Reflections on Zephaniah

“… the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us…”

Intrigued that this post begins with a verse from Romans 8 instead of the titled Zephaniah?

That makes two of us.

The Holy Spirit inspires as He wills, I do not question it.

As I was reading through Zephaniah tonight – a book I have read countless times over the years – the nature of suffering stuck out to me in a way it never has before. So many quote Zephaniah 3:17 as if it were the central point of the book.

Well, friends, it definitely is not.

The central theme in the book of Zephaniah is judgment and suffering; the judgment and suffering that are wrought by God on the nations because they have committed acts of injustice directly correlated with turning their eyes away from their Lord and Savior Yahweh.

Yes, this judgment and suffering prophesied by Zephaniah to the nations is suffering and judgment from the hand of God.

Many, including myself, see suffering and judgment as being equated with evil; equated with everything that God is not.

Well, friends, this, too, is false.

Suffering is, yes, the direct result of fallen human nature deciding to turn their eyes from their Creator to the created and worship that instead.

Judgment, in a similar light, is the direct result of this same ocular misdirection.

Therefore, suffering and judgment cannot be wrought by God because they are equated with sin and evil.

Right?

Wrong.

 God’s judgment – and consequently the nature of suffering due to God’s judgment – is out of love for you, love for me.

The goal in God wrought suffering is to turn our worship from the created to the Creator; from that which rust and moth destroy to that which brings abundant life and abundant joy resulting in righteous acts of justice and love.

The suffering that He puts us through results in glory.

The suffering we put ourselves through? Vanity.

For He delights in suffering that brings about glory, not suffering that brings about vanity.

Our tendency is to become and live like that which we worship.

The created is dying; the Creator is living.

The created is vanity; the Creator is glory.

God has something more for us than to hopelessly live and perish in vain.

Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says it best,

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who have died, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”

We have hope that directing our worship towards our Creator will bring about the abundant life and joy that Jesus promised we would have on this Earth; and we have hope that directing our worship towards our Creator will ultimately result in the “glory that will be revealed in us” when we enter life eternal.

Zephaniah 3:8-10 makes clear God’s intentions for Zephaniah’s prophetic words and the suffering of the nations,

“… Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them My indignation, all My burning anger… because of all [their deeds]… pride… deceit… and injustice… for then the people will have purified lips, that all of them may call on [My name] to serve [Me] shoulder to shoulder [with one another]…

Zephaniah spoke to Israel concerning the suffering that God was going to bring not only to them, but to all the nations that worship what is going to destroy them.

And He did this in love to spare them.

To spare them from suicidal worship that leads to vain suffering and despair.

My friend Mike’s treatment of suffering and the gospel is an apt closure,

There is an element of the gospel that requires that we suffer in this life. Suffering is not all of the gospel, but enough of it that if you avoid suffering you will miss the gospel.

The suffering of the church in this present age is the backdrop for the futures glories and excellencies that are awaiting Christ’s people.

God brings about suffering in your life because He loves you.

Do not stand for self wrought suffering that leads to vanity.

Pray for God led suffering that leads to glory.

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