Reverend Anthony R. Locke
September 25th, 2011 www.FirstPresTucker.org
at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker
Click HERE for the Zephaniah Sermon Series. Sermon # 10
Zephaniah 3:14-15 Sermon Series in Zephaniah # 10 English Standard Version
14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.
The primary commentary I have used for our Sermon Series in Zephaniah has been by James Montgomery Boice. Incidentally, I model my preaching after his.
As he begins to comment on verse 14 and following, he says,
“I do not know if your experience in studying the Minor Prophets has been the same as mine, but I suspect it has, at least in this respect: the prophets’ reiterated message of coming judgment is oppressive, so that any serious attempt to understand and apply it often leaves a person depressed. I have felt this particularly in my study of . . . Zephaniah.”
This might surprise many fair weather Christians, but certain sections of the Bible are meant to make us feel bad. Bad about our choices. Bad about how we have hurt people. Bad about our sin. Primarily, bad for how our sin affected Christ.
Jesus spoke harsh words that turned people away. Jesus had to encourage the disciplines to stay on more than one occasion. John 6:61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?
When the Bible makes us feel bad we should respond like Peter who said, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.
Our faith should keep us connected in church even when faithful preaching repeats the harsh and upsetting words of God.
Peter spoke these wonderful words of recommitment, and without missing a beat, Jesus immediately responded Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil. I think Jesus has a sense of humor. =)
But here is the Gospel promise, words of truth that are hard to hear are never the last words to the children of God. The words of judgment find their ultimate fulfillment in the suffering of the body and soul of our Savior on the cross.
In verse 14 and following we find new words of truth that are a joy to hear. The Holy Father desires to embrace us, cast off our sorrow and clothe us with everlasting joy and eternal life in His presence.
And God wants you to feel that embrace in these verses out of Zephaniah. These verses are a celestial hug, chicken soup for the soul, peace to overcome the fearful words previously spoken.
The descriptive words in verse 14 are not redundant poetry. The verse contains four imperative verbs that are similar in meaning but each with an added truth. Sing, shout, rejoice, exult.
I know this isn’t easy for Presbyterians to find practical expression for this direct exhortation, yet, God encourages us to sing like a barren woman who gave birth to her first child.
The Bible gives many examples of barren woman. Abraham’s Sarah were barren until, advanced in years, she gave birth to Isaac. Isaac’s Rebekah was barren until God answer Isaac’s prayer. Jacob’s Rachel was barren until she begged God for a child.
And each time a song of thanksgiving and joy was offered up to God.
We are told to Sing aloud. No private singing in the shower, no quiet mumbling under our breath at a worship event, if we are to obey God then we must sing loud enough for others to her us.
Psalm 40:3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.
God will evangelize our world when the church allows the joy of Christ’s salvation to animate our worship and our daily lives. We must make our boast in the Lord!
Second, God tells us to shout, O Israel! Like the shout that made the walls of Jericho fall down.
This is a shout of victory.
The church won’t feel victorious within the world. We don’t exercise our reign over Satan before Christ’s return. Many churches are dwindling in numbers and finances. We don’t feel like giving a shout of victory.
Most churches in America are not feeling the swagger and confidence of our victory in Christ. But friends, that doesn’t mean our victory isn’t more real than the false confidence of sinners.
Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. God views us marching in the victory of Jesus.
O Victory in Jesus, My Savior forever. He sought me, and He bought me, with His redeeming blood. He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him. He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleaning flood.
God wants us to feel the need to shout. Shout, O Church!
Third, we are exhorted to Rejoice and exult with all your heart.
The Jews used the Hebrew word heart in three basic ways: as describing the (1) will of the individual; (2) the mind or the intellect; or (3) the emotions. Zephaniah used the term with its latter meaning. With all their emotions the people should rejoice and be glad.
But God expects more than just an emotional response. God encourages us to rejoice and exult in Christ.
We should at least feel like a Pentecostal. We should sing like a charismatic. We should rejoice with full emotion from the heart.
And, to push us even further, we are told to exult. We can only obey this exhortation if we include a bodily response.
While we don’t want to see Twelve Lord’s a Leaping during worship, we do need our faces, our body language and our physical energy fully engaged in worship.
Moving now to verse 15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
God used the same Hebrew phrase in Job 34:5 He does not plead my case for me; He does not make a decision in my favor. But here the meaning is the exact opposite.
John Calvin says, “God declares that the sins of his people are buried, so that he in a manner cuts off his character as a judge, and remits his own right, so that he will no more contend with the Jews, or summon them, as they say, to trial.”
The curse and judgment for our sin, held against us until the Day of Wrath, was pour out, drank in it’s fullness, by Jesus when He was on the cross. Only the Lord Jesus could take away the judgments leveled against us by the Father. This is the Gospel core. The LORD has taken away the judgments against us. Wow. That is the foundation truth for the joy of our salvation.
Further, God has cleared away our enemies.
Micah 7:8 said Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. Even during what looks like a defeat for God’s people, the Lord is working a great victory.
Through the resurrection and ascension, Satan is defeated. That old snake, Lucifer himself, the accuser of the brethren was dealt a death blow. Our fallen flesh is being renewed. The whole world is conquered by King Jesus.
How could we ever be oppressed or fear when The King of Israel, the Lord, is in our midst?
This reads less smooth in the original. The King of Israel is Jehovah in the midst of thee.
The words read like a profession of faith. Our King is the one living and true God who saves! And He is in our midst!
Jesus is here even now. The Lord Jesus meets with us every Sunday. Take His word for it. Every Wednesday and all during the week the Lord Jesus takes great interest with our work and labor for the sake of His kingdom.
His presence is objective verification of his inward satisfaction with his people. There is nothing now to alienate the Holy One from residing forever with His people. Atonement, at-one-ment, has been achieved.
Finally, we shall never again fear evil. This is what he said earlier about safety and about the removal of their enemies. It is one thing to endure evil and another to fear evil, just as it is one thing to die and another to see or taste death.
Christ makes this difference in John 8:51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death. The Law is dead as far as we are concerned. Death has lost its power and sting and can no longer frighten us; it no longer has the right to condemn us.
So while we all may die on our journey to heaven, our death will not be something to fear.
We must never again fear evil. The Evil One is defeated. Our own acts of evil were condemned and judged in the body of Jesus on the cross. And evil will never again stain the life of a saint.
Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
This is the power of the presence of God. It is absolute safety, rest and peace. These are the promises that should make us feel animated by joy.
Only joy everlasting is in our future. Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Only everlasting peace is in our future. 1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
All these Gospel promises flow from God’s heart of love for His people.
The most amazing joy a human being can ever experience is to rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20.
The second most amazing joy a human being can ever experience is to know that God is with you and that you will never again need to fear any harm.
Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Or Matthew 28:20 Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Let me end our sermon today with some more verses.
Friends, 2 Peter 1:4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
If we are saved from evil, then we need to live separate from evil.
1 John 3:1-3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
May God bless our church to know the full embrace from the Father. May we Ephesians 3:18-19 be strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Amen.
 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.