Zephaniah: Revealing God’s Truth

Franklin Gothic Medium – Zephaniah – “Hidden”


Zephaniah understood this judgment was inevitable and pointed to the coming day of the Lord. He pictured the coming judgment on the nation of Judah and the Gentiles. But he then indicates that the Day of the Lord would also bring deliverance for Israel and the Gentiles.


Judah was guilty of: Idolatry (vs 4-6) – God was going to rid them of Baal worship. This was accomplished in Babylon. Since then, idolatry has not been a problem in Israel.
Alliances with foreign powers (vs 8) – they did not trust in God for safety.
Violence and injustice (vs 9) – they were quick (“leap over thresholds”) to go into others houses to deceive and plunder others to enrich their masters.
Deism – they thought God was not involved in human affairs (vs 12).


Some of the things they place their faith in are: Powerful warriors (1:14), Fortified cities (1:16), Silver and Gold (1:18)


The Day of the Lord: involves God’s Intervention. is a day of Judgment. is also a time of Salvation.


As a result, the people will be humble, fully comitted to God, and are righteous and ethical in their treatment of others.
 
Key Principles:
(1) God is full of grace, gladness and tenderness, but also justice.
Judgment 1:8-9, Wrath 1:15, 18, Terror
Grace 3:9-20, Gladness 3:17, Tenderness 2:7, 3:17
 (2) God deals in grace. In the midst of the troubles that are coming God will
REMOVE Idolatry 1:4-6, Pride 3:11-12, Deceit 3:13, Fear 3:13, 15-16, Enemies 3:15, 19, Reproach 3:18-19, Shame 3:11
RESTORE Safety 2:3, 3:13, Prosperity 2:7, 3:20, Purity 3:9, Worship 3:9-10, Trust 3:12, Joy 3:14, Remnant 3:10, 18-20, His presence 3:15, 17


Therefore I should trust God to work out his plan. What do I need to do?
I need to wait on God (3:8). He will right the wrongs and restore the righteous. I just want to be sure I’m counted among the righteous. Therefore….
I need to “Seek the Lord” (2:3) This means that my number one goal in life is to know God – to have an intimate relationship with him.
I need to be humble (2:3b). This involves self denial. Vertical and horizontal – which leads to the next requirement.
I need to obey God’s ordinances (2:3) = love my neighbor.

Habbakuk: God didn’t do it my way

Courier – Habbakuk “Embrace or Wrestle”


Habakkuk’s Question: Habakkuk is preaching against it, but he is having little effect. Habakkuk raises a good question. Why does evil go unpunished? Why do the wicked prosper? Why doesn’t God do something?
God’s Answer: God is doing something. He is raising up a foreign nation, the Babylonians, to come and destroy Judah. This points us to another principle we can learn from Habakkuk. God doesn’t always give us the answers we want or expect. We usually have it in our mind how we want God to answer our prayers. When He does it differently, how do you respond?


Habakkuk’s Response:
He began in verse 12 by claiming that God is eternal. I think the idea of immutability, that God does not change, is included here. The fact that God does not change is important because it means God keeps His promises and He has made promises to Israel. Habakkuk knows that God will not totally destroy Israel because of his covenantal promises. That is why he says, We will not die.
So, he believes God and trusts God, but he still doesn’t fully understand the answer. In 13b Habakkuk knows God hates evil and is amazed that God would use a nation even more wicked than Judah to punish Judah. After all, even though Judah has her problems, she is still better than the Babylonians. (At least that was true from man’s perspective. If you remember Amos, the whole point of Amos was that Israel was worse than all the rest of the nations because she knew better. She had been given the law while the Gentiles had not. The same would apply to Judah here. They weren’t better in God’s eyes.) And God’s answer indicates that things are going to get worse, not better.


God’s Answer: Basically God’s answer is this: Don’t worry about the Babylonians, they will get theirs too. When justice tarries, we have the feeling that it will never come, but God promises that it will. God says, “the righteous will live by faith.” Some translations have faithfulness. Both ideas are involved. You really can’t separate the two. Faith is what you believe. Faithfulness is acting according to what you believe. What is the faith? It is trusting God for life. What does faithfulness look like? It is faithfulness to God’s law. It is following the moral standards of the 10 commandments which we can summarize as loving God and loving one’s neighbor.
Next, Habakkuk gives a series of “Woe” oracles to describe how bad Babylon is. But he doesn’t mention Babylon in these descriptions. He may have done that so that they would be taken more as a universal principle or description of evil. There is a progression here. I think among the first four one sin leads to the next.
Woe to the Proud 2:4-5, Woe to the Greedy 2:6-8, Woe to the Dishonest 2:9-11, Woe to the Violent 2:12-14, Woe to the Sensual 2:15-17, Woe to the Idolater 2:18-20


Habakkuk’s Prayer of Praise:
Habakkuk now understands and offers a prayer of praise because God is in control.
He pleads for mercy in the midst of the judgment (1-2).
He is afraid of what is coming. He knows it will be awful. Undoubtedly he will suffer too. Maybe personally, but at least through witnessing the death and destruction of those around him.
He praises God’s majesty and power (3-15).
He promises to wait on the Lord (16-19).
What is coming is frightening, but he commits himself to wait and trust in God.
At the beginning of the book I mentioned that Habakkuk’s name meant embrace or wrestle. We’ve see him wrestle with the tough questions, but what is his final response? To embrace God and trust in Him.


PRINCIPLES:
(1) God sometimes seems to be inactive, but He is involved. 1:12 showed that the Babylonians were under God’s control, and He was using them to achieve His purposes.
(2) God is holy. In 1:13 Habakkuk said that God could not approve evil. This should be a sobering thought to us as we struggle with temptations, sins, bad habits (which is a euphemism for sins), etc.
(3) God hears and answers prayers.
(4) God sometimes gives unexpected answers to our prayers. When we pray, we usually have in our minds the way we want God to answer. When He answers differently, we think He hasn’t answered at all.
(5) God is Just and God is Good. He will judge the wicked and he is concerned for the righteous.
(6) The righteous live by faith and faithfulness. This means we really believe that God is Good and God is just. And we live accordingly. What are some situations where you might need to do that?

Nahum: Return to Nineveh

Comic Sans MS – Nahum – “Comforter or Consolation”


Jonah: The Mercy of God < prophet and message > Nahum: The Judgment of God
800 B.C. < time > 650 B.C.
Emphasis on the prophet – only one prophecy in the whole book < emphasis > Emphasis on the prophecy – the only thing we know about the prophet is that he was from Elkosh.
Disobedient prophet < state of prophet > Obedient prophet
Obedient Nation < state of nation > Disobedient Nation – in only 150 years the nation became so bad that it had to be destroyed. Does that remind you of America in any way? We’ve degenerated a lot in the last 50 years.
Deliverance from Water < future earned > Destruction by water ?
Repentence of Nineveh < state of people > Rebellion of Nineveh
 
Conclusion: For Ninevah the result is destruction because the people of Nineveh are evil. Notice the reference to the overwhelming flood. That was fulfilled by the flooding of the Khoser River and the flooding in of the enemies. Notice that Nahum starts with God. Judgment comes because of who God is. When you get the character of God in mind, everything else falls into perspective. Having done that, Nahum now focuses on Nineveh.


Application:


This judgment is coming because of the character of God. This means we need to look at circumstances in the light of who God is. The book reveals quite a lot about the character of God:
(1) God is Sovereign – He is in control of both nature and the nations. He used the Babylonians to bring his judgment on the Assyrians. He also used a flood to help the Babylonians.
(2) God is Just – Assyria’s judgment was well deserved. Although God used them to destroy Israel, it went to their heads and they attributed their success to their own power and God did not appreciate that. God also dealt with the Assyrians appropriate to the way in which they had dealt with other nations. Many of the same atrocities they committed on others were committed on them.
(3) God protects his people – Although God used Assyria to discipline Israel, he would take notice of those who were faithful.


Why is God judging?


Because God cares for those who trust in Him.
Because God will judge those who violate His law.
This is a message of condemnation for those who disobey God and a message of consolation for those who trust and obey Him.


Ninevah exalted herself but she was humbled by God. This is what I call the Pharisee and Publican principle. In the parable of the pharisee and the tax gatherer, the pharisee compared himself to the tax gatherer and exalted himself before God. The tax gatherer was humble and asked for mercy. Jesus said it was the tax gatherer who went away justified. If you exalt yourself, God will humble you. Assyria compromised her values to gain wealth and power, so God took her down. That is something we struggle with today. Has there been any opportunity lately to do something that was not quite right, but would have helped “close a deal“ or advance your career or make more money, etc?

Micah: Calling for a Necessary Ingredient

Arial – Micah – “Who is like God?”


The book may be divided into three sections:
Chapters 1–3 mainly consist of oracles of judgment.
Chapters 4–5 of oracles of hope.
Chapters 6–7 begins with judgment and moves to hope.


Purpose
Micah’s purpose in writing was to show Judah that a necessary product of her covenant relationship to God was to be justice and holiness. His focus on God’s justice was to remind the people that God would judge them for their sin and disobedience (chaps 1-3) but that he would ultimately establish a kingdom whose king would reign in righteousness (chaps 4-5). He convicts Israel and Judah of their sin (in the lawsuit 6-7) and sentences them to judgment
A. To warn the northern kingdom, Israel, of impending judgment because of its covenant disloyalty
B. To warn the southern kingdom, Judah, of impending judgment because of its covenant disloyalty
C. To confirm for Judah that they were just as guilty as was Israel, so they would be judged like Israel
D. To emphasize God’s justice and love in disciplining the nation
E. To affirm God’s future restoration of His people (not the major purpose)
F. To present “God as the sovereign Lord of the earth who controls the destinies of nations, including His covenant people Israel”


Conclusion–A Prophetic Reminder of the Lord’s Requirements: Micah exhorts the nation not to approach the Lord with religious ritual, but with covenant obedience–justice, lovingkindness, and submission to the Lord 6:6-8


Concluding Hymn of Praise: Micah proclaims the unique character of their God who is gracious, loyal, compassionate, forgiving, and keeps His promises 7:18-20
 1) God does not remains forever angry 7:18a
 2) God has loyal love 7:18b
 3) God is compassionate 7:19a
 4) God forgives: 7:19b
 5) God is true to His covenant promises 7:20

Jonah: More than a Famous Fish Tale part II

Verdana – The Book of Jonah is primarily a story about the character of God. As such, it can be divided into four sections, roughly divided by each chapter: (1) God’s sovereignty, (2) God’s deliverance, (3) God’s mercy, and (4) God’s righteousness. It may also be outlined in the following manner:
God’s first commission and Jonah’s rebellion
God’s deliverance toward Jonah and Jonah’s prayer of thanksgiving
God’s second commission and Jonah’s obedience
God’s deliverance toward Nineveh and Jonah’s complaint of ingratitude
In the first half of the book, God’s deliverance is demonstrated through His sovereignty. In the second half, God’s deliverance is demonstrated through His mercy. Finally, God declares His righteousness in choosing to force and choosing to relent. By the way, Jonah’s name means “dove”.


Lessons
(1) We learn about the character of God.
(2) We see his omnipotence as he controls the wind, the sea, the fish and the plant. And all of his power is directed toward a single goal – the reclamation of sinful humans – both Jonah and the Ninevites. (Chisholm, Interpreting The Minor Prophets, p. 129)
(3) We see his love and compassion as he gives Jonah a second chance and as he forgives the Ninevites.
(4) We see that God answers prayer. He answered the sailors’ prayers, Jonah’s prayer and the Ninevites’ prayers.
(5) I think it ironic that God would spare the Assyrians so that they could destroy the Northern kingdom of Israel only a few decades later.
(6) I think this book shows that Jonah knew a lot about God. He presumed on God’s grace and assumed his deliverance while still in the fish. He knew God was compassionate and gracious and would not destroy the Assyrians if they repented. So, although Jonah knew about God, he did not want to obey him. It could even be said that Jonah disobeyed in the name of justice. (Chisholm, Interpreting The Minor Prophets, p. 130) The Assyrians certainly had committed enough atrocities that they deserved judgment, and Jonah wanted them to get their due. But he was ignoring the sovereignty of God and disobeying God. He also was displaying a double standard. He was forgetting that Israel had been forgiven many times for her sins and that he himself had just been forgiven for his disobedience. He was a walking contradiction. I think we need to be careful that we do not fall into the same trap.


Jonah and the law of love: I think Jonah gives us a negative illustration of love. I see Jonah as a good example of how we tend to judge others and consider ourselves to be better than others. I mentioned at the beginning of the series that the prophets were more concerned about the present failings of the people to follow the law than with future predictions. Jonah’s life illustrates this failure. Jesus summed up the whole law in one phrase, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jonah definitely illustrates not loving one’s neighbor. Loving involves forgiveness. Jonah would not forgive the Assyrians for their evil. Instead, he clung with pride to his heritage as a Jew, the chosen people of God, and he condemned the Assyrians. I think Jonah mistakenly thought that he deserved the favor of God. I think his prayer in chapter 2 demonstrates that. He called on God for deliverance without repenting of his evil. Why did God choose Israel? Because they were the biggest nation? Because they were more spiritual than the rest? No. He chose them out of grace. If you read Eze 16, you will see a good description of what Israel was like and what God did for them. It also describes how they became proud and forsook God. They certainly did not deserve the special relationship with God.


Jonah forgot that. If he had recognized his evil, he would have seen that he was just as bad as the Ninevites. This reminds me of the parable of the unforgiving servant, who was forgiven an enormous debt by the king. He in turn refused to forgive a fellow slave a small debt. When the king found out, the unforgiving servant was handed over to the torturers until he could repay the debt. I think God was torturing Jonah to try to make him see his evil, so he would repent and so he would recognize that he was no better than the Assyrians. He should have forgiven them and gone to help them. The message of the unforgiving servant is that we should forgive, because we have been forgiven. Jonah was forgiven and delivered from the fish, but he did not see it that way. When I read Larry Crabb and Dan Allender’s books, they say that love means moving into another person’s life to build them up, to help them see their evil so they will repent. It usually involves sacrifice on our part and forgiveness for the harm they do to us. I see Jonah as failing to do this. He failed to forgive and therefore was unwilling to move toward the Ninevites to help them see their evil so they could repent and have a relationship with God. He failed to love.

Jonah: a Whale of a Tale (part I)

Tunga – (Here are a few accounts of people being swallowed by various whales and fish. It’s not exactly the kind of story you want to hear while eating lunch.)


One species of fish, the “Sea Dog” (Carcharodon carcharias), is found in all warm seas, and can reach a length of 40 feet. In the year 1758, a sailor fell overboard from a boat in the Mediterranean and was swallowed by a sea dog. The captain of the vessel ordered a cannon on the deck to be fired at the fish, which vomited up the sailor alive and unharmed after it was struck.


In February of 1891, James Bartley, a sailor aboard the whaling ship “Star of the East,” was swallowed by a whale in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands. He was within the whale for more than forty-eight hours, and after he was found inside the whale, which had been harpooned and brought aboard the whaling ship, it took him two weeks to recover from the ordeal. Sir Francis Fox wrote as follows about this: Bartley affirms that he would probably have lived inside his house of flesh until he starved, for he lost his senses through fright and not from lack of air. He remembers the sensation of being thrown out of the boat into the sea. . . . He was then encompassed by a great darkness and he felt he was slipping along a smooth passage of some sort that seemed to move and carry him forward. The sensation lasted but a short time and then he realized he had more room. He felt about him and his hands came in contact with a yielding slimy substance that seemed to shrink from his touch. It finally dawned upon him that he had been swallowed by the whale . . . he could easily breathe; but the heat was terrible. It was not of a scorching, stifling nature, but it seemed to open the pores of his skin and draw out his vitality. . . . His skin where it was exposed to the action of the gastric juice . . . face, neck and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness and took on the appearance of parchment . . . (and) never recovered its natural appearance . . . (though otherwise) his health did not seem affected by his terrible experience.


Another individual, Marshall Jenkins, was swallowed by a Sperm Whale in the South Seas. The Boston Post Boy, October 14, 1771, reported that an Edgartown (U.S.A.) whaling vessel struck a whale, and that after the whale had bitten one of the boats in two, it took Jenkins in its mouth and went under the water with him. After returning to the surface, the whale vomited him on to the wreckage of the broken boat, “much bruised but not seriously injured.”


In the Literary Digest we noticed an account of an English sailor who was swallowed by a gigantic Rhinodon [i.e., a whale shark] in the English Channel. Briefly, the account stated that in the attempt to harpoon one of these monstrous sharks this sailor fell overboard, and before he could be picked up again, the shark, feeding, turned and engulfed him. His horrified friends made so much outcry that they frightened the fish, and it sounded and disappeared. The entire trawler fleet put out to hunt the fish down, and forty-eight hours after the incident occurred the fish was sighted and slain with a one-pound deck-gun. The winches on the trawlers were too light to haul up the body of the mighty denizen of the deep, so they towed the carcass to the shore and opened it, to give the body of their friend Christian burial. But when the shark was opened, they were amazed to find the man unconscious but alive! He was rushed to the hospital, where he was found to be suffering from shock alone, and a few hours later was discharged as being physically fit. The account concluded by saying that the man was on exhibit in a London Museum at a shilling admittance fee; being advertised as “The Jonah of the Twentieth Century.” We corresponded with our representatives in London, and shortly afterward received corroboration of this incident, and last year had the privilege of meeting this man in person. His physical appearance was odd, in that his entire body was devoid of hair, and odd patches of a yellowish-brown color covered his entire skin.

Obadiah: a Minor prophet with a Major message

Trebuchet MS – Obadiah – “Servant of the Lord”


Purpose
The purpose of the book is to announce the destruction of Edom because of her pride and sin against Judah. The prophet also wants to comfort Judah by announcing Edom’s destruction and Judah’s restoration and deliverance in the Day of the Lord.


Conclusion and Application
We discussed in the introduction to the prophets the major categories of the prophetic message. You can see in Obadiah most of them:


Promise of Judgment
Reasons for Judgment
Description of Judgment
Future Deliverance or Restoration
About the only thing missing is the call for repentance.


What are some personal applications we can make?


(1) Pride deceives and leads to more sin.
(2) Sin follows a downward path. We saw how Edom progressed in his sins against Judah. At first it was just complacency, but then it was the promotion of evil and finally participation in the evil. It shows us how dangerous complacency is. It doesn’t stop there.


Are we complacent about anything? Do you remember the first time you heard about Doctor Death? Were you outraged? Now that he has killed over a dozen people, are you desensitized to the news? Does it affect you as much as it did the first time? What about Abortion, violence on TV, etc. I know from personal experience that after being in the Air Force for 6 years, I became so accustomed to hearing bad language that it really didn’t bother me anymore. Sometimes Lori will ask me if a movie had bad language and unless it was really bad, I won’t even be able to tell her.


(3) God will keep His word. Obadiah said Edom’s judgment would be complete and appropriate. They would get what they deserved. And in fact they did.
(4) God will punish sin. We are introduced to the Day of the Lord. He sees what nations are mistreating His people and He will judge them accordingly. It shows us that God is in control. This is really important for us to believe when we face tough times.
(5) God will protect His own. God is good and He loves us and will take care of us.


These last two ideas, that God is in control and that God is good are extremely important to living the Christian life. These principles were repeated often in the OT and again in the NT. We will see it in Hosea and Haggai for sure. One place we see it in the NT is Mat 6:19-34. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus warns them that they cannot serve two masters – things and God. The temptation for us is to try to find life in things, because we don’t believe God can or will take care of us. So we buy new cars, houses, clothes, etc. to try to find meaning. Or we try to find identity and meaning through our job or business. Or we try to find meaning in our children. We do all these things because we don’t believe that God is in control and we don’t believe God is good.


But Jesus tells them that God is even in control of the birds and the flowers, so he certainly can take care of us. He also emphasizes that God is our Heavenly Father, which means He loves us. And God is good (notice how he is contrasted with the evil human fathers in 7:11).


So, when we face difficulties, that doesn’t mean God is not there or that He doesn’t love us. The difficulties are for our own character and spiritual development. We can get through them if we believe in God’s sovereignty and goodness.