Right in the Middle

January 19, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Zephaniah | 9 Comments
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Don’t you just love the King James Version of the Bible? Okay, maybe you don’t, but you should. It is simply the best, most accurate, most God-honoring translation of God’s Holy Word for people who speak English, bar none. Let me encourage you to read it, meditate upon on it, and ask God to use it to speak to your heart.

Many of God’s Old Testament prophets were called by God to pronounce warnings, judgments, and even condemnation and wrath upon God’s people and upon the enemies of God’s people. However, these prophets consistently ended their prophecies with words of hope. The prophet Zephaniah was no exception. In Chapter 3 of the book that bears his name, he describes God’s workings in a place that the King James Bible translates as “in the midst.” Other Bible versions use words like “within” or “among,” but the phrase “in the midst” has a connotation of God not only being positionally in the middle of His people, but metaphorically and realistically in the middle of their troubles. God is not only omnipresent in the sense that His Spirit can be found everywhere in this universe, but He is also intimately acquainted with every trouble we are going through. Sometimes when we are in trouble, we speak of being “stuck in the middle.” God is not “stuck,” but in every difficulty of life, He is right there with you, “in the midst.”

Let’s look at a few of the actions of God as He operates “in the midst,” in Zephaniah Chapter 3:

Ruling in the midst is the Lord.

The just LORD is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not…

Zephaniah 3:5

The Lord is such that, no matter how bad the trouble, He will never do wrong, or be unjust.

Removing the prideful from the midst, the Lord will not share His glory with anyone.

…I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain.

Zephaniah 3:11

Remaining in the midst by the Lord’s power will be the people who have put their trust in Him.

I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.

Zephaniah 3:12

Reigning as King in the midst shall be the Lord.

…the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.

Zephaniah 3:15

His rule in the midst will not be temporary. He will reign for ever more.

Redeeming and Rejoicing in the midst, the Lord shall save His people right where they are, and He will be joyful, as is fitting and right, over His Own might.

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.

Zephaniah 3:17

Previous posts on Zephaniah:
Don We Now Our Strange Apparel
Trouble at the Threshold

Arise: Naboth’s Vineyard, Ahab’s Vice, and God’s Vengeance – Part 4

December 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Posted in Arise | 5 Comments
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In Part 1 and Part 2 we met:

I. The Pious Patriarch (Naboth)
II. The Pouting Potentate (Ahab)
III. The Poisonous Puppeteer (Jezebel)
IV. The Pestering Prophet (Elijah)

In Part 3 we saw:

V. The Preeminent Precept

Now we will discover:

VI. The Poignant Payment
and
VII. The Punctual Punishment

There came a time when Jehoshaphat the King of Judah was preparing to go to war with Syria, and he wanted the help of Ahab the King of Israel. Ahab agreed, on the condition that he would disguise himself, and that Jehoshaphat would wear the robes of a king. The King of Syria had a plan for his men to disregard the rest of the troops and go directly after the king. But a strange thing happened in the heat of battle.

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture…

I Kings 22:34

Dr. R.G. Lee, who preached a great sermon on this passage of Scripture, called this man “the nameless aimless archer.” He was a “certain” man – not named – who drew his bow at a venture – not really aiming at anything. (In keeping with my own outline, I probably should have called him the “Passive Pointer.”)

Are you “nameless?” God knows your name, even the hairs of your head are numbered. But does the devil know your name? He knew Job’s name. When God asked, “Hast thou you considered my servant Job?” (Job 1:8) the devil didn’t say, “No, who is that?” He knew Job by name, because Job was living an exemplary life for the Lord. The devil knew Paul’s name. The evil spirit summoned by the Jewish exorcists said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” (Acts 19:15) As Christians we should not be “nameless,” because we are certainly not “aimless.” We are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Your “calling” (your vocation) is to love God and love others – to serve God and to serve others. This archer did God’s will, but there is no indication he received God’s blessing for doing it. God will get the glory out of your life one way or the other. The question is not whether God will be glorified – the question is whether you will get the tremendous blessing of having a part in that glory.

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded. And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot. And there went a proclamation throughout the host about the going down of the sun, saying, Every man to his city, and every man to his own country. So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria. And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the LORD which he spake.

I Kings 22:34-38

This is the Poignant Payment. Just as the dogs had licked the blood of Naboth, so they licked the blood of King Ahab. But what about Jezebel?

Ahab’s son became king, and Jezebel pulled his strings the way she had pulled Ahab’s. He also worshiped Baal, and was a wicked king… and years passed. Elisha replaced Elijah. Then, one day God told Elisha that Jehu, the chariot driver, was to be anointed king.

And when thou comest thither, look out there Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up from among his brethren, and carry him to an inner chamber;

II Kings 9:2 (emphasis added)

Jehu rode down on the palace in Jezreel, and, after killing Ahab’s wicked son, he looked up at Jezebel, the painted and poisonous puppeteer.

… and said, Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trode her under foot. And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king’s daughter. And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands. Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel:

II Kings 9:32-36

Why did God make the penalty for the sins of Ahab and Jezebel so poignant? We might say that God was pleased with the symmetry of it. Sometimes, as in the case of Absalom’s hair (II Samuel 14:26 and 18:9), God just decides to make the punishment fit the crime in a ghastly humorous way.

When Elijah was announcing God’s punishment to Ahab, he told him:

Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,

I Kings 21:21

Most Bible versions other than the King James Version speak of the punishment of all the “male” followers of Ahab, but that is not the correct translation. The King James Version gets this right and retains the true context. Ahab and Jezebel did not see Naboth’s vineyard as God’s property. They saw it as belonging to whomever was powerful enough or sneaky enough to get it. So they marked it as theirs – the way a dog marks his territory against a wall. The poignant penalty is when God takes our vain attempts to dishonor Him, and our foolish boasting that we can somehow spite Him and get away with it, and He turns them into our own shame and disgrace. Be very careful about what you try to mark as “your” territory in this life. If we are trying to keep some things from God, He may just decide to take those things away, so we will have more time, energy, focus, attention, and love for Him.

The Punctual Punishment

God’s judgment may seem late or slow to us, or it may seem terribly swift, but the fact is – it is always right on time. The devil arises. His agents arise, and pull the strings of the lost. (Lost people are the devil’s puppets. See Ephesians 2:2.) God’s servants arise to proclaim His warnings and judgments. Finally, God ARISES.

Ahab got three years. Jezebel got many more. But the payment came due – and it was only a down payment. Jezebel is paying for all eternity. If you are not right with God, you have to ask yourself how close is God’s judgment from coming to you right now? It will not be tardy; it will not fail. One day everyone who has ever lived is going to confess the truth about God: that He is worthy of honor and obedience. Would you rather God have you by the heart or by the throat? II Corinthians 6:2 says now is the accepted time. “Behold, now is the day of salvation.” Fling yourself on the mercy of Christ this instant.


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