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Monday, May 04, 2009

End's Hope

I'm still reading this week again in the Old Testament prophets about God's judgment, end times and all that. I have to tell you, I continue to find these pearl's of wisdom that excite me. Today, it is Zephaniah.

Zephaniah's is a story of rebuke, calling sinful Jerusalem to repentance. It was a sinful time - much like the times of today. People were self-centered, unbelieving in God, and were facing God's coming judgment - as are we. Zephaniah was the man through whom God spoke to bring them direction and truth.

Now there is much in Zephaniah. He had a lot to say. A good bit of it is about Jerusalem's sinful condition and God's wrath. It is exactly like our situation today, including the part about the coming of God's wrath against our sinful condition to destroy evil.

But in the midst of that judgment, there is also a great deal that gives me cause for hope. There are some wonderful promises of God ... exclusively for those who are His people, His remnant.

These promises are for those who have repentant hearts - who confess their sin - and turn from that sin toward righteousness. But if you're in that crowd, it gets pretty exciting. Oh sure, we're going to have to go through the judgment day just like everyone else.

The difference is we won't be destroyed in it. The difference is what happens for us afterward. Let's look at some highlights from Zephaniah 3. (This is God talking to us about the end times, when Christ returns to judge the world for its sin.)

"Therefore wait for me," declares the LORD, … "I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them—all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger."

The judgment is coming. God's wrath against evil will be unleashed. The entire world will be consumed by His fire. We, the remnant of God, are to wait for Him. Got it?

"Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder. … my worshipers, my scattered people, will bring me offerings."

Now He's gonna purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve Him shoulder to shoulder. Do you get what this means? It means, for example, that everyone will speak one language. The confusion and challenges of language differences - which God put upon us at the Tower of Babel - will be done away with. No longer will we have to learn foreign languages. We'll all speak one language. Awesome!

"On that day you will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done … But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the LORD. "

Remember, it is a judgment day. But God doesn't intend to shame us. He'll review what we've done - right and wrong. But of course Jesus has already atoned for what's wrong. There will be no guilt or shame. The meek and humble, who trust in God ... will be you and me - the ones who confessed and repented.

"The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. Sing, … shout aloud, … Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, … The LORD has taken away your punishment, … The LORD … is with you; never again will you fear any harm."

After this judgment day, when the thorns are removed, we will do no wrong. In fact, we won't be capable of sin. Can you imagine - not being able to screw anything up? We won't be able to lie. It will be a time of celebration. (Could there be a better reason to celebrate?) The punishment for our sins will be gone, and God will be with us. We won't be afraid of anything ever again. This is way cool!

"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

Oh now here's my favorite part. He will take great delight in me. Oh my gosh! How could that be? I don't think anyone ever has taken great delight in me! I can't imagine what that might be like. (But I think it'll be very cool!) He will rejoice over me. God will sing for joy over me. Did you ever imagine that anyone would be so pleased with you that they'd burst into joyous song? Could you ever fathom that would be God doing the singing?

"The sorrows … I will remove from you; … At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame."

He's a just God. He's a merciful God. He will punish the wrong-doers who've victimized the rest of us. He will rescue the hurting and stop the suffering. Where they've been trampled on, oppressed, neglected - He will give them praise and honor. The scores will be settled once and for all.

"At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise … " says the LORD.

Finally, He brings us home to live with Him forever. We return to where we started, at the feet of the Creator. Living with Him, we will have honor and praise. I don't think I've ever had honor and praise like this before. My boss honored me and praised me yesterday - I suspect it'll be different when God does it.

By now, you're probably shaking your head, saying something like, "No way!" Well, yes - way! This is God speaking to us, His children, His people, His remnant. It is you and I. It was Jerusalem. It is us today. These are the promises of God - to you and I. They are real. They are our hope.

Who knew that judgment could include such wonderful cause for hope!'

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