ZEPHANIAH (Part 2) – JUDGEMENT AS CLEAN UP

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Zephaniah gives hope to the righteous (Image source: thebibleinanutshell

 

What would a life without rules look like? A life without any form of discipline or self-control. A life where I eat what I want, as much as I want, and at anytime of the day that I desire; a life where I can use physical force to take whatever I want from anyone weaker than me without fear of judgement.

If the world were without rules, discipline, and consequences for ignoring rules, it would be a horrible place for everybody. We will all live in constant fear; gentlemen, women, and children will be abused non-stop. While many appreciate rules, there are people who prefer evil and criminality instead of goodness, law and order.

In Zephaniah Chapters 1 and 2, God makes it clear he will judge Judah and the world because of human evil and the violent disorder it brings to society. Zephaniah calls this period of God’s judgement “The Day of the Lord” (Zeph. 1:14-18).

Israel experienced God’s judgement, when they were defeated and captured by the Assyrian empire; Judah experienced it when they were defeated and captured by the Babylonians. The world experienced judgement when the great flood killed all evil people except Noah. However, God’s judgement comes, not to destroy everyone, but as a clean up of evil, so that goodness can flourish once again.

Zephaniah 3:9-11 (GOD’s Word Translation) says: “Then I will give all people pure lips to worship the Lord and to serve him with one purpose. From beyond the rivers of Sudan my worshipers, my scattered people, will bring my offering. On that day you will no longer be ashamed of all your rebellious acts against me. Then I will remove your arrogance and never again will you act proud on my holy mountain.” 

LORD, we want a world filled with goodness; may we be among the people of pure lips who survive your day of judgement, Amen!       

ZEPHANIAH – HARSH UNCOMFORTABLE PREACHING

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Zephaniah and the long-suffering justice of God (Image source: yavohmagazine)

 

Relationships have rules to guide behavior; some rules are written down and protected by law courts, others are agreed by society though not written down. Parents cannot marry their kids, friends should not lie to one another, leaders should not abuse followers – are some rules that guide human relationships. When rules are ignored, there are negative consequences, which are sometimes life threatening.

The Bible teaches that Israel was created from a long lasting relationship, which started when God spoke to Abraham, then Isaac and Jacob, Joseph then Moses. In the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, we see the covenant promises and rules to guide the relationship between Israel and God.

The rules set out the benefits of a strong relationship, and also the life threatening consequences, when the relationship fails. The prophets in Israel were preachers reminding the people of the covenant rules from God – of the blessings when the relationship is good, and consequences when they don’t care.

Zephaniah was a prophet who lived 800 years after Moses, and 600 years before Jesus. Prophets like Elijah and Isaiah had earlier preached to Israel that they were not living in line with their covenant promises to God, and would lose their prosperity. These preached to the people 200 years before Zephaniah, but the people did not listen, thus Zephaniah’s preaching was harsh and uncomfortable.

Hear Zephaniah 1:4-6 (The Message Bible): “I’ll start with Judah… I’ll sweep the place clean of every trace of the sex-and-religion Baal shrines… I’ll get rid of the people who sneak up to their rooftops at night to worship the star gods and goddesses; Also those who continue to worship God but cover their bases by worshiping other king-gods as well; Not to mention those who’ve dumped God altogether…”  

Zephaniah is so harsh, we avoid teaching it; but it is a witness to how far God went to warn his people to change before he acted in justice to punish their wicked ways. God is long-suffering but not forever suffering – judgement day will come.

Lord, help us to stay true to you in 2020, Amen!

REMEMBER YOUR MAKER IN 2020

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Biblical wisdom essential for the world today (Image source: bible.com/reading-plans/)

 

The end of the year is a period of deep reflections for many – a time when we count our blessings and losses for the year; and a time when we seek for insights, revelations, wisdom, to guide us as we make new plans for the new year. Given the many troubles all over the world in 2019, many probably entered 2020 with a heavy heart.

While some would be hoping for a better 2020, others would be worried and full of anxiety. No matter the camp we belong to, it would be helpful to hear and act on the words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:6 (New King James Version): “Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well.”

Remember your creator before – the silver cord is loosed or the golden bowl called life is no more. Yes, life is a golden bowl handed to us to make the most off while we are here, BUT we should do so mindful of our creator every step of the way.

Yes, remember your creator before – the wheel that lowers your bucket into the water well with life sustaining grace from God, is broken.

As you work hard in 2020, with double jobs, night shifts and overtime, may the Lord bless your hustle abundantly in Jesus name, Amen! 

THE GREATEST OF STARS

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The great star of Bethlehem (Image source: Pinterest)

 

Everyone loves to hear “you are a star” – it feels good and it is an acknowledgement of a job well done. We also give star status to actors, sports men and women, famous media people, and politicians. When we give star status to people, we are saying they light up a dark world and are role models for others to follow.

Matthew 4:12-16 (NIV), gives super star status to a unique person:

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee… by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” 

“Galilee… the people living in darkness have seen a great light” – yes indeed, because the man with the brightest star in the night sky over Bethlehem during his birth, the star that silenced every other star, was now shining super bright in Galilee.

We see the result of this in Galilee in Matthew 4:23-25 (NIV):

Jesus went all over Galilee, teaching… preaching… and healing people who had all kinds of disease and sickness. The news about him spread through the whole country of Syria, so that people brought to him all those who were sick, suffering from all kinds of diseases and disorders: people with demons, and epileptics, and paralyzed people—and Jesus healed them all. Large crowds followed him from Galilee and the Ten Towns, from Jerusalem, Judea, and the land on the other side of the Jordan. 

This is super star power – large crowds from all over including foreign countries Syria and the “other side of the Jordan”, followed Jesus. No other teacher, prophet, king, or political leader of the Jews had this kind of effect in and out of Judah.

Happy New Year – may our super star, Jesus Christ, shine his light upon us, to guide us through this dark world, every moment of 2020, Amen!

STARS THAT SPEAK…

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The stars speak about God (Image source: Luke Gilkerson)

Stars don’t seem to twinkle so bright anymore – why is this? Experts tell us that due to electricity the world today is much brighter at night compared to 100, 500, 1000 years back, thus stars don’t look so amazing to many today as it did to our ancestors. However, beyond their twinkly brightness, stars serve a greater purpose.

Like direction signs on our roads, which help us find our way when we are on a journey, stars were helpful to our ancestors as they traveled long distances by sea and by land. By having a map of the position of the brightest stars, travelers could tell whether they are traveling North, East, West, or South.

How true the words of Genesis 1:14-19 (KJV) (shortened): “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven… and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years… And God made two great lights… he made the stars also…”

The stars in the heavens have been in their positions for a long time; once in a while a star would sometimes travel through the night sky, burning bright for a time before they disappear. The star of Bethlehem for instance was such a super shining star, and in addition was a sign to the world of the birth of the King of Kings!   

Matthew 2:1-2 (KJV) reports: Now after Jesus was born… in the days of Herod… wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

The wise men knew something great was happening, due to prophecies they had studied and the appearance of a super star in the heavens. The stars are created by God to speak for him; there is much we can learn about God as we study about stars from the Bible rather than from the pages of newspapers and non-Bible sources.

Merry Christmas to you – may the super star light of Jesus guide into the truth, and speak favor into your lives, in Jesus name, Amen!   

SIGNS AND SEASONS OF THE HEAVENS

Signs and Seasons
God speaks through divine signs in his creation (Image source: Revelation12Daily)

 

Signs communicate a message, an idea, or a command; and are also used to notify us of events to come or an event in the past. We use signs to communicate as well as to set the boundaries of time when an event begins and when it ends. When the sun sets we know the day is over, when the sun rises its a sign of a new day.

Depending on where you live on Earth, the position of your shadow when you stand in the afternoon sun, is a sign whether you are in the dry hot or cold wet season. Natural signs help us mark time in terms of days, seasons, and years. Signs we make like arrows on a road, or numbers on our houses, help us organize society.

It is fascinating that Genesis 1:14-19 (KJV) (shortened) says: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven… and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years… And God made two great lights… he made the stars also… And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”

On the fourth day of creation, God made the – sun, moon, stars – and gave them three objectives: (1) provide light by day and by night (2) be for signs – signs to communicate God’s plans (3) be for seasons – to organize life on Earth. Remember that great sign, the extremely bright star of Bethlehem when Jesus was born. This is just a small illustration of the divine intelligence and wisdom behind all of creation.

We are told in Romans 1:20 (GOD’S WORD® Translation): “From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse.” 

May the awesomeness of God’s intelligence, wisdom, power, and love for us, seen in creation, lead us to love him too, in Jesus name, Amen!

THE LORD – OUR TIRELESS HELPER…

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The Lord is our tireless helper (Image: HeavenlyMindedMum)

 

It is tempting to view life as a series of unending difficulties. It does not really matter whether a person is rich or poor, young or old, life WILL throw challenges on the road we walk. Even when we fully accept that ‘life is not a bed of roses’, there are still challenges that overwhelm us and make us cry.

One such overwhelming experience is recorded in Luke 7:11-17; the story of the widow of Nain. In this little place, not far from Nazareth, we are told the woman had lost her husband, and now her only son is dead and being carried for burial. We are told in Luke 7:12-13 (NIV) – And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord [Jesus] saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”   

How do I keep calm after losing my husband, and now my only son? The widow would likely be angry, depressed, and overwhelmed by her tragedy – so too the large crowd that was with her in tears sharing her pain. Jesus saw this and “his heart went out to her”, he was moved with deep empathy and he changed things.

The story continues in Luke 7:14-16 (NIV)Then he [Jesus] went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”

“God has come to help his people” – life can be so overwhelming that our efforts alone is inadequate to see us through, we need our God to also come HELP us out. Husbands, wives, parents, children, and friends are helpers to whom we are grateful, but our God is the sincerest and tireless helper we must have in our lives.

Great God, we can’t go it alone, help us every step of the way, Amen!