Advent 3 (December 16, 2018)
Zephaniah 3:14-20 (Series C)
The Lord Is in Your Midst
For hundreds of years the Jews had a kind of Chicago Cubs syndrome in which they asked, “Is this the year, is this the one we have been waiting for?” Now there were signs that seemed to indicate Jesus was the one but John the Baptist asks the question, “Are you the one or shall we wait for another?” (Matt. 7:20)
Many things were said about the Messiah throughout the Old Testament including words from Isaiah 29:20 which foretold the ones who do evil being cut off. If Jesus was the one shouldn’t he be coming with wrath? Jesus cuts short the talk of Jesus coming in judgment to talk of words given two verses earlier in Isaiah but which also reflected the words of our reading from Zephaniah.
Zephaniah speaks of the coming Christ almost more than any other prophet. He foretells that after the punishment that would come with the Babylonian captivity they would receive grace and that the promised Savior would come with His glorious kingdom.
Where most prophets spoke of the things that would happen very soon in terms of punishment with a longer view towards the coming Messiah Zephaniah put most of his message into the future, after the initial punishments which were meant to turn the people back to God. Zephaniah was sending a message of hope with sign of the Messiah being in their midst to quiet their fears through the love that he would show towards them. He told the people that the Lord would exult over them, having dealt with their oppressors. These oppressors would largely have been those who left them with little hope of eternal life. The sick, lame, blind, and poor were repeatedly told that they were not worthy but the Savior would take care of these problems and they would be made worthy through and by Him, not by their own efforts. They would not have to fear for evil in all its forms and causes would be wiped out.
This may have been where John the Baptist was uncertain in proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah because Jesus didn’t seem to be carrying out the aspect of wiping out the oppressors and their evil. Prophets were supposed to be killed if they prophesied falsely so John wanted to be sure Jesus was the one before he really stuck his neck out.
Jesus was in fact the One who was foretold but the coming wrath would actually be that which was placed upon Jesus for the sins of the world. The power and control of the oppressor, Satan, would be ended with Jesus’ death. Judgment on others would be deferred to an even later time but to be sure those opposed to the ways of God will not enter into the kingdom of God.
Both Jesus and Zephaniah wanted the people to know God’s love since His promise was to save those who believe. Those who would not believe would be making their choice but the message was that Christ was coming in order to open the eyes of the spiritually blind so they might know the truth and be set free to live with and for Christ forever. As Jesus himself would say, “I have not come to condemn the world but to save it.” He came to die under God’s judgment and in that we might see the love of God because he did all of this so we might live. He came to condemn us but rather gather us to the Father. Let us rejoice in Him who came to save. Amen.