Friday, June 17, 2016

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 19, 2016

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(GOD will restore a repentant heart)
(Zephaniah 3:9-20)

   Despite Zephaniah’s underlying theme of judgment and punishment, this short three-chapter book closes on a very positive note, not to say that judgment and punishment are not meant to have a positive effect on us, because they are. However, here in verses 9-20 Zephaniah describes a scene immediately following the Israelites Babylonian captivity, just 70 years down the road, as he announces that, after GOD judges HIS wayward nation, HE will raise up a remnant of faithful believers who will continue to serve HIM as HIS covenant people.
    Looking at this in the eschatological sense, he may very well be describing a time of the “second coming” of CHRIST when HE will set up HIS “Millennial Kingdom” here on earth with a remnant of believers who have stood the test of the tribulations of satan. During those days GOD promises to give those survivors a new “human spirit” (Ezekiel 36:26). Similarly, GOD says here that HE will quiet them in HIS love, and rejoice over them with singing (3:17). At that time, “with Judah’s evil purged”, the LORD will gather them up again, and bring them back safely to their homeland.
    And so we see that despite the failure of that generation, or even ours, and future generations as a whole, to maintain a reverence for GOD, the obedience of a few from each generation are assured of a bright future with the LORD. Our hope in CHRIST, “the Christian Hope”, is not just for this life, but rather, it is for the eternal life yet to come in Heaven. That is why true Christians are not, and should not be “miserable people”, but rather, to the contrary, we are people who retain an unshakable joy, while still living here on earth.
    It is a true fact that JESUS has been raised from the dead, and HE became the first fruit of a great harvest of believers who will be raised to life again, after HIM. And just as death came into the world through Adam, resurrection from the dead, into eternal life with GOD, has been ushered in by JESUS CHRIST.
    Everyone dies because of their “earthly” relationship to Adam, but everyone can live again, eternally, through their “Heavenly” relationship with CHRIST JESUS. Death will be the last enemy of man to be destroyed, or nullified, and so, we must not be fooled by unbelievers, desiring to be like them in the world as ancient Israel did, or, as we still do today.
    Remember, bad company corrupts good character, and so we have to come to our senses and quit living in sin, by coming to know GOD on a personal and experiential, “life saving” level, and choosing to follow after righteousness instead of following after the world (Vs.20-34).
    It is a certainty that GOD will always discipline us when we sin, and sin will always be a seed that will produce consequences, judgment, and death. And while we can always be saved from hell, we can, in no way, ever be saved from the LORD’s judgment, or the consequences of our sins. Our sins must run its course, just as GOD says.
     And so finally, this book of Zephaniah, which had begun so miserably, now ends with a proclamation of joyful promise and praise. In verse 20 of this chapter, the phrase “I will give you a good name”, should serve to remind us that, all that we have and receive from GOD, is ultimately, a “free gift”, for GOD can never owe us anything, and no matter what we do, we can never put GOD into our debt. It is the free gift of salvation, the ultimate expression of GOD’s love and grace that we can’t afford to not accept. It is only because GOD is willing and committed to give, that we are able to escape this dark world, and be able to look forward, with confidence, to a bright future in Heaven in GOD’s OWN glorious presence, where JESUS already is.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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