I hear people say, from time to time, that those who take the narrow view of sticking to God’s Word and who reject the modern church culture are “against” everything and not “for” anything.
So, as a public service to those critics, allow me to look at a passage which stood out to me recently.
We concluded our study in Zephaniah at our Sunday evening service where we study through the Old Testament.
We are working our way through the Minor Prophets and in the final chapter of Zephaniah, it opens like this.
1Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted to the oppressing city!
2 She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction;
She has not trusted in the Lord, she has not drawn near to her God.
3 Her princes in her midst are roaring lions;
Her judges are evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning.
4 Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people;
Her priests have polluted the sanctuary; they have done violence to the law.
5 TheLordis righteous in her midst, He will do no unrighteousness.
Every morning He brings His justice to light;
He never fails, But the unjust knows no shame.
“Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted to the oppressing city!”
This begins a woe and is a pitiful sign of what’s to come. The “oppressing city” is, of course, Jerusalem. Zephaniah was a prophet to Judah. The oppression was tied to its rebellion and pollution. These are, of course, assessments of a spiritual nature and their offense was against God Himself. He then goes on to point out four distinct reasons that lead to those conditions.
Verse 2 identifies four glaring problems that should be seen in their historical context to be sure. This was, after all, intended to speak directly to Judah’s leaders, as well as to Jerusalem’s. However, if we do not make application of what we read and we think we shouldn’t give ear, we deceive ourselves. Verse 2 could have been written by Paul, or any other NT writer.
The problems are listed in this order:
“She has not obeyed His voice”
So He had spoken through the prophets, the Law and through their history. Yet theirs was a course of disobedience.
Though they should have known where all this would lead, they persisted in their opposition to God.
“She has not received correction”
His “voice” was one calling them to repentance and giving them corrective counsel that would have caused the pending judgment to pass. All they needed to do was listen and do as He requested in order to restore fellowship, but they refused.
“She has not trusted in theLord”
Trust implies that you believe the one making the offer, or giving the direction, is worthy of trust.
In this case, as inexplicable as it may sound, they did not trust, for whatever reason, what God had said.
Notice how one problem led to the next? Why listen to and follow the counsel of God just to refuse trust?
“She has not drawn near to her God”
The first three naturally progress to the fourth and final indictment.
They had willfully become distant from God and were pursuing other things. It was a repeating narrative through their history.
The same can be said of Christianity too, lest we think ourselves better than they.
So, you are likely wondering whenI will get to the “I’m for that” stuff.
Trust me, I’ll get there, but God still has some things to say to those in Jerusalem who had the greatest responsibility for the collective nightmare that was Judah in the 7th century B.C.
To the governing authorities, He described her princes as “roaring lions” and her judges as “evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning.” This was a way of illustrating their propensity to devour their countrymen and gain an advantage.
The prophets were consistent, as God’s spokesmen, to point out the injustice of the ruling class.
He saves His greatest rebuke, however, for the spiritual heads of Judah. Here is the gravest of indictments and
this spiritual disease is what gave rise to all the rest of Judah’s ills. The “Men of God” were deeply corrupt
and, thankfully, God spells out the offense so we can make application and avoid the same. Here is His assessment.
“Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people”
So the Prophets, who were to speak as the oracles of God and were to be His spokesmen,
were “insolent” (reckless and immature) in what they said and how they represented God to His people.
They could not be trusted to say anything of spiritual value. But how many people in Judah knew their speech was so poisonous?
I think this is a massive problem today in our churches because we see people who blindly trust and do not go
to God’s Word to investigate and prove what is spoken from the pulpits.
“Her priests have polluted the sanctuary”
They had defiled and putrefied the House of God. The place intended to be a house of total consecration had become soiled and corrupt. I am, again, reminded of things done in God’s name in churches all over the country.
The celebration of worldliness and ungodly “worship” and “cultural relevance” is nauseating and an offense to a Holy God.
“They have done violence to the law”
And here is why the problems existed. They knew God’s will because He wrote it for them!
As Paul tried to convince the Galatians,
“What purpose then does the law serve?
It was added because of transgressions”
In other words, the Law was given to demonstrate God’s standard and so that a written code would stand as
a testimony against the offender. In this case, nobody could plead ignorance. As it is in our day, Scripture is given so we
may know how it is that we should walk before Him. We cannot plead ignorance, nor can we blame the ignorant “Men of God” who do violence to God’s Word, all throughout the church. Look at the trends in the church that are big today.
Emotionalism, sensual and visual aesthetics that are supposed to enhance the “experience.” We have re-wrapped, new age,
meditative practices being given to the masses with “Christian” labels and idioms slapped on them.
Neo-Gnosticism, new revelations and never before seen manifestations.
“Apostles” and “prophets” saying some of the most unusual, ridiculous things and nobody is checking them out to test them against Scripture. “Progressives” who question any verse that sounds remotely absolute and then sacrifice them on the altar of “Epistemology” (that is, how do we know truth?) and “Deconstructionism” (saying that we weren’t there when things were written, so we can’t take things literally.) We are told that there is no absolute truth so we can subjectively make it up as we go.
There is great violence being done to God’s Word everywhere we look. God does not need our help in figuring out His intentions. He has made them abundantly clear by weaving them throughout the entirety of His Word, so they are unmistakable.
Now, you may still be wondering when I’m going to tell you what I’m “for,” because so far I’ve only told you what I’m “against.”
I am “for” Verse 5:
“TheLordis righteous in her midst,
He will do no unrighteousness.
Every morning He brings His justice to light;
He never fails,
But the unjust knows no shame.”
He is everything we are not. Since we are not like Him, by nature, we had better learn to be like He is.
We had better leave the culture to rot and not invite it into our fellowships.
We had better demand that our leaders prove themselves by holding to His Word.
Is that not what Jesus commended Philadelphia for doing in Revelation 3:8?
He later told them to “hold fast” (or take captive) what they had in verse 11.
I am “for” acknowledging that God never fails because He is just.
He stands in total contrast to those who are unjust and unashamed
of their misrepresentation of who He is and what He has said.
Yeah, I’m “for” that.