76 Sermons on the Old Testament

39 The Righteous of all Nations to Be Saved.



The Righteous of All Nations To Be Saved

I am here, Jesus:

Not only did Zephaniah predict exile for Judah, but the wrath of God visited upon other nations because of their immorality and evils. Previous prophets had so declared, and Zephaniah was convinced of this portent. At any rate, Zephaniab predicted the ruin of the Philistine towns near the coast, on the route taken by the Scythians, he could write what Amos had previously predicted. For Amos had stated:

So will I send a fire on the wall of Gaza …
And I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod,
And him that holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon,
And I will turn My Hand against Ekron;
And the remnant of the Philistines shall perish,
Saith the Lord God.
Amos, Chapt. 1, verses 7-8.

Zephaniah thus declared:

For Gaza shall be forsaken; Ashkelon a desolation;
Ashdod - - by noon they shall rout her and Ekron be torn apart.
Woe to the dwellers by the seashore; people of the Cherethites;
The word of Jehovah is against thee, 0 Canaan, land of the Philistines.

And when he foresaw the destruction of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, which took place in 606 B.C., he could read what Micah had said:

And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword.
Micah, Chapt. 5, verse 6.

Thus Zephaniah, in his agreement with Micah, went on to predict Nineveh's destruction:

And I will stretch out My Hand and destroy Assyria;
And I will make Nineveh a desolation, dry as the wilderness.
Zephaniah, Chapt. 2, verse 13.

Zephaniah points out that God is impartial, and that other evil-doing nations of that time would be destroyed, not only small places like Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Philistine city states, but also Egypt (called Ethiopia because of the Ethiopian ruler), Assyria and Nineveh. The Lord is Lord of the entire earth and His judgment is executed upon all peoples because of sins. This judgment will be destruction of everything on the face of the earth, not only man but animals and nature, for evil in nature results from evil in man's heart.

Zephaniah's indictment, as far as Judah is concerned, starts with the King's sons and the members of the royal house -- "Roaring Lions" (Chapt. 1, verse 8). -- at a time when Josiah was still in his minority and his brothers and cousins still imitated the Assyrian ways and evils. But it also includes the judges, who are "wolves of the desert" and her prophets, who are braggarts and faithless men, while the priests have profaned that which is holy and do violence to the law. The people have not received correction (Chapt. 3, verses 6-7), they have not sought the Lord; and if they once knew Him, turned from Him and His commands (Chapt. 1, verse 8). They have become insolent and dependent upon their own resources, saying in their hearts, "The Lord will not do good, neither will He do evil." (Chapt. 1, verse 12) Yes, they had ceased to feel that God was their living, eternal Father, and that His hand was stretched forth over them, to help them, if they sought Him, and to keep them from the evils of the barbarous times that prevailed. Rather is Jerusalem rebellious against God and bloodstained with the blood of righteous men.

Yet Jehovah shall not destroy all the inhabitants of the earth, but cause those who are repentent and faithful to abide, and even though Judeans might be living in exile yet after the Judgment Day, this remnant would be caused to be brought back to their own land, for the righteous of the other nations would permit this in obedience to God's will. Some writers of Zephaniah's prophecy believe that those passages of redemption through purification and return from exile do not represent the prophet's own hand, for he wrote some thirty years or more before the last exile in 597 B.C. But these commentators do not consider that Zephaniah had before him the prophetic writings of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Micah, and it was an article of faith with them that Judea would go into exile, and if Zephaniah believed these prophets as expressing the word of God, he had to believe, that this exile would actually take place. However, as their writings, or at least appendages to their writings, especially Amos and Micah, insisted on a subsequent return from exile and redemption from sin by return to the Lord, so did Zephaniah harbor such prophecies of return and forgiveness, and thus one should not be ready to ascribe his Chapter 3 as belonging to a later hand, but rather that it was really Zephaniah declaring, as did the earlier prophets, a day of ingathering and purification.

Thus Zephaniah exhorts, with a great a sense of God's sway over all the peoples of the earth:

Seek ye the Lord, all ye humble of the earth,
That have executed His ordinance;
Seek righteousness, seek humiliation;
It may be that ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger.
(Chapt. 2, verse 3).

And he speaks of the returning Hebrews as "a poor and afflicted people, and they shall take refuge in the name of the Lord," poor in material goods and politically, indeed, but rich in the treasure of the Father's Love and His protection of them. When I spoke of the humble and oppressed to those who listened to my sermons, I spoke here in the spirit of Zephaniah, identifying ourselves with the plight of the poor and the humble, and preaching that safety, salvation and integrity of the soul, lay in trust in Him.

The prophet then goes on to predict:

The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies;
Neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth;
For they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
(Chapt. 3, verse 13).

With verses 14 to 20, Chapter 3, Zephaniah strikes a note of exultation that forms a startling contrast to the grim and gloomy passages of the Judgment Day, -- and of course writers find it difficult to see this as the prophet's, but Zephaniah was not writing now in a prophetic vein, bit reiterating sincerely what Amos and Micah had previously declared. Yet his outburst of exultation and joy here is so exuberant and the style so personal and convincing that it was used by the Second Isaiah, whom I shall discuss in detail in later sermons, as the starting point of his great writings.

Thus did Zephaniah rejoice:

Sing, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O Israel;
Be glad and rejoice with all thy heart, O daughter of Jerusalem
The King of Israel, even the Lord is in the midst of thee
The Lord thy God is in the midst of thee,
A mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over thee with joy,
He will be silent in His Love, He will Joy over thee with singing.
(Chapt. 3, verses 14 - 17).

The tremendously significant line, "He will be silent In His Love," indicative of the Divine Love which the Father possesses as His greatest attribute, and with which He loves His children, and which Zephaniah knew is God's essence, caused difficulty among Hebrew scholars, for they thought the line meant that the deepness of God's Love was a silent ecstacy, but contradicted by God's rejoicing through singing. Rabbi Rashi's explanation, for example, that God will, in His Love, cover up Israel's sins in silence, is unacceptable, for God does not cover up sins, but, by His laws, causes the awakening and the workings in man's conciousness of remorse and a sense of justice, but Zephaniah actually meant that while God's Divine Love by itself is so deep as to be silent, yet the expression of that Love, which could be indignation and wrath in the presence of sin and evil, was one of rejoicing and singing in the presence of justice and righteousness, especially when these represented the return of His wayward children to Him. You will remember I used this as a theme in my sermon on the Prodigal Son.

Jesus of the Bible
Master of the Celestial Heavens



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