Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Zephaniah: Preparing for the Coming of Christ Pt 2
Preparing for the Coming of Christ-2
God of might, majesty and impartiality, who is just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus; come and help us as we wrestle with your Word in Zephaniah, and assist us to prepare for the coming of Christ. Amen
Christmas can be a two-edged sword for many. Even in our annual family festivities we know this; sometimes joy mixed with anxiety; sometimes good memories are jumbled up with bad ones; sometimes celebration is clasped hand in hand with sadness. But more than our own personal struggles, the initial coming of Christ (the story that lurks behind Christmas) was also a two-edged sword: good news for some, grievous news for others (Just think of Matthew 2 Herod/Magi). For at the first coming of Christ the Lord the day of the Lord began, Christ came and as he came (like a thief in the night) he will again come, and we need to prepare for the coming of Christ [BTW, I appreciated our Choir’s Advent Hymn this morning – did you notice how it pulled both coming together?]
The Plundering Word: 4-15. One of the more serious problems that arises when talking about the Day of the LORD, or God’s justice in any fashion, is that it is often misunderstood, misjudged and misread and God is thought of as some crotchety old codger, some stingy Ebenezer Scrooge in the heavens, who maliciously pounds people like Bob Cratchit. But any real talk of God’s ways must be wrapped up in this understanding from Lamentation 3.33: “For he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” Why, then, the Day of the Lord? 1st-Judgment starts at the household of God: 1.4-6 and so 2.1-2. 2nd-“If the righteous are scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and sinner?”
Universal in scope. The whole known world throughout the fertile crescent, from Jerusalem and Judah (1-3) to those surrounding Judah (4-5, 8-9), to the furthest edges (12-15). Sounds very much like Acts 1.8.
Powerful in span. “deserted”, “a desolation (used at least 3xs)”, “uprooted”, “driven out”, “destroyed”, “a waste (2xs)”, “Become like Sodom and Gomorrah”, “slain”, and “devastation”.
The Promising Word: 1-3, 7b, 9b, 11. Because God does not take delight in the death of a sinner, therefore from the midst of his sobering, fearful word leaks out hopeful promises. There is a hint here that the day of the LORD has a restorative and happier side.
The “Perhaps” of God’s Way (1-3). There is no side-stepping the Day of the Lord, but there is a hopeful promise of being sheltered in it. “Seek, seek, seek” (3x)! This is the opposite of 1.6, where the bland compromisers simply stumbled along in their day-to-day bland and boring ignoring of God. Hosea 10.12: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Then trickles out this sudden – unlooked for “Perhaps”, the “It may be…” and this requires faith – confident trust, shaky or strong, in the refuge God sets up.
On that 1st Christmas (if you will), God’s “perhaps” came in flesh and blood, Jesus Christ: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv’n! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heav’n. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in” (Trinity Hymnal 201). “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5.25). Prepare for the coming of Christ by seeking the Christ who has come!
The Restorative Universality of God’s Way (Read these now: 7b, 9b 11). Here we begin to brush up against a theme that will erupt in Chapter 3 and break out into the New Testament; many outsiders will become insiders, and many insiders will turn out to be outsiders. Malachi 1.11, “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.” And in the words of the hymn we’ll sing at the end, that puts the angels thundering from the sky saying, “All glory to God on high, and to the earth be peace; good will henceforth, from heav’n to men, begin and never cease, begin and never cease” (Trinity Hymnal 223)! The grand reversal! The inside out, and the outside in; the up down and the down up; the first last, and the last first! And Mary tied that grand reversal to the coming of Jesus: Luke 1.46-55. Gentiles and Jews; blue-collar shepherds and social elites; those nearby and those from afar! God’s restorative way will also be just as universal in scope and just as powerful in span as his judgment. Prepare for the coming of Christ.
The Shaping Word:
1st- The real story lurking behind Christmas is the beginning of the Restorative Universality of God’s Way. At Babel the peoples were scattered and divided because of their pride, so now in Christ the nations and peoples can find the solidifying center around which they may finally find peace and hope. But God must do this by 1st reducing or famishing (v.11) our gods to nothing (money, security, nationalism, health, eternal youthfulness…). Prepare for the Coming of Christ.
2nd-We should take heart from 2.1-3….Don’t give up…Seek…Throughout this Christmas season think “Seek the Lord and his rescuing refuge”. “Sages, leave your contemplations, brighter visions beam afar; seek the great Desire of Nations; ye have seen his natal star: come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn King” (Trinity Hymnal 218). The day of the Lord will come to an explosive head, but it’s where we are in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ that determines if we will make it through. “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thess. 1.9b-10). And, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9.27-28). Prepare for the Coming of Christ by trusting in the Christ who has come.