Monday, December 19, 2011

December 19 - The Bitter Pill

December 19, 2011

Scripture Reading:
Zephaniah 1:1-3:20; Revelation 10:1-11;
Psalm 138:1-8; Proverbs 30:11-14

Life, at best, is bittersweet. ~Jack Kirby

Zephaniah 1:1-3:20

Sometimes when you are sick, the doctor prescribes a bitter pill that you must swallow in order to cure the illness. Today Zephaniah prophesies about the bitter pill of judgment that God will make the whole world swallow during the times of the Great Tribulation on earth.  This bitter pill of judgment is designed to heal the earth of its prideful rebellion against God. Zephaniah's words are harsh. There is no candy coating of what will occur. Our readings in the book of Revelation back up what Zephaniah hears from the Lord.

Chapter 1- Judgment of Judah and Jerusalem

This chapter begins with God declaring that His judgment on earth will sweep away both people and animals. Birds and fish will die and God will reduce the wicked to a pile of rubble. The Lord is pointing to a future terrible time on the earth. Just as Noah's flood destroyed both the land, animals, and people, the coming judgment of the earth will destroy the same by fire.

We see that God is going to judge Israel in this time, but God's judgment will not exclude the Gentile nations of the earth. Their cup of judgment also runneth over. God declares that the earth will stand in silence as the awesome day of the Lord's judgment comes. Judah and Jerusalem's demise is detailed as God promises to punish them for worshiping Baal and other false gods. Their indifference to God will lead to their captivity. This is a shadow of things to come. The nation of Israel and their captivity is an illustration of the judgment that will come upon the whole earth.

Chapter 2- Judgment of the Earth and all Nations

God calls for people to walk humbly and do what is right. It is a call to repentance and turning to God before His awful judgment comes to the earth.

In this future day Jerusalem's enemies, who were used by God to punish Israel, will finally get their due punishment. They will receive the wages of their pride. The scoffing at God's people will come back to bite them. Great cities will become pasture lands for animals.  Piles of rubble will block the way. Humble people from nations around the world will worship the Lord, each in their own land.

Chapter 3- All Judgments Gone- God's Kingdom Established

The Lord is dismayed at how rebellious the leaders and people of Jerusalem are. The Lord declares that there will be a day when He will gather together the kingdoms of the earth and pour out His fiercest anger and fury on them. All the earth will be devoured by the fire of His jealousy. What kind of jealousy does the Lord have? It is a jealousy for the creatures that He has created. It is a jealousy for their love and affection, for their reverence and awe. He is the Creator. Where is their appreciation?  The nations are entitled little brats.  He is tired of it. 

God, Himself, must purify the lips of everyone so that they can worship Him. He will gather the scattered Israelites who are left alive to worship Him. The Great Tribulation is designed to remove the proud and arrogant people from the earth. Those who are left will be lowly and humble, for it is these people who have put their trust in the Lord. There will be Israelites and Gentiles in this group, but Zephaniah is writing to Israel.

Finally, these Israelites will treat each other properly and live peacefully. The Lord will remove His hand of judgment during this millennial reign and will disperse the armies of Israel's enemies. The Lord will be the King of Israel in that day. He will live among them. At last, Israel's troubles will be over. From the darkness of the Great Tribulation will spring forth the light of the millennial reign of Jesus Christ on earth. Eden will be restored.

He is a mighty savior.  He will rejoice over us with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all of our fears. He will exult over us by singing a happy song. God will give Israel a new name of distinction among all the nations of the earth.  The nations will praise Israel as God restores their fortunes. God has spoken!

My guess is that you are beginning to see a pattern here as we are closing out our reading of the Bible this year. God's story is rolling towards its conclusion.  He will reign on earth.  He will preserve a remnant from Israel.  He will judge the nations, destroying most, and yet, many will be saved.  Paradise will be restored.

The bitter pill is that God is glorified in His judgment of the proud and wicked, just as He is glorified in His mercy to humble people of faith.

How do you like this story?  Is it a bitter pill to swallow or a sweet morsel to digest?

Revelation 10:11

We have another interlude before the seventh trumpet is blown.  When the seven seals were being broken there was an interlude between the sixth and seventh seal where we met the Great Tribulation saints on earth who will endure the Tribulation.

In this chapter, we meet an impressive angel of God who comes down from heaven and is straddling the earth.  This angel is surrounded by clouds and a rainbow crowns his head.  What a sight! He is holding a small scroll that is unrolled. When he shouts, seven thunders respond. John prepares to write down what the seven thunders said, but he is commanded to not reveal the secret.

The angel lifts his hand to the heavens and swears by the Creator of the universe that God will no longer wait. When the seventh trumpet is blown, God's mysterious plan will be revealed and fulfilled.  Just as God told His prophets in advance, it will come to pass. John is told to take the unrolled scroll and eat it. It will taste sweet at first, but then it will become sour in his stomach.  So John takes it and eats it. The angel tells John that he must prophesy again about many people, nations, languages, and kings.

In other words, the story is going to get more detailed.  John is about to reveal more mysteries.  As we "eat" the Word of God, we learn the sweet and bitter story of this world.

Do you partake of God's Word and find yourself sustained by His Truth? Is this a bittersweet story to you? Do you sense the longing, tragedy, and glory of God's Story?

Psalm 138:1-8

Think about how this psalm summarizes what we have been reading.

Proverbs 30:11-14

This is a proverb about the proud.

What did you see today?  Are your eyes being opened?


Jubilee Gal
Kathy Fullerton

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