The Third Sunday of Advent; Year C (12/13/2015)
Lessons:Zephaniah 3:14-20 Isaiah 12:2-6 (6) Philippians 4:4-7 St. Luke 3:7-18
Prayer of the Day: Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the preaching of John, that, rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
.3.14 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! 15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. 16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. 17 The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing 18 as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. 19 I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20 At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord..
Zephaniah 3:14-20, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
The very first sentence of the Old Testament book Zephaniah describes him as a descendant of Hezekiah (his great-great grandfather), a good king (They weren’t that common in those days!) who ruled over Judah from 715 to 697 b.c. It also describes Zephaniah as a prophet who served during the reign of Josiah, who ruled from 640 to 609 b.c. He lived in Jerusalem, and his ministry probably took place between 630 and 625 b.c. This was a time when the power of Assyria was rapidly expanding. Zephaniah was aware of, and deeply troubled by, a rise of pagan worship in Judah and Jerusalem. His strong message to the people was that they needed to turn back to the Lord, if they hoped to survive as a people.
The first two chapters of Zephaniah contain hard words, both for Judah and for the surrounding nations. He describes the Day of the Lord as a time of wrath, trouble, distress, crashing ruin, devastation of darkness and calamity… But the book takes a dramatic turn at 3:8. In what seems like a strong word of Advent encouragement, the prophet declares:
8 Therefore wait for me, says the Lord… 12 For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord— 13 the remnant of Israel; they shall do no wrong and utter no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths. Then they will pasture and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid.
Removed from their midst will be the “proudly exultant ones” — those who are “haughty in my holy mountain.” Remaining will be those who are humble, lowly, blameless and truthful — God will renew them, take joy in them, and save the from disaster. It is a vision of the future for the people of Judah. A time when judgment is passed. A time when fear is gone. A time when God stands in the midst of the people, their strength and their security.
Surrounded by mighty world powers, poised to destroy their nation (as they Assyrians had already done to Israel), this was a word that gave God’s people hope. No matter how difficult the years to come might be, God will have the final say. Judah will be purified and restored. God’s purpose will win out. For those who love God, there is reason to have hope — even when signs of hope seem absent from the world around them.
And so there is for us as well…
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What concerned Zephaniah about the people of his day?
- How did his words warn those who were turning away from God?
- Why did his words mean for those who were humble and faithful?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- What word of caution do I receive from Zephaniah’s story?
- How might I keep track of the faithfulness of my own worship life?
- In what ways does Zephaniah inspire me to make a positive difference in the world?