Book of Zephaniah Chapter
Three Commentary by
Audio Sermon 3/13/11 - Zephaniah 3
He Will Gather Us
In Verse 1 it would seem like the city of Nineveh was addressed, but it’s actually Jerusalem, as intimated in this chapter. God said of them, “Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city!” Nineveh would qualify as an oppressor because they had turned against God in the previous 100 years and had become proud. Nineveh was called “the rejoicing city,” with the motto, “I am and there is none beside me.” But Jerusalem had become proud also, as have people in many nations. Whether we are in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe or wherever, the problem remains the same: Pride will bring us down.
The problem with thinking we are somehow special is this: We need God like the air we breathe, but our pride smothers us, and deep inside - we know better! As it says in Romans 1:18-19, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is evident in them, for God has shown it to them.” In Verse 2 of this chapter in Zephaniah, God warned His people: “She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction; she has not trusted in the Lord, she has not drawn near to her God.”
Through the prophets God spoke not only as Judge, but also as the Prosecuting Attorney, and He is additionally the Key Witness on behalf of the Plaintiff. In Isaiah 53 we find that He also served the sentence of death that was upon us. He testified in Zephaniah 3:3, “Her princes in her midst are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning.” The “princes” of a people include our mayors, governors, presidents, kings and all other appointed or elected officials who are given office to help others. Instead like lions they “eat” what the people have. “Judges” are to be fair, but too often become crooks who take bribes.
Note carefully if you are one of those who have been given office by Almighty God - He knows your heart, your actions and He will judge you. And there is another class of people who are supposed to protect and warn – those who speak for God. In Verse 4 we find that Jerusalem’s “prophets (had become) insolent, treacherous people; (and) her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.” We who speak for God are judged by Him.
The Lord is pure and holy. Every intention, each action by Him is intended for the good and we are expected, through faith in the Lord, to become like Him. In Verse 5 we find Zephaniah’s observation that “The Lord is righteous in her midst, He will do no unrighteousness. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, but the unjust knows no shame.”
So-called “natural disasters” are touched upon in Verse 6. This verse is a reminder of the concern: “How can bad things happen to good people?” And an answer is that we are not as “good” as we think we are. Just like Jerusalem and Nineveh at the time of these verses, our goodness tends to be merely in comparison to those we like to think are worse than we are. God is just when He says, “I have cut off nations, their fortresses are devastated; I have made their streets desolate, with none passing by. Their cities are destroyed; there is no one, no inhabitant,” and that is because such occurrences are corrective in nature. His intention is to bring people out of unbelief, to heal our true need – to give us what lasts: faith in the Lord.
He calls out in Verse 7 - “‘Surely you will fear Me, you will receive instruction’ - So that her dwelling would not be cut off, despite everything for which I punished her. But they rose early and corrupted all their deeds.” Destruction is God’s last resort. His intent is to save us, but His warning continues in Verse 8 - “’Therefore wait for Me,’” says the Lord, ‘Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination is to gather the nations to My assembly of kingdoms, to pour on them My indignation, all My fierce anger; all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy.”
There is a pure heavenly language which comes to those who place their faith in the Lord. In Verse 9, He touches on it: “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.” Those in Jerusalem who were about to be judged by Almighty God, included those who had or would have - faith in the Lord. They would find safety and many would return from the captivity that was to come. In Verse 10 He said, “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, the daughter of My dispersed ones, shall bring My offering.” Many would repent, look to the Lord and ultimately be restored.
If you feel that the Lord is against you, look at Verse 11 - “In that day you shall not be shamed for any of your deeds in which you transgress against Me; for then I will take away from your midst those who rejoice in your pride, and you shall no longer be haughty in My holy mountain.” We will be healed if we simply repent, give up doing everything in our own strength and trust in the Lord. We will be changed for the good when we look to Him. As He says in Verse 12 - “I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.”
These verses, such as Verse 13, contain great promises and the Lord keeps His Word. “The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness and speak no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed their flocks and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid.” The promise is to Israel and all others who seek the Lord. They shall find Him. WE shall find Him and be made safe – forever.
It is for eternity, it is for the Millennium and it is right now as well. We can sing with those of Zephaniah’s time, as seen in Verses 14-15: “Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!. 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.” Isaiah revealed that, “…By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
In this world we may or may not find moments of safety, but He saves us inside, and in eternity the faithful are rescued – forever. Jesus said about eternity, “I go to prepare a place for you,” and in that context He also said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:3, 27). Verse 16 of Zephaniah 3 says, “In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: ‘Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak,” and He continued in Verse 17, “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.” He is with those who believe and trust.
Verses 18-20 continue describing the reality that God will restore and save His people: “’I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly, who are among you, to whom its reproach is a burden. Behold, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you; I will save the lame, and gather those who were driven out; I will appoint them for praise and fame in every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will bring you back, even at the time I gather you; for I will give you fame and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I return your captives before your eyes,’ says the Lord.” Disasters will come, but God is faithful.
We value our bodies and outward circumstances, but the Lord knows that simple faith is worth infinitely more than gold. Health and money may benefit for a time, but then we are faced with eternity. What will save us? – “The gospel of Christ…(is) the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes… The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17, Habakkuk 2:4).
Lord, we confess our sins. We commit our hearts and our lives to You, knowing that only You can save us. Only You can make us whole. We trust in You now. In Jesus Name. Amen.