By Brent Moore
Pastor to Adults, First Baptist Church, Clarksville
Focal Passage: Zephaniah 3:8-17
This section in Zephaniah begins with waiting on the Lord. But it is not a calm waiting like a person on a retreat in the woods hoping to hear from God. It is more like a soldier on the ground under attack waiting for airstrikes to blow out the enemy.
God presents Himself in Zephaniah as a warrior who brings salvation. The people are told to wait for judgment. And when judgment comes it will not be pretty for those who have been disobedient. They will be gathered to be consumed by the wrath of God.
Whenever we see fires of judgment in the Old Testament many of us internally question God. We instinctively want to know if there can be another way God can deal with disobedient people. The instinct of uncomfortableness in the area of retribution tells us more about ourselves than God. Left to ourselves we all want to find a way to sweep things under the rug rather than deal with them in the open. But with God sin is no small thing. God fiercely defends His glory because His holiness is at stake here. He cannot wink at sin and be God. That is why verse eight brings up the jealousy of God. God deserves what is rightly His; praise and adoration of His people.
Wrath is stored up for the prideful and arrogant. The remnant or those left after the purging judgment enjoy security and comfort. Those that are meek and humble should rejoice and be glad because the salvation they enjoy is comprehensive. God will gather people from all over the earth, according to verse 10. The purpose will be to worship the Lord. God will bring the redeemed in to take refuge in Him. This is a celebratory homecoming, enjoying the riches the Lord has to offer. God will sanctify His people, verse 13 states, “[they] will no longer do wrong or tell lies; a deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths.” Finally, God will shepherd these people like in Psalm 23; leading them to a pasture and a state of security where they can “lie down.” In that day the people of God will not fear because they have escaped the onslaught of harassment from a “perverse and wicked generation.”
God rejoices over you. The motif of the warrior God in this section soars to new heights by proclaiming in verse 17, “He will delight in you with shouts of joy.” God rescues, redeems, sets our feet on solid ground, and removes fear. But that is not all. We are called to rejoice in the God who first rejoiced over us and loved us before there was time. “Sing for joy” and “shout loudly,” we are told in verse 14.
We find ourselves at a party we did not plan or a feast we did not deserve. The opening illustration mentions a soldier being rescued by blowing the enemy to smithereens. In these verses the imagery is pushed further. The rescued one is given a fortress, unlimited protection, abundant riches, and a prime seat at the banquet table.
We serve an amazing warrior God. Therefore, “do not let your hands grow weak.” Those that are “doing good will reap at the proper time if (they) don’t give up.” We cannot merely sit on these truths. This certainty of redemption has been announced that “angels long to look into.” If the transgressor and disobedient receive a just punishment of poured out wrath, “how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”
— Moore is pastor to adults at First Baptist Church, Clarksville.