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God of the Nations

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
June 8, 2020 8:00 am

God of the Nations

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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June 8, 2020 8:00 am

The prophet Zephaniah faced a desperate situation. The people of Israel refused to turn back to God. See how Zephaniahs warnings that Gods judgment was soon coming endes with a message of hope. In studying this book, youll learn why judgment is necessary, how God shows mercy to His people, and why Gods people should rejoice about the future. Zephaniah will encourage you to see that, in the midst of judgment, there is hope for a new day.

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Welcome to the Bible study reviewing Internet Ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals featuring the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce for more information please contact us by calling toll-free one 804 88 18 and now the alliance is pleased to present the Bible study our bearing you to think and act biblically when I began our study of the minor prophet Zephaniah last week I pointed out that it's a bit difficult to introduce Zephaniah by in a distinctive element as it is. For example with the other minor prophets at least most of them. This is because, in my judgment. Zephaniah placed here in the collection of the minor prophets as a summation of the preexilic prophets.

Therefore, as a prophecy which is not trying to be original or distinct, but simply sum up in a very poignant and comprehensive way.

The essential messages of those who've gone before we pointed out and I remind you that the minor prophets fall into two distinct groups, those that came before the exile the first nine those that came after the exile the last three Zephaniah's the last of the first line low in point of view of history.

He probably was earlier in a backpack who comes just before in the collection.

The reason for the places being changed is in my opinion stress is matter of summation Zephaniah comes here to wrap up all the things that were said in the great prophetic. Before him we already saw one of those messages is the essential message of the prophets find it in the first chapter and as far as the third verse of chapter 2 which the basic message of judgment the wrath of God is displayed against his people is a reason given for it.

There's a prophecy of the great day of the Lord, and in the last portion.

There's a call to repentance, which is what you find in the first three verses of the second chapter that's a message in and of itself.

We didn't hear anything else that God has to say to us through the minor prophets that certainly a message that we could hear the God is set against sin.

We think we can go in a simple way, regardless what our outward profession might be all yes were Christians. Oh yes, we're saved all yes we went forward to the meeting. We think that we can go on in the sinful path, then these words are for us the wrath of God is against us because God is set against sin, and will not tolerate it in his people, and I message ends with a call to repentance and if we got nothing else out of the minor prophets.

Certainly that call to repentance is for each and every one of us not beginning with the fourth verse of Zephaniah 2 and continuing into the third chapter verse eight we have a second major message from the minor prophets.

An interesting feature of the minor prophets that they not only speak to Judah in the south of Israel in the north, the Jewish nations, but they speak to the other surrounding nations as well. The pagan Gentile nations. Joel, for example, is a book written on the occasion of the great natural disaster in Judah and yet the message of that book is not restricted to Judah but fans out to cover the whole earth so that at the very end of Joel you find a marvelous call to all the nations to assemble in the valley of Jehoshaphat for judgment. Obadiah is a book written exclusively against the sins of Edom. Nahum is written against Nineveh, Syria and Amos. Perhaps the most obvious of all the minor prophets in this respect Bruce's that quite widely as he begins to talk about all of the surrounding nations and to pronounce a judgment of God against them because of their sin.

This is the universalism of the Bible. The universalism of the prophets, the recognition that whether other people confess it or not, God is the God of the universe is the God of all the nations and is the God of all people, regardless of what God it may be, they worship runs directly counter to several very strong secular tendencies in our time on the secular tendencies as to pluralism. This is not merely the kind of pluralism that says well people. Obviously worship different gods and they have a right to do this they must be coerced and matters of religion and therefore we have to protect the religious rights of people. It's not just that kind of pluralism is a kind of pluralism that says as it's expressed in our day. This is built into the very nature of reality in the sense that there is no one true God or one true religion something relatively no past days. Of course people worship different gods is not a question about that. That's been true, down through the whole history of the race, but people didn't accept the thesis of the world itself was pluralistic. Therefore, if you're worshiping one God and I'm worshiping another God one of us, at least is right one of us is wrong today. Well, everybody can be right and everybody could be wrong and think of Edward Gibbon who was writing in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire about the religion of the days of the declining empire and he said, in the eyes of the people all religions were equally true in the eyes of the philosophers. All religions were equally false in the eyes of the magistrates. All religions were equally useful thing that's funny, but in our day the something even funnier. The people in our day would embrace all three are all true. They're all false or all is little make any difference because reality is plural form is one tendency also have a tendency to I guess you have to call it compartmental is him the idea that you can live life in little chunks of what goes on in one portion of your life doesn't have to have any bearing on the other portion of your life. Or if you're talking about it on the national level. What happens in one area of the nation's life doesn't have to end is a matter of fact should not have bearing upon what's happening somewhere else. We do want to have prayer in our public schools. It's all right to pray but not here. The just doesn't have to be any natural tie-in between the two that we can have the churches on one corner and the bars on the other corner. It's just all right to spend part of your life. There is been part of your life. There is just the way it is interesting that the prophets didn't see it that way. None of the writers of the Bible see it that way. And this is because they have their eyes set upon the one late sovereign God is God is God overall. Therefore, they don't hesitate in the slightest to speak to people who don't know this God and say this God whether you acknowledge it or not, is the one to hold you accountable. We find that as I say in Zephaniah. This is really the second message of the book because beginning in Zephaniah 2 verse four we find a prophecy against Felicity Young, beginning with verse eight we find a prophecy against Moab and Ammon.

In verse 12, a prophecy against Cush or Ethiopia. Verse 13 a prophecy against Assyria, and then in the third chapter, beginning with verse one a prophecy against Jerusalem that remind us of something because that pattern is the same pattern that we have already seen in the book of Amos Amos is very clever in the way does this. The opening chapters of his book gives this what I think. Must've been a sermon or at least the outline of the sermon that he probably literally preached in Israel.

The northern kingdom and its declining days he appeared there as we know from the South was a foreigner. To that extent, and he began to preach initially against all of the surrounding kingdoms. I suppose it was designed to gain an audience when you have a kingdom that's in trouble and their enemies at each side you readily welcome somebody who can tell you what's wrong with your enemies. That's what Amos did.

He came in and he began to preach.

First of all against Damascus that is the capital of Assyria, which is to from the perspective of the nation of Israel in the North, which is to the north east so he had this judgment against Syria and as he preached against that nation. All of the people that were standing around about began to collect and began to applaud because that is what they want to hear after he had given his brief denunciation of Syria. He moved from the north east to the south west side is diagonally across the country and began to talk about Felicity and again must've been ample cheers. This is what they wanted to hear. This is the kind of profit they wanted. They know that those people down there weren't any good. They said preach it brother and Amos went on and continued preaching. He began to preach against Tyree moved on up the coast and now he was preaching about a kingdom that was to the northwest, and when he finished preaching against Tyree talked about idem, which was a kingdom to the southeast.

In other words you done X across the country like that and then he had two more to fill any and Ammon and Moab that filled in the distance between Syria in the north east and Edom in the South East blocking in the whole eastern side of the country and I suppose cheers were getting louder and louder because he was getting up all hope comprehensively and then he began to talk about Judah in the south, but I think at this point it began to get a little bit quieter and then finally he preached against the sins of the Israelites kingdom in the North, the very people to whom he was speaking and at that point it was very silent indeed.

This is what Zephaniah does because it's in a slightly different way. Using different nations because he's writing 100 years later, in the historical scene is changed and he's beginning to set up the structure, not from the geographic location of Israel in the north and from Judah in the south, and instead of doing a diagonal and X across the country. Doesn't North, South, East and West but it's exactly the same thing.

He talks about Felicity a which is to the West from the perspective of Judah goes to Moab and Ammon, which is to the east from the perspective of Judah next to squish Ethiopia as far south as he knows to go and finally begins to talk about Assyria, which those located in the Northeast always invaded directly from the north when he finishes talking about all those surrounding nations.

He hits home. In chapter 3 with the judgment against Jerusalem interesting to look at them.

Here's the list. He talks about it in terms of four of its key cities submitting gap 452 cities of the listings he leaves out gap Amos does the same thing. For some reason Gaza will be abandoned. Ashkelon left in ruins at midday Ashdod will be emptied and Akron uprooted no do you live by the sea of parasite people, the word of the Lord is against you addressing Zephaniah doesn't say what the sins of the Philistines are you want a rehearsal of them you can go back to Amos where he talks about it in specific terms what they had done that Amos mentions in the probably brother sins as well because in each of these cases he talks about three sins of God's or whatever for four what the people had done was to sell the whole community of people into slavery now answered the enunciation of slavery, but not so much a denunciation of slavery in and of itself was common enough in the day and it was a natural consequence of war for the soldiers of the defeated army to be sold into slavery. That is what the Philistines had done they had conquered people and then sold not merely the soldiers but all the people of the area that is the man the women, children, the young, the old everybody all into slavery to do it, even when they didn't need the slaves because what they did was sell the slaves to Edom for money. In other words, it was crass commercialism at the expense of other people's I say Zephaniah doesn't rehearse that in detail, but the sin of the Philistines would certainly have been known in his day, and perhaps, I guess. Undoubtedly, other sins as well.

He talks about Moab and Ammon next. Now they too are mentioned by Amos and when Amos talks about the sins of Moab and Ammon. He talks about sins against humanity, and in particular, is that is related to the present, future. In the past but Amos says the ammonites did was to invade the area of Gilead and then to destroy the pregnant women obviously so the future generation of the Gilead Gilead sites would be wiped out, and it would be easier to assimilate the country that is a sin against the future and what Moab did seems a trivial thing but it's not taken trivially by God. They burned the bones of the king of Edom, turning them in the live. In other words, destroying even the tangible remains the memory of one of the great heroes of Edom from the past sin against the pass.

This is not what Zephaniah mentions, though again, I'm sure it was known to the people of Zephaniah's day, but Zephaniah says this is what they will regret in return for their product for insulting and mocking the people of the Lord Almighty Lord will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. Zephaniah is tracing the sin of the people back to its root cause their pride and he seen a common day expression of that pride in the insults with the people he delivered against Jerusalem Judah and the people of God. He turns to Kush doesn't say much about push this kingdom of Ethiopia and we don't know a whole lot about it, even from Scripture. It's hardly mentioned the word of God, a few scattered references, there is a chapter in Isaiah. The only chapter and all of the Bible that I know up speaks about a specific sin of the Ethiopians they were arrogant. It says ruthless greatly feared on any specifics given I don't know as I read this weather. Zephaniah has that particular sin or another sin in mind or whether he simply looking as far south as he can to the far reaches of the South, where they know the Ethiopians are in sync yes and even Ethiopians are going to be judged by God because all nations fall under God's judgment. I think maybe it's the latter, denigrating mentions push you to okra Shiites will be slain by the sword when he begins talking about Assyria. Verse 13 he's really getting down to business, because by this time, of course, the kingdom of Judah has been frightened by the Assyrians. He speaks specifically of Nineveh. We know from that that he's writing before the fall of Nineveh that took place in 612 BC but nevertheless near the end of the history of the southern kingdom was a great and mighty city. It was just an extraordinary city for its day was nothing like Redmond anything like that in anybody's memory. It was a city so big that there was then inner-city that had a wall around it was 8 miles in circumference hundred feet high, so why was said the three chariots could gallop around the breast, and had $1200 in the wall 14 gates and I was just the inner-city and then outside of that there was an outer city and they started to build a wall around that apparently wasn't entirely complete but you can imagine how gigantic that would bit and then there were suburbs. Beyond that, farmlands. This is why when Jonah went to the great city of Nineveh that was described as a three days journey to go across it, as was the city. It was just a fabulous city for its day absolutely impregnable so far as anybody could ever understand.

And then suddenly was overthrown, but it had been overthrown by this time. Zephaniah looks to this city that stood in all its mites and wealth and power that boasted in its carefree attitude. Verse 15 and said to itself I am, and there is none beside me and he said the city is going to fall. We need to apply that to ourselves because we have such a tendency today, especially as God prospers, I think is a prospers our nation to say well here we are.

We're secure, there's none beside us all that is so dangerous. I suppose the most dangerous thing.

Any country can say in the most dangerous thing that any individual can say is I am a lot of myself, I stand by myself.

I don't need anybody, and I don't need God. The limits of front the sovereign God. God says not only do I bring people and nations like that down. I have done it and I will do it because it will be no other God besides me Nineveh as we know, was destroyed utterly desolate pass from the face of the earth and the memory of man and it wasn't founding years later medevac. When Alexander passed through the area on his way to make conquest of the Far East. He went right by Nineveh and he didn't even know he was there so utterly desolate was the location whether you have the review of the other nations for listing Moab and Ammon. Taken together, Ethiopia, Syria what comes next comes next is Jerusalem and Judah, which was the capital I think is unfortunate that there is a chapter break. At this point some justification for it, of course, because the end of the chapter talks about the future of Jerusalem and its easy to think of the judgment of Jerusalem is coming before that and belonging with it, but I think it's an unfortunate division because the point of all these judgments as they relate to the nation's is that sadly Jerusalem finds itself in the same company as the heathen would be nice if we could say only*list. The others Ethiopia and Assyria and all the other nations there are out there. They're all doing badly. But here's Jerusalem, the city of the living God.

All the different this point in the history can't say what a difference.

Jerusalem is just the same and is thrown into the company of the others, and so judgment comes. I was young I heard a preacher tell a story about a farmer who had a pet parent used to keep the parrot inside because the parent like to get out and fly around with the other birds and used to shoot the other birds, especially the crows keep them out of his fields. On occasion he went out a shot at the crows after he had fired he went to see where some of the birds had fallen and there he found parent who had apparently gotten out and was mingling with the other birds, and he didn't know it. Parent was fatally wounded but wasn't dead yet tendency look down on it. He felt very sorry for his pet parent and he said all that bad company you got into poly.

What ever brought you to this sad states of the parent had just enough life left to say. Bad company had company.

This is what the citizens of Jerusalem could say here they are in the company with the heathen, and we can say whatever got you into this state and they would have to say bad company. The same people you say earlier in the book in the first chapter had been trying to imitate the heathen in matters of drastic custom in the worship of their gods now find themselves in the company of the very same people as the recipient of God's judgment, so God begins to talk about the people and he says whoa to the city of oppressors, rebellious, undefiled, what she done find it verse two she obeys no one she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord and she does not draw near to where God those things are all related. She obeys no one and since she obeys no one, especially not God. She accepts no correction, certainly not from God. She does not trust in the Lord and because she does not trust in the Lord. She does not draw near to the one she distrusts after he breaks it down in those categories. He looks at it in terms of the leaders of the day, and he talks about the officials, the rulers, the prophets and the priesthood say well Charlene, the leaders are responsible strongly, the leaders are in tune with the requirements of God across their job is not the case. Officials are roaring lions rulers are evening wolves or profits or arrogance or priests profane the sanctuary and violence. The law is really a sad state but it's the state to which the nation been coming throughout all this. That is covered by the minor prophets co-opts not only that corrupt from the top to the bottom thoroughly permeated by sin, and so God says what's wrong is my the one that's a photo I failed to do something and the answer is no, I did everything I possibly could. I have worn the I've given demonstrations of my justice, I have cut off other nations, verse six, Israel was right in hand. The northern kingdom been carried away in captivity.

100 years before morning.

I could possibly give. So the question comes down to this is the bottom line. What now the answer is nothing left but judgment. Therefore, wait for me, declares the Lord, for the day. I will stand up to testify. I decided to assemble the nations to gather the kingdoms and to pull out my wrath on them.

All my fears, anger, the whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger. When asked that in terms of our day and say what more can God do the message of this book is a God and that everything he could do in that day and yet I plead I suppose wrongly, but I could plead that at least at that time Jesus Christ did not come in they had not had the clear demonstration of the righteousness and love of God at the cross of Christ that we have today. You can say at least there is that they hadn't seen we could make that excuse for them. What possible excuse could be made for us.

We stand on this side of the cross of Christ.

We look back on that and we see not merely God's judgment upon the nation's Judah included we see God's judgment at the cross question goes out. What more can I do. What greater demonstration of my love and my justice can I provide, but that which I have provided the cross of my own beloved son know our Lord.

I think spoke on this area and that story that we have in Matthew 21. It was a story of the landowner who had the vineyard and prepared it leased it to tenant farmers went away in the time of the harvest came, they were to render him accountants and servants back to receive a portion of that which was his and they killed the servants beating up some doing other things to others killing some he sent another group of servants. They did the same thing to them what to do. At last he said I'll send my son.

Certainly, they will reverence him. When the sun came far from reverencing him. They said this is the sun that's killing because if we kill him then will take the inheritance when our Lord finished the story. He said now want all the landowner do to those unrighteous tenants. Yes, good of the people of his day was talking about them, but he asked them, and they gave the answer. He said he will come back and utterly destroy those wicked servants. The Lord is coming back is going back and judgment. What is he going to do to those who have seen every possible evidence for his grace and still spurned it answer is, he will pour out his judgment upon those wicked servants is only one thing that is still an area of hope and it is this God who is still gracious has postponed that final judgment is not yet come. He's done everything he can possibly do a demonstration of his mercy is there, but he is selling off the judgment, not willing as Peter says that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

This is the day of his grace is righteous judgment carries an order that you may come let us pray our father we stand in awe, not only of the terrors of your judgments with the great evidences of your amazing love our father granted no one who hears these words might presume upon you, and so postpone that turn from sin and turn in to Christ which you desire, they might do it in this hour and so, in coming to him. Find eternal life. You have been listening to the Bible study our production of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals the alliance of confessing Evangelicals exist to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of Reformation theologians from decades, even centuries gone by.

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