Jeff and Penny and family

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You have reached the web log of Jefferson Vann, missions consultant with Advent Christian General Conference, and elder at McAlpin Advent Christian Church in Florida and Relevant Church in Virgina.

My hope is that everyone who reads this blog will have an opportunity to understand the gospel, and will know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Heart of Zephaniah (3:8-15).

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{For audio mp3, click here.}

Zephaniah 3:8-15 ESV

"Therefore wait for me," declares the LORD, "for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed. 9 "For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord. 10 From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, the daughter of my dispersed ones, shall bring my offering. 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. 12 But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD, 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. For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid." 14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 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.

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We have been spending some time in the OT prophets. Over the past few months we have been looking at these ancient books and trying to see what God’s reaction is to us in the present. We have found that the messages of the prophets are quite relevant.

Zephaniah is labeled a minor prophet since it is one of the shorter books. Its prophecies are very much like those of the major prophets. There is a series of oracles which foretell God’s judgment upon the nations that surrounded Judah. Then, there is a final oracles of judgment against Judah itself. Then, in its final chapter the future blessings are revealed

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The name ZEPHANIAH means hidden of Yahveh. I think the name is especially appropriate because of this blessing section of the book, part of which serves as today’s text. Hidden behind all those pronouncements of judgment and destruction is the hope of a bright future for God’s people. Also, just as the judgments came on all the nations, including Judah, the future blessings will belong to all the nations, including Judah.

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The context of Zephaniah’s message is very significant. It was during the reign of Josiah, so there were some in Judah and Jerusalem who were submitting to Josiah’s reforms. But like all revivals, not everyone revives. There are still too many ethnic Israelites who are inwardly pagan. Because of this, judgment is going to fall on Judah as well.

But the good news is: God is in control. He is going to restore not only Judah and Israel but all those Gentile nations as well. Hidden behind this message of gloom is the message that the creator is going to re-create the planet.

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What will be is hidden. It is like a caterpillar in a cocoon. Zephaniah’s messages of blessing is a way for us to see what God intends for our own future.

The recreated us will have new speech. Verse 9 (NET) says “Know for sure that I will then enable the nations to give me acceptable praise. All of them will invoke the LORD's name when they pray, and will worship him in unison.” Verse 13 says “those who are left in Israel …shall… speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue.” Our tongues will be transformed – and that means that our hearts are also. The tongue only says what is in the heart. God is longing for the day when the whole creation prays, praises, and worships him in truth. It will happen. It is our future.

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God says “I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.

But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. ” God wants a people who humble themselves, and seek his face. In fact, the only way to get into God’s future kingdom is by repenting and throwing yourself on the mercy of God. Those who are proud of their achievements need not apply. Jesus said “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt.23:12).

You have to remember that it was Satan’s pride that caused rebellion in the first place. Christ is our model. He came as a servant.

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God says that his new people “seek refuge in the name of the LORD,” “they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid,” because he “has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.” Those of us who are fortunate enough to have won the life lottery do not have to live our lives in fear. We have to realize that most of the world is not so lucky. God wants true peace for the entire planet. He created this world to thrive in peace. The wars and conflicts among us are the result of sin.

Someone has said “war is hell” and that is not true. But it is going to take hell – the real hell – what the Bible calls Gehenna – to destroy the war. Zephaniah gives his listeners a glimpse into a future without fear. That future belongs to those of us who seek refuge in the LORD’s name today.

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God tells his people “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!” I want you to understand that the normal human state is ecstatic joy. Remember that when he first created us, God put us in Eden, which was a paradise. The toiling, pain, sorrow, depression and death all came as a result of judgment. Why is God telling Zion to rejoice? Because “The LORD has taken away the judgments against you.” God intends on taking away from us all those “normal” things that make us miserable. I don’t think we are going to have to learn how to worship and praise and sing aloud for joy. I think it is going to be spontaneous. What is more, our celebrations are going to make us want to celebrate more and more. That is what we have to look forward to.

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This week we have been looking at a portion of scripture that reveals a small glimpse of what life in God’s eternal kingdom is going to be like. I hope it has whetted your appetite. I don’t know where you stand before God today – no one knows for sure but you and him. What I do know is that the eternal life that God offers those who take refuge in him is worth it.

LORD, we have decided to be in that number when the saints go marching in to your eternal kingdom. Our lips thirst for the purity that you offer for them. Our knees bow to you, we offer our lives for your service in imitation of king Jesus. Our hearts are longing for the peace and joy that cannot be taken away. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

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