Going Deeper 12/11/2018

The first reading for Advent 3...
Zephaniah 3:14-20   Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel!  Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!  The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies.  The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.  On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.  The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.  I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it.  I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.  At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.

What a beautiful passage, full of rejoicing and praising God!  What a powerful message of hope!  And how much more profound this scripture is when you know both its historical and literary context.  (for a 5-minute overview of Zephaniah, use the link below)

The first 2+ chapters are filled with an equally profound message... but they are a description of pending woe and destruction.  Not only will their enemy neighbor/nations fall, so will Judah and Jerusalem.  And all of this is depicted as the judgment of God upon their idolatry, brutality, and injustice.  Using powerful images of darkness and flooding, the prophet proclaims gloom and doom.

But as you have heard, gloom and doom are never the last words.  Like several other prophets, Zephaniah speaks of a remnant that will be preserved and will return and rebuild.  That is the picture depicted in our text: the profound destruction and darkness will give way to profound restoration and light.  Mourning must always give ways to rejoicing, for God's grace and mercy are always the final words.  No matter how dark things might become, hang in there, for God never gives up on His mission of restoration.

And this is the journey of the season of Advent.  It involves a time of sober repentance in order to prepare the way for the powerful coming of the Kingdom of God, a time where God goes about the ongoing work of restoration, brought to light through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the long-awaited and much-anticipated Messiah, whose mission was--and continues to be--the salvation of the world.

So be sure to "Sing aloud, ...shout, ...Rejoice and exult with all your heart!"

With You in His Grace,
Mark

https://thebibleproject.com/explore/zephaniah/

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