The King of Israel,
the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 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.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
17 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.
In the Bible God tells the story of his glory in Jesus. The Lord God tells his story in the OTS by giving us a narrative of his works in the history of salvation (the Law and the Former Prophets), by providing a commentary on his works (the Latter Prophets), and then various reflections on his works, the way of life for people, and the rest of the storyline that prepared the coming of Jesus Christ (the Writings). Today, we come to the end of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew order of the OTS—the Book of the Twelve, or more simply, the Twelve.
In the order of our English Bibles, the Twelve are considered as separate books, and are often called the Minor Prophets. (However, if you say “the Minor Prophets”, please do not think that their messages are minor, light, or trivial. They contain very important messages!) However, in the Hebrew Bible, the Twelve are grouped together. While it is not wrong to study any of them individually, just as we might study John 13-17 (“The Upper Room Discourse”) separate from the rest of the Gospel of John, it is wise to keep them in context with the united message they provide. They provide God’s commentary on Israel and the surrounding nations from the time of the division of the kingdom through the fall of Jerusalem to the return from exile.
Structure of the Twelve
- Messages before the fall of Jerusalem (Hosea-Nahum)
- Messages near the fall of Jerusalem (Habakkuk-Zephaniah)
- Messages after the return to Jerusalem (Haggai-Malachi)
Ideas and features of the Twelve
- The individual books are linked to the following book (except Jonah to Micah) in a chain like way; they are not in random order; the links are either by key words or thematic; in addition, there is the following “plot”: Hosea through Micah talk about sin, Nahum through Habakkuk about punishment, and Haggai through Malachi about restoration; they reinforce the pattern of the other latter prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel): “the sin of Israel, the just judgment of God, and hope after the judgment” (Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, p.182)
- They provide a panoramic view of God’s story from the exile of Israel to her return to the land and on to new covenant age and finally to the coming of Christ and eternity
- The messages of the Twelve were given during a much longer time than the other Latter Prophets, but they present the same message; surely this points to the source of the unity of the prophetic message, the Holy Spirit (2 Pt 1:20-21)
- We hear much about the nations (the Gentiles) and what the Lord would do among them, either for salvation or for judgment. This points to the reality that God’s story carries out the promises made to Abraham 4000 years ago.
- There are lists of sins to stir the people to repentance; when people sin we fall short of God’s glory (Rm 3:23) and need to return to him for forgiveness and cleansing
- Hope for God’s people comes through various means: a return to the land, repentance, the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, the new covenant and the promise of the Spirit, God’s action of salvation through judgment at the day of Yahweh (the Lord), and the restoration of all things
I. Christ in each of the Twelve
- Christ is the faithful son of God (Ho 11:1; Mt 2:14-15)
- Christ pours out the Holy Spirit on God’s people Joel 2:28-32; Ac 2:17-36)
- Christ rebuilds the people of God (Am 9:11-12; Ac 15:13-18)
- Christ brings the kingdom to be the Lord’s (Ob 1:21; Rev 11:15)
- Christ brings grace to all peoples through his resurrection (Jon 1:17-2:9; Mt 12:39-41)
- Christ is born in Bethlehem (Mi 5:1-5; Mt 2:3-6)
- Christ comes to bring judgment on the rebellious (Na 1:2-3; Mt 24:30; cf. 25:41-46)
- Christ provides righteousness through faith (Hab 2:4; Rm 1:16-17; 3:21-26)
- Christ is the Lord of the Day of the Lord (Zeph 1:14-2:3; 1 Cor 1:8; Ph 1:6; 2 Th 1:6-10)
- Christ is the better temple (Hg 2:1-9; Jn 2:13-22; cf. Eph 2:11-22; etc.)
- Christ comes as king (Zech 9:9; Mt 21:1-11)
- Christ is the Messenger of the covenant (Mal 3:1-3; Mt 21:12-16; cf. Ac 6:7; Eph 5:26)
Point: When you read the word, look for Christ.
Transition: Next, let’s listen to one of the Twelve providing hope to God’s people. In Zephaniah we hear of…
II.The reasons to sing, shout aloud, be glad, and rejoice – By piling up these words the Spirit wants God’s people to celebrate!
We live in an age of depression and despair. Prosperity has not satisfied, and power has not brought peace. Suicide and deaths from drug overdoses continue to rise. People long for escape, as they cannot handle the gloom and doom of the news and the stress of trying to have it all while enjoying very little. In such a context, the call to celebrate seems delusional to the worldly-minded person. But let me remind you that Zephaniah preached during a time even more depressing. So the Spirit gave him a message of hope.
A. God’s people can celebrate because the Lord has dealt with the cause of their depression.
1.He has taken away their punishment. This could only happen because of the salvation Jesus Christ purchased by his blood (Rm 3:24-26).
2.Christ also secures their freedom from their enemies (Col 2:15). While we rightly think of Christ purchasing our forgiveness and justification, it is also important that he defeats all our enemies. He rules over everything for the good of the church (Eph 1:22).
Point: God secured our future at the cross of Christ.
B. God’s people can celebrate because the Lord is with them.
1.This is the great idea of God’s presence. From Genesis through Revelation, God’s great promise is to be with his people. It is the promise of the Lord Jesus to us today (Mt 28:20). The Holy Spirit makes Christ’s presence known to us through faith (Eph 3:16-17).
2.This is the basis for dealing with fear (3:15b-16a). “Nearness and presence will be recurring themes in God’s words of comfort to fearful people” (Welch, Running Scared, p. 75). People in our time live in fear. They run scared through life, horribly expecting something to bring them down to one horrible fate or another. The answer for this to those who believe in Jesus is the assurance of his presence with us. The experience of glory, with all fear forever removed, will also be the personal presence of our glorious Lord (Rev 21:3-4). For all eternity we will be with him with the resounding assurance that “he is mighty to save”.
Point: The Lord’s presence is greater than all the world’s fears.
C. God’s people can celebrate because the Lord will show them the greatness of his love. What will the Lord show his people? Here is a picture of rich, personal love.
1.He will take great delight in us. He will always act toward us as a groom toward his new, dearly beloved bride.
2.He will quiet us with his love. Sometimes the pressures of life can make us feel very stressful! Only love can remove such stress.
3.He will rejoice over us with singing! Many times we can act undeserving of his love; we fail to please him. Other times we can feel unloved and perhaps rejected. But here the Lord assures us of how he feels towards us. One day the One known as the Man of Sorrows will rejoice with singing as he has his dearly loved bride, the church, with him forever!
Point: The Lord wants us to know our joyful destiny. The way may seem very hard now, but eternal joy awaits the Lord and his people together.
Ideas to transform our lives:
- When you read the word, look for Christ
- God secured our future at the cross of Christ
- The Lord’s presence is greater than all the world’s fears
- The Lord wants us to know our joyful destiny
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.