Last night was a very short night. Asleep around 11:30 or so, I was awakened sometime around 1:00 am. Very discouraged by the rough night, I fought to try to get back to sleep. In trying a few different things to settle and try to go back to sleep, I was reading some different articles on my RSS Feed, when I came across an article that mentioned Zephaniah 3.
Out of curiosity, I opened my Bible software and looked Zephaniah 3 up. The only notes I could find that I had written were a couple of fairly lengthy writings on 3:17. But I’m not sure that I’ve ever read the entire chapter of Zephaniah 3.
I’m blown away. Amazed at the words; amazed at their meaning.
I filled several pages of writing in response to Zephaniah 3, now password protected and added to the rest of my most important docs.
An entire book could be written on the themes addressed by God here. And maybe there has been, I don’t know. All I know is the impact it had on me in the dark hours of last night, and all I hope is that it will have an impact on you as you read these few verses that I want to share with you here. That maybe these words are words that you need to hear.
I first would urge you to take the time to read the entire chapter. You can find it located here: Zephaniah 3 Or maybe you’d rather sample the verses here first, and then go back and read the chapter. Either way, the words found there are not nothing. They are important.
I will admit I’ve not read the other 2 chapters of Zephaniah yet. I probably should do that; it wouldn’t take long to do. But from what I understand of what is taking place here, is that God is addressing the city of Jerusalem. He is addressing His people. He is warning them of what is to come.
**A word of caution before we go further. It is vitally important to not make the text say something that it isn’t saying. It’s important to read it in it’s full context–not just the context of the words, sentences and chapters surrounding the text, but also in the historical context as well. There are things such as promises that only apply to the people they were directly given to by God, in scripture. And then there are the words that can be applied to you and me, as well as those so long ago. It’s very important to me that I never make scripture say something that it doesn’t say, or apply it where it doesn’t apply. That said, after all my writing and thinking last night/this morning, I do believe that there is much that we can learn from these words in Zephaniah 3.
After calling the city rebellious, God has this to say about Jerusalem in Zephaniah 3:2:
O, how much I see myself in these words! Definitely before becoming a believer, but even after becoming a daughter of God’s, I find myself reverting to this rebellious behavior. Prideful and self-sufficient, doubting not trusting, running away from instead of to God. This is the very sin I have to fight repeatedly, nearly on a daily basis even. As John Piper has described it, there is a battle in my house every single morning–and it’s not me against my crew. No, the hard-fought battle is against the words in this verse. Am I going to listen to God’s voice? Am I going to accept correction? Am I going to trust? Am I going to draw near to my God?
The next verse that follows up on what I am exactly describing here is in verse 5:
I come to him almost every morning, usually around 5:30 am, inherently flawed and rebellious. Yet He who lives in me is righteous. Do you see? When I wake each morning and the battle that I described above inside of my soul rages, it is God that is faithful. Every Morning he shows forth his justice. Each dawn he does not fail. You and I fail; have failed; will continue to fail. But the God within us is righteous and does not fail.
*A note here: Maybe it is not within your daily practice to spend time alone with God each day. I would urge you to try. And I would urge you to do so in the morning, before the day gets away from you. I understand there are many who consider themselves to not be “morning people”, and truly, if morning is too difficult for you, then by all means try to make it a regular discipline to go to God each night. But I tell you, there is so much truth to these verses above, at least there is for me–and surely for some of you. Fight the battle before the day begins. Make it a priority.
The next verse I would like to point out is verse 11:
11 “On that day 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 exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.
The previous verses before 11 address more warnings and punishment, and then the tone changes in verse 10 to speak of the restoration of those who are true worshippers of God. And He declares that on that day of restoration, they will not be put to shame for the ways they had rebelled against Him, even though their behavior deserved shame.
This is not nothing. I struggle with the issue of shame. Maybe you do, too. Maybe you are tempted, as I am often, to dwell on the shame that my ugly, rebellious behaviors against God deserve. I, like Jerusalem, have done much to garner shame. Maybe you are also tempted, as I am often, to dwell on shame that others have created in your life by their behavior. I know this well, also. Shame is powerful. It is painful. It is also deep-rooted. Sometimes this shame is so deep, that I find I can’t turn my face toward God. I can’t look into the eyes of my God.
But here in verse 11, Jerusalem is told that she will not be put to shame for her deeds; for her rebellion against God. He is a forgiving God. I know sometimes that is so hard to accept. Even painful to accept. But it is true. He forgives so perfectly and so thoroughly, taking away the shame, restoring the ability to look upon God fully. My soul. And then he addresses the proud ones, the haughty ones of Jerusalem–the removal of them. And it causes me to think of the immense pride in my own life, the rebellious sort of pride, and I find myself begging God to remove that sin from me as well, just as He says He will do for Jerusalem.
This next set of verses, are verses of joy and exultation:
I am certainly no shouter. And I’m not prone to spontaneous phrases of exultation, even in my private prayers and writings. But these verses hit me in the deepest part of my soul. Sing aloud–How I love to sing! And loudly, too! And to be considered a daughter–a daughter to my heavenly Father–there are no words to describe that. How can I not rejoice and exult with all of my heart, like Jerusalem, at God’s forgiveness of my rebellious sins and the restoration of my soul?
And then the words of 15–The king, my Lord, my God, my Jesus, in in my midst. He is here. Even when I can’t sense Him. Even when my prayers are hollow and empty, He is here. And He is with you.
“You shall never again fear evil.” I wish I could describe to you, what these words mean to me. But I cannot, the words are too hard, other than to say that I struggle with the fear of evil. I struggle in the middle of the night against real evil–just last night I struggled against it. And though it has been a long-term struggle, these words, to me, are words to hold on to. There will come a day when I will no longer fear evil. Never again. And even now, I hope that these words will begin to be truth as I try to remember to recall them when I am engulfed in fear.
And then we come to verse 17–the verse on which I have found much that I have written in my private notes previously. The words are so powerful, so beautiful, that I don’t think I can bear to add any commentary to them, for fear of watering them down, or taking away something of their magnitude. I don’t think I can write anything here about them, without becoming too overwhelmed. I will just ask you to read them, to reflect on them, to really let them soak down into your soul:
I know this has been a lengthy post. For that I apologize, and thank you for reading. I don’t often put this kind of content-this kind of intense scripture work on my blog. But I think this chapter in Zephaniah is one that needs to be read again and again and again. At least I know it is for me. I plead with you once again, to please read the chapter in its entirety. Get out pen and paper, or your computer, and spend some time writing your own reflections of this chapter. Let it lead you into prayer to your God. Let it lead you into rejoicing and exultation, to gratitude and praise. I will end with verse 19:
God will deal with my oppressors. God will deal with those that oppress you. He will gather you, like a mother hen gathers her chicks. He will gather me, an outcast in so many ways. He will change our shame into praise. Oh, that, that would be so, in your life and in mine. Both daily and for all eternity. Please God.