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THE FIRE OF ZEPHANIAH
BOTH BURNS AND BLESSES
LIKE MANY FIRES
DEPENDING ON HOW YOU RELATE
Zephaniah is by no means oblivious to the sins of Judah; in fact he dwells on them. Yet in the love of God there is that peace past all sin, which is available. There is also that judgment on all sin which is coming. There is that advent which is the strait between the abyss and the absolute perfection of peace, the Messiah.
There is a sudden end to all the glamorous gorgeousness of man's undivine creations, his idols. Jeremiah spoke of it in 10:11, declaring "The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens." Likewise, he announced that "the Gentiles shall come to You from the ends of the earth and say, 'Surely our fathers have inherited lies, worthlessness and unprofitable things!' Will a man make gods for himself which are not gods ? "
The end of illusion is the judgment on delusion, and both come. Patience allows folly to progress; judgment does not merely occasion its regress, nor does it simply repress it. It brings the fruit of its own doings (Proverbs 1) to light, over time, and then with or without sudden drama, the trifling twig masquerading as a bow, snaps. When the whole panorama (cf. News 87) is over, then the flaming twigs roast in their own shame.
The other side is far more appealing. Here instead of judgment on delusion and destruction of illusion, there is judgment on Christ, and the clearance of guilt, the work of mercy through the sacrificial Saviour, who reclaims what was lost. Never however does He lose track, to redeem or else to judge.
In Zephaniah 2:11, we find in parallel, this: "For He will reduce to nothing all the gods of the earth. People shall worship Him, each one from his place. Indeed all the shores of the nations." There is in particular coming a time when as so often in history, but here by deliberate divine intent, the harassing predators among the nations and men, will find that they become the victims; for God is just, and does not forget His people. Even over the long millenia of discipline, pending their re-awakening to the truth which they held for so long, before trading it in for delusion (as in Deuteronomy 32). Indeed He does not forget.
Moreover, God will secure for the obdurate persecutors of this people, a result in judgment:
"This they shall have for their pride, because they have
reproached and made arrogant threats
Thus we see this verse in broader context: the cultures, the idols, the false prophets, all the paraphernalia of contemptible shame which activates those nations which make of Israel a butt, a victim, a passion play in which they work the passion and Israel receives it, this will be brought to the book, to judgment. To be sure, Israel asked for its penalties, and harassments; but those who responded in the fulness of their own pride will soon learn that the hypocrisy of judging others for what you yourself are doing, and of acting as a global policeman (the USA is often accused of this, but the Arab workers who act to despoil not only Israel but civilisation, are so no less, and in some ways, far more) has its costs.
You inflate ? your deflation will then be the more conspicuous, since the material inflated, stretches, and when you are humbled, it sags!
Zephaniah exposes some of the Lord's
judgments on the nations, specialising on Ethiopia and Nineveh.
The latter is to become an arid waste, as if George Bush would predict that Europe would become so. It would be a staggering forecast, in view of the increasing prominence of the rebuilt lands there. So was the case concerning Nineveh, not only grand and glorious, not only exultant and exalting itself, but fierce and furious, dashing peoples and conquering with contempt and pride: you see something of this when the Lord delivered Judah from it in the days of Hezekiah, who knew how to pray! (cf. Isaiah Chs. 36-37)! How the Lord humbled both Nineveh and Sennacherib in that day, both verbally and physically (Isaiah 37:21ff. and 37:36ff. respectively).
Later, He pursued the matter, so that utter ruin was their lot, as predicted for that city. Nineveh was literally levelled with the ground, even lost sight of in some mound!
Says Zephaniah in his prophetic epitaph of Nineveh, that city long lost in desert sands, on its ruin:
the rejoicing city, that said in her heart, 'I am and there is none beside
"How has she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down.
You see more of it Nahum! Thus her complete devastation and lonely loss on the one hand (cf. Nahum 3:17), and following her rediscovery in her ruin, her occasion for reflection on her ample arrogance and absolute humbling, each alike predicted, each alike happens and has happened!
Nations! the Lord deals with them, and they have their times (cf. Ezekiel 17, 21, 26-33, Acts 17:26-31); and then He has His own.
But what of Israel ?
THE FURIOUS ROAR IN THE WOODS OF THIS WORLD
Zephaniah is no more a whitewash prophet of poignancy than is any other; and stark as had been Israel's rebuke (cf. Zephaniah 1:4ff.), and infamous the conduct of other nations some already famed for their duly predicted falls as we have seen, yet genuine change is the correlative of peace, just as pardon is its condition.
This has always been so, as you see in Isaiah 61, where pardon pours like concrete from some vast truck, the container constantly turning, so that it never sets until the foundation is laid; and that foundation is laid securely as in Isaiah 28:16, in the Messiah, in whom one must trust. From Him comes an ordered life in secure peace (as in Isaiah 32:16-17) received by faith (Isaiah 53:1, 27:5, 11:10), whether by Jew or Gentile (cf. Isaiah 49:6, 42:6): for by HIS stripes are the 'we' who are believers in Isaiah 53, healed, for on HIM is laid the iniquity of all believers, for whom the transfer of guilt is thereby made.
The healing of heart helps holiness of life, for where the Lord is, there is purging, purification and realism, and as a result, liberty (II Corinthians 3:17, Romans 6).
It is just as always, by faith (cf. Leviticus 16:14-26, 17:11, 1:4, Isaiah 53:6, Zechariah 3:9, Psalm 32, 51, Deuteronomy 29:17ff., Psalm 71:16, Isaiah 54:7-10, 55:3), with eternal security where such faith actually has been present (Psalm 17:15, 16, 21:4, 145:2) so that mercy reigns (Psalm 103:1ff., Micah 7:19ff.), just as in Romans 3 and Genesis 15:6). Thus life eternal sits like a beacon on a lighthouse, resting in the heart of the believer (Job 19:23-27, Psalm 21:4, Romans 6:23, 10:9), resting on the resurrection of the Messiah (Psalm 16, 22 cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25).
Wrought by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah
established on the Messianic
with retrospective efficacy wrought
in faith (Psalm 116:10 where the cup of salvation is believingly appropriated by
ANY believer (cf. Isaiah 57:15, 56:6, Jeremiah 3:16, 16:19ff.):
it is nevertheless limited to faith
in the specific Saviour,
the actual deity in the flesh who comes for all men (Isaiah 55:4, 49:6, 42:6).
Therefore, it is as immiscible by ANY in any land, as it was for Jews in the Holy Land, being founded in fact, contained in truth and as indefeasible in substance as secure from syncretism in purity.
He was smitten (Isaiah 53); it is written. Truth and action are indivisible (Psalm85, Romans 6, Matthew 5:17ff.).
If therefore Israel or any part of
it is to be delivered, faith is the way, the Messiah is the base and
If any race ever had the necessity
of sacrifice for an atonement, for a reconciliation,
If any race ever had the matrix and
meaning of the sacrifice deliberately displayed
If any race ever had the identity of
that ONE featured and exposed, made manifest and taught
If ever a people, however, had the
whole construction without any constriction,
If the NATION of Israel failed (as
predicted - Isaiah 49:7) to take its Messiah, so be it;
Unfortunately many seem to feel that
since the Messiah is undoubtedly the marvel and wonder of it all, that therefore
the wrapping does not matter, and the card with the present may be ignored. Not
so, for the method was not in the abstract, as in some philosophy of man, but as
real as the Creator who ALONE is the Saviour, who ALONE is God (Isaiah 45:18ff.,
45:12, Proverbs 8, Colossians 1:15ff., Micah 5:1ff.), who ALONE can save (Isaiah
45:22ff., Philippians 2:1-12), so that it is to GOD ALONE that every knee will
bow, and that, it is to CHRIST JESUS the Messiah who as we have seen in an
earlier chapter, came on the date specified, and the world has taken a little
two millenia or so to find it really does not love Him!
(Highway of Holiness Ch. 4).
So be it. It suffers, just as the
Jew has suffered in his day, that is: the nation of Jews who with Pilate were
responsible, not ALL Jews: for many believed, though they constituted a small
The world, yes, it is having its trouble day, its time of turbulence as Israel did for so long, for it will need heed what He has said, who made it and all (cf. Amos 4); and just as Israel's plight came to a height and a depth of depravity and horror at the hands of that awful dictator of World War II, so the world itself is coming to climax of putridity, following a senseless show of intolerance of truth, despiteful use of Christians, dereliction from the greatness which earlier national trends to faith created for many.
Such was the case of the British Empire and some of the history of the United States which is now, this day, reported as encouraging Taiwan NOT to seek independence from the maw of the horrendous offal of the earth, Communism, as exemplified in mainland China cf. News 37). How much further is there to go - downwards!
The world shudders now like some giant aircraft which has engine trouble. High, aloft in safety in appearance, yet it is ready to fall like some stone, left bewildered that it is not founded on the earth. It should be and could have been there founded; but is not so founded, through lack of faith, and has only fall to come. So is the world faced, except it find, person by person, the foundation which is in Christ, whose has broken the fall for faith.
Nevertheless, as for the flamboyant flight from faith, it does not deliver. This Stone, the Christ, the ONLY ROCK (Psalm 62:1-3, II Samuel 22:31-33), if HE falls on a person, it is an incorrigible ruin that results (Matthew 21:44); but if a person rather be built on Him, he will not hurry, scurry, flurry, but will not be ashamed (Isaiah 28:16, 11:10, Matthew 11:28-30).
One of the wonders of the forest fires of judgment is this, that the Lord has been so patient (II Peter 3:9), while every kind of ersatz, each form of artificial, meretricious, inauspicious, errant, contrary and contrary folly is wrought (cf. News 87, 121 - 122, with News 85, 88, 89). The world is only now coming - after so long a time since God revealed His hand only to have it crucified (Psalm 22, Matthew 26, Galatians 3), and that by plan for pardon, not to condemn (John 3:17), yes arriving at the end of its tether (as H.G. Wells book Mind at the End of its Tether, already portended some time ago! and fittingly from such an author as that one ...).
Its water is in trouble both for purity and distribution, its waters create trouble for Pacific Islands and Manhattan (cf. The Pitter-Patter of Prophetic Feet Ch. 6!), droughts are being accentuated, and floods with earthquakes (cf. SMR Ch. 8) as predicted; wars erupt like acne on some poor youth's face (Matthew 24:6-7), while Israel back in place (Luke 21:24) itself is surrounded by evil desires and ambitions from its neighbours, allying themselves disreputably with the United Nations in persecuting that tiny land. This is quite often in explicit manner, as far as those surrounding nations are concerned, with the object of repudiating the God of the Bible and exalting a false prophet with nil ground for faith in him (More Marvels Ch. 4, SMR pp.1080ff., Highway to Hell esp. *1, Matthew 24:24), but rather explicit ground for rejection.
It is all as predicted, but the point is the pollution of spirit, of mind and body, of resources and social and international relations, the war on God increasingly obvious (to become SO obvious that it is explicit in the prediction of Revelation 19:19).
Nevertheless, ISRAEL ITSELF WAS NOT AT ALL WHITEWASHED BY ZEPHANIAH.
Despite the profundity and wonder of the eventual restoration to be fulfilled yet further (as in Ezekiel 37 cf. SMR Appendix A, Joy Comes in the Morning Chs. 4 and 7), Israel in Zephaniah 3 is further confronted.
Indeed, in Ch. 3, the prophet resumes the exposé and exposition of its sins:
"Her princes in her midst are roaring lions,
Her judges are evening wolves
That leave not a bone till morning.
Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people;
Her priests have polluted the sanctuary:
They have done violence to the law..."
What a condemnation is this! How like is this case to that of the Liberal professors who disadorned the suffering earth last century, whose tribe is now post-modernist, leering and peering now, as jeering and sneering then: fraught with uncertainties, without faith, confusing the word of God with the word of man, and soon to be confusing God and man, till their case is that of renegacy entirely, which increasing is to be seen whether at the moral level (as in the Uniting Church cf. Joy Comes in the Morning Ch. 9), or the doctrinal (as in the Anglican, op. cit. Ch. 2).
In such ways, many ecclesiastical moorings are being actively transferred from the Rock to the roaring waves, which only move. Nor does each of these denominations fail in cardinal ways, whether through the World Council of Churches or in other roads, to draw near to Romanism, so making a nice synthesis of styles, the ancient and the modern false prophets jogging in increasing mutual conformity, like the prophets of Baal in the days of Elijah (cf. A Question of Gifts VII, News 121).
Let us however turn from the
"prophets" who are "insolent,
treacherous people", as our present Age so closely parallels that of
Israel in its degradations such as Zephaniah here traces, to the LORD!
HE REMAINS faithful, though man be faithless (cf. II Timothy 2:13), so that we astonishingly, yes astoundingly read in Zephaniah 3:5, these words:
"The LORD is 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."
Moving to expose His judgments outside Israel in the past (3:6), He reveals His thought of hope:
"I said, 'Surely you will fear Me,
You will receive instruction' -
So that her dwelling would not be cut off,
Despite everything for which I punished her:
But they rose early and corrupted all their deeds."
God has no favourites who despite tragic folly, remain high in His esteem. Even Israel, at the last, brought back (as it was), as shown in Ezekiel 36:22, is told most explicitly, NOT FOR YOUR SAKE AM I DOING THIS! and He advises them to be utterly ashamed. He does WHAT HE SAYS. With God truth and justice, mercy and peace, word and deed are in such alignment that it is an awesome sight, to evoke a sense of magnificence at His splendour, praise at His power, that it is so pure!
God's people, linked to Him by faith, grounded in His atonement, based on Him as Rock, built up in His body, loving His reliability, BEING HIS, are TURNED TO HIM in heart; for their hearts ARE His! If they slip, He upholds (Psalm 37:24, Proverbs 24:16); but they do not travel on a different road from one, namely the Highway of Holiness (cf. Isaiah 35). He who is the Lord's does NOT MAKE A PRACTICE of sin (I John 3:9).
Thus does God expose Israel, despite His desires for her, showing here in her drab dress, as it is spiritually at the national level to this day; for only the FIRST of the TWO stages is yet complete, as outlined in Ezekiel 37 in the two prophetic words. One of these recalled the dry bones to Israel, a geographic enterprise already performed, the other to LIFE! (with meaning as in 37:14). These were set in sequence, namely the physical restoration to their land and the spiritual to their Lord. The next then is come the spiritual.
Then, no more would they return to idols, in the season of repentance which culminates this return, and their Messiah would come as its consummation (37:24), securing those who are His, as always in the everlasting covenant (Jeremiah 31:31). The new SPIRIT is yet to come (as likewise in Isaiah 32:17 and Zechariah 12:10ff.), yet the return of the Messiah is certainly near (Answers to Questions Ch. 5): but in one thing as in all, God acts. It is well to realise that this will be so, as all else has been so.
Unwise is he who ignores the word of the Lord, for it NEVER FAILS to happen. Scientifically such an approach is simply void; but it is not void there only, but in heart and in spirit as well. What is the good of that, and what possible benefit is to be derived from disbelieving the warranted, ignoring the attested, and following myths! (cf. Earth Spasm ..., Secular Myths ...).
This is coming, and is nearing us like a hydrofoil skimming the surface of the sea, cresting the waves, untroubled by delay or difficulty, rushing with stateliness, acting with power, coming near without swerving, soon to dock.
What then is the Lord's purpose ? He tells us. It is so comforting and altogether delightful of God to TELL US. Not for Him the raised eyebrows of resistance to all interrogation, the pseudo-depth of the undivulging: not at all! HE SAYS, and tells us all our need. He did this for Israel as He promised (Amos 3:7), and now to the world has He told it and so categorically through the Messiah, as the prophets beforehand ... like Joel, Micah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Isaiah and ... Zephaniah. Listen then to this prophet at 3:8:
" 'Therefore wait for Me,' says the Lord,
'Until the day I rise up for plunder;
My determination is to gather the nations
To My assembly of kingdoms,
To pour on them My indignation,
All my fierce anger;
All the earth shall be devoured
With the fire of My jealousy.' "
To gather the nations ? Yes, you see it in Revelation 19:19 in the ultimate major crash of cymbals and symbols, as they lust for their own lordship; you see it in Ezekiel 38-39, as the local version transpires, the assemblage of specially interested parties lusting for the blood of Israel; and you see it in Daniel 7, where the small sovereign, who yet aspires to be as God (II Thessalonians 2:4ff.), makes his ultimate thrust to control the earth in the name of man. That thrust to be treated ... as God, it is as high as the abyss and as low as the bottomless pit!
"Pompous words" (Daniel 7 cf. II Peter 2-3) are the prediction for this errant and erratic mouth, this vain person, this thrust of devilish dynamic, this devil's messiah, this man of sin, as Paul depicts him.
When the nations are gathered, then, what next ? This, having determined in this way to gather them, God does proceeds "to pour on them My indignation" - scarcely the depiction of the preaching of the Gospel!
As in Micah 7:15ff., where the
nations are to crawl in to their holes like worms,
as in Isaiah 66:15-16 where He
comes "to render His anger and fury" - again,
not quite the peace
as in Habakkuk 3 where
"You marched through the land in indignation, You
trampled the nations in
so here in Zephaniah, we see
that He pours on the nations "all My fierce anger"
Things unspeakable have been
done in this latest dementia of the nations, as if the World War II
God will, at His time, pour on them "His anger and fury".
In Psalm 50, God asks man, the wicked, the secular, if he thought that God was altogether like him! Is that why, the pith of the interrogation proceeded, he recklessly, heedlessly did evil ? Take care, He warns, lest I tear you in pieces.
There is an end to a cancer is there not ? Does not the doctor warn, if the case yet has hope, what must be done!
Is God to be mocked for ever ? Have not the millenia sufficed! You can presume into morbid maladies of spirit, but not into the distress of truth. In the end, reality rules; and it is merely the mercy of God that man has been left alive on this earth for so long; and indeed, as Christ put it so clearly, the things were to get - as now they have become - so horrendous in morals and spirit, in body and clime, that IF HE DID NOT INTERVENE, NO FLESH COULD LIVE ON THIS EARTH! (Matthew 24:24).
Do not aspire too far, for just as the events of Revelation 6 have come to pass, with the morbid, mundane mind for violence and death being in focus, as predicted, and that to a degree all but inconceivable, but now visible: so do the rest come in their time, which does not delay.
Remember the chiding of Ezekiel to those who mocked because in God's mercy, He delayed somewhat before the conclusion of the corruption chapter for that nation! Consider this testimony to the forbearance of the Lord, and the time when it is ... FULL when action must now occur! (Ezekiel 20:27-21:17).
"Thus says the Lord God:
'Behold, I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree and every dry tree in you; the blazing flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be scorched by it. All flesh shall see that I, the Lord, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched.'
"Then I said, 'Ah, Lord God! They say of me, ‘Does he not speak parables?’
"And the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
'Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, preach against the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel; and say to the land of Israel,
"Thus says the Lord:
'Behold, I am against you, and I will draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off both righteous and wicked from you. Because I will cut off both righteous and wicked from you, therefore My sword shall go out of its sheath against all flesh from south to north, that all flesh may know that I, the Lord, have drawn My sword out of its sheath; it shall not return anymore.
'Sigh therefore, son of man, with a breaking heart, and sigh with bitterness before their eyes. And it shall be when they say to you, "Why are you sighing?" that you shall answer, "Because of the news; when it comes, every heart will melt, all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it is coming and shall be brought to pass," says the Lord God.'
"Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
'Son of man, prophesy and say,
"Thus says the Lord! Say:
‘A sword, a sword is sharpened
And also polished!
Sharpened to make a dreadful slaughter,
Polished to flash like lightning!
Should we then make mirth?
It despises the scepter of My Son,
As it does all wood.
And He has given it to be polished,
That it may be handled;
This sword is sharpened, and it is polished
To be given into the hand of the slayer.’
'Cry and wail, son of man;
For it will be against My people,
Against all the princes of Israel.
Terrors including the sword will be against My people.
"Therefore strike your thigh.
Because it is a testing,
And what if the sword despises even the scepter?
The scepter shall be no more,'
says the Lord God.
"You therefore, son of man, prophesy,
And strike your hands together.
The third time let the sword do double damage.
It is the sword that slays,
The sword that slays the great men,
That enters their private chambers.
"I have set the point of the sword against all their gates,
That the heart may melt and many may stumble.
"Ah! It is made bright;
It is grasped for slaughter:
"Swords at the ready!
Set your blade!
Wherever your edge is ordered!
"I also will beat My fists together,
And I will cause My fury to rest;
I, the Lord, have spoken."
There is no doubt that God is patient, merciful and kind, compassionate and sacrificially loving to His people, and seeks the lost; but there is no doubt either that when the end is to come, then the action comes with it. He is no philosopher, enmeshed in the cloudy vapours of human wisdom. On the contrary, knowing all, and seeking all, and loving all, He yet disposes of the inveterate and brings judgment to those who despising mercy, pollute pardon with their tongues, their minds and their mindlessness, as their various spiritual fevers, like rectilinear motion, push them now this way, now that.
Just as His passion for compassion led to a priceless gift through an infinite sacrifice, so does the NEED for that sacrifice show when it is rejected, in the destiny He wrought to avoid; and whosoever will, may come (Revelation 22:17).
THE COMFORT OF THE FIRES OF LOVE
There is a third element. Despite ALL the provocation and the impurity, the pollution and the corruption, the deviousness and the despiteful using of His people, God is utterly desirous of providing pardon (cf. Micah 7:19ff.), like light searching the darkness; and thus He introduces it to the uttermost, where there is room in His sight.
Accordingly, in Zephaniah 3:9ff., we
see that just as He went forth with His Anointed, His Messiah
to bring wrath (cf. Psalm 2, 110) to the corrupters of the earth, the grasping seekers of His land and His people, of whatever name, the despisers of His instructions, and those disposed to make wrack of His revelation, so He comes to bring salvation to His people. In one phase, it is to Israel the land (as in Ezekiel 36-39 cf. SMR Appendix A), where there is a topographical, a geographical honour attached, where He died, where He provided salvation, where He chose the site for the most eminent spiritual event ever witnessed by man, the Cross of Christ (cf. Galatians 6:14). You see this also in Micah 7:15, where Israel being definitively detailed as the recipient in its unique describable history.
It is Israel which He thus delivers, despite its long reign of sin, from shame to salvation; as in Zephaniah indeed, where the people are clearly enough depicted in all the minute examination of the prophet, as in some vast X-ray, displayed for all as if it were a vast TV, this time not to show sport, but iniquity.
He will restore, the LORD says, a pure language to His people that they might all call on His name. As to His people, "those who rejoice in your pride" are purged, and "you shall no longer be haughty". It is of the nature of the obscurantism and the ridiculous, that some might wish to make of the 'church' a body which is 'haughty', that is, of the SPIRITUAL and ACTUAL church, spiritually defined; for that is a contradiction of I John 3, Romans 6 and all the word of God. How is it to include those who "rejoice in your pride"! The tendency to subvert the word of God, turning it into philosophical mouthing or traditional preferences appears inveterate, from the day of Christ to this (Mark 7:7); but it is most unwise.
No, it is the body so meticulously defined in Zephaniah 3, which continues to occupy the pen of the prophet, the assignation of the word of God, who does not go galavanting in all directions like some witless hound, but keeps to the point He is making. Such invasion of His word by pure human thought, it is the very acme of the pride and pretension of man.
Let us keep then to what is written. This pure language is applicable both to the a Hebrew which so wonderfully was modernised, and then used for universal army instruction, by Eliezer Ben Yehuda (cf. SMR pp. 798), indeed a unifying force to enable joint and meaningful spiritual exercises, and also to the disposition of purity to enshrine in prayer, in such a language, so achieving unity of thought and word. The first is fulfilled already, in our own times, and the second waits, like an actress already in the wings, seeing that her cue is near.
Out from the door go those who rejoice in pride, erased is the deceitful tongue (3:11), but instead, there will be what any Christian group must be, for they are designated thus:
"A meek and humble people,
And they shall trust in the name of the Lord" (3:12).
Indeed, "they shall feed their flock, and no one shall make them afraid."
While, to be sure, this can be true of a newly converted nation, in which a large percentage find the Lord (as in Zechariah 12, and Ezekiel 37), in a reservoir of time following the assault of Ezekiel 38-39, when the world LEARNS that God removed His people for their sin (not HIS weakness), and restored them in His faithfulness (Ezekiel 39:23,25-28), and is amazed and impressed: yet together with the Gentile believers, the newly enlarged Christian element in Israel have an undoubted appointment with the Lord (as in Romans 11:25ff.).
The apostle Paul shows the integrity of the unity and the praise for it resounds in this astonishing chapter, and all are one, brought by One to one conclusion, bought by One by one ransom, integrated by One in one tree, the original tree: for ALL the word of God is profitable for instruction in righteousness, and those who want a new tree are for hanging the word of God, not hanging onto it (cf. SMR pp. 1175ff. - Appendix D Part II).
"COME UP HERE!" is a summons to the twofold witness of Christ, not to be disobeyed (Revelation 11), and it is wrought in power (cf. I Thessalonians 4, Matthew 24), the fulness of the resurrection of which Christ was the "first fruits" (I Corinthians 15:23ff.). Not assignable to these is the plight of the bridesmaids left in the lurch, because they slept (Matthew 25:1ff.): for these have awakened in time to be numbered with His own.
WHEN this occurs, then is the land vulnerable, and then does the antichrist perform his definitively terminal actions before the judgment comes that has no end for the unbeliever (II Thessalonians 2:4ff., Revelation 19-20, Daniel 7, cf. SMR pp. 502ff.); and as to that, it is sourced in Europe (cf. SMR pp. 886ff.), and wrought in subtlety, maintained in spiritual delusion and completed in a dazzling splendour as the Lord consumes this spiritual offal (the term is not too strong for a biblical exegesis cf. Mark 9:1ff.), and effects His judgments on the earth personally (cf. Matthew 25:31ff.).
It is thus easy for them to "make war on" the Lord (Revelation 19:19 cf. Micah 3:5), for HIS plans, HIS promises, HIS precepts, HIS dispositions of all things are clear, and it is a matter of putting their man in the temple and having him gorgeously show himself that he is god, as if secular humanism, New Age mysticism and romancing cultural religions were to have a field day, together in the subtle but significant embrace of the prince of delusions, the devil, that adversary from of old (cf. Revelation 20:2).
But the Lord, having anointed His bride, the entire Christian Church, His wife, not some part of her (Revelation 19:8), so that she is in linen pure and white (not the same, actually, as filthy rags of her own accomplishments - Isaiah 64:6, for that would not be suitable for any wedding), comes with her, clad in just the same robes (19:14). On the Mount of Olives His feet statedly will stand (Zechariah 14:5 - which likewise refers to "all His saints", as does I Thessalonians 3:13, of this day).
His tour de force becomes a tour de triomphe, His magnificent majesty being seen then intimately in its compassion, and practical self-presentation, now ultimately in regal splendour, yet this without the facade of power, merely the innate and intrinsic glory of His own Person (Isaiah 11).
Then comes that divine rule (Isaiah 11, 2, 65, Micah 4, Isaiah 59:20, Revelation 20, Psalm 2, Isaiah 32) so long forecast for all peoples (cf. Psalm 67, 100), where HE is vindicated, HIS PLAN is fulfilled, HIS disposition is culminated. His entire symbolical and substantial way is thus installed in its completeness. Nothing is now left but goodness, except for the residue of unbelief and the warring heart yet dissatisfied with spirituality, even in its most precise and compassionate form: till the ultimate rebellion is swept away, as a housewife removes dust in Spring cleaning (Revelation 20). Then the heavens and earth themselves unwanted, are exiled for ever.
A new heavens and a new earth is the new creation for the Lord's new creations. These are His people Jewish and Gentile (cf. II Corinthians 5:17ff, Revelation 21), and for them pain and suffering are no more (Revelation 21:4), either for some or for any, for the former things have now passed away, and His people rule with Him forever, victorious in His grace, gracious in HIS victory.
It is thus not only in the immediate interim when the Lord sweeps away the specific and penultimate assault on Israel, and brings His people at that time to Himself, even many in the land of Israel itself, that this delicious spirituality of Zephaniah 3:11-17) occurs; for it is in the millenium itself (as in Isaiah 2, 11, 59, Revelation 20, Micah 4) that this is found, and in its fulness, in the latter.
Nevertheless, in the spiritual intimacy, the divine immediacy, the peaceful infinitude, the gracious friendship, the communing comradeship, the moral cleansing, the lowliness before the Lord of glory, there is a depiction of spiritual life as it can be, should be and must be now for those who are the Lord's, and not following those "insolent, treacherous people" the false prophets of our own generation (cf. II Peter 2).
Therefore to the Christian NOW is this message:
"Do not fear;
Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."
Soon, in the prophetic express,
we shall see this also, not only in spiritual vein for the people of the
Lord, but in specific actuality for longsuffering Israel, when SHE COMES
BACK TO HIM:
"Sing, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away your judgments,
He has cast out your enemy.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
You shall see disaster no more."