Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jerusalem – The City of Truth

Next we will jump ahead to the message of chapter 8; the subject of this chapter is again the coming Kingdom of Israel. I will continue to utilize excerpts from my journal.

Zechariah 8:2-3 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury. Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.

Every other translation of the eight others I checked translate verse 2 in the present tense—“I am jealous….” I think the translators of the King James must have been influenced to contrast past and present due to the message of verse 3—“I am returned….” We know that Zion has been established in scripture as the place on earth where God has chosen to place His name perpetually.

1Kings 9:3 And the LORD said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.

The Hebrew defines jealous as zealous, and Webster defines jealous as: “zealous; solicitous; vigilant; anxiously watchful.” In other words, God is very interested in the well being of His land and its people. When you truly want the best for those you love, you are willing to inflict judgment to turn them from wicked, harmful practices. It’s a principle that loving parents often employ. God is a very attentive and faithful Father. His judgment did not mean that He had cast off His people forever. It was intended to result in restored fellowship, and it had. He was now declaring His return to Zion to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem and His people.

At this point I think the main thrust of the prophecy jumps much further into the future. I’m not sure Jerusalem has ever been known as the “city of truth” since the captivity in Babylon. And although the temple was rebuilt and functional even through Jesus’ lifetime, I’m not sure God would have described it as His holy mountain. This will, however, be true of Zion and the temple that are part of Messiah’s millennial kingdom.

Zechariah 8:4-5 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.

Again, I can’t be dogmatic, but I don’t think these verses are descriptive of Jerusalem in the times of Zechariah or since. It is, however, a part of the description of Jerusalem during the Messiah’s Kingdom as prophesied by Isaiah.

Isaiah 65:18 But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.

Isaiah 65:20 There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.

Jeremiah 30:19-20 And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small. Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them.

Zechariah 8:7-8 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.

When the Lord talks about bringing His people home from east and west, He is making reference to the entire planet from the reference point of Jerusalem. The implication is that all Israel will be brought home, and He will dwell with them physically in Jerusalem. At that time, God will be joined to His people in truth and righteousness.

Again, I believe this is looking forward to the Messianic Kingdom. It’s at that time that all the Jewish people will be brought home to Israel and will be established under the new covenant spoken of by Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

I believe this is the time that ALL Israel will be saved and will never again rebel against God.

Romans 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Wicked Woman of Babylon

The next passage of interest in Zechariah regarding future events is found in chapter 5. Again, I will utilize the notes from journal on this section.

Zechariah 5:5-6 Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth. And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth.

In these verses an angel instructs Zechariah to look up again (this is one of a series) to see another vision. Zechariah looks, but has to ask what he is seeing. He is told that it is an ephah (a specific size of container for measuring grain). The indication is that this unit of measure is the same throughout the earth (i.e., one world economic system).

Zechariah 5:7-9 And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah. And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven.

All of a sudden the lead lid of the container lifts up to reveal a woman sitting in the middle of it. The angel informs Zechariah that she represents wickedness. The angel then pushes the woman back down into the container and closes the heavy lead lid. Then Zechariah sees two women with wings like storks come out and fly off carrying the ephah.

Zechariah 5:10-11 Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah? And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.

Zechariah asks the angel where they are carrying the ephah. He is told that they are taking the woman to the land of Shinar to build it a house where she will establish a base of operation. Shinar is another reference to Babylon.

The ephah represents business transactions. The fact that the woman is described as wickedness indicates that Babylon will become the base of evil business operations. It’s interesting to note that the ephah appears normal throughout the earth (v6), so the business transactions made in Shinar may appear to be fair, but they will evidently be used to promote wickedness. This is especially interesting since a worldwide base of wicked business practices could not have described the Babylon of Zechariah’s day. Today is a different story; and if, as I believe, the Antichrist establishes his base there, this would again have direct application to end times. It’s just hard not to think that there is a connection between this evil woman and the whore of Revelation 17-18.

Revelation 17:1-5 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Revelation 17:18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

Revelation 18:3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.

Revelation 18:11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:

The stork is an unclean bird. That the storks are carrying the woman in the ephah to Shinar pictures an evil financial empire that will be established through the scheming of unscrupulous, wicked men.

It’s hard for me not to see a connection between this prophecy and the economic events occurring around the world today.

Friday, February 20, 2009

God’s Servant – The Branch

Continuing our look at the message of Zechariah, we encounter a reference to a coming servant of God named the Branch who will come at a time when God will “remove the iniquity of that land” and all will live at peace on their own property in Israel.

Following is an excerpt from my journal on this section.

Zechariah 3:8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.

This verse is hard. The Lord is addressing Joshua and “thy fellows that sit before thee.” I think this is a reference to the priests serving under Joshua.

“they are men wondered at” – According to the Hebrew, it seems that this remnant of Jewish priests that God delivered through His judgment are a miraculous sign affirming God’s intention to bring forth His servant—the BRANCH, the final eternal High Priest. Scripture identifies this branch as Jesus, the Son.

Isaiah 11:1-2 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

Jeremiah 23:5-6 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Jeremiah 33:14-16 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.

Zechariah 3:9-10 For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.

The LORD declares that He has laid before Joshua a stone with seven eyes. Again, putting together scripture I believe this stone represents Jesus.

Isaiah 8:13-14 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Acts 4:10-11 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

1Peter 2:6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

Revelation 5:6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

2Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.

God Almighty will determine how this stone is to be engraved. Although I’m not sure what this means, I do know that God is the One ever in control—even and especially regarding the death and victorious resurrection of His Son.

“I will remove…” – My first thought is regarding the fact that when Messiah comes to establish His throne, ALL Israel will be saved and established under the New Covenant. But I think there is emphasis being given to the healing of the land itself in being able to produce abundantly for all the people who live there. The prophet Micah declares this same truth.

Mic. 4:1-4 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.

Again, it is clear that this prophecy is yet to come to pass.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Israel – The Apple of God’s Eye

This is the beginning of a series of posts from the words of the prophet Zechariah who was a contemporary of the prophet Haggai. I don’t begin to claim clear understanding of all the visions that he relates at the beginning of the book, but it is clear that God’s focus is intent on the people of Israel dispersed throughout the nations and their mistreatment at the hands of the Gentiles. It is also clear that He is just as interested in Jerusalem, representative of the land of Israel, the place with which He had chosen to associate with His name as His distinct possession on planet earth.

Zechariah 2:4-5 And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.

In these verses Zechariah is told that Jerusalem is going to become so strong and prosperous that there will be no room for walls—neither will they be necessary. God Himself will be her protection and her glory. The wording indicates that He will be dwelling in her midst. This obviously is speaking of a time yet future; Jerusalem has never experienced this type of prosperity and security since the Babylonian captivity.

In the following verses God emphasizes that it is He who has scattered His people throughout the earth and that He holds the nations accountable for how they have treated His people and His land. In fact, He would see to it that those nations whom the people of Israel were made to serve would become the servants of Israel.

Zechariah 2:6 Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD.

Zechariah 2:8-9 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me.

This message is in accordance with the message of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Isaiah 14:1-2 For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the LORD for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.

Jeremiah 30:16-17 Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey. For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

No matter what some may say today, Israel is declared to be the “apple of God’s eye.” It is not a conditional statement; it’s a statement of fact. The apple of the eye is the pupil (according to the Hebrew). This is the center of one’s focus and vision; it is expressing something treasured and valued. God is going to exact judgment upon those nations that have mistreated the nation of Israel, His special treasure among the nations.

This chapter closes with the truth that the Lord will come and dwell in the midst of His people during this future time of blessing.

Zechariah 2:10-12 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD. And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee. And the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.

I think it is clear that this is in reference to a time yet future.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Haggai - A Future King, A Future Temple and Peace in the Middle East

The prophet Haggai declared God’s message among the Jewish people who were allowed to return to Israel after the 70 years of captivity in Babylon. The purpose of his message was to encourage the people in the rebuilding of the temple. The Lord was withholding His blessing from the people because of their misplaced priorities. They were totally focused on providing for self without thought to providing for reestablishment of their relationship with God through the restoration of the temple and the associated sacrifices and offerings. The Lord declares through the prophet that He is with them and desires to bless them, but that He will not do so until they decide to put Him first. In spite of all their efforts in trying to provide for themselves, their crops were insufficient, they had no warm clothes, and their wages were meager; they certainly had nothing to spare. Haggai tells them that God will change all that if they will but honor Him by rebuilding the temple to His glory. He knows that it will be a far inferior structure to the one that had been destroyed, but that isn’t what matters. His concern is that His people honor and obey Him. God would be faithful to His word.

Leviticus 26:44-45 “And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.”

God is always faithful to His word—even when His people are not.

Then come some special words of encouragement from the Lord. Following is a quote from my journal.

Haggai 2:6-7 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.

These verses are very familiar in my study of prophecy regarding the return of Messiah Jesus as King of kings. I believe that has to be the main subject of this prophecy since it will result in God filling the temple with glory. Although Jesus brought glory to the temple by His very presence there during His first coming, it is His second coming that will result in God’s glory being restored to the temple as it was in the time of Solomon. It is His second coming that will be preceded by a shaking of the heavens, earth, sea and dry land as so vividly detailed in the book of Revelation.

My focus has always been on the physical impact on the planet. Creation will be shaken as God pours out His wrath in judgment upon the nations of the earth. The thing that stands out to me now is that the Lord’s coming is described as “the desire of all nations.” I think the word desire could only apply to those who have turned to God in faith during that time. Though it is true that this has been the desire of the church since its beginnings (and it is true that the church is composed of people from all nations), the Lord is clear that His wrath is reserved for His enemies, the wicked.

Nahum 1:2 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

So even though this could be a reference to the desire of the “church,” the church will not be here to experience the wrath of the day of the Lord that precedes His coming. The nations here would refer to the body of believers that come to faith during the tribulation, the 70th week of Daniel. This period will include the time of wrath prophesied by Isaiah.

Isaiah 13:11-13 And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.

Always of interest is the difference in God’s perspective on time and ours—God declares it to be “a little while,” and it’s already been over 2500 years since Haggai made this prophecy.

Haggai 2:8-9 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.

Staying in context, the Lord is saying that there is nothing you could use to make this temple more beautiful that I could not provide you. When the Lord returns to rule from the throne of David, that temple will have far greater glory than Solomon’s temple. It will house the very throne of Messiah. When He establishes His kingdom, there will finally be peace in the land of Israel.

Come Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Zephaniah Predicts the Reversal of the Judgment at Babel

I am trying to keep to the sections of prophecy that I think have future application. As the prophet continues his message concerning Judah’s coming judgment, we get to a verse in chapter 3 that again seems to jump ahead to end times.

Zephaniah 3:8 Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.

The LORD is telling His people that they need to trust Him to respond to these enemies in His own time according to His own purpose. That’s one of the hardest things to do for the man of faith. We are so bound by an earthly mindset that we have a hard time patiently waiting for God to act. I’m always reminded of this Psalm when I consider the Lord’s longsuffering toward the wicked.

Psalm 73:11-19 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.

I think the application jumps to end times and Armageddon because of the wording—“gather the nations” and “assemble the kingdoms.” His purpose—“to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger.” This is exactly the scenario at the final battle of Armageddon.

Revelation 16:12-16 And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.

Comment on verse 16 from journal on Revelation: “This is a very interesting “he” used here. You immediately think of the antichrist as the one who is gathering his forces together to do battle. The last person speaking to whom the he would apply is Jesus. Jesus is the one in control and has been all along—He will dictate the time and place of this gathering. Where did He choose? Armageddon—the hill country of Megiddo.

“the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy”- This is a statement of the reason for God’s judgment. As He declared from the beginning, He is a jealous God.

Exodus 20:3-5 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God….

Deuteronomy 4:24 For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

Nahum 1:2 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

The next verse seems to indicate that we will all speak one language during the kingdom age.

Zephaniah 3:9 For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.

After the flood, the LORD confounded the languages of the people in order to keep them from accomplishing their evil purposes.

Genesis 11:6-7 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

When He establishes His Kingdom, the Lord will once again restore the nations to a “pure language,” a common language. This will enable everyone to clearly understand each other. The purpose this time will be to facilitate worship of and service to the LORD and to promote unity in fellowship and obedience.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Zephaniah Declares that Israel will Possess Her Enemies

Zephaniah 2:5-7 Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant. And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks. And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity.

Eerdmans Dictionary identifies the Cherethites as loyal bodyguards of David who came from the southern part of the land of the Philistines. The whole of the land of the Philistines was located along the Mediterranean coast in the western part of Israel. The prophet’s message is emphasizing complete destruction of this land. It’s interesting that the destruction being prophesied will leave this land “no inhabitants.” It will become a place for flocks and shepherds and a place of refuge for “the remnant of the house of Judah.” As I read through these verses again, I noticed that the prophecy is directed to “the land” and its inhabitants. As I researched on the web, I find that indications are that though the Philistines as a nation disappeared from the scene, inhabitants in the land did not. Though Israeli’s gained some benefit from living in the Gaza Strip before being recently removed by their own government, this doesn’t seem to fit the description as a place where God visits them and turns away their captivity. That seems to be yet future.

Zephaniah 2:8-9 I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border. Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them.

Moab and Ammon are the descendants of Lot that occupied some of the area known today as Jordan. Scripture portrays them as ever at enmity with Israel. They lived on Israel’s eastern border, and were always looking for an opportunity to benefit from attack on Israel by her enemies. God is fed up with these ungrateful cousins of Israel. Their attitude towards Israel reflects their attitude toward YHWH, the God of Israel. The people and their land are prophesied to meet the doom of Sodom and Gomorrah—“perpetual desolation.” Again, I cannot find historical fulfillment for this prophecy. These lands are still inhabited today. Verse 9 indicates that the people of Israel will one day “spoil them” and “possess them.” I think one can safely conclude that has not happened yet.

Zephaniah 2:10-11 This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts. The LORD will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.

God hates the sin of pride, and Moab in particular is rebuked for her pride many times in scripture. God is pronouncing judgment on them in answer to their pride and the contempt with which they have treated the Israelites, God’s chosen people. Though directed at Moab and Ammon, verse 11 broadens the picture to include judgment against “all the gods of the earth.” Famish is a reference to emaciating or making thin; Webster adds the idea of killing to destroy with hunger. This paints a picture to me of God showing once for all the impotence of false gods through the terrible devastation happening among the people who worship them.

I think it is important to note that God’s judgment will result in Him being worshipped by every one, “even all the isles of the heathen.” This is definitely still future and has to be referring to His wrath as directed at the planet during those last seven years on planet earth before Jesus Christ comes back as King of kings and defeats the Antichrist and his armies and establishes His earthly Kingdom. The word isles can be misleading; in the Hebrew it is a reference to “a habitable spot, dry land, and a country” as well as the coastlands.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Zephaniah’s Connection to Today’s Headlines

Though I am trying to summarize in this blog, I think I will basically quote from my journal in reference to chapter 2, and try to shorten it in the process.

Zephaniah 2:1-3 Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD’S anger come upon you. Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger.

My first thought upon reading these verses was that the prophet is speaking to Judah. I was surprised to note that the Hebrew for nation in verse 1 made specific reference to the Gentiles or heathen although it was broad enough to include people in general. In context with the ending of the previous chapter and the bookend of verse 3, I’m inclined to think application can be made of the message as a call to repentance to all on planet earth. Since we know Zephaniah was prophesying primarily to Judah, you can’t deny application to the Jews of that time specifically. Chuck Smith states in his commentary, “the Hebrew literally means ‘a nation that knows no shame.’" In that regard, it’s not surprising that the prophet would use language connecting Judah with the heathen at that time.

The message of verse 3 is directed specifically to the “meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment.” They are being encouraged to petition the Lord in prayer to help them continue in righteous living with humility in spite of the wicked influences surrounding them. The motivation—“it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger.” Due to my interest in prophecy, this phrase immediately jumped out at me. Scripture is clear to record that God always preserves a believing remnant of Israel and is quite consistent in showing that the faithful are delivered from judgment. Noah and his family were delivered from the judgment of the flood. Lot and his family were delivered before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. I can’t help but make application to the fact that whether delivered through or removed from, God does not direct His judgment at people of faith.

It was also significant that the Hebrew for hid states “be absent, keep close, conceal.” In its future application to the “day of the Lord” in end times, I can’t help but make a connection to the rapture for people of faith and the protection of the Jewish remnant through the tribulation.

The next verse is very interesting in light of today’s headlines.

Zephaniah 2:4 For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up.

In context, the prophet’s message continues its address to the Gentile nations, specifically those near Judah. These first four cities are all part of the land of the Philistines, and are generally in the area today known as the Gaza strip.

Other scriptures seem to reiterate this prophecy.

Amos 1:8 And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon, and I will turn mine hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord GOD.

Zechariah prophesies regarding these cities in connection with the destruction of Tyre, basically the land known today as Lebanon.

Zechariah 9:3-7 And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets. Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire. Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.

I can’t put it together in my mind, but I can’t help but wonder if future application is tied to the terrorist activities of Hizbullah (in Lebanon), Hamas (in Gaza) and Syria and Iran as their sponsor states.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Zephaniah and the Day of the Lord

Zephaniah prophesied to Judah in the days of King Josiah (640-610 BC). As with the other prophets, his message applied to the coming judgment of God upon Judah by Babylon and has further application to the coming time of judgment we associate with the time known as the tribulation. Zephaniah paints a vivid word picture of “the day of the LORD,” a time of His wrath and judgment.

Zephaniah 1:14-16 The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.

The “day of the LORD” will cause even mighty men to cry; but, sadly their tears will be those of anger (from the Hebrew for bitterly), not repentance. It is described as:

• A day of wrath – Not just anyone’s wrath—God’s wrath

• A day of trouble and distress

• A day of wasteness and desolation – devastation and ruin

• A day of darkness and gloominess – The Hebrew for darkness references misery, death and wickedness, and for gloominess references “misfortune.”

• A day of clouds and thick darkness – This is not just a repetition of the previous two. The Hebrew for clouds states, “…to act covertly, i.e., practice magic…observe times…sorcerer.” That makes a clear connection to the works of the Antichrist and his false prophet. Paul describes this time in his letter to the Thessalonians.

2Thessalonians 2:8-9 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders….

Jesus described this time with the following words:

Matthew 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

The “thick darkness” speaks to me of great wickedness.

John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

• A day of the trumpet and alarm against fenced cities and high towers – I can’t help but think of the seven trumpet judgments in Revelation that will precede specific judgments during that time. In context, the alarm gives reference to the battle cry or the clamor of battle. Fenced cities and high towers reference places that are prepared to defend themselves, but their preparation will prove useless.

Zephaniah goes on to declare that this judgment is a result of the sins of men and that money and influence will be unable to deliver one from God’s judgment at this time.

Zephaniah 1:17-18 And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath….