—The Dark Side Of God's Love—
By David J. Stewart
I love the Book of Zephaniah. It's just three Chapters in length, yet the message is great and powerful. Moreover, the message of Zephaniah is applicable today. Zephaniah practically gives the address of the United States. The theme of Zephaniah is “The Day of the Lord.” Zephaniah sets forth the dark side of the love of God. The love of God is difficult to grasp while reading the Book of Zephaniah, which begins with a horrifying message of God's judgment. In Zephaniah we see that the Day of the Lord begins at night...
Zephaniah 1:1-2, “The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah. I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD.”
Zephaniah 1:17, “And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.”
God in His love will judge men in EXTREME ways, using extreme surgery, but He does it because He loves us. I love the Book of Zephaniah because it teaches us that things aren't always as they appear, and God's love shines through the darkest of circumstances in life.
One of my favorite preachers is J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988). “May I say” (one of Pastor McGee's favorite intro lines) that Dr. McGee was a wonderful Bible scholar who influenced the world for God. I used to listen to Pastor McGee on the way to work at 10:45 at night between 1993 and 2000. What a blessing! I had no idea that he went on to be with the Lord in 1988. Here is Dr. Vernon McGee explaining the Book of Zephaniah in it's entirety. After listening to Dr. McGee's knowledge and candor as he expounded the Book of Zephaniah, I have written this webpage to share with other what I have learned. I encourage everyone to go to ThruTheBible.org and listen to all of Brother McGee's Bible studies and sermons.
“The Day of the Lord” appears 7-times in Zephaniah. Obadiah and Joel were the first of the writing prophets to use the phrase. Zephaniah uses the phrase more than anyone. Here it has a particular application to the Great Tribulation. The Day Of The Lord includes the Millennial kingdom. The Day Of The Lord is presented in Zephaniah as being dark instead of light, but it is both. The Bible concludes mankind as being destined for destruction and misery...
Romans 3:16, “Destruction and misery are in their ways.”
Why God loves mankind is beyond the scope of human reasoning, but praise God with a thousand tongues that He does!!!
Consider that God wrote the gospel in white letters against the black background of man's sin. Zephaniah presents the darkside of God's love—the shepherd who breaks the wandering lamb's leg and then lovingly nourishes it back to health so that it won't wander anymore. Praise God, for He is good in all situations.
Charles Spurgeon once saw a sign in a farmer's field on a weathervane that read, “God is love.” Spurgeon asked the man,
“Do you mean to say that God's love is as unpredictable as the wind?” “No,” the farmer replied, “It means that no matter which way the wind blows, God is love.”
Zephaniah is a Florida hurricane, a Texas tornado, a Mississippi river flood, a Minnesota snow storm and a California earthquake all rolled together. You'd think from reading Zephaniah that God hates His people; and He hates mankind in general; that He's vindictive and cruel; that He's brutal and unfeeling, and unmoved. Yet, we learn from Zephaniah that even in judgment God is still love.
What God Hath Promised
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
–Annie Johnson Flint
One of the Scriptures that particularly struck me is Zephaniah 1:12, “And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.” I love Brother McGee's commentary on this Scripture. Like today, people during Zephaniah's time were saying that it doesn't matter what men do, because God doesn't do anything either way.
The final curtain of the human race is coming down upon the world. We're going to find out in eternity that what we endured down here was actually a blessing in disguise. God knows what He is doing. Whereas oftentimes it appears as if God doesn't care, He always does. 1st Peter 5:7 says that God cares. To doubt God's love and concern is a lack of faith in the Scriptures.
Hebrews 12:6-7, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”
John 15:2, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” May I say to you, we must remember that the Father reaches into your life and mine and prunes out that which is not fruit bearing, and it hurts. But the the husbandman is never so close to the branch than when he is trimming it. The Father is never closer to you my friend than when He's reaching in and taking out of your heart and life the things that offend. Job 5:17, “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty.”
Is there no other way, Oh God,
Except through sorrow, pain and loss?
To stamp Christ's likeness on my soul,
No other way except the cross?
And then a voice stills all my soul,
That stilled the waves of Galilee,
Cans't thou not bear the furnace
If midst the flames I walk with thee?
I bore the cross, I know its weight,
I drank the cup I hold for thee.
Cans't thou not follow where I lead?
I'll give thee strength, lean hard on Me.
–Pastor J. Vernon McGee
The Book of Zephaniah is all about the darkside of God's love. In America today, God's love has been focused upon so much that it has become a weakness in our churches. God's judgment is equated with hatred, but it should be equated with god's love. Zephaniah demonstrates “God's Tough Love.”
By Dr. J. Vernon McGee © Thru the Bible Radio Network, www.ttb.org