The King Will Have His Day
Topic: Biblical Verse: Zephaniah 3:14–3:20
The Third Sunday in Advent
December 12-13, 2015
“The King Will Have His Day”
When my girls were younger, one of the books we enjoyed reading together was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judy Viorst. Published more than forty years ago in 1972, the book chronicles a really bad day in the life of a young boy named Alexander. Everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong for him on this particular day: he gets stuck sitting in the middle of the back seat in the car on the way to school, he doesn’t get a dessert in his lunch like his friends, he gets in trouble for fighting with his brothers while shoe shopping, he has to wear his railroad pajamas to bed and he hates them, the cat doesn’t want to sleep in his bed. It’s a book that children can identify with because everyone, even the youngest among us, have bad days. The book puts into words what children are experiencing and feeling, letting them know that days like this can and do happen. The real issue, as Alexander finds out, is what we do with these days when they happen. This leads us into today’s message as we continue our Advent preaching series on the appointed Old Testament lessons, entitled “The King is Coming!” On this Third Sunday in Advent, the message is based on the words from the prophet Zephaniah under the theme “The King Will Have His Day.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Zephaniah is one of the prophets that we may not be too familiar with, so let’s set all of this in context. There are only three chapters in this short book, and in the opening verse Zephaniah’s prophetic ministry is clearly dated as being “in the days of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah” (Zephaniah 1:1). We know that these dates of Josiah’s reign were from 640-609 B.C., so it is in this time period that “the word of the Lord came to Zephaniah” (Zephaniah 1:1). Chapters one and two, and the first part of chapter three, all focus on God’s coming judgment on Judah and Jerusalem, his chosen people. Josiah is one of the very few kings of Judah who received unqualified praise (2 Chronicles 34:1-7), especially for his religious reforms that removed foreign idols and worship practices from the kingdom, so that the people were drawn back into a living relationship with the Lord God. These reforms began to be carried out ca. 622 B.C., so Zephaniah’s words of judgment against Judah and Jerusalem would seem to pre-date the reforms. But God’s judgment is not limited to his own chosen people, but extends to all nations. It’s important to understand that before the words of hope and restoration that we have in today’s Old Testament lesson are convicting and harsh words of judgment – God’s judgment – against the sins of the people. Can it be any different for us today? The sweet words of comfort in the Gospel – the forgiveness of sins and salvation in our King Jesus Christ – must be preceded by the hammer of God’s judgment against our sin. The King will have his day!
Like young Alexander who had such a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” we can get confused about what constitutes a good day versus a bad day. In truth, much of what made Alexander’s day so awful was his own doing. And this was Zephaniah’s point with the people of his day! They understood the promised “day of the Lord” as a day of salvation, and that God would save and deliver them no matter what. Truth be told, their confidence was in themselves, and not in God. They wanted the salvation and the deliverance without the repentance. According to Zephaniah, the people’s confidence in that day of the Lord would be turned upside-down! Because of their stubborn refusal to repent and turn to the Lord, that day would be one of “distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry” (Zephaniah 1:15-16). And isn’t this often how it is with us today? We want that salvation and deliverance, but on our terms! We find it hard to admit that “we have sinned in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done and by what we have left undone.” And so left to ourselves, we are without hope and subject to God’s righteous anger and his judgement. The King will have his day!
God comes as King to do what must be done, not to pander to our definitions of what we say is good and what is bad; what we say is true and what is false. God has a way of showing that each and every day lived apart from him is a day of distress and anguish; a day of ruin and devastation; a day of darkness and gloom. What are we to do? Where are we to turn? Here is our only hope: God has a way – his one and only way – of transforming even our most awful and horrendous day into a day of grace and blessing. This is because of the one great day, a day that truly was the most “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” day, the day on which the innocent Son of God, our Savior and our King, was put to death, not for anything he had done but for your sins, for my sins, and for the sins of the whole world. What seemed a day of the greatest injustice turned out to be the day that the King accomplished justice and righteousness – when the payment of sin was satisfied, and the words “paid in full” were written in blood – the blood of Christ our King. And what do we call this “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” day? GOOD Friday! Only God could accomplish this, and thanks be to God, the King has had his day! Here in the midst of Advent, we are already thinking ahead to the purpose of our King’s first coming, when the wood of his cradle would give way to the wood of the cross. Through humble and trusting faith in this King and what he has done, we need have no fear of that great and final day when he shall come again. For the child of God who trusts in Jesus, that day will not be the “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” day. No, in Jesus this day will be a day of rejoicing and great thanksgiving as he comes to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Hebrews 9:28). Truly, the King is coming and the King will have his day!
This Third Sunday in Advent is sometimes called by its Latin name, “Gaudete,” meaning “rejoice.” And we do rejoice: not just at the coming of the Christmas holiday, but at the coming of the Christ of Christmas. And this is why we can rejoice: because of Christ our King! Rejoice! And the reason we can rejoice is that in Christ our King God himself rejoices over us, even as Zephaniah writes: “The Lord God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.