But We’re the Good Guys!

Bible Readings for the day: Proverbs 23:29-24:4, Philippians 1:1-26. Zephaniah 1:1-3:20
Meditational Reading: Zephaniah 1:1
The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.

Pastor's Ponderings IllustrationZephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah.  King Josiah was one of the good kings of Judah (the southern, Davidic kingdom).  Josiah reformed Judah’s worship life, bringing the people back to the true worship of the Lord, the true God, the God Israel and Judah.  Josiah’s father, Amon, was one of the worst kings of Judah.  Under him the people chased after the false gods, worshiping them even in the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem.  Josiah changed that and brought the people back to the Lord.

That’s what made today’s Old Testament reading so jarring.  Josiah is a good, pious, Lord-believing king, and they very first words from the prophet are words of destruction; in chapter 1, verse 4, the Lord threatens to stretch out his hand against Judah and all who live in Jerusalem!  How can this be?  They are now the good guys; they are the good guys because of Josiah’s reforms which brought the people back to the Lord!

But, as we know from subsequent events, Josiah’s reforms were only outward for most of the people.  Don’t get me wrong!  Josiah was truly a Lord-fearing, Lord-worshiping, man.  His heart was right with the Lord his God.  He wanted the people of Judah to join him in the worship of the true God — and they did — at least outwardly.  They worshiped the true God, but not with their hearts and minds and souls.  Theirs was an outward act of worship that lacked a heart right with God.

The Lord saw through the sham and declared him judgement upon Judah and Jerusalem; he turned his attention to the surrounding nations, but his first priority was declaring his judgement upon his people who turned their backs upon him.  But the Lord does not leave the people under his judgement; the day will come when he will visit them and redeem them and restore them.  In 3:14-17 we have one God’s promises to his people:  “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.  16  On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. 17  The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Zephaniah, for all of his judgement, fills me with hope because the Lord who restored his people is the same Lord who forgives me my sins totally and completely and restores me as his child.  My sins convict me; my heart convicts me; my conscience convicts me; God, in his Word, convicts me; I am convicted of my sins, but God does not leave me there.  He forgives me for the sake of Jesus, his Son, my Savior.  He forgives me for the sake of Jesus and restores me as his child; he forgives me.  As I read 3:14-17, especially v.17, I am reminded of Jesus in Luke 15: (v. 7) “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” and Jesus continues in verse 10, “I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

There is joy in heaven, there is joy with our heavenly Father, when we turn from our sin and turn to him for the full and free forgiveness he gives us in his Son.  “God exults over us with loud singing!” (3:17)

A prayer:  Lord God heavenly Father, I come before you a sinner, a sinner under judgement, under your judgement and under the judgement of my own heart.  Thank you for sending your only Son, Jesus, to take my sin(s) upon himself and pay their price in full; thank you for the eternal life you give to me in him!  Thank you for your love poured out for me on the Cross. You did that for me not because I’m one of the good guys, but because I’m a bad guy whom you still love!  Let me live in your love and your forgiveness; send me your Holy Spirit so that I can live a life that brings glory to you.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name! Amen!

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 585 South St. (Route 75), Suffield CT 06078 USA  http://www.gslcsuffield.com

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