I shall read from "The Mount of Blessings," page 177. We are now beginning a new chapter entitled, "Not Judging but Doing." It is based on the scripture which says, "Judge not that ye be not judged."
M.B., pg. 177 -- "The effort to earn salvation by one's own works, inevitably leads men to pile up human exactions as a barrier against sin. For, seeing that they fail to keep the law, they will devise rules and regulations of their own to force themselves to obey. All this turns the mind away from God to self. His love dies out of the heart, and with it perishes love for their fellow-men.... The atmosphere of selfish and narrow criticism stifles the noble and generous emotions, and causes men to become self-centered judges and petty spies....
"'Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.' We cannot read the heart. Ourselves faulty, we are not qualified to sit in judgment upon others. Finite men can judge only from outward appearance. To Him alone who knows the secret springs of action, and who deals tenderly and compassionately, is it given to decide the case of every soul....'"
What a wonderful lesson this reading holds for all Christians, and especially for ourselves. And now let us pray that God help us not to judge others; not to look for faults, not to make mountains out of mole hills, and not to criticize; not to set ourselves up as criterions. Let us pray that we may know that God has called us to teach the Truth, not to whip people into It. No, no more than to drive them out of It. God has asked each one to be watchman only of his own deeds. If we do this we will have our hands full; no room for more. The only watchman over His people God has ever placed are His prophets, under His Own supervision.
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We are here to study Zephaniah 2, beginning with the first verse.
Zeph. 2:1, 2 -- "Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger come upon you."
Of all the verses in this chapter, these two are the most difficult to place. Some years ago I heard a preacher give an exposition on the first three verses, isolating them from the rest of the chapter and connected them with other passages of the Scriptures. He gave an excellent discourse, and endeavored to show that the "nation" mentioned in verse 1 is God's church and that "the decree" is that of the two horned beast's of Revelation 13:15-17. The study was well presented and the thoughts he brought out looked plausible enough, but as we now know that the Scriptures cannot be rightly understood isolated from their continuity, we need to study these verses first in connection with the chapter itself.
Let us note that the nation in question is to gather
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itself together; that she is not desired; that the anger of the Lord is to fall upon her; and that she is to gather herself together before the decree brings forth and before the anger of the Lord falls upon her.
What makes this nation gather together? -- Certainly not the decree and not the Lord's anger, for these are to come upon her after she gathers together. The "decree" certainly cannot be the beast's decree, for there is not even a thought in the scripture that would so indicate; but it certainly points out that the decree is none other than the Lord's decree -- the fierce anger of the Lord in the day that passes as chaff.
According to the verse that follows, this undesirable nation's gathering together, is a sign post to God's people, urging them to continue seeking Him so much the more:
Zeph. 2:3 -- "Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought His judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger."
When this Judgment-bound nation begins to gather together then it is, if never before, that the meek of the earth need to seek meekness.
The meek of the earth are those who have wrought the Lord's judgments, who have proclaimed the message of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. They are His people, His church. The nation that is not desired, therefore, is one people, and the meek of the earth, the church, those who are hid in the day of the Lord's anger are another people. The one is gathering together, the other is seeking meekness. Definitely, then, the "nation" of verses 1 and 2 is not His
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church, but the people of verse three are His people, His church.
Let us now read verses 1 and 2 connectively with verses 4 and 5, omitting verse 3, the verse which has reference to the church.
Zeph. 2:1, 2, 4, 5 --"Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you.... For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up. Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the Word of the Lord is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant."
The fourth verse definitely implies that the "nation" is to gather together in the cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron, in the land of the Philistines, in the land of Canaan -- in Palestine.
In view of the fact that this scripture is now being unfolded, and also the fact that there is but one people, one nation (the descendants of the ancient scribes, priests, and Pharisees who rejected the Lord and who have not even to this day accepted Him, that are hardly desired anywhere in the world) that is now doing all she can to gather together in Palestine -- in view of all this, the present-day Jews are that undesired nation. Upon her, therefore, the Lord's anger is to fall if she continues to deny Christ. Yes, the universally hated Jew is the only nation that has been scattered throughout the Gentile world, and is the only one that is now gathering together in Palestine.
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Moreover, in these verses, two truths stand out clearly: (1) that in vain the Jews seek to establish themselves in the Promised Land; (2) that we who are bearing the message of the great and dreadful day of the Lord are counselled to seek meekness and righteousness, for thus only shall we "be hid in the day of the Lord's anger," that is, merely bear knowledge of the message will not save us, there should be corresponding deeds with it.
Let us now connect verse 3 with verses 6 and 7, the verses that are applicable to the people of God, the meek.
Zeph. 2:3, 6, 7 -- "Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought His judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger.... And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks. And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the Lord their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity."
Now, the fact that the Lord is to destroy all the inhabitants in the land of the Philistines (Zeph. 2:5), and at the same time make it dwellings for "shepherds, and folds for flocks," shows that He is first to drive out of the land all the wicked, all those who are not seeking meekness, then He is to set up the "house of Judah" in it.
Zeph. 2:8 -- "I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached My people, and magnified themselves against their border."
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Not only the unbelieving Jews, but also the unbelieving Arabs who resist the meek, are to be swept away from the land.
Zeph. 2:9 -- "Therefore as I live, saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of My people shall spoil them, and the remnant of My people shall possess them."
While Moab and Ammon become as Sodom and Gomorrah, go out of existence, the captivity of God's people is turned away. They become an independent nation and possess all the wealth of the people round about.
Zeph. 2:10, 11 -- "This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts. The Lord will be terrible unto them: for He will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship Him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen."
Zeph. 2:12, 13 -- "Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by My sword. And He will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness."
Zeph. 2:14 -- "And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her [in Nineveh], all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds; for He shall uncover the cedar work."
Who wants to ignore the truth that these conditions
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are definitely pre-millennial? Moreover, these prophecies show that the renewal of the ancient kingdom of Judah is to be a real thing, not something imaginary. Its subjects are to be real people, not ghosts. Now we can see that the common expression, "going to heaven," means first going to the Promised Land, there to be fitted for the society of the pure and eternal.
Zeph. 2:15 -- "This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand."
The capital city of Assyria (the power that rules the people) is to become a desolation. This Nineveh is evidently the antitype of ancient Nineveh, as is the Babylon of The Revelation the antitype of ancient Babylon.
The summary of this chapter is this: The hated Jews of today are not to be the admired Jews of tomorrow. The means which the Jews now pursue to gain admission to Palestine are not the means that would establish them there for ever even if they should succeed in getting there. The only Jews and Arabs that may remain in the land will be those who seek the Lord, the God of Moses.
And the only people that will get there are those who will stay there. The land is reserved for the kingdom of antitypical Judah. The nation and the kingdom that will not serve her "shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted." Isa. 60:12.
Since we are now definitely and directly counselled
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to seek meekness and righteousness, we dare not neglect our opportunity. Moreover, we are not left to conjecture as to what is required of us in order to prepare for the great and dreadful day of the Lord. But let us remember that if we invent barriers of our own, regulations by which automatically to force ourselves into obedience of the Word in accordance with our own preconceptions, we would be working out nothing less than our own righteousness. We must not be like the Pharisees of old, and must not judge others by our prescribed human standards. We are not to mount the judgment seat and not to encroach upon another's conscience, not to judge another in matters that lay between the soul and God. All we are called to do is to teach and practice the Truth for today, to let the people make up their own minds for or against It. We are not to force them into anything.
Let us remember that it is concerning just such a spirit and practice of intruding upon the conscience of others that Jesus said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matt. 7:1). We have no right to enforce our opinions and our views upon others. Just because others do not come up to our expectations and ideals, is by no means good reason to condemn them in order to help them. Far from it. "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God." 1 Cor. 4:5.
"...Their lives were to magnify the power of a Saviour who could justify them by His righteousness.
"But gradually a change came. The believers began to look for defects in others. Dwelling upon mistakes, giving place to unkind criticism, they lost sight of the Saviour and His love. They became more
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strict in regard to outward ceremonies, more particular about the theory than the practice of the faith. In their zeal to condemn others, they overlooked their own errors. They lost the brotherly love that Christ had enjoined, and saddest of all, they were unconscious of their loss. They did not realize that happiness and joy were going out of their lives, and that, having shut the love of God out of their hearts, they would soon walk in darkness....
"It is not the opposition of the world that most endangers the church of Christ. It is the evil cherished in the hearts of believers that works their most grievous disaster, and most surely retards the progress of God's cause. There is no surer way of weakening spirituality than by cherishing envy, suspicion, fault-finding, and evil-surmising." -- "Acts Of The Apostles," pp. 548, 549.
Aside from Ezekiel (God's mouth piece) God delegates no other to be a watchman of the people:
"Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the Word at My mouth, and give them warning from Me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness
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which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul." Eze. 3:17-21. In short, we are not to covet the throne "upon the mount...., in the sides of the north." Isa. 14:13.
And ever remember that if the Truth Itself cannot persuade the sinner to repent, force and human effort will do less good and much harm. Our time is too short and our work too great to engage in matters that are foreign to our duty. We cannot afford to waste our strength picking flaws in others. Let us get ready for the kingdom, for there is a church and a world to save, and God is anxious that we get down to business and very quickly if we are to be among the admired Jews of tomorrow and live in perfect peace under everlasting security.
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