No Fear!

Advent 3 - December 13, 2009

Rev. S. D. Spencer - Pastor

 

Zephaniah 3:14–17

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: "Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. So far the text!

           

            Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, amen!

It was a new era in Judah. The country must have been filled with anticipation. For 55 years the nation of Judah had been ruled one king. Manasseh was the son of King Hezekiah and he began his reign at age 12. He rebuilt the heathen altars that his father had destroyed - the altars of Baal. He even built pagan altars in both courts of the Temple of the Lord, for worshiping the sun, moon and stars. Manasseh ruled longer than any other Hebrew king.

Manasseh sacrificed his own children as burnt offerings in the valley of Hinnom. He consulted spirit mediums, fortune tellers and sorcerers. He angered the Lord by encouraging every sort of evil (2 Chronicles 33:4-6). He also murdered large numbers of innocent people (2 Kings 21:16).

Warnings by the Lord were ignored by both Manasseh and his people, so God sent the Assyrian armies to capture him and take him into captivity. It was while in captivity that he came to his senses and cried out to God for help. As recorded in 2 Chronicles 33:13, The Lord answered his prayers by returning him to Jerusalem. At that point Manasseh realized that the Lord was really God.

Manasseh removed the foreign idols from the hills and the Temple and tore down the pagan altars. He then rebuilt the altar of the Lord, and offered sacrifices upon it. When Manasseh died, he was buried beneath his own palace, and his son Amon became the new king. The story of Manasseh is found in 2 Kings 21:1-17, and 2 Chronicles 33:1-20.

Amon, son of King Manasseh, became king of Judah at age 22. He reigned only 2 years. Amon's reign was an evil one, just as were the earlier years of the reign of his father, Manasseh. Amon sacrificed to pagan idols just as his father did. Amon had learned his wickedness in his youth from his father.

But, unlike his father, Amon didn't change; instead he sinned more and more. Finally, his own officers assassinated him in his palace. Then, some citizens killed all those who assassinated him, and declared his son Josiah to be the new king (2 Chronicles 33:22-25). Amon was buried in a crypt in the garden of Uzza. The story of Amon is found in 2 Kings 21:18-26, and 2 Chronicles 33:20-25.

That brings us up to our text today. The nation of Judah was now under the new rule of Josiah the son of Amon. Josiah like his father and grandfather began his rule of Judah in a wicked and perverse way. In the Temple of Jerusalem, the center of Judaism, were idols from many pagan religions. The practice of worship had become tainted by synergy - by blending of the worship of pagan idols with that of Jewish rite. Our God is a jealous God and will not share His altar with false gods.   

Just verses before our text today the prophets Zephaniah says: Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! She has not obeyed His voice, She has not received correction; She has not trusted in the LORD, She has not drawn near to her God. Her princes in her midst are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning. Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people; her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law. The LORD is righteous in her midst, He will do no unrighteousness. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, but the unjust knows no shame.” (Zephaniah 3:1-5). The false gods that filled the temple in Jerusalem were Baal and other fertility gods. Every form a sexual perversity was being practiced in Jerusalem in those dark days.

Zephaniah’s words were a warning to the people of Jerusalem. Repent, prepare for the coming of the Lord. For God will come swiftly and bring judgment. As I said before, Our God is a jealous God and will not share His altar with false gods.” But were those words just for the people of Zephaniah’s day?

The other night on ABC World News, Charlie Gibson quoted a Pew Forum Poll. It said that spirituality is up 22% in our nation. But that same poll said that 60% of all those who profess to be weekly church attendees believe in things like astrology and reincarnation. The article went on to explain and I quote: “nearly six in 10 Americans from all religions blend their faith with New Age and Eastern beliefs, like astrology, reincarnation, and the spiritual – not just physical – benefits of yoga.”  Zephaniah’s warning may have been to Jerusalem but it is indeed as valid for you and me today, right now, in our times. For “Our God is a jealous God and will not share His altar with false gods.”  

There are only two religions, the true religion founded in the faith of the triune God or the religion of man. The triune God says, You shall have no other Gods before me.” The religion of man says I will choose what I want to believe. But you can’t have it both ways. Either the true God of Scripture is the Lord of your life, the only God in your life or you have no life at all. Matthew 7:13 &14 says: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it  For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” The world tells us that we need to be more accepting, more accommodating and more tolerant of those who hold non Christian beliefs and values. But in the end any path other than the belief in the triune God leads to destruction.

We live in a dark age. Society no longer professes and teaches Judeo / Christian values. People who live with morals and ethics are often seen as archaic and backwards. People who hold to salvation by Jesus Christ alone are now in the minority and not in the majority. But don’t be surprised by this. It was the same way in Zephaniah’s day. Things were dark; things are always dark before the coming of the Lord.

Perhaps it’s time for us to hear Zephaniah’s message. Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; You will fear disaster no more” (Zephaniah 3:14-15).  King Josiah repented and had all the idols removed from the Temple, the Lord was restored to His house. It once again became the Lord’s dwelling place. The Lord removed His judgments against His people. He crushed the enemy and banished them from their presence.

That message is also for you. God has taken His judgments away from you. He has cleared your enemies away for you. He has removed fear away from you. How you might ask? Because God has defeated the enemies that once opposed you. At the cross Jesus defeated sin, death and the devil.  St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  

The day has come, Zephaniah says: “On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: "Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.” Zephaniah says: Fear not! NO FEAR, NO FEAR! 1 John 4:18 says:There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out all fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”   You have NO FEAR because perfect love cast out all fear. You have been perfected in love, the love of Jesus Christ. If you feel fear, look to the cross, know God’s love for you.

Fear robs us. It robs us of peace and harmony and joy. It makes our bodies weak and our hands feeble. "Fear imprisons, faith liberates; fear paralyzes, faith empowers; fear disheartens, faith encourages; fear sickens, faith heals; fear makes useless, faith makes serviceable."

Zephaniah 3:17 “The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Jesus is with you. The mighty one is with you always even to the ends of the age. When God is in your presence who can overcome you? No one! You have no need to fear, NO FEAR!  With such knowledge let fear be replaced with rejoicing. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies.” He (T) has forgiven your sin. Jesus is coming soon and he coming to take you home. May we be bold to pray, Come Lord Jesus, come! In Jesus name, amen and amen!

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!