Stop and thank God for being present with you today. Ask for God’s guidance as you hear God’s voice through scripture and the writer.
We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks; your name is near.
People tell of your wondrous deeds.
At the set time that I appoint
I will judge with equity.
When the earth totters, with all its inhabitants,
it is I who keep its pillars steady.Selah
I say to the boastful, “Do not boast,”
and to the wicked, “Do not lift up your horn;
do not lift up your horn on high,
or speak with insolent neck.”
For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up;
but it is God who executes judgment,
putting down one and lifting up another.
For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup
with foaming wine, well mixed;
he will pour a draught from it,
and all the wicked of the earth
shall drain it down to the dregs.
But I will rejoice forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.
We hear a lot of talk about justice these days, but there can be no justice apart from obedience to God. An individual cannot, through willpower, education, or discipline, overcome the sin within his or her self. Neither can a culture overcome its sin apart from a Savior because there is no human power to conquer sin. How can a sinner save herself or himself since she or he is already infected with sin? Neither can a culture, church, or civilization save itself apart from God’s intervention.
Zephaniah prophesizes against governmental leaders and judges as lions and wolves devouring everything they can. But of particular interest to us is the criticism of spiritual leaders. The prophets are reckless and faithless. Those who should teach and preach are careless of the truth and lack faith themselves. Priests who minister for the people have lost their reverence for the Lord. When ministry is reduced to vocation, the sacred is profaned.
But Zephaniah’s concluding criticism is most telling, “they have done violence to the law.” We see plenty of examples of governmental, community, and spiritual leaders doing violence to the law. When officials justify excessive use of force, when political leaders disregard unappealing but appropriately established laws, when citizens refuse to respect the rights of others, or destroy the property and even lives of others with violence, then the rule of law is damaged and civil society is imperiled.
So, what happens when our church leaders do violence to God’s laws? How devastating it is when church leaders ignore or even promote immorality, tone down Biblical restrictions so as to not offend public sentiment, and refuse to accept the authority of Scripture. And is it harmless when they do not live lives of faith themselves? The end result is that sin increases in the Church and in the world. The Church loses her saving saltiness as her members become indistinguishable from the world. The Law of God should determine our values, morals, behavior, priorities and character.
The Church isn’t here to build utopia; we are commissioned to preach the good news of God’s salvation found only in Jesus Christ. Everyone who receives Christ is transformed for the better. We are not going to make politicians behave, but we can elect people who fear the Lord. We can remove from Church leadership anyone who doesn’t live life in submission to Christ, doesn’t teach obedience to Christ’s commands, or who preaches that spiritual or social salvation can be found in anyone else.
Holy God, You are worthy to judge for You are right, true, and just. More than that You are kind, merciful, and loving! Our own sin causes us fear, but grant us to see how You have justly condemned it through the cross of Christ Jesus. Execute Your decrees even in our day. We pray that you make the truth come out so obviously that even unbelievers have to deal with it. We ask that You would show us how we can stand with You against evil. Lord, protect and promote the righteous. We rejoice in Your judgments for they show us Your heart.
Go with God!