December 24 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you in his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” ~Zephaniah 3:17 

OLD TESTAMENT

Zephaniah is a prophet and a man of royal descent. More than likely, he is one of the court prophets, someone comparable to a fiery senate chaplain from our own day. Like so many of the prophets, he addresses several nations with his sermons, but he has a particular message for his own people. It is wrong to take vengeance into their own hands, and actually there is no need to do so. God sees their hurt and pain, and He will deal justly with those who wrong them.

The people of God have done wrong themselves. Judah sinned against the Lord, and the Lord will see to it that they are disciplined accordingly. However, He will also make sure that the surrounding nations—Moab, Ammon, Cush (Ethiopia), and Assyria—will be judged for the harm they have caused God’s people. “I have heard the insults of Moab and the taunts of the Ammonites, who insulted my people and made threats against their land…This is what they will get in return for insulting and mocking the people of the Lord Almighty…” (Zeph. 2:8, 10).

Through the prophet Zephaniah, God comforts and assures His people. You have done wrong, and I will discipline you for your good, God tells them. However, you have also been wronged, and I will punish those who had a hand in it.God’s people have made sizeable mistakes, but God does not leave them to fend for themselves when they are provoked and harmed.

There is a temptation to take matters into your own hands when you have been wronged, cheated, forsaken, abandoned, hurt, or swindled. The pursuit of justice in the right ways and for the right reasons is certainly acceptable; however, you should not waste your time and energy on the empty pursuit of a pound of flesh. It’s wrong and it sows a root of bitterness in you. Let God deal with those who wrong you. You need not get even because God is just and will handle matters in His time and in His way.

NEW TESTAMENT

The outline I have suggested for understanding the last days is fairly simple (and very old). We are living in difficult days, which will be followed by the great tribulation sometime in the future. The King will return and usher in the new heavens and the new earth after the great tribulation (Rev. 21). I do not see in the text a return of Christ before the tribulation, and I think the existence and message of the book of Revelation points us away from this nineteenth-century innovation.  Why share all this news with the churches, telling them to be ready and faithful, if all Christians are going to be evacuated?

Revelation 15 is the climax toward the end of the great tribulation, and the figurative language continues as the seven seals and seven trumpets are followed by the seven bowls of God’s wrath. The dissonance of chapter 15 is palpable. God is pouring out wrath on the Evil One and all who follow him while worship music is playing. Imagine watching a movie where people are being slaughtered to the refrain of the Hallelujah Chorus! Dissonance. So why is this worship appropriate?  Because as the seven bowls of wrath are being poured out, God is settling every imaginable wrong that has ever being committed on the face of the earth.

There is something glorious about this final scene. There is a certain beauty to seeing the bad guys get their just deserts. God’s wrath is completed and at last the day arrives when all wrongs are made right (Rev. 15:1). All the wrongs in your life, in your world, made right. Wow! Come Lord, Jesus. And until You do, help us trust You and worship You. We know that You will make all things new.  


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.