Summary: God’s judgment was poured out on His people in ancient Jerusalem for multiple reasons. Here the prophet Zephaniah lists four big ones. Of course, the ultimate deliverance from God’s judgment is through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. But we today can gain insight from these four failures, change our ways as needed, and live more fully in the blessings and goodness of the Lord.
Zephaniah 3:1-2, NIVWoe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God.
• Here we see the deplorable condition of Jerusalem before her final fall into the Babylonian Captivity. Verses 1-8 reveal a long list of the people’s unrepented sins. We can draw much benefit from these if we examine our own hearts to see where we might be falling short. As the apostle Paul reminded us, we are never so mature that we can lower our guard against the encroachment of sin into our lives — “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12, NKJV). Let’s focus today on four important warnings that we can take from verse 2.
• I am well aware that the ultimate deliverance from God’s wrath comes from repenting of our sins and by faith receiving the salvation offered by Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. That is the most important decision each of us will ever make. My intent in this message is to help us avoid these four specific sinful practices that have the potential to significantly damage and weaken our present walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
1) She obeys no one.
Ephesians 5:5-6 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a person is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
• In America today I see an epidemic of disobedience. Many, even including some Christians, routinely flout the law, show disrespect for those in authority, and take the attitude “No one can tell me what to do.” This is no surprise, since one of the signs of the last days will be children increasingly disobeying their parents (2 Timothy 3:1-2). And those disobedient children grow up to be disobedient adults, leading to an increasingly lawless society.
Hebrews 4:11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter [God’s] rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
• We [“Let us…”] are exhorted to obey God, lest we perish by following Israel’s example of disobedience to Him. That is a stern warning to believers of the dangers of disobeying God.
Acts 5:32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.
• God is pleased to pour out His blessings — here, the giving of the Holy Spirit — to those who obey Him. Obedience is one of the door-openers to God’s blessings.
• We’ve looked at the two side of obedience: (1) God’s judgment against willful disobedience, (2) contrasted by God’s blessings upon the obedient. The right choice is obvious!
2) She accepts no correction.
Job 5:17Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
• Zephaniah pronounced “woe” to the people of Jerusalem who would accept no correction. Sadly, we still see this attitude today, more than 26 centuries later. That is, a stiff-necked determination to “do it my way.” And this despite the fact that God’s word says, “…whoever hates correction is stupid … [and] whoever hates correction will die” (Proverbs 12:1; 15:10).
2 Timothy 3:16; 4:2 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness… [4:2] Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage…
• God is very effective at correcting us through the voice of His Holy Spirit speaking within us. Another of His corrective measures — for our good! — is His word, the bible. Pastor Timothy was exhorted to preach God’s word, to use the Scriptures to teach, rebuke, correct, and train God’s people in righteousness. The takeaway for us? — As you read your bible, be always open to God showing you areas for personal correction and change, as the Holy Spirit brings certain Scriptures to your attention.
3) She does not trust in the Lord.
Zephaniah’s contemporaries in Judah had followed the example of their northern brethren in Israel and had indulged in idolatry. They had forgotten the wisdom and personal example of their forefather King David, who said, “I hate those who cling to worthless idols: as for me, I trust in the Lord” (Psalm 31:6).
King David had written further, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods” (Psalm 40:4). By contrast, Zephaniah declared, “Woe to” those who do not trust in the Lord (Zeph. 3:2).
• A friend once gave my wife a small plaque with the ever-inspiring message, “It’s always safe to trust the Lord!” I have quoted that truth often to myself when needing a boost of encouragement. Try it. Although it’s not a direct quote from the bible, its message is entirely biblical. “It’s always safe to trust the Lord!”
4) She does not draw near to her God.
Jerusalem’s inhabitants in the late 7th century B.C. had ceased drawing near to God. Their commitment to Him was deteriorating. They had their idols, they had their other interests, but they failed to draw close to their God. Before long the “woe” prophesied by Zephaniah came upon them, and they entered into the Babylonian Captivity. We today can fall likewise into the same error, can drift away from a close, personal walk with God, and end up in our own “captivities” of all sorts.
God’s exhortation to us (Hebrews 10:22) is to “draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.” We can do this in prayer, in praise and worship, in His word, in gatherings of the Lord’s people in church, and in a number of other ways that keep alive a vibrant relationship between you and the Lord. Yet these are some of the very things that can slowly, imperceptibly drift out of our lives, until we find ourselves in a dry and thirsty land. The solution, wrote the Psalmist David, is: “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Psalm 63:1, KJV). Don’t be passive in your walk with the Lord. Rather, determine to seek Him often, to draw close to Him daily and throughout the day.
James 4:8a, NKJV Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
• I heard a great pearl of wisdom once from a very experienced, respected pastor. He said that people ask for God to move in revival and in various ways. But, he said, it’s often our move! And he quoted this verse. You draw near to God, he said, and what will happen? He will draw near to you! We can see God move mightily in our lives and in our nation, if only we will draw very close to Him continually.
Summary: Four Ways to Receive the Lord’s Blessings