Josiahs Need Zephaniahs

Scripture Focus: Zephaniah 3.1-5
1 Woe to the city of oppressors, 
rebellious and defiled! 
2 She obeys no one, 
she accepts no correction. 
She does not trust in the Lord, 
she does not draw near to her God. 
3 Her officials within her 
are roaring lions; 
her rulers are evening wolves, 
who leave nothing for the morning. 
4 Her prophets are unprincipled; 
they are treacherous people. 
Her priests profane the sanctuary 
and do violence to the law. 
5 The Lord within her is righteous; 
he does no wrong. 
Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, 
and every new day he does not fail, 
yet the unrighteous know no shame. 

Reflection: Josiahs Need Zephaniahs
By John Tillman

Zephaniah ministered during the early reign of child-king Josiah. Zephaniah and Josiah have a common relative. They each trace their heritage back to Hezekiah. 

Zephaniah’s writing condemned the established officials, political bureaucrats, the priesthood, and the prophets. These writings may have influenced Josiah when, eight years into his reign, the 16-year-old began to “seek the God of his father, David.” (2 Chronicles 34.3) 

Josiah had many faithful “fathers” to look back to, including Hezekiah, Uzziah, and Jehosaphat, as well as faithful “uncles” like Zephaniah. However, none were perfect. The biblical narrative highlights this.

The changes Josiah implemented were the most complete and remarkable revival in Judah’s history. Josiah is the last “good” leader Judah has before she falls. His reign was a bright flash of possibility before everything went dark.

We are often tempted to think of “the good old days” with an idealistic glow recalling the past in the best possible light. However, the history of any country, any city, or any individual, is a mixed bag. Nostalgia doesn’t do us any favors.

When Zephaniah called Jerusalem, “the city of oppressors” he wasn’t being overdramatic. Israel went from being oppressed to being liberated, to being oppressors themselves. God warned them from the start that the kings they demanded would become oppressors. (1 Samuel 8.6-19) The kings, beginning with Saul, proved God right, modeling themselves on other nations.

The leaders Zephaniah condemned wanted God to powerfully save them from Assyria. They wanted a revival of the economy and of their military power…they just weren’t willing to have a spiritual revival that required any level of sacrifice or repentance.

If we long to see youth, like Josiah, rise up to lead revival instead of abandoning faith, we need to be like Zephaniah, unafraid to boldly speak of, condemn, and repent of sin. There’s no use skirting the truth about individual, city-wide, or national sins. Sins hidden grow stronger. Sins denied become recurring. Sins defended become systemic. The next generation needs us to model condemning our past sins, confessing them, and being free. Josiahs need Zephaniahs.

We have a common heritage in a greater king than Hezekiah. We trace our righteousness not to ourselves or our past but to Jesus. He is the standard we should point to and the one true king we must teach future generations to serve and model themselves after.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. — Psalm 51.8

Today’s Readings
Zephaniah 3 (Listen – 3:38)
Mark 11 (Listen – 3:59)

Read more about He Rejoices Over Us
Zephaniah looks forward with joy to when Israel’s purpose would be fulfilled in God.

Read more about Learning from the Suffering
Many “deconstructors” are spurred into this process by suffering. Some experienced sexual abuse or abuse of power. Many witnessed the defense and covering up of these kinds of abuse.

He Rejoices Over Us — Love of Advent

Scripture Focus: Zephaniah 3.9-10
9 “Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, 
that all of them may call on the name of the Lord 
and serve him shoulder to shoulder. 
10 From beyond the rivers of Cush v 
my worshipers, my scattered people, 
will bring me offerings. 

Reflection: He Rejoices Over Us — Love of Advent
By John Tillman

Zephaniah looks forward with joy to when Israel’s purpose would be fulfilled in God. In the same way, we anticipate the day when our hearts will be remade into the image of God’s Son. It is the love of Christ that grows in us and matures us into his likeness. 

Jesus was born a babe, became a child, grew in stature and favor, and became a powerful man able to carry out his Father’s business. May his Holy Spirit so order our lives that we may follow his example. May our childlike faith grow in wisdom and stature, and may we blossom in the favor of God and man. May we, in every way, grow up into the worthy calling of Christ Jesus.

Let us pray that such would be, using an acrostic poem by Melissa Tillman, followed by a prayer based on Zephaniah’s words.

Unto Us
By Melissa Tillman

Unruly and Unruled. Unacceptable. Unclean.
Naked and ashamed. N’ere do wells. Needy Neglecting. Navigating blindly the Night and its
Terrors. Truth rejecting. Towering egos Torn asunder, Turned every one to 
Our Own way. Away from the Only One Holy. Orchestrator of your Own 

Usurpation, Unwilling that any should perish. Unto us is born a 

Savior! Sanctifier of our Souls!
We sing, O Sanctifier, and shout in anticipation of your coming!
Fill our hearts with rejoicing!
You have removed our punishment,
So remove our guilt, our shame, and our injuries to ourselves and others…

Our enemy, sin, defeated, our king, we turn to serve only you.
Let not our hands be idle or lazy but make music 
Of justice
Of mercy
Of humility
May they sing from our pores

May you delight in us.
May we feel your pleasure as you rejoice over us in singing…

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100.2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Zephaniah 3 (Listen – 3:38)
John 1 (Listen – 6:18)

This Weekend’s Readings
Haggai 1 (Listen – 2:39), John 2 (Listen – 3:02)
Haggai 2 (Listen – 3:49), John 3 (Listen – 4:41)

Read more about End of Year Giving and Supporting our work
We are thankful for our donors’ gifts because they contribute to improving the spiritual discipleship of readers around the globe.

Read more about God Changes—Guided Prayer
Make God changes, once-and-for-all changes, in our lives
Give us eyes that see our sin.
Give us ears that hear your voice.

He Raises Us — Love of Advent

Scripture Focus: Zephaniah 2.3
3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, 
you who do what he commands. 
Seek righteousness, seek humility; 
perhaps you will be sheltered 
on the day of the Lord’s anger. 

Luke 24.44-49
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49

Reflection: He Raises Us — Love of Advent
By John Tillman

Zephaniah calls tenderly, yet urgently, to those who are faithful in the land to respond to God while there is still time.

Seek righteousness. This is more than seeking our own good or simply doing good for ourselves. Any good that we do that does not also benefit our neighbor deserves not the name of “doing righteousness.

Seek humility. He is already calling to the humble in the land. This shows that humility is a constant seeking and lowering of one’s self and one never truly arrives at the bottom.

Perhaps you will be sheltered. In the family of believers there are many among us who know from experience that we may not always be shielded from all of life’s ailments, sicknesses, and hurts. Our dear Lord’s word that we would have trouble in this world is as equally true as his promise that he has overcome this world. His love is shown as much by his embrace when we are weeping as it is by blessings of laughter and joy.

Trouble is coming to this world. It is, after all, a world of darkness. How could it be otherwise? We made it so.

In our sinfulness, we wrested the world to our whims and wrecked it with our sins. Under Satan’s sway the world we cursed writhes in the evil darkness to which we subjugated it.

But no matter how low we have dragged the heights of God’s creation, he searches these low valleys for us.

No matter how deep in sin we sink our feet, or what bog’s stench hangs on us, or what fell parasites and diseases of the swamp cling to us, he reaches in. He wades deep. He dredges us up.

However low we are, he comes to raise us.
However vile we are, he comes to cleanse us.
However sickened we are, he comes to heal us.
However broken our body, he comes to make us whole.

Seek righteousness! Seek humility!
We may not all be sheltered from calamity, but we will all be raised!

Made like him, like him we rise…” (Christ the Lord is Risen Today — Charles Wesley)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us. — Psalm 67.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Zephaniah 2 (Listen – 2:44)
Luke 24 (Listen – 6:16)

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We need and pray for donors of all amounts. A donation does not have to be exceedingly large to make a large difference.

Read more about His Loving Presence :: Love of Advent
He is always the God who comes to us—not just during Advent.

He Invites Us — Love of Advent

Scripture Focus: Zephaniah 1.7
7 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. 

Luke 23.42-43
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 

Reflection: He Invites Us — Love of Advent
By John Tillman

Zephaniah begins with a shocking image of uncreation. In a mirror image of the creation order, God will wipe away first humans and beasts, then birds of the sky, then fish of the sea.

This unmade world will be scraped clean of humanity’s idols, like a canvas being scraped clean for a new painting. But like many other apocalyptic visions, there is room for poetic exaggeration. Zephaniah’s purpose for his entire book is a call to repentance. Not all humans will be wiped out, otherwise there would be no reason for Zephaniah to call them to repent.
Evil on the earth is very real. No religion deals with it like Christianity does. Most don’t deal with evil at all. Some would prefer God wink at evil and pretend it doesn’t exist. Other philosophies try to explain away evil as if it is just some alternative that is “good” for someone. Moral relativism has overtaken not only the world but many prominent religious figures who have recently embraced “ends justify the means” mentalities.

Christianity condemns all these empty and gutless ways of dealing with evil. Only Jesus faces evil directly and destroys it. All the violence and darkness will be ended. Anyone who clings to that violence, who refuses to abandon that darkness, will be swept away.

In Zephaniah, he remarks, “he has consecrated those he has invited,” and some commenters feel this means that the nations being invited are consecrated to be slaughtered for their rebellion. This may be true in the final great day that Zephaniah is writing of, but on another day, Jesus invited the repentant thief…and on a day after that, he invited me…and he invited you.

The Advent we celebrate in these weeks is the gentle, loving call to be ready. Be ready for his coming. We are invited. Respond.

May we turn to him now in joy.
May we repent of the darkness we cling to.
May we be the light of the world wherever we are and may we be burning, glowing embers of invitation to the world to join us in the light.
For I tell you truly, they can be with us in paradise.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Zephaniah 1 (Listen – 3:09)
Luke 23 (Listen – 6:39)

Read more about End of Year Giving and Supporting our work
Whether or not you choose to donate and support us, please be in prayer for our donors that they will give freely, without compulsion.

Read more about Unto Us, He Comes — Hope of Advent
The movements of the heavens tell a Heavenly story in which Christ comes in at our darkest point to turn the world back to the light.

Love in His Name :: Love of Advent

John 1.1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

1 John 4.16
God is love.

Reflection: Love in His Name :: Love of Advent
By John Tillman

Before there was anything, there was Christ. This poem from Matt Tullos (an introduction to his 39 Words writings) echoes John’s first chapter and reminds us that in Advent, Jesus enters a world rightly his, a world he lovingly created, and a world he now prepares, lovingly, to save.

By Matt Tullos

Before there was anything there was a Name
Before seas and land, before dust was formed into flesh
Before Babel’s broken tower. Before the ark was set in place
Before there was anything
Before prophet, priest or king
There was a Name.
No other name in history
could banish demons, calm the sea
it echoes through eternity
chains are broken, souls set free
by His Great Name!
His name birthed stars and pinned them in the sky
His name brought angels to Bethlehem
The greatest and the least came
To see the One True Name
And when we speak His Name all heavenly hosts revere.
It reaches past our weakness and our fragile, thin veneer.
It’s a name above every name- spoken in each race and tongue.
There is power and blessing
Perfection and peace.
There’s understanding!
Even when we feel pain
There’s healing, faith and redemption,
At the mention of His name.
And it doesn’t matter the size of your burden
The scale of your mountain
The weariness of your journey.
In that Name there is hope and joy and rest
In his Name we are blest.
His Name is listening for the echo of worshipers.
In the midst of this earthly mess
His Name redeems
The all-sufficient king
The warrior of righteousness
Over every living thing
And no matter how deep the hurt
Or the chains that have bound you for years
We are free! All those things that drive us insane
Are stepping stones to holiness with the power of that Name.
What is that name that changes us?
Who is the fourth person in the furnace
The One who closed the mouths of lions
Who crushed the head of the accuser
And exiled demons from the weak.
And opened muted mouths to speak.
What is that Name?
What is the greatest name we’ll ever say
Who remains victorious to this day?
Who is this one greater than the grave?
Who lived and died to save?
Who conquered death and walked away
With scars of crimson stain
The one who bears the mark
Jesus is His Great NAME!

It is John who names Christ, logos, “the Word,” and John later who identifies that word—God is love.

What are we waiting for? “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
“Love in his name,” is both what we receive and what we must do.

Prayer: The Greeting
Deliver me, O Lord, by your hand from those people whose portion in life is this world  — Psalm 17:14

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zephaniah 3 (Listen – 3:38)
John 1 (Listen – 6:18)

Additional Reading
Read More from Matt Tullos about Purpose
No one else was less deserving of Friday. But in a transcendent, eternal sense there was no one else in the history of the universe qualified for Friday.

Read More about Breath, Reconsidered
We are Adam’s first breath,
His first breath, re-breathed.


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