Summary: We’ve got to understand the twin realities of God’s wrath against sin and God’s mercy to the sinner.
Zephaniah / Romans 3.23-24
There are some pretty difficult words in Zephaniah. Listen to a few:
“I will sweep away everything… those who turn back from following the Lord and neither seek the Lord or inquire of Him, be silent before the Sovereign Lord, for the day of the Lord is near! … (.25) I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent… I will bring distress… that day will be a day of WRATH.
Nobody wants to be around someone who is wrathful. When you were a kid, you probably surprised yourself at least once by making an adult mad at you when you didn’t expect it. Worse still, there was probably at least one adult in the neighborhood known for his temper whom you avoided because he might blow up like a volcano. Worst of all, if you were unfortunate, your neighborhood had a grouch who stayed mad all the time and tormented any children in sight. (Hayford)
What comes to your mind when you hear that word? Is it something you’d like to leave in the Old Testament and not think about at that? (But more than 20 NT refs to it as well) Something you would like to edit out of the Bible? Perhaps you’re looking at it the wrong way…
Not all wrath is wrong.
Maybe you’ve incurred the wrath of others. Perhaps abusively. Don’t project that… (Wrong end of anthropomorphism stick)
One way to get at that is to deal with something else we all have trouble with. It’s found in this statement: “The Lord your God is a jealous God…”
There are two kinds of jealousy:
1. I want what you have. I envy you. (illust – God can’t be like that.)
2. I guard our relationship fiercely. (illust)
John Calvin in his Institutes likened this to the jealous love a husband has for his wife. The opposite of this jealousy would be that God did not give a rip about us or our relationship with him.
Why does he put up with it? You’ve insulted him, you’ve defied him, you’ve demeaned him. You’ve said, “God, I will not let you rule over me. I know better than you do.” And then, after all that, we add, “Hey, no sweat. God grades on a curve. I don’t have to worry. I don’t do all the things that Charles Manson did. I’m not that bad. So why do I need to worry? Besides, God’s mercy is infinite. He forgives everybody. God doesn’t have any wrath.”
Trust in that. You may be right—but only if the God who really exists is not holy. If God is holy, you had better expect wrath. You had better expect justice.
Sproul, R. (2000, c1995). Choosing my religion
Do we honestly expect a God who says its all really no big deal?
So everything in my life matters. Every sin is against God. Even the sin that I consider personal – not affecting anyone else. Why? Because I was created for this relationship with God and that means I don’t even belong to myself. I’m God’s!
Amplify a marriage. You get married and you are not your own. What you choose to do, even when it seems to affect only you, affects your partner and your children if you have them. You are not your own. (Urban Ventures) Now amplify that.
God’s wrath is an expression of His holy love. If God is not a God of wrath, His love is no more than frail, worthless sentimentality; the concept of mercy is meaningless; and the Cross was a cruel and unnecessary experience for His Son. (FF Bruce)
NOT “Oh, he’s bound to forgive us, that’s his job.”
Our problem in part is that in human experience wrath and love normally abide in mutually exclusive compartments. Love drives wrath out, or wrath drives love out.
Or we imagine a wrathful God calmed down by a gentle Jesus. They’re one! (Rev 6 wrath of the Lamb!)
When we don’t see what the big deal is about wrath, we don’t take reconciliation seriously either! We’re left with a truncated gospel, at best. But here’s is where it gets good…
Singing (powerful reality #2)
The name “Zephaniah” means “Yahweh hides” or “hidden of Yahweh,” and suggests that God hides or protects those who belong to him. (Passover image)
His goal was not to bring the people to despair, but to repentance and obedience.
Many of you can accept what you’ve heard so far. You don’t like it, but you know it is true. But perhaps you haven’t fully accepted the next part…
I can pretty much grasp my sin and accept the idea that God accepts me… and miss this...
(.15,f) “The Lord has taken away your punishment. He has turned back your enemy. (.17) 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.”