Thursday 03 December 2015

Bible Book:

“I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” (v. 19)

Zephaniah 3:14-20 Thursday 3 December 2015

Psalm: Psalm 137:1-7


Zephaniah was prophesying at a time of great politicalinstability. Judah (the nation state of the people of Israel) wascaught up between the clashing empires of Assyria and Babylon.Political and religious leaders in Judah were jockeying forposition, and the well-being of the people of Israel was underserious threat.

Zephaniah had put emphasis in his prophecy on God's judgement,pronouncing that all nations, including Judah, would be held toaccount on the Day of the Lord, and experience God's wrath on theunjust.

Today's passage is a song of joy for the vision of a NewJerusalem emerging on the other side of God's judgement. Zion isthe holy mountain of God, on which is built the holy cityJerusalem. God has forgiven the sins of the people of Jerusalem andturned away their enemies (verse 15). The king of Israel, God, isin their midst, and because of this they can stop being afraid ofdisaster.

Verse 16 again calls on Jerusalem, the holy centre of the peopleof Israel, to stop being afraid. The people should not stopfaithful everyday activities ("do not let your hands grow weak").God is in their midst, a warrior who will give them victory (verse17). He will renew them in love and it will be like a festival day(verses 17-18). Disaster will not come. The oppressors will bedealt with.

The victims who have been caught up in political unrest andinjustice, the lame and the outcast (verse 19) will be rescued(saved) and "their shame" turned into "praise". God will bringpeople home, gather them and restore their fortunes and place ofhonour among all peoples of the earth (verse 20).

There are echoes here in the tone of Jesus' ministry: hispriority for the lame and outcast, the sense of bringing the lostson home, the Good Shepherd 'gathering' the sheep into thefold.

The theme of trusting in God to avert disaster is taken upin Psalm 20. It is a prayer for victory, for Godto be with us in times of trouble (Psalm20:1), to grant our heart's desire and fulfil our plans (Psalm20:4). It is a rallying prayer for a community in trouble.

To Ponder

  • Why do you think that victims seem to be important to God, andthe turning around of their fortunes a mark of the coming of thekingdom of God? What examples can you think of in your community oron the news?
  • What are the temptations of believing that God is on the sideof your community in difficult times? Think through one exampleknown to you.
  • Why are the lame and outcast described as being spirituallyrich? Is that a price too much for you to pay?
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