The Expository Files.

 The Essence of Rebellion

Zephaniah 3:2

George Adam Smith said - regarding the book of Zephaniah: "No hotter book lies in all the Old Testament. Neither dew nor grass nor tree nor any blossom lives in it, but it is everywhere fire, smoke and darkness, drifting chaff, ruins, nettles, saltpits, and owls and ravens looking from the windows of desolate palaces," {George Adam Smith, THE BOOK OF THE TWELVE PROPHETS, Vol. II, p.#48}.

In the opening statements of this prophesy, probably given after the reforms of Josiah yielded little change in people, Zephaniah delivered God's message of warning: "I will consume," (1:1-3); "I will cut off," (1:3-6); "I will punish," (1:6-13); "I will bring," (1:17,18); and "I will have," (3:6-8). The reformations of Josiah were just that; an outward reformation sponsored by a man, rather than the real repentance of individual people. Thus, the time was ripe for God's judgment and Zephaniah's burden was to urge repentance and warn of the coming judgment of God, followed by the age of Messianic blessing.

In Zeph. 3:2 - Concerning the conditions of sin in Jerusalem - there is this statement: "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."

I believe this verse describes what we might call THE ESSENCE OF REBELLION; this is what brought all the punishment and wrath from God. This is the rebellion and disobedience that ruined a whole nation. And this is the very thing that can destroy us - individually; congregationally and nationally.

There Are Four Things Here:

"She has not obeyed His voice."
I don't know what to make of this, except to say: THIS IS SIMPLY DISOBEDIENCE. God had spoken. Through His law, given by Moses; through the fathers and prophets - Instructions, exhortations, warnings and reminders; God had spoken. But at this time in Judah's history, Zephaniah states, they had not obeyed His voice. Shortly after Zephaniah, Jeremiah would say to these same people: "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Cursed is the man who does not obey the words of this covenant which I commanded your fathers in the day I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, "Obey My voice, and do according to all that I command you; so shall you be My people, and I will be your God,' (Jer. 11:3,4, NKJV). I know, this sounds almost so simple, you shouldn't have to say it. But the Bible tells us over and over that DISOBEDIENCE BRINGS DISASTER. On a personal level; in a local church; in marriages and families, and in society at large: if we ignore God's Word; if we just do not obey Him, we invite disaster! And this is one of the charges leveled against the rebellious city of  Jerusalem. What is the message of the Bible ...

In Ex. 19:5 - "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine."

In Deut. 6:24,25 - "And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us."

Likewise, in Rev. 14:12 - "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Each of us just need to decide, "I will obey the Lord." In the absence of that kind of commitment, we hurt ourselves and displease the Lord.

"She has not received correction."
All of us will have to say that we have made mistakes, and it might even be good for us to use stronger language: We have sinned; we have fallen short of the glory of God! After an admission of guilt or sin, the next question is: What will we do about it? Will we say we are sorry; will we do all we can to admit guilt and make amends and seek pardon. And, will we accept or receive correction? Before the sin, during the sin and afterwards - this is relevant. It might be said: it is one thing to make a mistake or transgress; it is another to refuse any correction. Zephaniah told the people of Jerusalem: you have not only disobeyed; you have not accepted correction! "She has not obeyed His voice. And - She has not received correction!"

Isaiah made the same observation about the people of Judah in his day. He said, in essence: "You people have sinned and sinned and sinned ... and because of that sin - YOU ARE HURT; YOU ARE WOUNDED ... YOU'VE BEEN BEATEN ... YET, YOU CONTINUE TO SIN!!!"

Here's what he said, in Isa. 1:2-9...

"Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: 'I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.' Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why should you be beaten any more? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness -- only wounds and bruises and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. The Daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a field of melons, like a city under siege. Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah."

Isn't it astounding how people can sin, hurt themselves; rebel and suffer the consequences, and yet, THEY DON'T SEEM TO GET THE MESSAGE. They are the walking wounded of their own sinful choices; they are bleeding, hurting and suffering because of their own wrong choices. Yet they continue to make those same choices.

"She obeys no one, she accepts no correction."
This is what the prophet said about Jerusalem. This is the essence of rebellion - we should study, examine ourselves and determine to avoid these destructive attitudes.

"She has not trusted in the Lord."
Now this doesn't say - they didn't trust in anybody or anything; this says: "she has not trusted in the Lord." When the prophets identified sin, and the unbelief behind sin; when they exposed this lack of trust in Jehovah, they demonstrated how the people turned from confidence in God, to confidence in man!!

In Isaiah 31 - the people of Judah were NOT TRUSTING IN GOD ... they were trusting in their own weapons and tools of war; and they were making deals with Egypt. In Jeremiah 17 - the sin of Judah was written down, and made known, and in verse 5: "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord." Over and over it is apparent: when people stop believing in God, they do not stop believing ... they place their confidence in man!

Zephaniah exposes their lack of trust in the Lord here in our text, and this lack of trust was at the root of their apostasy. This aspect of rebellion caused the writer of Hebrews to say to us --- "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.' For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief."

Notice the problem; the origin of rebellion and apostasy -- it says here, "because of unbelief." It behooves us to read and study the Word of God, and let our faith develop and express itself in obedience. True faith always discovers its existence in obedience.

Zephaniah gives us this picture of rebellion: "She heeded no voice ... She accepted no instruction ... She did not trust in the Lord," and ... "She has not drawn near to her God."

Having renounced faith in Jehovah, she had scarcely maintained the pretense of observing His worship. They had not drawn near to Him ... in their hearts ... in their words ... in their fellowship ... in their worship and in their lives . THERE WAS DISTANCE FROM GOD, NOT NEARNESS TO HIM. When we let the devil prompt a rebellious spirit in us - this is the result; this is what the devil wants; he wants us to move away from God! This movement away from God may begin in very small steps but it has very big results!

At first - we may deny we are moving away from Him; we may even defend ourselves and get very upset when someone approaches us with a warning. But the devil - in very small steps - wants to move us away from God! WE HAVE TO BE VERY ALERT ... AND WE CANNOT LET OUR GUARD DOWN ... the devil wants to move us slowly away from God.

Here is God's guiding hand reaching out to us; He loves us and wants to help us and lead us and save us; and we are moving in the other direction ---> REBELLION: "She has not drawn near to her God."

And we cannot look at this - without remembering what's written by James - in Jas. 4:7-10 ...

"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." (Jas. 4:7-10, NKJV).

Zeph. 3:2 states THE ESSENCE OF REBELLION: "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." I ought not to study this without asking: COULD IT HAPPEN TO ME? Could it happen to you? Could it happen to us? "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."

 By Warren E. Berkley 
 From Expository Files 3.8; August 1996