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hill of the LordWhen Jesus comes He says He is going to plunder the world. He says here in verse 8, “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.”

Why do we have this promise of judgement and fierce anger and wrath? It is sin. Sin against God. Sin against each other. And sin has a penalty. Sin has a price – a wage. And that wage is death. It is judgment.

Jesus addresses the coming judgment and the reasons for wrath in a parable in Matthew 21:33-41. The Parable of the wicked vinedressers. There Jesus tells us, 33 “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. 34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. 35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. 37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” 41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

In Isaiah chapter 5 we find God referring to His people as a vineyard, planted with the choicest seed, but the vineyard is a disappointment as it grows wild grapes and not good grapes.

We, by our sin, have ruined God’s creation. We should be good stewards of it but instead we think it is ours to do with as we please. And we use the world He has created to indulge our fleshly desires instead of to serve and glorify Him. This is how we have treated Him.

He has sent His prophets and His apostles and His Son to us. And we, humanity, in our lostness, in our hatred of God, we killed His prophets, His apostles, and His Son. This is our sin. And when the owner of the vineyard comes to collect what is His, He will destroy wicked men miserably.

Yet even now we find hope. Here is His Word to His remnant, in verses 9-13:

9 “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord. 10 From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, the daughter of My dispersed ones, shall bring My offering. 11 In that day you shall not be shamed for any of your deeds in which you transgress against Me; for then I will take away from your midst those who rejoice in your pride, and you shall no longer be haughty in My holy mountain. 12 I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. 13 The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness and speak no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed their flocks and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid.”

After the words about wrath and the certainty of judgment against sin, God reminds us that He is the God of salvation. There is a remnant that will be preserved and given the hope of restoration. And while it is true that God promised through Jeremiah and Zephaniah to restore His people in Judah after the time of judgment in exile through a return to the Land, there is more here than a fulfillment to just Judah. God says He will restore “to the peoples”, not people, singular, but peoples, plural.

In speaking to those who will return after the exile, after judgment, Jeremiah introduces the New Covenant. In Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

That means we need to ask a question? Who is the remnant? Who is the remnant of Israel? It is not just the Jews or those returned from exile. Remember, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, for all who repent of their sin and trust Christ are the offspring of Abraham according to his faith! Paul says it in Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Remember the children’s song, the Christian hokey pokey? “Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord! Right arm, left arm, right foot, left foot….”

God says He will restore the peoples, those who worship Him, those who are His. And He says He will restore to them a pure language. The phrase means literally God is going to purify their lips. Why would it be important to have purified lips?

Think about Isaiah’s encounter with God in Isaiah 6. In seeing God’s holiness Isaiah became aware of his own sinfulness and declared that he was a man of unclean lips. And an angel took a coal from off the altar and touched his lips with it.

In the Scripture unclean lips signify an impure heart. Jesus said that the words that come out of our mouth proceed from the heart. The lips diagnose the heart. This coal off the altar represented the sacrifice for sin, it signified the sacrifice of Christ and His work to give us not just forgiveness, but a new heart.

Here in Zephaniah God promises that after this great day of judgment upon the wicked that God will give His people clean lips. This is a New Covenant promise! By this new heart and these purified lips, we can call upon the name of the Lord. After the judgment we will have no hindrance in our worship of God.

Psalm 24:3-5 asks this question, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

Who can draw near to God? Those who have been cleansed by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Christ applied in giving them a new heart. As a result, there is no deceit.

We are a new creation. All things have been made new. We are a new man, Paul says, “Created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:24). After judgment, for the remaining remnant, God will restore to us the ability to worship Him in holiness!

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