Apathy, Bible, Consequences, God's Will, Judgment, Rebellion, Scripture

NO ONE’S HOME

ZEPHANIAH 3:6

“‘I have eliminated nations; their corner towers are deserted. I have laid waste their streets, with no one passing by; their cities have been laid waste, without a person, without an inhabitant.’”

One of the motel chains in the U.S. used to use as their slogan “The lights are always on.” The problem with that slogan is that it does not guarantee that anyone is actually there. I know lots of people who leave a light or two on when they are away from home. Some even have timers on their lights so they go on and off to give the impression someone is home. It’s kind of depressing to arrive at someone’s home only to find them gone.

That is not what Zephaniah is describing. These places were uninhabited because of God’s judgment. Towns were deserted because people had been carried away by conquering nations. Streets were deserted. No one passed by. This would be a visual reminder of the results of their rebellion against God. They were suffering the consequences of their sins.

APPLICATION

I have known people who have lost their homes due to foreclosure, and the house was shut up and deserted. I have known other homes that were abandoned by their owners when they moved away and could not sell it. Those empty dwellings are usually (not always) a result of bad decisions which reaped consequences.

What decisions have you made that made your spiritual dwelling forsaken? Do you understand what I am asking? This passage just popped into my head. Matthew 11:28-30 says, “28 ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 For My yoke is comfortable, and My burden is light.’”

Jesus invites us to dwell with Him. He invites our spiritual house to be built with His living stones. When we dwell with Him, we will never be homeless. Our heavenly city will never be desolate and deserted. The streets of gold will be full of His children. This may sound too good to be true, but it is. He promises that. Don’t remain in your situation without Him. Come to Him.

I long to dwell with You in Your home, O Lord. I cannot wait to see what You have built for me.

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God's Will, Bible, Scripture, Truth, Enemies, Battles, Choices, Consequences, Allies, Allegiance

BE CAREFUL OF YOUR ALLIES

ZEPHANIAH 2:12

“‘You also, Ethiopians, will be slain by My sword.’”

In the ministry I am a part of, Every Man A Warrior, we speak a lot about the importance of having allies. Men need men in their lives to hold them accountable and also to encourage them to walk with God. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, he has a friend who can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.”

The Ethiopians’ error was in choosing the wrong ally. They allied with Egypt against God’s people. They may not have invaded on their own, but they were part of the army that did. God speaks against them in Isaiah and Ezekiel. Their destruction was prophesied. However, they did not heed any of the warnings. They persisted in their hostilities toward Israel.

APPLICATION

We must be careful who we choose as allies. What may appear to be a good idea can prove to be a disaster. Many a person has lost fortunes due to partnering with a dishonest man. Promises made were not kept. Lies were told to get them to join in. Not everything that glitter is gold, right?

The same holds true for us in our spiritual walk with Christ. Not every church out there is teaching the truth. Not every preacher is living what he is preaching. Not every “Christian” brother or sister is a true believer. We must check these things by the Word of God. Through it, God will show us truth from error.

I have several men I consider my allies. Some are my partners in our ministry. I trust these men completely. I know they have my back. More importantly, I know they will call me out if I am wandering from the truth. I need that. You need that. Do you have allies? Do you have people in your life who will confront you if needed? If you don’t, get some. You don’t want to walk this path alone.

Lord, I know the strands of cord are strongest when they are woven together. Give me allies who will make me stronger.

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Accused, Belief, Bible, Consequences, Deliverance, Faith, God's Will, Holiness, Redemption, Salvation, Scripture

INSTEAD OF THIS, YOU GET THAT

ZEPHANIAH 2:10

“This they will have in return for their arrogance, because they have taunted and boasted against the people of the LORD of armies.”

The old payback – no one wants that. Right? If you have ever done something to harm someone who has the ability to get you back, you are constantly looking over your shoulder. Siblings are great at that. They will plot until just the right time and then nail you. I’ve known people who waited for years to strike back and get their vengeance.

Of course, God is not getting vengeance on the Moabites and Ammonites. He is simply giving them what they deserve according to His judgment on them. In return for their violence against His people, they will be judged. Instead of blessings, they have incurred His wrath. If they had only yielded to Him. But instead, they rebelled and now are suffering the consequences.

APPLICATION

God is still in the reward business. If we turn to Jesus and confess Him as Lord and Savior, then He rewards us by giving us eternal life. Instead of His wrath, we get blessings. If we do not come to Jesus, we will be judged by a holy God and be found lacking. Nothing we have done or could do will earn us a place in glory.

It’s really pretty simple. I think that is the problem. People don’t believe it’s that easy to get saved. They think they have to do something. All God asks of us is to confess our sins, believe in His Son and surrender to His Will. Who do you know who needs to do that? Can you lead them into a saving knowledge of Jesus today and help them escape the wrath to come?

I could list a number of verses about salvation here, but I would prefer that you look them up. Just do a Google search on salvation verses. You will get dozens and dozens. If you are not a believer, let the Word convict you and lead you to Him. If you are a believer, share these verses with someone who needs them. Praise God for His mercy and grace.

I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You. Oh my soul rejoice.

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Bible, Change, Following, God's Will, Judgment, Obedience, Restoration, Scripture

A CHANGING LANDSCAPE

ZEPHANIAH 2:6

“So the seacoast will become grazing places, with pastures for shepherds and folds for flocks.”

Going back to visit a location you haven’t been to in a while can be eye opening. The landscape changes. What used to be a cotton field is now a shopping mall. What used to be a shopping mall is now luxury condominiums. Things force change. Sometimes that is for the good of the community. Other times it is not.

Zephaniah continues his message of doom to the neighboring nations. Verse 6 is a continuation of the message to the Philistines. Their seacoast will change from dwellings of warriors to pastures for the shepherds to use to graze their sheep. A nation of war will become a place for peaceful men to dwell. Quite a change. Quite a promise for Judah as well.

APPLICATION

Are there areas of your life that need to be changed? Do you have a rebellious spirit that argues about everything? God wants to transform your life into a place of peace. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

A transformed landscape can involve many little changes over time. God may choose to use sandpaper to smooth off your rough surfaces. Or He may choose to take more drastic measures and bring out the jackhammer and sledgehammer. That’s usually how God works on me, lol. He gets one area of my life’s landscape shaped up and then starts demolition on another.

Now, the difference between our transformed landscape and the Philistines is they were being judged for their idolatry and rebellion against God. We are not being judged by God as He transforms us. We are safe under the blood of Christ. He just wants to make us look more like Him, to reflect the image of His Son. That is transformation that is welcomed. Right?

O Lord my God, shape me into whatever image You feel is right. I trust the work of Your hands on my life.

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Commands, God's Will, Bible, Scripture, Enemies, Belief, Accused, Allies, Defense

AGAINST YOU

ZEPHANIAH 2:5

“Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the Cherethites! The word of the LORD is against you, Canaan, land of the Philistines; and I will eliminate you so that there will be no inhabitant.”

I’ve said before that I don’t think I have any earthly enemies. I try my best to be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18). I don’t like to be in conflict. I won’t run from a fight if faced with it, but I don’t pursue conflict like some people do. I really want to deal with conflict quickly. I don’t want anyone or anything to come against me.

Zephaniah tells the Cherethites and Philistines that “the word of the Lord is against” them. Whoa! That would be horrible. Instead of the word of the Lord coming “to” them, it is against them. Why? Because they were the ones who were against His children. They pursued aggression and hostilities against His chosen people. And for that, God was against them.

APPLICATION

How would you feel if the Lord was against you? Terrified? Fearful? Worried? You should! Hebrews 10:31 tells us “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” To openly rebel against God’s commandments and thumb your nose at Him only invites His wrath. Who would do that?

Unfortunately, many in our world today are doing just that. They scoff at God’s Word. They reject His truths as spelled out in Scripture. They make God into their own image, rather than allowing Him to make them into His. They want God to fit their idea of Him. How preposterous. How ridiculous. How can we even begin to comprehend God?

But God tells us very clearly how to follow Him. He tells us to trust Him. He gives us the faith to believe. Faith is a gift. Once we acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord, He gives us belief in Him. He discloses more and more of Himself to us as we pursue Him. What a great God! He is not against you. He is for you!

O Lord, I am so thankful You are for me. I am grateful for the faith You have given me.

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Belief, Bible, Choices, Consequences, Destruction, Faith, God's Will, Judgment, Salvation, Scripture

THE RESULTS OF UNBELIEF

Zephaniah 2:4

“For Gaza will be abandoned, and Ashkelon will become a desolation; the inhabitants of Ashdod will be driven out at noon, and Ekron will be uprooted.”

Choices have consequences. I remember dealing with a troubled young man one time at one of the children’s homes where I served. I told him after a particularly heated episode, “You can make your own choices, but you can’t choose your consequences.” Years later I ran into this young man, now an adult, married with two children. He told me he never forgot those words, and they had guided him ever since that day.

Zephaniah begins in verse 4 listing all these nations that surrounded Judah that were rebellious towards God. Look at how he describes their end. They were abandoned, desolate, driven out and uprooted. None of these end results were positive. All these nations suffered God’s wrath. They all were judged by a holy and righteous God.

APPLICATION

I don’t want to be abandoned or desolate or driven out or uprooted. Thanks to Christ, I never will be. Because of the faith I have placed in His saving grace, I will always have God by my side. I will never be desolate. I will never be driven away from Him. I will always be grafted into Him. Those are the results I want and now have.

But so many around us are headed in the same direction as Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Ekron. They are headed for disaster. The sad thing is they are not even aware of it. They think they are just fine. It’s all smooth sailing. Tragedy awaits. But we have the answer, don’t we?

Knowing where I am headed makes this life so much easier. I may still face hard times, but He is with me. 2 Timothy 1:12 tells us, “For this reason I also suffer these things; but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to protect what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” Are you convinced?

Thank You, Lord, for giving me a future and a hope. I rest in You.

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Bible, Evangelism, God's Will, Judgment, Scripture, Witnessing

THE DAY HAS ARRIVED

ZEPHANIAH 1:14

“The great day of the LORD is near, near and coming very quickly; listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly.”

Those famous words of the mother, “You just wait til your father gets home.” For most children that meant that dad would be the one to deal out the discipline. That could range from a spanking to grounding. But the wait…that was the worst part. If you did something early in the day, you had all day to wait.

Zephaniah is restating those words of Joel 2:31 about the great and terrible day of the Lord. This “day” wasn’t a one-time event. God’s judgment fell on numerous days against His children because of their disobedience and rebellion. A day of the Lord meant chastisement. It meant correction. But we have to remember it was all done in love.

APPLICATION

As believers in Christ, we do not fear a day of the Lord. Our sins have been paid for by His Son, Jesus. We walk in covenant relationship with Him knowing that we are forgiven and free. But this freedom does not give us the liberty to live as we want. We still have to follow His commands.

The day of the Lord is coming for millions, though. All those who are not in Christ will face a judgment for their sins. And when He returns, it will be too late. No second chances. No reprieves. So, we must be His instruments to spread the good news to all we encounter. He is still using people to spread His message.

While we can be content in our relationship with Jesus, we cannot let others die without it. There are so many all around the world who will die today and spend eternity in darkness. How can you and I change that? Pray! Pray for believers all over the world to speak out and be bold. We can all do that.

Lord, I know You will return one day to take us home. Help us spread the word far and wide before that day.

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Abiding, Affliction, Bible, Deliverance, God's Will, Oppression, Rescue, Scripture

LIVING IN A BOWL

ZEPHANIAH 1:11

“‘Wail, you inhabitants of the Mortar, because all the people of Canaan will be destroyed; all who weigh out silver will be eliminated.’”

The city where I live, Chattanooga, is in a bowl. We sit in this valley fringed by mountains which gives our geographic area a bowl-like appearance. Pollen settles here and makes breathing hard for those with allergies. We do get protected from some storms because of our geography, but at other times, if the weather comes from a southwesterly direction, we can get hit hard.

That is the case here in Zephaniah 1:11. The word “Mortar” is actually referring to the geographical location the people find themselves in. They are trapped in a bowl. Much like drugs are crushed by a pestle inside a mortar, their enemies would crush them in their valley, in their bowl. Judgment is sure.

APPLICATION

You may feel like you are being crushed by life’s circumstances. I know sometimes the pressures of life can be horrible. It seems you are being hit from every side. Can I put all that in perspective for you? Philippians 2:5-8 can do that. “5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, as He already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men. 8 And but being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross.”

Sure, we suffer hardship. But compared to what Jesus has done for us, it is nothing. The sins of the world were on His shoulders. Can we even imagine the pressure He was feeling? And remember, He had not done anything wrong. He had never sinned. Can we say that?

I am thankful for the opportunities He gives me to trust Him. Even when I am in that bowl of affliction and there seems to be no way of escape, He is there. He will sustain me. He will lift up my head. He will deliver me. Praise be to Him.

Yes, Lord, You are the lifter of my head. To You I will look for my deliverance during each trial and hardship.

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Abiding, Accountability, Bible, Covenant, Discipline, God's Will, Judgment, Scripture

ACCOUNTABILITY

ZEPHANIAH 1:8

“‘Then it will come about on the day of the LORD’S sacrifice that I will punish the princes, the king’s sons, and all who clothe themselves with foreign garments.’”

I have been privileged to be a leader in several Christian organizations and churches through my almost 44 years of ministry. I have served with several very good leaders. I have also had the misfortune to serve under some poor or maybe even bad leaders. What made the difference in those leaders? Accountability to God. Good leaders are not afraid of being held accountable to do the right thing.

The leaders of Judah had flirted with foreign powers. They had welcomed their idols and pagan worship. They had brought in all kinds of foreign influences which led the nation away from Yahweh. Now it is time to be held accountable. God, the maker of all creation, is now demanding they be judged for these offenses. If only they had “checked in” for often with the Lord, they may have corrected their paths.

APPLICATION

Good leaders seek out accountability. I once had a boss who really just left me alone. He trusted me to do my job, and I did it well. I finally asked him for more regular accountability. I wanted to make sure he was aware of what I was doing and that it lined up with his vision for the ministry. Bad leaders shirk accountability. Ironically, they usually hold their employees to higher level than they do themselves, though.

Let me ask you a question. You may not be a leader in an organization or church, but you will be held accountable for everything you do in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive compensation for his deeds done through the body, in accordance with what he has done, whether good or bad.” Are you ready for that?

I want to encourage you today to bring it all to the table. Uncover every detail. Confess it all to Jesus. Ask Him daily for your battle plan. Let Him direct your path. Then you can be accountable to Him. Knowing that you are in His will helps make sense of life here on earth.

I want to know, Lord, how I’m doing. Tell me and direct me in Your will.

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Abiding, Belief, Bible, Blessing, Choices, Flesh, God's Will, Idols, Loyalty, Scripture

MY PLEASURE

ZEPHANIAH 1:5

“‘And those who bow down on the housetops to the heavenly lights, and those who bow down and swear to the LORD, but also swear by Milcom,’”

When I was in my early teen years, I worshipped pleasure. Now, I didn’t say that out loud, but my actions all pointed to that. I still attended church and even sang in the youth choir, but my heart was pledged to something else. All I desired was pleasure. I didn’t really care what the source was as long as it felt good. I did not call it a god, but it was.

The people of Judah had turned to worshipping all sorts of idols. One was worshipped on their housetops through incense. They worshipped the Sun and Moon. And they even worshipped the detestable idol of the Ammonites, Milcom (also known as Molech). This god was brought into the nation by King Solomon when he was pursuing his own way.

APPLICATION

Ask yourself whom you serve? Oh Carl, of course I serve God. I attend church every week and even put money in the offering plate. I’ve taught Sunday School for decades. That’s all well and good, but whom do you worship? For whom are you living? Is your god the God of the universe or some figure you have developed in your own mind that fits your lifestyle?

So many of us go through life thinking we are doing the “Christian thing” well. We go to church, we serve and even get baptized. We can do all those things well and still miss God by a mile. God desires complete surrender. We have to give Him our all. When we worship, it has to be all about Him. Nothing from the world can make our worship better. We have to be centered on Him and bow only to His will.

I don’t like not getting my way. I’m just like most people in that regard. But I have learned to yield my desires to Jesus. There is pleasure in serving a holy, righteous God. There is pleasure in knowing I am pleasing Him. My pleasure senses have been transformed through His Word and His Will. Yours can be too.

Thank You, Lord, for teaching me what real pleasure is all about.

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