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Daily Bible thoughts 811: Wednesday 11th February 2015: Zephaniah 1:4-13

Zephaniah 1:4-13 (click here for todays passage)

The book of ‘Zephaniah’ opens with God speaking. He says that He is going to ‘’sweep’’ the whole world clean (2, 3). However, He was going to start with His own people (see 1 Peter 4:17, 18). He was going to start pushing His broom around Judah and Jerusalem.

Here are some extracts from The Message: ‘’I’ll start with Judah and everybody who lives in Jerusalem. I’ll sweep the place clean of every trace of the sex-and-religion Baal shrines and their priests. I’ll get rid of the people who sneak up to their rooftops at night to worship the star gods and goddesses; Also those who continue to worship GOD but cover their bases by worshipping other king-gods as well; Not to mention those who’ve dumped GOD altogether, no longer giving him a thought or offering a prayer…I will punish those who dress up like foreign priests and priestesses, Who introduce pagan prayers and practices; And I’ll punish all who import pagan superstitions that turn holy places into hellholes…Wail, you shopkeepers on Market Street! Moneymaking has had its day. The god Money is dead. On Judgment Day, I’ll search through every closet and alley in Jerusalem. I’ll find and punish those who are sitting it out, fat and lazy, amusing themselves and taking it easy, Who think, ‘God doesn’t do anything, good or bad. He isn’t involved, so neither are we.’ But just wait. They’ll lose everything they have, money and house and land. ‘’

So here are some things God is going to ‘’sweep away’’:

  • Idolatry (4, 5a, 8, 9; see Leviticus 18:2; Judges 2:11-13): God hates false religion. It breaks His commandments and steals from His glory;
  • Syncretism (5b): This is the mixing of the worship of the Lord with strange ‘ingredients’ from other religions. It results in a bitter tasting ‘cake’ that God hates. It does not please Him. People may have been ‘hedging their bets’ in worshipping several gods. If so, this exposed their lack of faith in and loyalty towards the true God;
  • Backsliding/apostasy (6);
  • Complacency (12, 13): In spite of repeated prophetic warnings, and ‘signs of the times’, there were many people who refused to listen or see. Their view was that things would just carry on as normal and God wouldn’t do anything. They saw Him as inactive; as being indifferent to sin (see 2 Peter 3:3-7; Deuteronomy 28:30-33). So they kept their heads down and enjoyed their comfortable lifestyles. But they would be in for a rude awakening. God said that He had ‘’prepared a sacrifice’’ (the people of Judah). He had ‘’invited’’ the Babylonians to be the ‘’consecrated’’ priests at this sacrifice (7). This judgment came upon Judah about thirty years after Zephaniah spoke these words (see 2 Kings 25:1-11). We may not like to read words about judgment, but if you ignore them you will be avoiding much of the Bible. It is because God loves people so much that He hates evil so much. Whenever judgment is spoken about, the thing to always remember is that forgiveness is available to all who repent and trust in Christ. He died in our place. That is good news! But first we need to receive the bad news of how ‘sick’ we are before we will put ourselves in the hands of the ‘Doctor’.

Prayer: Help me to permit no idols to cross the threshold of my heart. I pray that you will reign supreme in me.

Daily Bible thoughts 810: Tuesday 10th February 2015: Zephaniah 1:1-3

Zephaniah 1:1-3 (click here for todays passage~)

‘’We humans keep looking for a religion that will give us access to God without having to bother with people…This determination to get ourselves a religion that gives us an inside track with God, but leaves us free to deal with people however we like is age-old…It is also the sort of religion that the biblical prophets are determined to root out. They are dead set against it. Because the root of the solid spiritual life is embedded in a relationship between people and God, it is easy to develop the misunderstanding that my spiritual life is something personal between God and me – a private thing to be nurtured by prayers and singing, spiritual readings that comfort and inspire, and worship with like-minded friends. If we think this way for very long, we will assume that the way we treat the people we don’t like or who don’t like us has nothing to do with God. That’s when the prophets step in and interrupt us, insisting, ‘’Everything you do or think or feel has to do with God. Every person you meet has to do with God.’’ We live in a vast world of interconnectedness, and the connections have consequences, either in things or in people – and all the consequences come together in God…We can’t be reminded too often or too forcefully of this reckoning. Zephaniah’s voice in the choir of prophets sustains the intensity, the urgency.’’ From Eugene Peterson’s introduction to ‘Zephaniah’ in ‘The Message’.

‘’I will sweep away…I will sweep away…I will sweep away…’’ (2 and 3).

As I walked around my office this morning, I thought, ‘This place needs a good sweeping out.’ It will definitely happen. It’s on my ‘to do list.’ This office needs cleaning!

That’s trivial, I know. Yet it is also important.

But God has a cleaning project on a larger scale:

‘’I’m going to make a clean sweep of the earth, a thorough housecleaning.’’ GOD’s Decree. Men and animals, including birds and fish – Anything and everything that causes sin – will go, but especially people.’’ The Message.

This clean will certainly take place. There are things that have to go. Think about what God has done in the past. He has ‘swept away’ before. Remember the flood. Consider Sodom and Gomorrah. Take into account the Exodus. In history there have been, and may yet be, many ‘mini’ days of judgment. But they are just ‘tasters’ of the big day of reckoning ahead. God, through Zephaniah, was speaking about the Babylonian invasion in 606 B.C. But this foreshadows the ‘’day of the LORD’’ (7) that will ultimately come. Clearly a world-wide judgment is in view in (2, 3)

Zephaniah was a great-great grandson of the godly King Hezekiah. ‘’Zephaniah may be the only Old Testament prophet who had royal blood in his veins. But his kinship with King Josiah didn’t prevent his preaching a message of judgment at a time when the king was leading the nation in a religious reformation (2 Kings 22-23). Both Jeremiah and Zephaniah saw that the ‘’reform’’ was not true revival, for it never got to the hearts of the people. It was only a surface change because the king promoted it and the people went along with whatever was popular…Preaching a message of judgment at a time of national religious reformation would not be easy; but a true prophet not only sees farther, he also sees deeper.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.605.

Prayer: Help me Lord to sweep out my ‘office’ before you have to come and do it forcibly.

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