A Study of Zephaniah 3:14-17
“Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”
We all have our fears. We do not like to acknowledge them, or talk about them. We certainly do not want other people to find out about them. But there are some things that cause us fear. And it helps me to know that stronger, better, wiser men than I am struggle with the same fears that disturb me. I cannot tell you how greatly my heart was comforted one day years ago by reading these words from the pen of David:
“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” (Psalm 56:3-4)
I was going through some deep waters, storms of trouble, some things that caused me to be afraid of what might happen. But it did my heart good to know that David, that great man of faith, the man after God’s own heart was once made to tremble with fear, too. What do you fear? What is it that makes you tremble? Whatever it is, I have a message for you. You will find my text in Zephaniah 3:14-17.
John Gill wrote, “Every word (in this text) carries in it something very encouraging to the church and people of God; and is an antidote against those fears and faintings they are subject to.” The Book of Zephaniah is a prophecy of judgment. It exposes the sins of the nations; and it exposes the sins of God’s people. We deserve wrath as much as anyone else. We are as guilty as the rest of the world. What evil have other men done that we have not done in thought, if not in deed? The nature of the reprobate is our nature. His heart is our heart. His thoughts are our thoughts. And his deeds are our deeds.
Yet, while God pours out His wrath upon others, He pours out His love, mercy, and grace upon us (1st Corinthians 4:7). Therefore, the Prophet Zephaniah calls upon redeemed sinners to sing and rejoice, even in the midst of trouble.
“Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.” (Zephaniah 3:14)
Child of God, no matter what the trouble is that breaks your heart, weighs upon your soul, or dampens your spirit, I have good news which ought to make you rejoice and sing with all your heart. I am saying “to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack” (v. 16). Let’s look at verses 15 and 17. Here the prophet of God gives us nine reasons to rejoice and sing, nine reasons not to fear, nine reasons to be steadfast and immovable in the work of the LORD.
I. “THE LORD HATH TAKEN AWAY THY JUDGMENTS.”
The rest of the world, by reason of sin and guilt, is under the wrath of God. But “the LORD hath taken away thy judgments.” That is good news, indeed!
I am not talking about what the Lord wants to do, hopes to do, or has tried to do. I am talking about what the Lord has done. “The LORD hath taken away thy judgments.” By the work of his free, almighty, and sovereign grace, the Lord Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior, has taken away our judgments.
A. He has taken away our sins, the cause of judgment (Hebrews 9:26; Psalm 103:12). That is redemption!
B. He has taken away our spiritual death, the consequence of judgment (Colossians 1:13-14). That is the new birth!
C. He has taken away the curse of the law, the sentence of judgment (Galatians 3:13; Romans 8:1, Romans 8:32-34).
- Redemption accomplished – Christ redeemed us from the hands of the law when He died at Calvary (Hebrews 9:12).
- Redemption applied – Christ delivered us from the bondage of guilt when He gave us faith (Hebrews 9:14).
“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:12-14)
II. “HE HATH CAST OUT THINE ENEMY.”
Satan came into the land of man’s soul by the door of sin as an invading enemy. But Christ, our mighty Man of War, the Captain of our Salvation, has cast him out.
A. The LORD our God cast Satan out of heaven as soon as He began to oppose His purpose of grace toward us (Ezekiel 28:14-17).
“Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.” (Ezekiel 28:14-17)
B. The Son of God broke Satan’s power over the nations of the world at the cross, and in that sense, cast him out when He died as our Substitute (Genesis 3:15; John 12:31; Revelation 20).
C. Our Savior casts Satan out of the hearts of His people in regeneration by the power of His Spirit, so that we are no longer in bondage to and under the rule of the prince of darkness (Isaiah 49:24-25; Matthew 12:28-29).
“Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.” (Isaiah 49:24-25)
“But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.” (Matthew 12:28-29)
D. And the Lord Jesus Christ will cast Satan into the pit of the damned at the last day (Revelation 20:10).
“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10)
III. “THE KING OF ISRAEL, EVEN THE LORD, IS IN THE MIDST OF THEE.”
The Lord Jesus Christ is the King of Israel, the King of His church. And he is in the midst of us. Did you hear that? Child of God, the LORD is with you. That ought to fill us with unspeakable joy, peace, and security (Isaiah 41:10).
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10) Christ is always near at hand (Philippians 4:4). He is near to support us and supply our needs. He is near to assist and strengthen us. He is near to protect and defend us. When Zephaniah says, “The LORD is in the midst of thee,” his meaning is threefold:
A. He is essentially present, because He is the omnipresent God.
B. He is providentially present, because He is determined to do us good.
C. He is graciously present, because He promised never to leave us nor forsake us.
IV. “THOU SHALT NOT SEE EVIL ANYMORE!”
What a promise! “There shall no evil happen to the just” (Proverbs 12:21). “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him” (Isaiah 3:10). The LORD God will not turn away from you to do you good!
V. “THE LORD THY GOD IN THE MIDST OF THEE IS MIGHTY!”
When Zephaniah was delivering this message, after saying, “The LORD is in the midst of thee,” seems to think, “Oh, I mean to say not only that the LORD is in the midst of thee, but also to say, The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty.” I’m glad He remembered to put that in!
A. He who is in the midst of us is the LORD Jehovah, the Being of beings, the eternal, immutable, all-sufficient God!
B. He is the LORD thy God!
- He is ours by His own covenant grace.
- He is our by His miraculous incarnation – “God with us!”
- He is ours by His great gift of faith.
C. And he who is the LORD our God is Mighty! He is the almighty God, the omnipotent Creator, and the all-powerful Mediator and Savior. All power in heaven and earth has been given to that Man who is our God. Therefore he is able to…
- Save us to the uttermost.
- Deliver us from the hand of every enemy.
- Keep us in the midst of every temptation.
- Sustain us in every trial.
- And bring us safe into His heavenly kingdom.
VI. “HE WILL SAVE!”
The Lord our God is not only able but also willing to save (Micah 7:18-20).
“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” (Micah 7:18-20)
A. He readily undertook to save us in the covenant of grace.
B. He came in the fulness of time to seek and to save that which was lost.
C. He has wrought out salvation for us by His obedience unto death.
D. He sees to it that salvation is applied to every chosen, redeemed sinner.
E. And He will come again to put us in full possession of that salvation He has accomplished for us.
· He saves us freely, fully, and everlastingly.
· He saves from sin, Satan, the law, hell, and wrath.
· He will save us from every temporal and every spiritual enemy in time and to eternity. “He will save!”
The news gets better still!