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Dec 16, 2012(신현철 목사)

2012.12.27 20:23

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【본문】스바냐 3:14~20

【제목】그날에 (On that day)

1.

Do you know what day this Friday is? It is Dec. 21st, 2012, and it marks the end of the Mayan calendar. People said it means that the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world, and the world is going to end on that day. There are lots of doomsday scenarios as well:  a big volcanic explosion, or a planet X would hit Earth, or an alignment of planets could reverse the Earth’s magnetic field.

It has officially become a doomsday on Dec. 21, 2012, in Guatemala. The state of emergency has been also declared in Bugarach (small village with population of 200) in France because many people who believe to be saved by UFO have poured into the village. People in Sichuan and Shanxi in China have stocked up on food and candles too.     

Where are you supposed to go on that day?  To China, France, or Guatemala?  Why don’t you come to the church and rehearse [gifts] concert together this Friday ---

There are so many end-of-the world theories: Nostradamus prophecies (in his writing, world coming to an end in 2012), the Rapture, A doomsday cult and Apocalypse (having scientifically proved). By the way, what is a difference between these end of the world theories and Apocalypse in the Bible?

            Today, we are going to think about “that day” in Zephaniah. What is “that day” Zephaniah prophesied. What does “that day” mean to us. 

2.

The ‘day’ Zephaniah mentioned may seem to be very similar to the predicted end of the world day, December 21st. This is due to the prophesy made at Zephaniah 1:10 “’On that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘a cry will go up from the Fish Gate, wailing from the New Quarter, and a loud crash from the hills,’” and also in Zephaniah 1:15, “’That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness.’” Zephaniah said that when that day comes it is ‘a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness,’ all this could result from a collision between a comet and the earth or a volcano explosion and the ashes and clouds could represent what Zephaniah described.

But the ‘day’ Zephaniah described and the ‘day’ which people claim to be the end of the world may seem phenomenological and correct; however, there is a significant difference… The differences come from the reason and the cause, and it is due to the difference in its objective. First, the numerous claims made about the end of the world’s reasons and causes all resulted and were decrypted from mysterious records or symbols. For example, Maya’s calendar or Nostradamus’ mathematical symbols and its pictographic characters… but the ‘day’ Zephaniah describes has an entirely different reason and cause. Nowhere in the Bible can one find categorical end for earth nor an indiscriminate end. Rather, there is a reason and cause for the end and judgment; it is due to human’s corruption and sin.

 The most relevant end to earth example in the Bible is shown in ‘the Noah’s Ark,’ the reason is found in Genesis 6:5-6 “The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” The cause and the reason for ending the world resulted from those sinners who lived on earth at the time.

Also, the very first prophecy one made about the end of the world was by Amos, Amos 5:18 “’Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light.’” But Amos prophesized in this way because in Amos 2:4 “This is what the LORD says: ‘For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not turn back {my wrath}. Because they have rejected the law of the LORD and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed.’” It all because of Judas’ sin.

In other words, there are no secret codes in the Bible to be decrypted to predict the day which the world will end, it is all because the relationship between God and us was broken; so the purpose behind the destruction and judgment is to restore the lost relationship. Therefore, the work for decrypting the Bible to find the ‘day’ is a foolish thing. Rather, if we want to truly understand the end the Bible describes we must look at the generation which was warned about the end of the world via prophesy.

 

3.

 Thus, in order for us to understand Zephaniah’s prophecies of ‘the day,’ we must look at who Zephaniah is and what kind of a time he lived in. The book of Zephaniah opens with “The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezkiah, during the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah.” The verse shows that Zephaniah is a descendant of King Hezekiah, indicating that he is of royal blood.

 He lived during the reign of Josiah, one of the most praised kings of the time. Thus, it almost seems inappropriate that Zephaniah prophesized about the end of the world at the time. However, Josiah was enthroned as the king at an early age of 8 and in the beginning of his reign; the remnants of Amon and Manasseh’s times were present. The prophecies, then, can be seen as to be directed toward the two of them and their reigns more than to Josiah.

 

 

The times of Amon and Manasseh can be seen as the darkest times in the history of Israel. Kings 2 chapter 21 verses 2 to 7 describe the times like this. “He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, "In Jerusalem I will put my Name." In both courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. He took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple.” It was time when idolatry was at its epitome and when morals and ethics were in their deepest pits.

Furthermore, Zephanish chapter 1 verse 8 says, “On the day of the LORD’s sacrifice I will punish the princes and the king’s sons and all those clad in foreign clothes,” describing the corruption of its leaders. Verse 9 says, “On that day I will punish all who avoid stepping on the threshold, who fill the temple of their gods with violence and deceit,” illustrating the people’s lives full of lies and scams. Verse 12 says, “At the time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.’” This verse shows that the people were neither afraid nor care for anything that God does or will do. They were numb to everything related to the Lord. Chapter 3 verse 4 says, “Her prophets are arrogant; they are treacherous men. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law,” describing the corruption of its religious leaders and priests.

 

Simply put, Zephaniah realized that they were in a time of crisis and thus, prophesized and proclaimed that ‘the day’ is near - the day of the Lord’s wrath and justice.

While preparing for today’s sermon, I came upon a clip on Facebook. Let’s watch it together.

I felt that what was being said in the clip was what Zephaniah was saying at the time – that Israel was no longer great. That one would not be saved just because of the name, Israel, and that Israelites must remember that ‘the day’ is near.

Beloved church members, when we read verses about ‘the day,’ it is essential for us to reflect on our lives - to see whether we have followed the words of God, the path of God.

 

4.
But ‘the day’ that Zehphaniah foresees doesn’t end simply with judgment and destruction. If we look at 3:14 on we can see new descriptions of ‘the day’ – “Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem!” Here, the notice the commands sing, shout, be glad and rejoice. This emphasizes just how deeply joy overflows on that day.

But, it clearly says in 1:15, “That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness.” Then, later it says the day is one of joy. Why is there such a gap between the two descriptions?

The reason is explained in verse 15 – “The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.” In other words, we can be glad and rejoice on ‘the day’ despite it being a day of wrath, anger and pain because our punishment will be canceled, enemies will be exiled and the Lord will be among us so that we won’t have to fear anything.

This verse is linked to verse 17 as well – “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”


Zephaniah says that ‘the day’ is a day of the Lord’s anger and punishment, but we can be glad and joyful because God will be among us. In verse 15, this is written as “The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.” Ezekiel also said similarly in describing the gates of the New City that “And the name of the city from that time on will be:

the Lord is there.”

This describes our God who is present, the incarnated God, the God who is with His people: Emmanuel. In other words, the day Zephaniah describes is not simply a day of destruction and fall; it is also a day of God’s presence and the day of Emmanuel.


The second reason why we can be glad on ‘the day’ can be understood when we think about God and what he is like. In verse 15 it says, “The Lord has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.” Then in verse 17 He is described as, “the Mighty Warrior who saves.” This means God is full of saving power and that He is victorious. So, while being among us, God is not trapped in the limitations of sin like us. Instead, because He is full of mighty God’s abilities, He can solve our problems. Since this God will be with us on ‘the day’ we can be glad and rejoice.
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Thirdly, verse 17 says “He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Here, to ‘rejoice over you with singing’ is actually a bit of a flippant description. It means to jump up and down out of joy. It is peculiar verse when you think about it. Who are we that God jumps up and down out of joy of us? Then, the part ‘in his love he will no longer rebuke you’ is written in the KJV as ‘He will rest in his love’ and in RSV ‘He will renew you in his love’. These interpretations all point to ‘the day’ being the day when our relationship with God will be complete and whole with love. It will be the day of true rest and peace.

So, when it says in verse 16 “do not let your hands hang limp” he is telling us there is no need to be discouraged or be hopeless. Like the words He gave to Joshua, God is telling us to live with strong minds and have courage living out His promise.


We didn’t read today, but the New Testament verse according to the biblical calendar today is from Luke. Luke 7:20 says, “When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Then Jesus replies in verse 22, “"Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

Why did Christ answer this way? It is because the day is the day of Zephaniah’s prophecy. It is the day when all is restored and saved through the long awaited Messiah.

5.

Fellow brothers and sisters, what future are we waiting for? 

Those people who believe the world is going to end on December 21st have been preparing for the event from years ago. A 50 years old Korean businessman has built an underground bunker and chosen 50 people who will go in it with him. Also, in Texas, a guy named Larry Hall has created 14 underground floors housing in Cold War-era storage units which he is selling for $2 million a floor or $1 million a half floor. If Zephaniah's "Day of the lord" is referring to this end of the world, we have to do something to survive.  

 However, the "day of the lord" here does not mean the "end of the day". This "Day of the lord" is for us to look back and repent our past; 
thus, " Day of the Lord" should not be "That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness".

 In addition, we must wait patiently and passionately for this "day". This is because the "Day of the lord" is the day when Emmanuel God and omnipotence come to the earth... The joyful Emmanuel God will lead us into the right path with our God... 

 It is the 3rd Sunday of Advent. Just like how Zephaniah waited for the "Day of the Lord" 2600 years ago, we still wait for the day today.