Zephaniah: The Day of the Lord
Open your Bibles, if you would, to the book of Zephaniah. Hopefully, you got one of the little Bible journals. The guys in the back can give you one of these, if you don't have one. That will help you follow along this morning. The title of the message is “The Day of the Lord”.
Friends, though your sins may be many, God's grace is more. The good news is not only that the believer gets forgiveness, but he gets Jesus. We get a new heart and a Savior. We get rid of our old boss, the devil, and he was our old boss, and enter into the marvelous, wonderful matchless Light of God.
Paul describes this in Ephesians chapter two. It says this, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” We were dead, children of wrath, spiritual zombies, the walking dead. Our boss was the devil. And we were following “the prince of the power of the air”. We did his bidding, day in and day out. We followed our sinful passions, our sinful desires of the body and mind, and in that state, we were completely helpless, deceived.
The nature of deception is that you don't know it. We think we're doing good. We think we're better than the rest. We think, oh, we're going to church; we're doing this, and we're doing that, and still deceived. Deceived people need to be told the gospel. That's why it says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15) They must have a preacher to preach. If they are to hear, they must have someone like you to proclaim the truth of the gospel, so that their hearts, which are dead in sin, can be revived by the greatest message ever told. In that state, we find this beautiful verse in Ephesians 2:4, “But God”. See, that's the contrast. God is the eternal contrast to a life of sin. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved.” This is the greatest message ever told. While dead in sin, God made us alive. Grammatically, that is what the Bible teaches. It emphatically places the prominence of your specific faith and salvation on God Himself.
We owe a debt to God we cannot repay. And when somebody does something nice for you, you want to thank them. If they did something really nice, you might send them a card. If it's their birthday, you want to show your appreciation and get them something nice. And if somebody cuts your grass for you, you pay them. We do these things. But yet God has done something so great that we cannot repay him. What do you give to the one who has all things? His rich mercy conquered the depth of our sin. All of it, took it away. He gave us spiritual shock paddles and shocked us to life.
While he did this, we were incapable of knowing him. Romans chapter three says there are none who seek after God, no, not one. (Romans 3:10-11) There is none of us who in our seeking God, and scriptures that say to seek God, that did that on our own. It is only by the grace of God that we could ever move an inch towards the Almighty God. That is why in Ephesians 2:8 it says, “For by grace you have been saved”. And you say, yes, but you have left off the faith; I had the faith. And let us show where that grace and where that faith has come from. Look in Ephesians 2:8. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing.” This is not your own doing. It is the gift of God. You cannot just say that salvation itself is the gift of God that you demanded through your faith. As if faith was something that obligated God to act on our behalf, with something even precious.
Now, verse nine says it's “not a result of works, so that no one may boast”. We can't earn it. And in verse eight, “this is not your own doing” encompasses all that grace has done. There is nothing we could earn. God gave you the faith and used it to deliver you. In the scholastic world, we call this the vehicle of faith, the instrument of your faith, that God utilized to bring forth this wonderful knowledge, this wonderful acceptance of the greatest message ever told. This spiritually dead state is the state of the entire world without salvation in Christ. It is the state that Zephaniah prophesied in. That is, he prophesied to people in this dead state.
Turn to Zephaniah chapter one, if you would. That's page 388 in those Bibles under the seats. The people that Zephaniah prophesied to were rich in knowledge but dead in sin. They had the richest spiritual heritage of any people group on the planet. They had the very oracles of God written down for them, as you'll see later, if they could only find them, if they could just remember where they had put them. They forgot their Bibles so much that they forgot that they had Bibles. They had the Pentateuch, they had the first five books, they had the scrolls. For hundreds of years, they all knew where they were. But the Scripture was like a dusty treasure box to them, that one never opened because there was nothing good enough in it.
Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah, the boy king. Around 640 BC, the Assyrians had already conquered the northern 10 tribes; Babylon had not yet taken over the southern land of Judah. And so, you're in between those two times. Babylon was rising as a threat. And Assyria was getting a little nervous. The people were starting to get more bold, because they saw there was someone else who could take down the Assyrians. And so, even Egypt would gain confidence to attack Assyria later. But the people were in great spiritual decline. They had had wicked king after a wicked king for a long time. And this is the state that Zephaniah prophesies in. And he preached about this one topic: the Day of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord references many things in Scripture. It is not a single 24-hour period. Although you can say that in a 24-hour period, certain things would happen. But the Day of the Lord is a reference in Scripture. Wherever you see that, you should know that there is normally a looming near judgment, and there is a looming far judgment. The Day of the Lord is a reference to a terrifying time of judgment for the children of Satan, but a time of great joy for the children of God. So, you can see the great contrast here. And Zephaniah is going to tell them about this day, the most terrifying day for all who do not know God, but a day of great rejoicing for those who do.
Look in Zephaniah chapter one, verse one, let me read about this. This is what is coming for those who don't know God, “The Word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah”. We know exactly who this Zephaniah is. Verse two, here is the judgment from God: “’I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth, declares the LORD.’” Now, you think you could probably just stop with that. That's all inclusive. Verse three, “’I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked. I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth’, declares the LORD. ‘I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests, those who bow down on the roofs to the hosts of the heavens, those who bow down and swear to the LORD and yet swear by Milcom, those who have turned back from following the LORD, who did not seek the LORD or inquire of him’”.
The reason why he explains these things in verses three to six is because we initially, whenever we hear things like verse two, we say, ah, that's not me. Right? That's what we all did when we heard verse two, that even though he sweeps away everything from the face of the earth, that must not mean me. And if you are a child of God, you are indeed correct. God will come against Judah and Jerusalem, specifically. And as I do an overview of this entire book, I've been going through all the books of the Old Testament and doing one sermon on an entire book, to get an overview. As we finish up the Old Testament in the next few weeks and start the New, I want to show you from this book how some of this was on the people specifically in this time. And then some of this will come upon maybe us in our generations or will happen in the future.
So, chapter one, verse four mentions Judah and Jerusalem specifically. So, there's a near day of the Lord that is going to come upon them, and you already know, in 586, the Babylonians came and took over, and they dominated everyone. We learned last week that was at the hand of God. You'll see, and I think, chapter two, verse 14, somewhere around there, they will mention taking down Assyria and Nineveh, specifically; that's 100 years after Nineveh repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. And generation after generation, they went back to wickedness. So, there are specific people groups here in Zephaniah that are judged. But notice right at the start, there's this scope of, I'm going to deal with the whole earth. God's going to come against three kinds of people, and we just read that.
Verses four through the first part of five, God's going to come against people in priests, who worship idols, and angels. Normally, that host of heaven is the army, the angelic army of heaven when you see that in Scripture, so he's going to come against those people. He's going to come against a second kind of people found in verse five, who swear to the LORD. In other words, their allegiance is to God Yahweh; that's the memorial name of God. I will serve you but yet also serve others, by Milcom that could be translated to their king. I swear the same kind of allegiance to a man that I do to God Almighty.
When I was in Venezuela doing mission trips there, we would often see calendars that had on one month, Jesus and the next month, their hero, their liberator of their nation. Venezuela has had some very difficult times recently. But often we would see, they would say, oh, yes, I love Jesus. And you think, oh, what else do I have to do in this home? They are worshipers of the true God. And then we ask them what, what's on your calendar, though? Oh, well, next month, we're going to worship this other guy. And you realize that life is a little bit more complicated. It's like talking to a Jehovah's Witness, trying to nail down their theology. Where do you get your source of truth? What are you going to become in the future? Right? And we have all of these different religions that will pay lip service to Yahweh, but not in the way that Yahweh requires. So, those people will be judged.
The third kind of person is in verse six. Those who do not follow Yahweh, seek Yahweh, or inquire of Him. So, the three kinds of people could be summarized as the cults, the two-faced, and those who don't even follow God or read His Word. How do you inquire of God? You read His Word. It gets worse. God will search the heart. He is going to go through Jerusalem, and he is going to, as you will see, go through the whole earth with a fine-tooth comb and look diligently beyond our facades right into our very being.
Look in verse 12, Zephaniah 1:12, “At that time”, so that's a reference, there is going to be a time when this happens, “At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good, nor will He do ill.’” This, this is kind of a terrifying verse to me, to me personally. God is punishing those who are complacent. The ones content with their spiritual state. Ones who are labeling themselves as self-righteous, who are stagnant, who are comfortable with their spiritual growth. They put no sweat into their growth. They wallow in the mire of their dull heart full of knowledge. How could anyone be full of knowledge? We might have some knowledge. But I would argue with you that no matter what verse you pick in the Bible, there is someone who knows more about that one verse than we do, then you do. And there is always something to learn from every single portion of God's dear Word, of His holy Word, of His life-giving Word, of his transforming Word, of his powerful Word.
How could we plumb the depths of the mind of God? We see our need for the Spirit there, that we don't even know how to pray as we ought, that we have the full corpus of Scripture now. So, the Spirit helps us even in those things. Have you ever been in that place where you feel like maybe you're just a little too content with your spiritual state, a little too comfortable with your spiritual growth or with any of those qualities that are the fruit of the Spirit, with the love or the joy or the peace or the patience or the kindness or the goodness or the faithfulness or the gentleness that comes from the Holy Spirit? And all of those things are meant to be engaged at the same time. It's not that you're joyful but not gentle. You can't be joyful and have no self-control. The fruit of the Spirit is all the same there, and you say, yeah, I've heard that 1,000 times, but are we actually putting it into practice? The complacent, Zephaniah goes on, this is still not the worst of it.
In Zephaniah chapter one, verse 14, and 15, he explains what this Day of the Lord for unbelievers is going to look like. When God pours out his full wrath on those people, what is it going to look like? What is it going to look like? He says, “The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there.” In other words, the strong guy, you know, the tough guy, the tough-as-nails, nothing bothers him kind of guy, he's gonna be crying. And if he's crying, you're gonna be crying.
Verse 15, “A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness,” and you say, I don't know if I can handle any more. This is heavy. And then of course, we must be sure that we are not the ones who go to the Lord and say, did I not cast out demons in your name and do many miracles and, and he will look at us and say, I never knew you. (Matthew 7:22-23) Right? A relationship with God is what we need. We need a God that we know, not just the God that we know of. The Egyptian magicians, before Moses, did miracles, but they're not in heaven.
Distress, that means grief, misery and anguish. Devastation, that means damage and waste and wreckage. Darkness, that means overcome with dread. Why all this devastation? Why is all this coming? Verse 17, “because they have sinned against the LORD.” See, that's what makes it so close to you and I, such a powerful little book of three chapters. All of this, because of sin. Does not the New Testament say if you've broken one law, you have broken them all. (James 2:10) The windshield’s cracked, the whole windshield is cracked. It's not just this section that's cracked, and the other section is great, right? The whole thing is damaged. They worship God plus. It seems like everywhere you turn now, there's a little plus symbol on something. All the channels now, ESPN is not good enough; it must be ESPN plus, because that's really good. As if America needed more sports. And I love watching that stuff. It's either God plus or no worship at all. You see, God does not take sin as lightly as we do. You cannot read His word and think that he takes sin lightly.
Verse 18, the normal thing that we throw at problems in America, money, won't help. Verse 18, “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the LORD. In the fire of His jealousy,” is upping the language here, “the fire of His jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.” I mentioned that this is a global scope. This is not just a localized day, there is a far fulfillment where the entire globe will be judged.
Ezekiel said the same thing. In Ezekiel 7:19, “They cast their silver into the streets, and their gold is like an unclean thing.” In other words, it was doing them no good. They had tons of money, but it didn't help. Their silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. Ezekiel warned the people as well. Proverbs said the same thing in 11:4 “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” And this was God who was doing this. This wasn't just some other nation and God said, hey, you know this other nation is coming. No, God is doing these things. John Calvin, writing on this passage, says “though other enemies, the Assyrians or the Chaldeans, [that's the Babylonians], attacked the Jews, God would be the principal leader in the war.”
You cannot make agreement with fire. Moses warned the people that God was a jealous God. He says in Deuteronomy, chapter four, verse 24, “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” As I have explained a couple sermons ago, His jealousy is perfect. His justice is perfect. He will not allow you to worship other people, other things. Isaiah warned of global destruction as well, “For the LORD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth.” (Isaiah 10:23) All the earth. Nahum said, “But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.” (Nahum 1:8) Lamentations chapter two, verse four, “He has poured out His fury like fire.” I think we think God is more like a teddy bear. But is that what you see? Is He our buddy? The day of wrath is coming on the whole world. What is the hope of escape?
Is there any hope for sinners, because you, me and everyone else are sinful. Knowing that this, the weight of this passage, just in the first chapter is so heavy. God gives a ray of hope through Zephaniah in chapter two, verse one. And I would encourage you to move towards hope in your life. Do not stay stagnant. Do not stay complacent. Do not wait for tomorrow. Today is the day that we need to move towards hope. Zephaniah chapter two, verse one, “Gather together, yes, gather, O shameless nation.” They weren't even embarrassed about their sin. “Before the decree takes effect, before the day passes away like chaff, before there comes upon you the burning anger of the LORD, before there comes upon you the day of the anger of the LORD. Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD.”
Who are those who are going to be hidden? This is not just some fluffy verse. This is the forthright Word of God. Do these things and you will be hidden. Perhaps you may be hidden on the day of anger. It would be kind of sadistic to suggest that if you do these things, and yet, you will still be consumed by God's anger, wouldn't it? And that would kind of be a little bit of bait and switch God would play on everyone. That while we know the judgment’s coming, so why should we do these things? Because He says perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord. What is he calling us to do? Those who may be hidden on the day of God's wrath are called to three things: to seek God, seek righteousness, and seek humility.
Humility. Remember, I said Zephaniah ruled in the days of Josiah. Many think these three chapters were proclaimed before Josiah came into his reign, where he started fixing everything. That was probably when Josiah was between eight and 16 years old that this prophecy was given. Josiah, the eight-year-old, inherited people upon whom God had had enough. An eight-year-old. Does anyone have any eight-year-olds they’d like to put in charge? What do you do if you're an eight-year-old, and you're surrounded by a bunch of wicked people, wicked rulers, wicked leaders, wicked wiseman and people who have so spurned God, they don't even know where the holy book is? Well, Josiah was a better leader at age eight than most of us will ever be. And like any good leader, he gave them what they needed, not what they wanted.
Turn to 2 Chronicles chapter 34, if you would. If you're using one of those Bibles under the seat, that's page 385. Second Chronicles chapter 34, verse one. This is the context of Zephaniah. And it's very encouraging what this young boy did. Second Chronicles chapter 34, verse one, “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned 31 years in Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in the ways of David his father; he did not turn aside to the right hand or the left.” This is an unusual eight-year-old. This is an unusual person. “For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, [that would put him at age 16, by the way], he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the 12th year, he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, [most detestable things ever made], and the carved and the metal images. And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in His presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them.”
You see this, you know, little three-and-a-half-foot guy, saying, tear them down, tear them down, burn them, melt them. Armies of people just doing what he said. “And he broke in pieces [the middle of verse 4] the ashram and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them.” This little boy was on our rampage. Verse five, “He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.” He had to go cleanse the graves of the priests, they were so defiled. Verse six, “And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins all around, he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. And then he returned to Jerusalem.” He was cleaning house and taking names at age 16.
Let me summarize this for you so far: age eight, he becomes king, age 16, he seeks God, and age 20, he purges the entire land. Who is this kid? Can I just encourage you, no matter what your age is, to pursue God, and live for Him, and let everybody know about it. Do not wait for tomorrow. If you're 20, don't wait until you're 25. If you're eight, don't wait until you're 12. And if you're 40 or 50, don't wait until you're 60. Serve God today. And if you're 70 or 80, that's okay. Moses started at 80. Do not think God is done with you. If you are breathing, God is not done with you. He wants you to change the world, and He wants you to share the light of the gospel and do reform.
This is, let's see, 300 years after David and Solomon, 300 years, the whole land is full of idols. There's pagan temples everywhere. What a horrible way to be called the people of God. I would ask them, which God? Do not wait for tomorrow. Share what you know about God today. We need to fill this world with the praise of God no matter what your age.
Six years later, at age 26, Josiah is not done. We see this in 2 Chronicles 34, eight, Josiah sent men to repair the house of Yahweh. So, during all these repairs, during all this destruction, all this reformation and renovation, there sits the temple of God in ruins. That's the symbol. That was the symbol of their nation. That was where they went to worship. No one thought it would be a good idea to take care of it. As they were cleaning it out and paying the workers, this happened. Second Chronicles 34:14, “While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the LORD, [that is they used it to pay all the workers, you can see in the context, as they were doing that,] Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD given through Moses.” Eureka, look what we found! There's something good in these walls. They didn't even know where it was.
Parents, make sure your kids know where their Bibles are. Make sure they bring them to church every single week. Parents, bring your Bibles to church every single week. Read them, study them, know them. Take it with you wherever you go, more so than your keys and your phone and your wallet. It should be with us. They had no idea what the book of Moses said, because they didn't even know where it was. What do you think happened when this boy king at age 26 heard the words of the Lord? What do you think he did? Second Chronicles 34:21 tells us, “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.” Let me repeat that last phrase, “to do according to all that is written in this book”.
At age 26, Josiah was the most godly, mature person in all the kingdom who wasn't a prophet. On hearing of the sin of his people, on hearing of the sin of his father's, he was repentant. He didn't say this, look at all the good I've done. I'm free. He didn't say, look at all the reform I've done, Lord God, you must be happy with me. He didn't say, look, I mean, I've done a better job than the last 300 years’ worth of guys, this isn't about me. No, he said, we are in trouble. And he led by example and tore his clothes and repented before God. “For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out [on who?] us” (2 Chronicles 34:21), us.
Dear Christian, when is the last time you were on your knees in tears over your sin, crying out to God, begging him for forgiveness. You say, I'm saved; I've got all the forgiveness I need. Well, if your relationship with your spouse isn't what it is, God won't even hear your prayers according to the New Testament. So yes, you are justified. But that does not mean you are sanctified. When is the last time you were on your knees in tears, begging God to restore his wonderful relationship with you? We can learn a lot from Josiah.
Remember, in Zephaniah, it says, to turn, humble yourself, seek God, seek righteousness, and maybe you will be hidden on the day of his wrath. (Zephaniah 2:3) Second Chronicles 34:27 says this, this is God speaking to Josiah. “Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD.” God was listening to the repentant tears of Josiah. And we don't have time to read the subsequent chapters. But because of this, God said, Josiah, you will go down to the grave in peace; none of what I have declared will come upon you or this people. (2 Chronicles 34:28) And it says, and the people during the days of Josiah turned to God. (2 Chronicles 34:32-33) Because of who? Because of one untaught boy. Dear Christian, God is merciful. He is so merciful. We must run to Him, not from Him.
Turn back with me, if you would to Zephaniah, in chapter two. It lists the many nations who would soon perish: the Assyrians, the Ninevites etc. And it continues, all the way through chapter three, verse nine. Look there with me, if you would. Knowing that God is merciful, should cause us to long for restoration. As the last point, that we must long for restoration with God. There is coming a day when God will set all things right. He will put all things in order. A time in the future, when all the world will be doing what God wants them to do. And I believe this section speaks specifically of the millennial reign of Christ, and I will show you why. I do not think any of this from 3:9 on is what has happened yet. I think this is yet future.
Zephaniah 3:9 says this, “’For at that time. [So again, there's a specific timeframe in God's mind], I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve Him with one accord.’” Is the speech of the world pure? Has this verse happened yet? No, no, it hasn't. And some people take this first part to mean that we're all going to speak the same language, but that's just wishful thinking. That has nothing to do with the context; it’s talking about pure speech, not the same speech. “’That they may call on the name of the LORD and serve Him with one accord.’” Is all the world calling upon God and serving him? No, I think this is yet future. The speech of our world is wicked. Parents, you've got the mute button, like, in-hand, unless you have one of those services that mutes everything, and you’re not sure if your sounds working because it's always muted, right? This is a decision, who will change the speech? Will it be the people or someone else? Look in verse nine. God says, I will change their speech. This is not a decision that everyone is going to make. This is going to be a radical changing of people and how they talk. I will change their speech. So, this must be yet future.
Zephaniah 3:11, “’On that day, [again, there's that timeframe], you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exalted ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.’” Sinful things will be put aside, sinful people will be put aside. 3:19 says they are still there. He's going to have to deal with the oppressors. But they will be put aside; they will have no influence, no effect; they will be able to give no shame to those who pursue God. Can you just live your lives without shame right now? No, this is yet future. Sinners will be removed; they will be around, but they will be dealt with. This is a time for the humble. This is a time of refreshing. This is a time you should long for, a time that we wish was here today, that when God sets everything in order, when God makes all things right, and we all have the praise of God coming from our lips. 3:12 says this, “’But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. And they shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD.’” The only ones left are going to be those seeking refuge in the name of the Lord; He will put aside the others. So, this will be a time for the humble. It will also be a time for the righteous.
Look in verse 13, “’Those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue.’” Not a little lying, a little injustice, but none of it. At times, we still sin. There is coming a time when that will be put aside. There will be something God does to us to enable us not to have even a word of lying on our tongue. What will this do? It will take away your fear of others, it will take away your anxiety. Would you like to live without any anxiety at all? Right? And all God's people said, “Amen!” Right? “’For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.’” There won't be anyone around to make them afraid.
This is the greatest cause for rejoicing in our lives. See that a future time is coming? Well, that is a great cause. But there is something we can rejoice in now. Do you remember when the disciples were, you know, in the midst of their troubles and trials and learning from Jesus, and Jesus was giving them abilities, incredible abilities. And he was sending them out two by two, and there were lots of them going out, 70 or so. And they were excited because they could cast out demons, and it says and no one could hurt them. (Luke 10:19) There was some miraculous protection around them, where they could go anywhere, say anything, and do the work of God, and no one could stand against them, not even the demons who are more powerful than them. Remember earlier in their ministry, they were saying, we try, but we couldn't cast out these demons, and He's like, oh, you of little faith. Right? Well, now, they're all locked in. They're casting out demons, and doing miracles, and all kinds of things are going on.
And Jesus reminded them of the greatest joy that anyone could ever have in life. Luke 10:17, I'll read it for you; it’s just a few verses. “The 72 returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’”
You say, yeah, that's a great New Testament verse. But what's that have to do with Zephaniah? Did you know that that is one of the last times that is ever mentioned in Scripture, not the first: “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Moses said this, David said this, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Paul, and Jesus said this, all throughout the whole Bible. We are to rejoice that our names are written in the book of life, that our names are written in heaven, we are known by God, that all of those things, those trials that weigh us down, the things that are going to come on some, will not come upon us. Those are the things that we must rejoice in: that sin is gone, that salvation is here, that relationship with God has already begun. And friends, you have nothing else in life to rejoice over that is greater than that.
Turn back to Zephaniah, chapter three, verse 14, and this is exactly where Zephaniah ends. After all of this heavy devastation and wickedness that’s going to be dealt with, Zephaniah 3:14, “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O, Israel! Rejoice and exalt with all your heart, [Remember, it's always about the heart.] O, daughter of Jerusalem! [Verse 15], The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.” Praise God. The Lord, the King of Israel, is in your midst. It's another indicator why I think this is speaking of the millennial reign of Christ. Because Jesus is ruling and reigning on Earth.
We should be singing and rejoicing and shouting with all of our heart that we are saved. That we have been forgiven, we've been given this amazing gift, and that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. Not sealed by a priest, not sealed by penance, not sealed by works. Sealed by the Holy Spirit. Oh, Death, where is your sting?
Friends, it's not even going to be just us singing. God himself is going to sing and rejoice with us. Look at verse 17. We will conclude with this. “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exalt over you with [what?] loud singing.” It's okay to be loud. And it's okay to sing. We're going to do that with God for all of eternity. Let's pray.
Father God, we're thankful that you sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross to pay for sin. That we might be cleansed, justified, Lord God, we might be sanctified. We pray, Lord God, in depressing times or anxious times or dark times that you would remind us of the greatest joy that we have, that our names are written in heaven. Help us to rejoice, to rejoice that you know us. Help us to long for the restoration of all the world that you talked about in Zephaniah.
And, Lord God, we pray mostly and earnestly that if someone doesn't know you, or someone is just playing games, that they would have been warned today of what is coming. And that they would have received, Lord God, the message that you want them to turn to You. Lord, we pray for salvation for those who don't know you. Help us to give them the truth.
Right now, friends, let's just take a moment and praise God for the joy of knowing that our names are written in heaven.
Lord God, you reign over all things. We pray that you would well up that joy of knowing you, of loving you, and of living for you, in your precious Holy Name, Amen.
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