A daily devotional walking through God's word together using The Bible Reading Plan at http://www.bible-reading.com/bible-plan.html. Our website http://alittlewalkwithgod.com.
Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
Here we are, the third week of Advent already. Christmas is fast approaching. Just a few more days and it will be here. I’ve been sharing with you thoughts from the common lectionary during this Advent season. Today one of the Advent readings comes from a book of the Old Testament we often don’t pay much attention. Zephaniah is one of those tiny books of prophecy near the end of the Old Testament.
You may not know or realize how the Old Testament is put together, but the prophets are not arranged chronologically, but by length, the longest being first in the canon and the shortest last. Zephaniah is ninth among the twelve minor prophets. And the minor prophets are called minor only because those scriptures are short, not because they are less important than the major prophets. So now you can wow your friends about how our Bible is put together.
The only things we know about Zephaniah are what come from the text of this small book. We know a little of his heritage, maybe springing from King Hezekiah, although the Hezekiah named in his genealogy isn’t called king, so we are not even sure of that. Scholars think the book was probably written about 620 years BCE, about the sixty to eighty years before the book of Isaiah was written. It also speaks of the same kinds of corruption Isaiah talks about in his prophecy, though, so some think Zephaniah may have been a student of Isaiah.
The verses from the lectionary I’d like us to think about today as we pass through this Advent are these:
Hurray! It’s time to sing, faithful daughter of Zion!
It’s time to shout out loud, Israel!
Be happy and celebrate with all your being,
faithful children of Jerusalem!
The Eternal has cancelled His judgments against you.
He changed the course of your enemies.
The True King of Israel, the Eternal One, is standing right here among you;
you have no reason to be afraid ever again.
The come from chapter three verses fourteen and fifteen.
The thought hit me today that we really need to hear these words and take them to heart. They don’t just apply to the Israelites, but they apply to all who call on Jesus’ name as Lord of life. The reason we need desperately to celebrate Christmas revolves around the state of the world. In my opinion, we are at a crisis moment around the world. Just think about a few facts that affect us globally.
So many things seem to go wrong these days. We live in a scary world. One could become paranoid about living in the conditions we face every day. The world, including this country, has gone insane. We think only about ourselves and we do that poorly. We think only about the moment without thought of the repercussions our behavior may have. We forget we live in a global society. In fact, sometimes it seems we forget we are part of a society or a community at all. We don’t turn out to vote and if we do we rely on the ridiculous television or radio ads candidates throw at us instead of researching their history and their character.
We don’t know our neighbors and shut ourselves inside our homes afraid to meet those next door because we’re afraid we might somehow offend them or they might offend us. We don’t want to mess up our relationship with them so we don’t have a relationship with them at all. We don’t even know our family, if the truth be told. Just look around the next time you go to a restaurant to eat. You’ll find families and “friends” at most tables if it’s a busy place, but notice what they are doing. Most won’t be talking to each other. They will have their face down and fingers flying, “connecting” on their smartphone. But there is a terrible problem with that picture. First, those phones are not smart at all.
Second, we do not connect through phones. We only project bad information and poor communication. You see, communication means seeing and understanding the body language that should accompany words spoken. Part of our problem with the rage and hate and flying around our society is the misinterpretation of written words recorded without inflection, tone, and body language to go along with them. The receiver thinks they know what was said, but often doesn’t.
So many of our words have been hijacked and meanings turned around that putting something on social media is a sure fire way to get people angry. For instance, gay used to mean happy, joyful. It still does in some circles, but the word was hijacked and now we can no longer use the word in that way because most of society will think we are talking about an alternative lifestyle, not about a state of emotional well being. The rainbow used to be understood as God’s promise not to destroy the world with a flood ever again. God’s iconic promise has been hijacked and the meaning of the symbol changed in our society.
We are in trouble and don’t know it. We need to hear God’s word. We need the promise that he still loves us and will return to take us home. We need to know that the true King of Israel is standing right among us and will not let our enemies defeat us. We need to know he is our salvation and he will not fail us. We need to hear his words and recognize his truth in a world that has gone insane.
In this Advent season, it is time to celebrate. It is time to rejoice. The King has already come and done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He has redeemed us with his blood. He took upon himself the sins of the world. That includes my sins and yours. All we need do is believe in him and he will give us eternal life in exchange for our trust in him.
Because he is here with us, we have no reason to be afraid. He will keep us and protect us and nothing can defeat us. Will our lives be perfect when we walk with him. No. The Christian life is hard. It’s a difficult road. Jesus promised the world will hate us because of him. But he also showed us that life with him is worth the suffering. He showed us that even though we might suffer here for a little while, the rewards even now are far greater than the suffering we might go through. As we think about the legacy of peace he promises. Those of us who have followed him for a while, know of that peace. We can testify to it sustaining power when everything around us might be in turmoil and chaos. We can know an inner inexplicable joy that fills us even when sorrow knocks at the door and threatens to destroy us in its fury.
We need to celebrate Christmas this year as never before. We need to remember Jesus came and fulfilled all those prophecies. He is truly the Messiah. God’s son. Our savior. He came to live with us to show us God. He came to give himself so we might live eternally with him. Jesus came. But he is also coming again. Those prophecies he fulfilled have not ended yet. There are still some on the horizon. Some of those prophecies tell us he will return. And when he does, his bride, the church, will be swept up into the air to be with him forever. We can celebrate even the world is going mad. We can celebrate despite the fact we live in a day when more Christians face death at the hands of our enemies that ever before. We can celebrate.
Paul tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always! And again I say, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” This Advent, go for it. It’s time to celebrate.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.