At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they have suffered shame.
This verse caught ahold of me a few days back. It took me awhile to figure out exactly why. I mean, this verse is right smack dab in the middle of some great verses yet it stood out. It even gets overshadowed for many people by what is said two verses previous to this one. However, a portion of the third chapter of Zephaniah deals with a common theme. Verses 9-20 all point to a time where the lives of people will be rewritten. A time when all the upside down things of this world will be flipped on its head and all will be right again.
When God makes promises to us, there is usually a present and future reality connected to them. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to think of one that doesn’t…The promise of Zephaniah 3:19 is no different. This little gem contains a wealth of good hope for anyone who reads it.
Three different labels are placed on the recipients of this promise. Each one is given something both now and in the future.
It took me awhile to figure out why I connected to this verse so much because I didn’t see myself as oppressed, lame, or as an exile. It was a beautiful and powerful verse all the same but I sensed that there was more for me, and for us then just the beauty of it all. After a few days of reflection here is what I came up with and want to share with you all.
#1-As long as we live in this world we are going to experience oppression. All we have to do is take a look at the news or do a serious inventory of our lives and we’ll see oppression. Granted, this happens at various levels. All of humanity is oppressed by the same thing: SIN. It has imprisoned many to addictive behaviors, depressive emotions, physical chains, and acts of unspeakable horror.
#2-As long as we live in these bodies we are indeed, lame. Generally that term is reserved for someone with a physical handicap. When we take a long and honest look however, we have to admit that we are all broken in some way and none of us are physically or mentally perfect. Two of the best words to define perfection would have to be PURE and HOLY. No person in the world has ever met those marks other than One. That doesn’t mean we all have an excuse to remain impure or ever celebrate sinfulness or brokenness but that we all recognize our need and how we miss the mark of a perfect God.
#3-We are exiles on earth. For this last notion, we have to consider a reality beyond what we see everyday. This world was never meant to be a permanent home for us. As a created being, we are all exiles on planet earth. I’m not speaking of being sci-fi aliens but we are more like people on a mission trip. When someone goes on a mission trip it is with purpose. Notice, I didn’t say we are on vacation. Big difference. Not all of us have the same future home though and that is evident by what mission we make our lives about.
The promise that God made in verse 19 was to remedy all of these situations. Let me explain:
#1-“I will deal with all who oppress you…” God wrapped Himself in human form (known as Jesus) and died on a cross to pay our sin debt and break the power of sin over us. (read Romans 5-8). While bad things still happen, we can be free from our own sin that causes pain for others and ourselves. One day God will completely wipe the earth clean of sin.
#2-“I will rescue the lame…” The perfect and sinless life Jesus lived was not only a way to teach us but also so that His perfection can be attributed to those who put their faith in Him. We become new creations spiritually in Christ which means we have His Spirit to lead us in a life that is more pure and holy and we have his righteousness to cover us as we grow and become more like Christ. It doesn’t mean we become perfect. We will still have to battle in these broken bodies and a broken world but we will have Someone to strengthen us and walk with us through the fight so we can overcome.
#3-“I will gather the exiles…” One day God will call His children home or Jesus will return for them. We will go to where we are meant to live forever. Those who love God will go home to be with Him. Those who reject God, will unfortunately go to the place they have chosen and be eternally separated from God and His goodness. God’s hope is that you choose Him because He chose you before He made you.
The Gospel message is throughout the entire bible. Zephaniah was written hundreds of years before God walked among us as Jesus Christ. Even so, God was reaching down to us and giving us amazing promises. Zephaniah 3:19 can help us view this life in a more realistic way. We can see the hurt of all those around us and be driven to compassion. We can point them to Jesus who is the only one who can break their oppression and heal their pain. We can also stop looking at the physically or mentally lame as being any different from the rest of us. We are all in the same boat…all broken and imperfect and we have to get over ourselves and never think of ourselves as being better than anyone else. We can stop celebrating things that God calls unholy and instead, take His free gift of healing and renewal and stand for truth. Without that, the world falls deeper into oppression and brokenness. Finally, we can view our time that we’ve been given as a gift. Time to be used with purpose and that purpose is not a selfish one. No one goes on a mission trip to be served. If they did, how wretched would they be? We are here to serve, to love, and to glorify God. Everything else is a waste of time and breath.
If God has rewritten your story than praise Him! If not, He has a pen in hand wanting to rewrite your story. That pen is Jesus Christ and He writes into people’s story, healing, freedom, righteousness, and hope. Who better to have rewrite your story than the Author of all of life Himself.
I hope this brings you hope and encouragement because God has always wanted to rewrite the stories of hurting lives. God bless!