Today’s Bible Reading: Zephaniah 1-3:20; Revelation 10:1-11; Psalm 138:1-8; Proverbs 30:11-14
The books of the twelve minor prophets can be broken up into two categories: pre-exilic and post-exilic. Today we read the last of the pre-exilic prophets: Zephaniah. This book is a bit unique among all the Old Testament prophets in that the author tells us exactly when he wrote it (Zephaniah 1:1). King Josiah was one of the good kings who instituted reforms to “undo” the spiritual mess his predecessors created. It is likely that he did so as a result of these warnings from Zephaniah.
One of the problems in Judah at this time was that people were saying they believed in God but their actions did not back up their words (Zephaniah 1:5). One of the lessons we learn by reading the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is that people don’t change much. We behave the same way today as people did thousands of years ago. Many people today will say they believe in God but the god they believe in is not the god of the Bible – it is a god they make up in their own heads.
There is an online church popular with Hollywood that promotes the worship of God “as long as [it is] within the law of the land and one’s conscience.” In other words, government laws and even your own view of right and wrong trumps Scripture. This type of belief is actually doing nothing more than saying each person is a god unto him/herself. This is exactly the thinking that existed in Israel 2,500 years ago and is the reason God had to bring Assyria and Babylon to destroy it. The United States is not going to fare any better.
Those who tolerate sin in their life will experience discipline from God (Zephaniah 1:12). I can certainly attest to that. It can be easier to just live with the sin in our lives than it can be to deal with it. But God has higher standards for us. Any little bit of sin ruins us. Just like we wouldn’t accept a little bit of cancer in our bodies, God doesn’t accept a little bit of sin in our lives either.
One of the great things about God is that everything He does is in our best interests and He gives us advanced warning about what He will do (Zephaniah 2:2). No one has to experience God’s judgement. We’ve been reading this same message in Revelation over the past few days. God has given the human race ample instructions and ample warning about what is coming. Anyone who experiences it has no one to blame but themself.
God has blessed every person with some ability. Acknowledging this is not sin. But thinking too much of oneself because of it is (Zephaniah 2:15). There is a fine line between humbly acknowledging that God is source of our talents and arrogantly thinking we are the source of those skills. The same holds true for nations. Too often the United States has boasted that it is the greatest nation on earth. And while we have certainly excelled at much and have lead the world in many areas, we need to remember that the talents that made that possible are not attributable to ourselves. All this was only possible with God.
Its hard to tell such an arrogant person or country anything (Zephaniah 3:2). Pride blinds us to the truth and distances people (and nations) from God.
Revelation 10 is another “break in the action” between judgements. This is the second one we’ve seen (the first was after the sixth seal judgement). These interludes demonstrate the mercy of God. During these times He is giving people time to calm down and repent after the horrific events they’ve experienced.
God prohibited John from recording what the seven thunders said (Revelation 10:4). So why would God allow John to even record that they spoke? We don’t know. Perhaps its a way of humbling us by letting us know that we don’t know everything – there are still many mysteries left to discover about God. We also need to remember that the biblical definition of “mystery” is not something that is unknowable. It is something that can be known, but only by God revealing it. There are some things God has not yet chosen to explain to us.
The scroll that John eats in Revelation 10:9-10 is bitter-sweet. That is exactly how God’s word works in our lives. It offers so much comfort for the present and hope for the future (“sweet”). Yet in doing so it does not gloss over the truth about our fallen human nature (“bitter”).
When we were little children we hated to get shots or take bad-tasting medicine. But they were for our own good. If we avoid them we will get sick. If we accept them we will be better off. The same is true for God’s truth. The reason we have so many problems in our individual lives and in our culture is too many people refuse to take God’s “medicine” because, as the old saying goes, “the truth hurts”. But sometimes we have to go through some pain to become better.
There is more to prayer than simply asking God for things. The design of prayer is to change our character to be more like God’s. To that end, God offers encouragement and strength when we pray the right way (Psalms 138:3).
Its easy to think that we are right while everyone else is wrong. But this is pride (Proverbs 30:12-13). We are all the same. We are all sinners who think too much of ourselves and too little of those around us.
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