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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Zephaniah 3

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The Lord Rejoices Over the Restoration of His People

A. A contrast between a wicked city and a righteous God.

1. (Zep 3:1-4) Jerusalem, the wicked city.

Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction; she has not trusted in the LORD, she has not drawn near to her God. Her princes in her midst are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning. Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people; her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.

a. Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! From the way that Zephaniah 2 ended we perhaps hoped that this oppressing city was Nineveh. From the references to her prophets, her priests, and the sanctuary and the law, we know Jerusalem is the oppressing city.

b. She has not … she has not … she has not … she has not: In repeating these four phrases, the prophet tells us the root of Jerusalem's sin.

i. She has not obeyed His voice: God called to His people, but they did not listen. If there is any voice for the sheep to obey, it is the voice of the shepherd - but she has not obeyed His voice.

ii. She has not received correction: Correction certainly came, but she did not receive it as correction from the LORD. Instead it was a bad time, tough circumstances, whatever - but she has not received correction.

iii. She has not trusted in the LORD: God never gave her a reason to stop trusting in Him; He never proved Himself unfaithful or untrustworthy. Now God's people will openly deny and contradict God's word and promises, showing that she has not trusted in the LORD.

iv. She has not drawn near to her God: The worst offense is saved for last. God longs for relationship with His people, but they rejected His desire and went their own way, so she has not drawn near to her God.

2. (Zep 3:5-7) The righteous God.

The LORD is righteous in her midst, He will do no unrighteousness. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, but the unjust knows no shame. "I have cut off nations, their fortresses are devastated; I have made their streets desolate, with none passing by. Their cities are destroyed; there is no one, no inhabitant. I said, 'Surely you will fear Me, you will receive instruction'; so that her dwelling would not be cut off, despite everything for which I punished her. But they rose early and corrupted all their deeds."

a. The LORD is righteous in her midst: This makes the unrighteousness of His people even more criminal and tragic. God has been nothing but righteous to them, yet they respond with sin. Eventually they put themselves on the wrong side of God's righteousness and face His justice.

b. Surely you will fear Me, you will receive instruction … But they rose early and corrupted all their deeds: God brought His justice to the nations around Judah, and it should have warned Judah what would happen if they rejected God. Instead of learning from the surrounding nations, they dedicated themselves to ungodliness all the more.

B. The promise of restoration.

1. (Zep 3:8-13) Judgment and restoration.

"Therefore wait for Me," says the LORD, "Until the day I rise up for plunder; 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. 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. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, the daughter of My dispersed ones, shall bring My offering. 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. I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD. 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."

a. Pour on them My indignation … then I will restore: In light of the repeated and chronic sin of the nations and of God's own people, God will bring judgment - and then restoration.

b. That they all may call on the name of the LORD: In this ultimate restoration, God will give the world a common language again (a pure language), and the entire world will worship the LORD, not only Israel.

i. Most Bible scholars see this as fulfilled in the days of the Millennium, when Jesus reigns for 1,000 years over this earth after His return in power and glory. From this passage many scholars believe that in that day the world will go back to a common language - perhaps Hebrew.

c. To serve Him with one accord: Literally, this is with one shoulder. The idea is that the shoulders are working together as one to bear the load of the work.

d. You shall no longer be haughty in My holy mountain: In the millennial earth Israel will be the world's superpower, but she will not be proud or haughty. Under the leadership of the Lord Jesus and His redeemed, she will know that her standing is all of grace.

e. For they shall feed their flocks and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid: This speaks of the peace and prosperity Israel will know in the millennial earth.

2. (Zep 3:14-20) Restored with singing.

Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall see disaster no more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: "Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak. The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." "I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly, who are among you, to whom its reproach is a burden. Behold, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you; I will save the lame, and gather those who were driven out; I will appoint them for praise and fame in every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will bring you back, even at the time I gather you; for I will give you fame and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I return your captives before your eyes," says the LORD.

a. Sing, O daughter of Zion! In light of the glorious promise of restoration, Israel should sing and shout with joy. God will save and redeem them from both their enemies and their iniquities.

b. The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save: This passage gives us definite steps for consolation, as we understand that:

- The LORD is in your midst
- The LORD is in your midst with power to save
- God takes joy in you
- God gives you rest in His love
- God sings over you

c. He will rejoice over you with gladness: We often underestimate the joy God has in His people, and too often think God is annoyed or irritated with us. "Faulty as the church is, the Lord rejoices in her. While we mourn, as well we may, yet we do not sorrow as those that are without hope; for God does not sorrow, his heart is glad, and he is said to rejoice with joy - a highly emphatic expression." (Spurgeon)

d. He will rejoice over you with singing: We don't often think of God singing, but He does - and He sings over His people. This is how much joy and delight we give to the LORD - that He breaks into song!

i. "Think of the great Jehovah singing! Can you imagine it? Is it possible to conceive of the Deity breaking into a song: Father, Son and Holy Ghost together singing over the redeemed? God is so happy in the love which he bears to his people that he breaks the eternal silence, and sun and moon and stars with astonishment hear God chanting a hymn of joy." (Spurgeon)

ii. "If God sings, shall not we sing? He did not sing when he made the world. No; he looked upon it, and simply said that it was good. The angels sang, the sons of God shouted for joy: creation was very wonderful to them, but it was not much to God, who could have made thousands of worlds by his mere will. Creation could not make him sing … When all was done, and the Lord saw what became of it in the salvation of his redeemed, then he rejoiced after a divine manner." (Spurgeon)

e. Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak: Knowing this is the tender love and care of God for us should make us respond two ways. First, we do not fear - if the Mighty One loves us and delights in us this way, what can we be afraid of? Second, we let not your hands be weak - knowing this mighty Lord of Love is for us, we want to be for Him with all of our energy. We will not become weak or weary in our service for Him.

i. "'Fear thou not.' What! Not a little? No, 'Fear thou not.' But surely I may show some measure of trembling? No, 'Fear thou not.' Tie that knot tight about the throat of unbelief. 'Fear thou not': neither this day, nor any day of thy life. When fear comes in, drive it away; give it no space. If God rests in his love, and if God sings, what canst thou have to do with fear?" (Spurgeon)

f. I will gather … I will save: God promises to encourage the discouraged, to defeat our enemies, to heal the lame, and to gather the scattered. All this is for His praise and fame and for ours, because we are found in Him (I will give you fame and praise among all the peoples).

©2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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