When we think on Christmas let us not think on the baby in the manger without seeing the reason the eternal Jesus took on that flesh and entered time and space once more (Christmas is not the first time the second person of the Trinity has walked this earth. Christmas is the first time he took on weak human flesh as a helpless baby to be crucified for his people’s sin way back from the Garden, die, rise and ascend to General the completion of the Kingdom) (See Genesis 18-19, 19:24; Jude 5)
From the beginning the plan was to subdue the earth and have dominion. (Genesis 1:26-28)
However, Adam and Eve missed the whole earth for one tree in one garden.
Father, being rich in mercy, scattered the rebellious people who refused to go by gathering in the plain to make a name for themselves by building tall buildings lest they actually be scattered throughout the earth, by confusing their languages in Genesis 10. So, the earth was beginning to be tamed and dominion had over it by the sovereign action of the Lord.
And, Father, being rich in mercy called Abraham (Genesis 11-12) to be the father of a people from those nations by sending him and his descendants to a land from which to launch a movement to the people he just scattered.
But, Abraham’s people confused their identity. They thought they were a nation unto themselves with a king other than Jesus and they traded a global people from all nations for one strip of dirt and one temple and a bunch of crappy kings. And they do the same thing today.
This is all due to the rebellion and the onset of the kingdom of darkness. It’s always winter and never Christmas! Mankind can’t seem to get out of his own way.
But, the King has come.
Upon the eternal Jesus’ arrival in the manger the curse began to break.
The enemy enacted preparations to oppose the King.
But the King went to the cross, died and rose and broke the curse. The ultimate D-Day happened.
King Jesus invaded the kingdom of darkness and set the enemy to run.
Winter’s curse was broken and now the nations were opened for subduing and having dominion over.
Therefore, we, Jesus’ ambassadors have been given a mission by the King himself to go, disciple the nations and bring the rule of Christ to the whole earth as King Jesus builds his church from those disciples.
We are the temple now, and the land we are promised is the whole earth. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
Let us not repeat the error of Adam and Eve and Abraham’s physical descendants in sacrificing the Kingdom for something less than.
The church, the people of Abraham’s faith in Jesus, must not miss the Kingdom for the sake of a nation or a building.
What does this have to do with our Advent passage of Zephaniah 3:14-20? Everything!
Zephaniah preached during the reforms of Josiah (640-609 BC), who brought spiritual renewal after the awful reign of Manasseh.
Chances are that Josiah, still a young guy when Zephaniah preached and responded in trust as they found the book of the law that led to his reforms.
Zephaniah preached mostly about the coming day of the Lord (The LORD worshiped, sin punished, justice wins, the faithful rescued), which is exactly what Jesus’ first coming leads to in the oncoming Kingdom and its full power at the second coming!
So, our passage is an encouragement that the King himself has graced his people with all they need to do his will and bring his kingdom so that the great Day of the Lord’s final restoration will come!
Our passage is a great encouragement to stay at the work and not give up global glory for something cheap.
Christmas is all about celebrating the full realization of the Kingdom in the second coming by remembering its beginning in the first coming.
Jesus in the manger is the invasion of the Kingdom of light into the kingdom of darkness that had reigned since the tree in the Garden.
So, let’s peek into Zephaniah and see the encouragement the King has given us as we do his work of subduing the nations as his ambassadors!
The Lord Is In Our Midst v. 17 (The centerpiece)
Verse 17 is the centerpiece, the very basis off of which everything else in 14-20 functions.
Verse 17 is what makes the rest of it work.
The very basis of every encouragement of this text is the chief encouragement that the Lord is in our midst.
Verse 17 functions like a fulcrum on a “seesaw”. For a seesaw to work correctly, you have to have a centerpiece and two equally weighted portions on each end.
This passage is a literary seesaw.
Verse 14, 15a balance with verse 18
Verse 15b,c balance with verse 19
Verse 16 balances with verse 20
The Rock of Encouragement:
- The LORD, our God is in our midst
Jesus comes and takes on flesh and dwells among us (John 1:14).
Jesus lives the perfect and sinless life.
Jesus goes to the cross by the plan of the Father to pay the penalty of the fall.
Jesus is buried and rises from the grave to secure rescue for all who will believe.
Jesus, then sends the Holy Spirit to be with his people forever.
Holy Spirit is the full-fulfillment of this glorious promise.
John 14:15-18; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7, 13
- The LORD is a mighty one who will save
The LORD is:
The LORD Will
The presence of the LORD assures that his might is at work to help his people!
- The LORD rejoices over his people with gladness
Rejoice: To display joy
How will Father rejoice?
Because we are his people (Exodus 20:2 – the imperative comes after the indicative) he takes joy and pleasure in us! He rejoices with pleasure!
- The LORD quiets his people by his love
The LORD causes the tumult to go quiet in peace in the soul of the one who will trust and not fret.
How will the LORD quiet his people?
Love: The affection of a husband for his wife
The LORD’S care for us like the perfect husband for his wife quiets the chaos.
- The LORD exults over his people with loud singing
Exult: Explosion of rejoicing
How will the LORD explode in rejoicing over his people?
Loud Singing: Cry out/Proclamation
The word implies crying out, therefore we add “loud” to the singing because when one cries out it’s usually not real quiet.
The word also implies content. There is a proclamation.
What might it be?
Perhaps his love of his people!
Because the Lord is in our midst…we worship, for he has removed our judgment and will care for his people who do right v. 14, 15a, 18
- We sing, shout, rejoice and exult with all out heart (these are all imperatives) v. 14
As image bearers, we do what we image forth.
Father, as a singer, shouter, rejoice and “exulter” has shared that with us (communicable attributes). So, Christians do these because it’s a reflection of our Father.
People who don’t do them either have suppressed that image of Father or it’s not been awakened to life.
- The LORD has taken away our judgment v. 15a
Historically, the LORD has removed the devastation of the city at the hand of its enemies.
For us, in the New Covenant, we understand that the Lord has removed judgment of our guilt through the justifying work of Jesus.
- The LORD gathers and cares for his people who love right v. 18
Notice that verse 18-20 is the LORD speaking directly not the prophet speaking the word of the LORD.
The picture is that those who mourned for the lost worship culture due to rebellion will be gathered up and cared for by the LORD himself.
““Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” – Matthew 5:6
Because the Lord is in our midst…we take heart that he has cleared away our enemies, we don’t have to fear evil and the last will be first v. 15b, 15c, 19
- Our enemies are cleared away (no real hindrance to the Kingdom) v. 15b
We have no flesh enemies because there is no one to fight.
We wrestle not against flesh and blood! Our war is against the rulers and powers in heavenly places.
We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
- We don’t have to fear evil v. 15c
“I will fear no evil for you are with me.” Psalm 23:4
““So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:26-33)
- The last will be first because that’s what the King does v. 19
Father takes great delight in putting on display the world system’s ugliness. What the rebellious world system values is opposite of what the King values.
The outcast, the lame the least are shunned and shamed.
Jesus, came to repair and restore.
The King will take those cast off by the world and turn their shame into praise.
Because the Lord is in our midst…we are to not fear, or grow weak in the work because he will reward us in due time v. 16, 20
- We don’t have to fear at all, rather we have power, love and self-control
“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control.”
(2 Timothy 1:7)
- We should not grow weak in the work
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
- The LORD will reward his people for their faithfulness (Matthew 5:12, 6:23, 35)
The Lord is indeed in our midst. He has come! The Light of the Word has come.
The Light of the world and the King of Kings is coming again.
So, we worship him.
Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and a song of praise is fitting.”