“He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Pastor Ino

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In my last message, I spoke on the book of Zephaniah. Zephaniah said that Lord will preserve those who are meek and humble. And that he will do great things through the humble. That was the theme of my message. Those who are meek and humble may not receive much attention from the world. On the other hand, Zephaniah 3:13 says, the humble who remain in Israel are people who do not commit injustice. This remnant of Israel was also the theme of Park-sensei’s last sermon. When I listened to his message, I was reminded of God’s mysterious guidance. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, and many others were a remnant that trusted in God and were used by him in his work. Another of these is King Josiah, who ruled at the time of the prophet Zephaniah. Josiah challenged the fallen kingdom of Judah to once again become a holy nation and kingdom of priests. With determination, he set out to spiritually reform the country.

Let us briefly recall the contents of the book of Zephaniah. There are 3 main subjects in this book. First, God’s judgment against Jerusalem. Second, God’s judgment against other nations. Third, a promise of salvation during the end times. A phrase that is used often in this book is “the day of the Lord,” and it refers to the day when God’s judgment will be revealed (Zephaniah 1: 7, 14, 15).

However, the day of the Lord is not only a day of wrath and judgment. 1:7 says, “Be silent before the Sovereign Lord, for the day of the Lord is near. The Lord has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.” The day of the Lord is also a day when God’s people will be consecrated or sanctified. As believers, we are saved by Jesus who suffered on the cross. We are saved by Jesus’ work of redemption, consecrated by suffering. And now we live worshipping the Lord Jesus daily.

As I read these passages on judgment, I think about how Jesus taught that Christians will go through trials and suffering. He spoke often about what will happen in the end times. But those who endure these trials will receive honor from God. We have the promise of receiving honor from God. Let me quote from a few of Jesus’ sayings about these trials that we will go through as Christians.

In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 24 verse 3 to 14, Jesus tells his disciples about events that will take place in the end times. Many people will come in the name of Christ, calling themselves the Messiah (v5). There will be wars and rumors of wars (v6). Nations will rise against each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places (v7). In verse 8, he says, “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Those who are believers will be persecuted and suffer. Furthermore verse 11 says that many false prophets will appear and deceive a great number of people. Verse 12 says that evil will increase and that people’s love will grow cold. However, verse 13 and 14 says, “but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Brothers and sisters, you have heard of the wars, famines, and earthquakes happening all over the world. And that there are countries in which Christians are persecuted. And you have heard of the love of believers growing cold. In that sense, are we not living in the end times now? But Christ promises that those who endure to the end will be saved.

Going through trials can sanctify us, says the Bible. Last month I went to a concert in Tokyo where Bach’s cantata number 131 was performed. The lyrics are based on Psalm 130. “Out of the depths I cry to you Lord,” is a line repeated many times, as well as “Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy” (Psalm 130:1-2). Psalm 130:5 is also repeated: “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

The program sheet that I received at the concert explained Bach’s composition like this: “It is widely believed that this song was composed for a service of repentance held after a great fire that destroyed much of the city center.” Many times the phrase “out of the depths” is repeated. We can imagine the depth of suffering caused by what was lost in the great fire. Brothers and sisters, Jesus himself warned his disciples that they would go through trials and suffering. After all, we live in a world still under the influence of Satan. So even as believers, we will have trouble. But in our trouble, we can turn our eyes to heaven and cry out from the depths: Hear my cry for mercy; I wait for the Lord. The Lord will surely hear such a cry and save those who endure to the end.

Paul writes in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” We cannot focus on our suffering. Even suffering itself can lead to our lives being changed, to us being made holy by the grace of Jesus Christ. Let us take hope from this.

And as I mentioned in my previous message, the promises in Zephaniah chapter 3 are not only for the people during that time. The prophecies are also for believers in the end times. One day we will meet Jesus Christ face to face, and our joy and rest will be complete. We will worship with joy, together with a great number of believers.

Zephaniah 3:14 says, “Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem!” Because all trials come to an end. As the book of Romans says, now is the time of suffering but it cannot compare to the future glory that will be revealed. So let us rejoice in the Lord’s salvation and sing. The time will come when we can fully rejoice with all our hearts.

Zephaniah 3:15 says, “The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.” Brothers and sisters, God is with you; you do not need to be afraid of any disaster. The Lord Jesus promises to walk with you. The Holy Spirit’s guidance is always available to you. And so verse 16 says, “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.” Because the Lord is with you, you can live without fear, trusting in him and not losing your strength. A time will come when you will be free of Satan’s temptations and have victory.

Verse 17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Take courage in the presence of God; the Lord Jesus rejoices over you. That is another promise for us in the end times.

When I first became a Christian, my pastor taught me that being a Christian is to live a life that gives glory back to God. And that is what I resolved to do: to live in a way that gives glory back to God. Even in small ways, may I give glory to God in my daily life. That is what I prayed as I started my life as a Christian. And it has been a life filled with challenges. But in my thoughts and in my actions, I wanted to bring glory to him. I’m convinced that this is how we should live as believers. The Lord rejoices over those who live this way and comforts us through his love. The Lord promises to rejoice over you with singing. Brothers and sisters, we are each small and ordinary people but let us do our best to bring glory to God. And remember that God will rejoice over you with singing.

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