3:16 – The Rest of the Story – God Reveals His Plan 15: Zephaniah

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan (Current location of study)
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response

“On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.” – Zephaniah 3:16

Similar to last week’s 3:16 verse from Joel, this verse in Zephaniah lies within a larger passage pronouncing end times salvation of God’s people. Let’s look at the context of this verse from Zephaniah 3.

The first two and a half chapters of Zephaniah pronounce God’s judgment on Israel and on the nations which oppress her. But in the final chapter (3), beginning in verse 9, God turns to a view of the future in which His people will find rest in His presence. These verses are shown below in green, with my comments interspersed (in black).

9 “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples
to a pure speech,
that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD
and serve him with one accord.
10 From beyond the rivers of Cush
my worshipers, the daughter of my dispersed ones,
shall bring my offering.
11 “On that day you shall not be put to shame
because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me;
for then I will remove from your midst
your proudly exultant ones,
and you shall no longer be haughty
in my holy mountain.
12 But I will leave in your midst
a people humble and lowly.
They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD,
13 those who are left in Israel;
they shall do no injustice
and speak no lies,
nor shall there be found in their mouth
a deceitful tongue.
For they shall graze and lie down,
and none shall make them afraid.”

The “time” referred to here is sometime in the future, even beyond our own time – at the culmination of human history – when God’s people include not only Israel but from all nations as well. The “speech of the peoples” will be pure (godly) and in accord with each other. They will not be at odds with God’s chosen people, Israel, but will be in unity with them. Israel at that time will be humbled and repentant, but will not be ridiculed because of their past rejection of God’s Messiah. This remnant will be true worshippers, such as Jesus referred to with the woman at the well in John 4:23 – “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” God continues with a picture of the jubilation which will accompany His salvation of His people.

14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
17 The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
so that you will no longer suffer reproach.

He continues with this glorious picture, but interjects this warning:

19 Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.

This wonderful time will also include the time of judgment on the nations who rejected God’s gift of the Messiah (Jesus) through His people Israel. After this quick interlude, God returns to the picture of hope.

And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
20 At that time I will bring you in,
at the time when I gather you together;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes,” says the LORD.

Notice that He concludes with the pronouncement that “I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth”. This is directly referencing all the way back to the promise given to Abraham that through his offspring “all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:3)”

In the first two sections of this 3:16 study we’ve looked at the human condition and God’s revelation of His plan. The human condition, as defined by the Bible, is that all humans are sinners and when left to their own devices stand NO chance of redemption or communion with God. In other words, WE BLEW IT.

The plan that God has revealed in the Bible to remedy this situation is this: He would provide a male human offspring who would come from the lineage of Abraham. This person would be able to stand before God as our intercessor and mediator, faultless and blameless of his own accord, yet willingly accepting our faults and our sins in his “account” so that God could exact judgment on those sins on him in our stead. This plan, though made clear in Scripture, was not accepted by His people, whom He rescued from slavery and delivered to the promised land. So He punished their disobedience by exiling them from their land. However, He promised that He hasn’t forgotten the covenant with them, but that covenant would be renewed, and replaced, by a more superior covenant which would not be based on the Law, but rather based on God’s Spirit’s indwelling in the hearts of those who accept this mediator’s death and resurrection on their behalf. Finally, end of time judgment will occur in which all will stand before God and answer the question, “what did you do with the solution that I provided for your salvation?” That brings us to the last two parts of this study – How exactly was God’s plan fulfilled, and what is (or should be) our response to it. That’s where we’ll pick up next week, when we start this third section with Nehemiah 3:16.

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