree will he recline but beneath the trees of his own right-hand planting! It is very easy for me to say of Christ, “As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons;” but it is surprising that he should ever say the same of me. I can say of him, “I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste;” but it is wonderful for him to say the same of me, or to turn to some poor saint, and say to him, “O soul! thou art weary, but thou art my rest, and I am thy rest; thou art sick, but thou art my health, and I am thy health; thou art sad, but thou art my joy, and I am thy joy; thou art poor, but thou art my treasure, and I am thy treasure; thou art nothing, and yet thou art my fullness, and I am thy fullness!” Oh, what a host of precious thoughts we can meditate upon here! We have started a whole covey of sweet things, and we might profitably stand still, and admire them. It is not merely one sweet thought, but many that are included in this one precious truth, “He will rest in his love.” He never rested till he found that all his love was given to us, and he never will rest completely till all our love is given to him.
IV. The Hebrew conveys to us yet another idea. In the margin, we read, “He Will Be Silent In His Love.”
Why is this? What can silence have to do with love? One old divine thinks that Christ means, by this expression, to say that his love is so vast that it can be better heard by his saying nothing than by his attempting to express it. What a great deal Christ has said, in the Scriptures, about his love; and yet hearken, O spouse of Christ, the love that he hath not spoken is ten times more than anything he has yet said! Oh, yes; there is much love which he has brought out of the treasure-house, and given to you; but he has much more like it in that divine heart of his. Some drops of his love you have already received, but those bright clouds on high, those storehouses of his grace, contain treasures of which you have never yet even dreamed. When you read one of the promises, you say, “Ah, this is indeed precious!” Yet, recollect that what our Lord has revealed in his Word is not a tenth of what he has not said. He has said many rich things, but there are richer things still. He has not said them, he cannot say them, because they are unsayable, they are unutterable, they cannot be declared; at least, not at present. When you get to heaven, you will hear them; you cannot hear them here.
You know that the apostle Paul said, when he was caught up to the third heaven, he heard words which it was not lawful for men to utter. Perhaps he then heard more of the Savior’s love, as though Christ said to him, “I tell you this, but you must not tell it to anyone else; it is not lawful to utter it down below. I have made you a great vessel, and you can hold this revelation; but as for the rest, they are only little vessels; do not tell them anymore, it would burst them; do not expose them to too great a heat of love, it would consume them; — they would die if they knew more, — they cannot understand more. I have told them so much of my love that, if they only understood all I have told them, they would not be able to live on earth, their hearts would burst for joy, and they would be obliged to flee to me above. Therefore I tell them no more, for they cannot bear it.” So that, you see, there is great preciousness in this rendering, “He will be silent in his love;” as if he could not say it, therefore he would not try to say it, he would just leave it alone. One poet, after praising God with all his might, finds that he can go no further, and winds up thus, — “Come, then, expressive silence, tell his praise.” That is just the meaning of the text, as if Christ would say, “I have said a great deal, but my people cannot understand; I will say no more; I shall only now say, ’Come, then, expressive silence, tell my love.’ “
There is, however, a meaning that is, perhaps, even more correct. “He will be silent in his love,” may mean that he will be silent about his people’s faults; from the connection of the text, it looks like this. “The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.” It looks as if he meant to say he would be silent about their sins. There stands Christ in heaven today, pleading for his people. Listen! He says nothing to accuse them. Satan may accuse, but Christ never will. The good that his people do is magnified, and multiplied, and perfected, and then presented before the throne; but as for the sins of his people, he has cast them behind his back, and all he says concerning those sins is this, “I behold no sin in Jacob neither iniquity in Israel; my anger is turned away from them; I have blotted out like a cloud their iniquities, and like a thick cloud their sins.” Sometimes, love makes a man silent. If you hear anything said against one whom you love, and you are asked, “Is it not so?” you say, “Well, I am not compelled to bear witness against one whom I love, and I will not do so.” You know that our law does not demand of a wife that she shall give evidence against her husband; and, certainly, the Lord Jesus Christ will never give any evidence against his spouse: “He will be silent in his love.” If he were called upon to say, “Has thy spouse sinned?” his declaration would be, “I am the Sin-offering on her behalf. I am her Substitute; I have been punished in her stead. I can say, ’Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee.’ “ There will not be a word of accusation from him. She says of herself, “I am all black.” He will not deny it, but he will not affirm it. He says, “There is no spot in thee;” and he goes on to say that she is all fair in his sight. O glorious silence! “He will be silent in his love.” So am I inclined to believe it will be at the last great day, when the books shall be opened. Christ will read out the sins of the wicked recorded against them; but, as for the sins of his people, “he will be silent in his love.” I sometimes think that it will be so, though I cannot speak with authority. “No,” he will say, “upon you be the curse, — you who lived and died without washing in my blood in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness; but as for these my people, they have had their sins blotted out; and I will not read what is obliterated; I will be silent in my love.”
What a wonderful rush of exuberant gladness there is in these words! The swift, short clauses, the triple invocation in the former verse, the triple promise in the latter, the heaped together synonyms, all help the impression. The very words seem to dance with joy. But more remarkable than this is the parallelism between the two verses. Zion is called to rejoice in God because God rejoices in her. She is to shout for joy and sing because God’s joy too has a voice, and breaks out into singing. For every throb of joy in man’s heart, there is a wave of gladness in God’s. The notes of our praise are at once the echoes and the occasions of His. We are to be glad because He is glad: He is glad because we are so. We sing for joy, and He joys over us with singing because we do.
I. God’s joy over Zion.
It is to be noticed that the former verse of our text is followed by the assurance: ‘The Lord is in the midst of thee’; and that the latter verse is preceded by the same assurance. So, then, intimate fellowship and communion between God and Israel lies at the root both of God’s joy in man and man’s joy in God.
We are solemnly warned by ‘profound thinkers’ of letting the shadow of our emotions fall upon God. No doubt there is a real danger there; but there is a worse danger, that of conceiving of a God who has no life and heart; and it is better to hold fast by this—that in Him is that which corresponds to what in us is gladness. We are often told, too, that the Jehovah of the Old Testament is a stern and repellent God, and the religion of the Old Testament is gloomy and servile. But such a misconception is hard to maintain in the face of such words as these. Zephaniah, of whom we know little, and whose words are mainly forecasts of judgments and woes pronounced against Zion that was rebellious and polluted, ends his prophecy with these companion pictures, like a gleam of sunshine which often streams out at the close of a dark winter’s day. To him the judgments which he prophesied were no contradiction of the love and gladness of God. The thought of a glad God might be a very awful thought; such an insight as this prophet had gives a blessed meaning to it. We may think of the joy that belongs to the divine nature as coming from the completeness of His being, which is raised far above all that makes of sorrow. But it is not in Himself alone that He is glad; but it is because He loves. The exercise of love is ever blessedness. His joy is in self-impartation; His delights are in the sons of men: ‘As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.’ His gladness is in His children when they let Him love them, and do not throw back His love on itself. As in man’s physical frame it is pain to have secretions dammed up, so when God’s love is forced back upon itself and prevented from flowing out in blessing, some shadow of suffering cannot but pass across that calm sky. He is glad when His face is mirrored in ours, and the rays from Him are reflected from us.
But there is another wonderfully bold and beautiful thought in this representation of the gladness of God. Note the double form which it assumes: ‘He will rest’—literally, be silent—‘in His love; He will joy over thee with singing.’ As to the former, loving hearts on earth know that the deepest love knows no utterance, and can find none. A heart full of love rests as having attained its desire and accomplished its purpose. It keeps a perpetual Sabbath, and is content to be silent.
But side by side with this picture of the repose of God’s joy is set with great poetic insight the precisely opposite image of a love which delights in expression, and rejoices over its object with singing. The combination of the two helps to express the depth and intensity of the one love, which like a song-bird rises with quivering delight and pours out as it rises an ever louder and more joyous note, and then drops, composed and still, to its nest upon the dewy ground.
II. Zion’s joy in God.
To the Prophet, the fact that ‘the Lord is in the midst of thee’ was the guarantee for the confident assurance ‘Thou shalt not fear any more’; and this assurance was to be the occasion of exuberant gladness, which ripples over in the very words of our first text. That great thought of ‘God dwelling in the midst’ is rightly a pain and a terror to rebellious wills and alienated hearts. It needs some preparation of mind and spirit to be glad because God is near; and they who find their satisfaction in earthly sources, and those who seek for it in these, see no word of good news, but rather a ‘fearful looking for of judgment’ in the thought that God is in their midst. The word rendered ‘rejoices’ in the first verse of our text is not the same as that so translated in the second. The latter means literally, to move in a circle; while the former literally means, to leap for joy. Thus the gladness of God is thought of as expressing itself in dignified, calm movements, whilst Zion’s joy is likened in its expression to the more violent movements of the dance. True human joy is like God’s, in that He delights in us and we in Him, and in that both He and we delight in the exercise of love. But we are never to forget that the differences are real as the resemblances, and that it is reserved for the higher form of our experiences in a future life to ‘enter into the joy of the Lord.’
It becomes us to see to it that our religion is a religion of joy. Our text is an authoritative command as well as a joyful exhortation, and we do not fairly represent the facts of Christian faith if we do not ‘rejoice in the Lord always.’ In all the sadness and troubles which necessarily accompany us, as they do all men, we ought by the effort of faith to set the Lord always before us that we be not moved. The secret of stable and perpetual joy still lies where Zephaniah found it—in the assurance that the Lord is with us, and in the vision of His love resting upon us, and rejoicing over us with singing. If thus our love clasps His, and His joy finds its way into our hearts, it will remain with us that our ‘joy may be full’; and being guarded by Him whilst still there is fear of stumbling, He will set us at last ‘before the presence of His glory without blemish in exceeding joy.
In regard to the OT Prophetic books such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and the 12 "Minor" Prophets, remember that the most accurate interpretation is derived by applying the following principles:
(1) Read the Scripture literally (unless the text is clearly figurative, e.g., Jesus said "I am the door… " Jn 10:9). If one interprets a text symbolically (allegorically, figuratively, spiritualizing) when that text makes good sense literally, one potentially opens themselves to the danger of inaccurate interpretation, for then the question arises as to who's "symbolic" interpretation is correct and how imaginative one should be in evaluating a "supposed symbol"? Many of the commentaries and sermons on the OT prophetic books unfortunately are replete with non-literal interpretations (except when it comes to Messianic Passages, which are usually interpreted literally). Therefore the watchword when reading any commentary on Old Testament prophecy is caveat emptor ("buyer beware"). Read all commentaries like the Bereans (Acts 17:11-note).
(2) Study the context which is always "king" in interpretation (don't take verses out of context.)
(3) Passages addressed to Israel should be interpreted as directed to the literal nation of Israel and should not be interpreted as addressed to the NT Church, an entity not mentioned in the Old Testament. The promises of Jehovah to the nation of Israel (e.g., see Millennial Promises) remain valid (Jer 31:35, 36, 37, Nu 23:19, Lk 21:33) and have not been passed on to the NT Church because Israel has "defaulted" (See study Israel of God). Remember that while Scripture has only one correct interpretation, there can be many legitimate applications (See Application), and therefore the OT prophetic books are extremely applicable in the lives of NT believers.
(4) Scripture is always the best commentary on Scripture. While an attempt has been made to list resources that adhere to these basic interpretative guidelines, not all the works listed in these collections have been read in detail. Therefore should you discover a resource you feel is NOT conservative and/or orthodox, please email your concerns.
Millennium - Biblical descriptions of this time on earth, primarily from the OT prophets