Advent Midweek 3 LSB #’s 348, 354, 338 (tune 826)
Text – Zephaniah 3:15
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.
The King Will Have His Day
We often talk about good days & bad days, & life seems to be full of some of each. If we have a bad day, we look forward to that day when things will be good. We might even say, “We’ll have a better day.” Or “I want my day in court” with the idea that truth & justice will then prevail.”
Of course, our measures & means of evaluation are also affected by our own definition of what is good or bad. Sometimes what we thought is bad is not so bad, or we may learn that it is even good. Conversely, what we may think is good can so often turn out to be bad.
Kings, in the ancient world – & world leaders today – also have good days & bad days. They don’t like to talk about bad days, & they certainly don’t like their people – or their enemies – to hear about anything bad. As sinful creatures we have a very selfish & self-serving way of measuring results. We want things to be good, or at least to appear that we are good.
Inside, we know it just isn’t true. How many times do we sense that others (& yes, we ourselves) are putting up a good front? Maybe we’re hiding our problems or internalizing our sadness, but we’d rather talk about good days than have to deal with the bad ones.
The OT prophets also talked about good days & bad, but they had a much deeper understanding of the realities of life. They measured & evaluated by something other than human wants & wishes, needs & notions. They understood reality – past, present & future – from the perspective & vantage point of God Himself, who makes all of our days.
One of the biggest problems the prophets encountered was the predisposition of the
people to get the good days & the bad ones mixed up & flipped around. Isaiah gets to the heart of this when he says “you call evil good & good evil, darkness light & light darkness, bitter sweet & sweet bitter. (Isaiah 5:20 ESV) Like Eve eating the forbidden fruit, we pick what looks good, but far too often it’s not good for us at all.
In the days of Zephaniah, part of the problem was the people thought God actually owed them the good stuff they wanted. They were the people of God, after all. They assumed it was their privilege to have things their way. Since God was the strong arm of salvation & deliverance, they figured He would save & deliver them no matter what.
The “day of the Lord” was a phrase that talked about God’s great day. The people knew it to be a day of salvation. But God’s prophets (those “preachers” of the OT) had a way of turning this talk of the day on its head. Amos, for example, called out:
“Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness & not light, as if a man fled from a lion, & a bear met him, or went into the house & leaned his hand against the wall & a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness & not light…?” (5:18-20 ESV)
The prophet Malachi gives a similar taste of how the truth of God can turn us upside down, when he tells the people who were crying out for justice that when the king comes to bring justice, they’ll get justice all right – & no one can endure the day of His coming.
Tonight, in the text from Zephaniah, we hear another prophet who speaks of the day of the Lord. Listen to his earlier words in chapter 1:
“The great day of the Lord is near, near & hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress & anguish, a day of ruin & devastation, a day of darkness & gloom, a day of clouds & thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast & battle cry against the fortified cities & against the lofty battlements. I will bring distress on mankind so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord...” (1:14-17 ESV)
This does not sound like a good day, but here’s the twist. God’s wrath must come. God comes as king to make things right, not to pander to our definitions of good & bad, light & darkness. In the end, if we have sinned & fallen short of the glory & goodness of God, then every day, & especially our last day, our judgment day, will be a day of darkness & distress.
But God has a way of showing us, first, that all our days – or any day lived apart from His light – is a day of darkness. What’s more, in that great reversal, God has a way of showing us through faith that all those bad days have been made into good days.
This is because of the one great day, a day that should be called the “baddest” day of all, the day on which the innocent Son of God, our lord & king, was put to death, not for anything He had done but for the sins of all the world.
What seemed to be a day of the greatest injustice turned out to be the day that the king finally got justice done. He made things right. And what do we call this “bad day”?
We call it GOOD Friday! Our heavenly Father has turned the bad day into good, & the darkness of that day we can now claim as light, the glorious light of Easter morn: He is risen, & ascended. He lives & reigns to all eternity.
Dear friends in Christ, gathered on this 3rd Wednesday of Advent, in these busy days of preparing for the holidays, we are in the midst of our own good & bad days. Every day is a day lived in the shadow of the darkness & the light of Good Friday & Easter morning.
Here, in the midst of Advent, in the light of God’s son, our lord, our king, we are already thinking ahead of our Lord’s passion, death, & resurrection, as we do every Sunday.
Last Wednesday the theme of Advent turned dark. Malachi reminded us that the king whom we are seeking will come – but with a twist. Although well announced, He will come suddenly & with a surprise. Those who were looking for justice will find judgment instead.
Those who were looking for light will find darkness.
Tonight, the prophet Zephaniah brings us to the end of the story – those having a dark day will see the light. In the midst of the dark deeds all around us, in the dark uncertainties of our world & our lives, even in the midst of the dark secrets that we keep hidden, out of sight & out of the light, God has a message of a very, very Good Day:
“Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion,... Rejoice & exult with all your heart... The Lord has taken away the judgments against you. The King of Israel is in your midst –
Right here, right now, in His word of grace & forgiveness, in His body & blood, given & shed for you for the forgiveness of your sin. On THIS day it is said to Jerusalem, (which includes you right now) “…Fear not, O Zion! Let not your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst – A mighty one who will save...” (Zephaniah 3:16-17 ESV)
Yes, the kings of the earth have their days, good days & bad ones. So do we. We all may wait to “have our day,” but this night, this very night, is our day indeed. It is the Lord’s Day, it is the Day of the Lord. The king has come & had His day; it was a bad day that turned out to be a Good Day, a Good Friday. God’s wrath is finished!
And because of Jesus’ day, He makes all our days His – His good days, for us! Amen.
Prepare the way before Him; prepare for Him the best. Cast out what would offend Him, this great, this heavenly guest. Make straight, make plain the way: the lowly valleys raising, the heights of pride abasing, His path all even lay. Prepare my heart, Lord Jesus; turn not from me aside, & help me to receive You this blessed Adventide. From stall & manger low come now to dwell within me; I’ll sing Your praises gladly & forth Your glory show. Amen. LSB 354:2, 4
Pastor Dean R. Poellet