Zephaniah 3:9-13 (click here for todays passage)

God intends to have (9):

  • A people with purified speech (Isaiah 6:5; Psalm 141:3. This surely points to purified hearts also: ‘’For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.’’ Matthew 12:34);
  • A people of prayer (see 2b);
  • A people of unity.

But sometimes God has to take His people through fiery trials in order to purge them (8) and get them to where He wants them to be. So many people have spoken about the transformative power of difficult and chastening experiences. It’s not the case that all trying times are about God’s disciplinary processes. But many may be (Hebrews 12:4-13). Some character growth will only come about painfully.

In the church that Jesus is building, and shaping into His own image, there will be both Gentiles and Jews (9, 10). There is a worldwide vision here, and see how this international worshipping community belongs to God (‘’…my…my…’’ 10).

There are times when church growth can entail church shrinkage! (11, 12). I remember a Pentecostal preacher talking about a certain pastor. Apparently this man had gone to lead a church and he said something like this: ‘’When I went there we had 50 people. Then we grew to around 25! Then we grew to…beyond 50.’’ Now I know that this sort of thing can happen because of pastoral insensitivity; because a leader walks into a church wearing great big heavy boots, and he tramples unnecessarily on people’s corns and bunions. That is not commendable. But there most definitely are occasions, I believe, when God reduces the army (Judges 7). Think about Acts 5: 1-10 and the story of Ananias and Sapphira . There are divine subtractions as well as blessed additions. We live in a day in which many people seem to think that big equals good and successful, and small equals bad and unsuccessful. But ‘it aint necessarily so.’ In a local church there can be seasons of pruning. There can even be times of radical cutting back, but always with a view to greater fruitfulness. Just as God removes sin from people’s lives in a work of purging, so He may also remove people from the church who threaten its purity.

Verse 13 shows the result of God’s cleansing work, with a group of holy, honest and fearless people left. ‘’I’ll leave a core of people among you who are poor in spirit – What’s left of Israel that’s really Israel. They’ll make their home in GOD. This core holy people will not do wrong. They won’t lie, won’t use words to flatter or seduce. Content with who they are and where they are, unanxious, they’ll live at peace.’’ The Message.

When God cleanses your heart and makes you fully His, you find you are at peace and without fear. You’ve stopped fighting the Lord, and all is well.

The words in this passage may well refer to something that will happen at the close of the age; but we also see the principles being worked out again and again in church history.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the times of trial you have brought me through. Although I wouldn’t have chosen to face them, you have taught and changed me so much in them. I am grateful