Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for January 8

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By Tyshawn Gardner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies, Samford University

Joy in Place of Fear

Zephaniah 3:9–20

God will remove fear from those who humble themselves before Him. (9–13)

Zephaniah promises stability and hope for the humble. Humility is a trait many followers of Christ fail to embrace.

There is an important lesson believers can learn from small football players who play the cornerback position. These very fast but often small defensive players are tasked with tackling running backs and tight ends much larger than they are.

The cornerback must get low in order to bring down those much larger opponents. The defensive back does not have to fear being run over by the much larger receiver, running back or tight end because he is able to get low.

Humility means getting low. Much like the small but courageous defensive back, believers who humble themselves can bring down problems and circumstances that are too big to handle on our own. When we get low and humble ourselves before God, we won’t be destroyed.

Humility is not only getting low, however. It is also the acknowledgement of our limitations while also accepting our responsibility. God will remove fear from those who humble themselves before Him.

Zephaniah says, “on that day” we will face a larger opponent than we have ever seen. He is speaking ahead to the last days.

If we have lived humbly before God, we won’t have to fear when the Lord returns. Earlier, Zephaniah issues a word of rebuke to the rebellious and defiled, those who oppress the weak and marginalized (v. 1). He also issues this rebuke to those who refuse to humble themselves by not “accepting correction” (v. 2). However, he gives a word of assurance to the humble (v. 12).

God’s presence delivers His people through all harm. (14–17)

The Lord is mighty and sovereign. Zephaniah encourages the people to rejoice in and praise the reality of His power and presence. Because the Lord is mighty to save and because His presence is always with His people, we should never fear potential harm. Zephaniah’s words, “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst,” points ahead to the assurance Jesus gives His followers in Matthew 28:20, when He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Because of the ever-abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, believers are reminded that no matter the foe or enemy, God’s presence will deliver His people through all harm.

Just as Zephaniah encouraged Judah, the word of God brings us peace when we are reminded we too are His people. He longs to protect and deliver us from all harm.

We will experience eternal restoration in God’s kingdom. (18–20)

Zephaniah’s word came to Judah centuries before Christ, yet his words are prophetic to us. There will come a day when we will no longer have to fear any potential threats or enemies. We will experience eternal restoration.

Both Israel and Judah had experienced the destruction of their kingdoms. The Assyrians destroyed Israel and conquered God’s people in 722 B.C. In 586 B.C., the Babylonians conquered Judah.

Although God promises a return to their homeland, complete and final restoration has not taken place. Though the Babylonians and the Assyrians have been defeated, God’s people still yearn and wait for the final restoration and redemption of all things.

As believers in Christ, we know we will experience eternal restoration in God’s kingdom at the return of Christ, the Messiah and Lord. We do not have to fear that sin, pagan nations, evil people or oppressive systems will have the last say. God will redeem and restore all those who have faith in Him.