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Bible Commentaries
Zephaniah 3

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

Verses 1-20

Chapter 3

The Remnant And The Lord In The Midst

The remark made in the notes on chapter 1, that we have here what answers largely to Philadelphia, is fully sustained in this last section. Here the mass are viewed in utter rejection of the truth, but the remnant are seen in weakness, yet holding fast the Word and the Name, while the Lord Himself is found “in the midst,” as He in the days of His flesh declared He ever would be where two or three were gathered together unto His name (Matthew 18:20).

It is Jerusalem, the most highly privileged of all cities, which is described in verse 1 as filthy and polluted. A fourfold indictment is drawn up in verse 2: “She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God!” Intensely solemn are these statements. Well may we search ourselves before Him who is called “He that is holy, He that is true,” that we may detect in our ways any departure answering to what is here charged against Jerusalem. Have we obeyed the voice? Have we received correction from the Word of God? Do we truly confide in the Lord, and draw near to our God? Serious questions are all these. May we answer in the fear of the Lord!

Verse 2 is collective. In verges 3 and 4 the various classes who should have been the leaders in the things of God are mentioned, and individually indicted. The princes were roaring lions, seeking only for prey; i. e., they sought their own profit, not the blessing of the flocks they should have shepherded. The judges were even worse-evening wolves, secretly devouring all they could obtain, while professing to administer justice. The prophets were triflers with holy things, handling the Word of God deceitfully, traitors to their trust. The priests, who should have been holy and undefiled, had polluted the very sanctuary itself with their uncleanness, and done violence to the law.

Thus, all had failed that God had established in responsibility. What then remained? Only this: “The just Lord is in the midst thereof; He will not do iniquity.” He remained “the faithful and true witness.” He, the Amen, was still the resource of every faithful heart, and in Him the heart of God could rest.

It is the manifestation of the Man of God’s pleasure when all else has been, humanly speaking, a disappointment. In the Millennium this will be seen in its fulness. It is to that time of blessing the passage applies. It is then that the words will be fulfilled: “Morning by morning doth He bring His judgment to light, He faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame” (ver. 5). Never will wickedness have risen to such a height as at the very time when the Lord descends to take the kingdom; but righteousness will then be firmly established, and morning by morning the wicked will be cut off. For centuries men have been warned of this, but then it will be actually carried into effect (vers. 6-8).

Then shall the confusion of Babel be undone, and the Lord will give to all peoples “a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve Him with one consent” (ver. 9). From all the lands of their scattering He will bring His redeemed earthly people home to Zion, purging out pride and haughtiness, and making them willing in the day of His power (vers. 10, 11).

The apostate portion of the nation of Judah will be destroyed in the time of Jacob’s trouble, and at the appearing of the Son of Man; but He says, “I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid” (vers. 12, 13). Thus are the faithful found in weakness and dependence, owned of the Lord, preserved in the midst of all the surrounding corruption, and made the nucleus of the kingdom when Gentile dominion and Jewish and Christian apostasy have alike been overthrown forever. It is the preserved virgin-company of Revelation 14:1-5, standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion when the glory is about to be displayed.

In the present time it is part of God’s ways to preserve likewise an afflicted and poor people who trust in His name. Such will be characterized by loving devotedness to Christ, by brotherly kindness, by integrity of heart, by the endeavor to maintain a conscience void of offence toward God and man, by holding fast the faithful Word, by not denying the name of the Lord, by consistent testimony to the world and the world-church for the absent One now rejected, by separation from evil, by following “righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure (or single) heart.” This is the “original ground of gathering.” This is Philadelphian position. This alone constitutes a true remnant company. Such a path can only be maintained in the energy of faith. Nature can form a confederacy of assemblies based on mutual acceptance of certain guiding principles, or the bowing to assembly-judgments; but this is not faith, and only results in the formation of a system as rigid and unscriptural as any of the sects of men. It does away with the individual exercise of conscience, and substitutes the voice of the church for the voice of God in His Word.

In the last part of our chapter the book comes to a fitting close (vers. 14-20) by setting forth the day of display, when the hitherto despised remnant will be enjoying the unalloyed favor of the Lord for whose name they had borne reproach in restored Jerusalem, with Himself in their midst. For us, faith appropriates this now, and enters into the enjoyment of it in spirit.

Zion is called upon to sing; Israel, to shout. The day of gladness and rejoicing has arrived for Jerusalem; for the Lord will then have taken away her judgments and cast out her enemy. He Himself, the glorious King of Israel (once crucified outside the gate, on a felon’s cross, beneath the title, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”), will then dwell in the midst of the restored city and people, and they shall not see evil any more.

This will be their joy and blessing throughout the Millennium. To Jerusalem it shall be said, “Fear thou not;” and to Zion, “Let not thy hands be slack.” Loving service will follow full deliverance from all her foes. Again it is stated, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty.” To Him salvation is ascribed. He will rejoice over them with joy and rest in His love, joying over them with singing. It will be “the time of the singing” spoken of in the Canticles (2:12), when all redeemed creation, heavenly and earthly, will resound with songs of praise and exultation.

Once more Israel will keep her solemn assemblies, and her griefs will be changed to gladness. All who have afflicted her will be undone, and she who was driven away in weakness will be re-gathered in power. In every land where the people of the wandering foot had been put to shame, they will become objects of praise and fame when the Lord Himself shall make them “a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord” (ver. 20).

Thus are we brought again to the end of the ways of God with Israel on the earth; who, whatever their failures, are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.

Their portion is earthly. Ours is heavenly. But both alike are to contribute to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, and both alike shall be vessels for the display of the matchless grace of our God throughout all the ages to come.

26 Malcham is generally identified with Milcom, or Molech, whose abominable worship, with its human sacrifices, the Israelites were warned against when they first entered the land, but whose vile service many were early led to adopt.

27 I have purposely written, “other-worldliness.” Mere unworldliness is not enough. To walk apart from this world might make a nun or a monk. To walk in the power of another world will make a true ambassador for Christ.

28 Only lately I heard of one self-complacently locating the special company of Christians to which he was particularly attached as follows: God had called out a remnant in these last days. Certain meetings formed the remnant. Divisions had come in. A few remained on “divine ground,” and “alone had the Lord’s table.” It was like a biscuit: pieces had been broken off here and there, “but we remain the middle of the biscuit!” Could anything be more wretchedly pretentious in such a day?

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Zephaniah 3". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/zephaniah-3.html. 1914.
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