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Take your Bibles and open to Zephaniah as this week we are looking at the rest of chapter 3, verses 8-20, and in fact will finish the Book of Zephaniah, although we will have one final week of devotionals for this series next week. Remember this series has been titled “The Day of the Lord” and our study this week to finish chapter 3 is titled, “The Restored Remnant.”
To review, Zephaniah, a prophet who is a member of the royal family, a descendant of King Hezekiah, and cousin of the current King in Judah, Josiah, is summarizing the messages of warning to Judah and surrounding nations about the wrath of God coming upon the nations then, and in the future, in the great and terrible coming Day of the Lord. Some of what the prophet has proclaimed will be coming to pass within less than a generation from when he preached it, fulfilled by the Babylonian exile of Judah. But he also, at the very start of his message, proclaimed judgment upon the whole earth wherein all of creation will be consumed by the wrath of God – remember that we fleshed out 2 verses from chapter 1 in the seals, trumpets, and bowls of John’s Revelation.
Those verses tell us, “I will utterly consume everything from the face of the land,” says the Lord; “I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, and the stumbling blocks along with the wicked. I will cut off man from the face of the land,” says the Lord.” He says He will make the wicked piles of rubble. God is going to trash His creation because of the stain of sin.
This is not a 70 year exile in Babylon – this is the judgment of the nations at the coming of Christ. But the prophet also has a specific warning for Judah that is indeed fulfilled in their captivity. This of course means that there is a need for repentance among the nations and the people of God. However, as we have progressed through the prophesy we have learned that at a certain point it was no longer a matter of repentance because a sure and certain judgment was coming and there was no stopping it. Then the people were admonished to gather together and seek to be near the Lord and maybe, perhaps they would be spared the fall out of this terrible judgment coming upon the world.
Finally now as we have come to the end of the summarization of the prophecies of the first half of the Minor Prophets, we kind of expect doom and gloom and a desperation because of the finality of judgment, however here at the end we find a drop of mercy – we find the promise of restoration! God closes a book of judgment with Good News!
Let’s examine these final verses starting with Zephaniah 3:8:
“Therefore wait for Me,” says the Lord, “Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination is to gather the nations to My assembly of kingdoms, to pour on them My indignation, all My fierce anger; all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy.
So we start the good news with one last word of bad news – God is going to judge the nations. He does have a message for His people in the midst of that, and He is speaking to the remnant of Jerusalem, the remnant who was faithful, who believed Him and His Word. This is the remnant who had repented and drawn near to Him in response to the Word being proclaimed. He says to them, because of what is going to happen to the nations and to Jerusalem, to His people in Judah, because of that they need to wait on Him. “Therefore, wait for Me,” He says, “until the day.” Wait for the final day of judgment.
This is not a wait and see, or wait and do nothing until this comes to pass. This is an active waiting. It is an expectant waiting. It is waiting for a display of justice and holiness that will glorify God – we forget that God will be glorified in the judgment of sinners. And the remnant is encouraged to wait with expectation and with faith knowing that God will come and judge the wicked. “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. While the world spurns God and His Word and His people, we wait for the certainty of accountability and judgment upon the wicked. Jesus is coming again and while we will rejoice, the world will mourn and be horrified.
In 2 Timothy 4:8 we find another expectation for His coming. “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
Often I think we want Jesus to come back specifically because we know He will judge the wicked. We want justice. But do we love His appearing for what it means to the lost more than what it means to the justified? And shouldn’t we want the lost to be saved first and foremost and thereby be spared the judgment of God as Christ has paid the penalty for His people?
We want sinners to pay, but we do not want to pay as sinners, do we? We are glad Jesus paid the price for us, but would rather those vile sinners out there in the world pay their own way, right?
Do we truly expect that Jesus is coming back? Do we believe He is going to return? I know we profess that Jesus is coming again, but how often do we look at how long it has been since He made the promise and how confusing end times scenarios can be, with or without charts and graphs – and we believe He is coming back but deep down we don’t think we will see it in our lifetime?
Do we expect His return? Not eventually, as He Himself stated, “Behold, I am coming quickly!”
An atheist friend of mine summed it up quite blasphemously when he posted a picture of Jesus on the cross saying, “I’ll be right back.” And his comment was, “LOL. It’s only been 2000 years.”
This sentiment is not something new. We need to make sure we do not fall into thinking that because we perceive a delay that this means He might not be coming. We need to be alert and watch for it. When we finally get to 2 Peter later this year, we will see that Peter had to address his readers’ questions about why Jesus had not come back as promised. It seems a human thing where we all know we need to wait but we hate waiting!
It started soon after the ascension it seems – He said He would be right back, so where is He? Well when you see how God does math…..quick for Him means a wait time for us! These last 2000 years for us are the equivalent in heavenly time of about 2 days.
So as we face the future let us do so with this assurance – Jesus is coming back and we should be expectantly waiting for Him.