August 14

I want you to fear and respect me. Zephaniah 3:7

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Matthew 4:17

Fear of the Lord – now that sounds like we might have a very scary God. One who is waiting with a lightning bolt in hand to zap us if we stray from the right path. Luckily for us that is not what is meant by God as Zephaniah writes. The word that comes after fear is “respect.”  Our Fear of the Lord is a combination of awe and respect for God’s power and love for us.  Proverbs has many helpful verses that talk about the fear of the Lord” “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (9:7)” He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.” (14:26). Or, “to fear the Lord is to hate evil. (8:13) We also have the phrase referring to a “God-fearing man or woman.” These are not people that tremble in fear, but rather those that live paying attention to God’s commandments. 

Zephaniah addressed those in Jerusalem – especially mentioning the officials, rulers, priests and prophets. They have not been conducting themselves as they should and as the responsibilities of their office demands. For the first verses of Zephaniah chapter 3 they h ear all about this. Then what does God want from them? Is it over and they will just be cut off? Well, no, they do get yet another chance. God asks for their fear and respect. Or in another translation “Surely you will fear me and accept correction!” Then the city will not be cut off, and God will withhold punishments. This fear leads to knowledge of the commandments, of what the people should be doing. In response they should accept correction and try to follow the law. Of course, no one can follow the law properly, not even for a short period of time.

Although it seems they continue right on being disobedient, God is still there waiting for them to pay attention. Later in chapter 3, verse 17 Zephaniah says “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you.” And He does! As we read in Matthew at the beginning of Jesus ministry we read that we are to repent. Why? Because, the kingdom of heaven has come near and is freely available to all through Jesus Christ. We just need to repent from our disobedience and try to do better with God’s help. This can be repeated – as we again sin, ask for and receive forgiveness.  God is patient with us, loves us, and wants everyone to know the great Good News about salvation through His Son.

Forgiving God, thank you for sending your only Son to save e us from what we truly deserve. Remind us each day that our salvation is a gift and nothing of my own doing. Break our hearts with your grace and aid us in surrendering our desire to be independent of you. Take us onward as we serve You and remind us that all we do is for you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Chris Gabel