The LORD Your God in Your Midst: Woe to Her (3:1-2)

The LORD, the Mighty One

Gentle Reader,

Thank you for indulging me during a much-needed hiatus. I am feeling more like myself at the beginning of this final week of October. The exhaustion that nearly took me out served as a good reminder. God has not asked me to do all the things. He’s only asked me to do what He’s asked me to do. There is a difference.

Getting Back to the Scene

We are stepping into the third chapter of Zephaniah. We have read judgments on the people of God and judgments on the nations that raged against the people of God. We have learned that the Lord takes sin seriously. He is gracious, patient and ever-loving, but there comes a time when the clock runs out. The people have refused to heed His warnings. They have not listened to the prophets He sent them. They have continued on down their own path, doing their own thing. God, bound by the honesty of His character, is moved to act, just as He said He would (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted,
To the oppressing city!
She has not obeyed His voice,
She has not received correction;
She has not trusted in the Lord,
She has not drawn near to her God.

– Zephaniah 3:1-2 (NKJV)

Just a Picture

The city of Jerusalem is cast as a woman here. This doesn’t mean that God is anti-woman. This does not mean that women sin more than men. This is simply a picture of God’s relationship with His people, men and women alike. Such imagrey is abundant in both the Old and New Testaments. Those in covenant with God are often spoken of as “wife” (Israel) and “bride” (the Church).

The wife:

“I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In lovingkindness and mercy;
I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the LORD.”

– Hosea 2:19-20 (NKJV)

The bride:

And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”

– Revelation 19:7-9 (NKJV)

God uses human terms to explain great mysteries to us. Everyone understands what marriage is. We know what that looks like. Yet, as He so often does, He takes what we know and turns it on its head. Consider:

As a rule, the fathers arranged the match. The girl was consulted, but the “calling of the damsel and inquiring at her mouth” after the conclusion of all negotiations was merely a formality.

In those days a father was more concerned about the marriage of his sons than about the marriage of his daughters. No expense was involved in marrying off a daughter. The father received a dowry for his daughter whereas he had to give a dowry to the prospective father-in-law of his son when marrying him off. (1)

The Father has indeed arranged the match – and that arranging involved Him paying the highest of costs. He receives no payment in return, for there is nothing we can give Him that matches the expense. Nor does He force anyone to enter into the relationship. He respects the voice and choice of the individual.

(As an aside, those who complain in articles and books about the “feminization of the church” should probably take it up with God, since since the whole thing was His idea).

Not Listening

Instead of being holy, the city was filthy and polluted because of shameful sin; and instead of bringing peace (Jerusalem means “city of peace”), the city was guilty of rebellion and oppression. God gave His people to revelation of Himself in His word and His mighty acts, yet they didn’t believe Him or seek Him. (2)

The NKJV renders the Hebrew shâma‛ of verse two as “obey,” but within the imagery of a marriage relationship God is using as He speaks through the prophet, the NASB “heeded” (“she heeded no voice”) is a better translation choice. Scripture teaches that children are to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1) but nowhere does it teach that wives are to obey their husbands. (This is, of course, where the imagery breaks down some, for we are required to obey the Lord).

The point here is not, “Hey! You women! Pay attention. You should be obeying your husbands.” Instead, the point is that God’s people weren’t listening to Him. They had access to His word. They knew how they were supposed to live. They knew what they were supposed to avoid and what the rhythm of life was to be. It is as if they stuck their fingers in their ears and screamed, “I’m not listening! I’m not listening!”

God is ever-speaking, even when He seems silent. In fact, the silence is often an answer, a way of communicating. He is the husband who always has the best interests of His wife at heart. He never does anything out of a desire to harm. He doesn’t try to squash His wife’s spirit. He only wants His wife to live within the protective boundaries He has designed.

“I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,” says the Lord GOD.

– Ezekiel 16:10-14 (NKJV)

Not Correction

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor detest His correction;
For whom the LORD loves He corrects,
Just as a father the son in whom he delights.

– Proverbs 3:11-12 (NKJV)

They were not listening, so they could not – would not – receive the discipline that justly came their way in the form of: increasingly harsh and gloomy words from the prophets, growing political turmoil, disease, famine and general turmoil.

“But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it. You took some of your garments and adorned multicolored high places for yourself, and played the harlot on them. Such things should not happen, nor be. You have also taken your beautiful jewelry from My gold and My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images and played the harlot with them. You took your embroidered garments and covered them, and you set My oil and My incense before them. Also My food which I gave you—the pastry of fine flour, oil, and honey which I fed you—you set it before them as sweet incense; and so it was,” says the Lord GOD… “You built your high places at the head of every road, and made your beauty to be abhorred. You offered yourself to everyone who passed by, and multiplied your acts of harlotry.”

– Ezekiel 16:15-19, 25 (NKJV)

Instead of clinging to the Lord, the people attached themselves to foreign gods, foreign ways of living, foreign alliances. They filled their ears with noise and their days with busyness in order to avoid what they must have somehow, somewhere deep inside, sensed was coming.

Not Trusted in the Lord

He encouraged her to depend upon him, and His power and promise, for deliverance from evil and supply with good; but she trusted not in the Lord; her confidence was placed in her alliances with the nations more than in her covenant with God. (3)

Remember that “whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4, NKJV). We are in no position to judge the Israelites, who so badly wanted to be like everyone else, for this is all too often our own temptation.

Their struggle to trust in the Lord began even before they left Egypt. God was in the middle of rescuing them, of shaping them into a new people, a nation set apart for His glory, and they doubted. They complained. They whined. They made a golden calf to worship (well, according to Aaron it just sort of appeared on its own – Exodus 32:22-24). God didn’t choose the Israelites because they had their stuff together and were super-impressive. He chose them because He wanted to, despite all of their issues.

They just couldn’t seem to collectively and consistently choose Him in return.

Not Drawn Near

He gave her tokens of his presence, and instituted ordinances of communion for her with himself; but she drew not near to her God, did not meet him where he appointed and where he promised to meet her. She stood at a distance, and said to the Almighty, “Depart.” (4)

No listening, no discipline, no trust.

How quick a descent it is into the ice bath that turns the heart frigid.

There is no way to draw near to the Lord, to love Him, without listening. Without accepting His correction. Without trusting in Him. The people of Zephaniah’s day could no more relegate God to the side, sprinkle a little holy on their lives and be about their merry way, than we can.

And so I wonder. Could God possibly be speaking these same words to His bride today?

She has not obeyed…

She has not received correction…

She has no trusted…

She has not drawn near…


I cannot help but take these verses personally. They roll around in my mind, exposing things I would rather remain hidden. I invite you to spend some time in thought along with me. As always, don’t head directly for condemnation as you ponder these questions. Allow them instead to bring you closer to the Lord.

  1. How are you disobeying God?
  2. In what areas are you refusing to accept His correction?
  3. Do you truly trust God?
  4. Are you drawing near to Him?



(1) Ancient Jewish Marriage

(2) Warren Weirsbe. Be Concerned: Minor Prophets. (David C. Cook: Colorado Springs, 1996), 156.

(3) Matthew Henry’s Commentary (under the “study this” tab)

(4) Ibid.

For all entries in The LORD Your God in Your Midst series, go here.

A Change is Gonna Come


Gentle Reader,

I’ve made no secret of my fascination with politics and my particular interest in (alarm over?) the upcoming presidential election. A love of history and news combined with hearing from both parents and teachers that it is a privilege and a duty to participate in the democratic process pretty much guaranteed that I would be a political nerd.

But I’m beginning to wonder if the Amish and Mennonites don’t have it right.

There’s no hard rule that I’ve been able to find that dictates non-voting for all Amish or Mennonite groups, but from what I understand they generally avoid the ballot box. This is based in the idea of “two kingdoms,” the worldly and the spiritual; while the worldly government is to be respected, Christians are to adhere to the laws of the spiritual kingdom, even if those laws bring them into direct conflict with the worldly kingdom.

I was first exposed to the “two kingdoms” doctrine as a young teenager, when I listened to a radio dramatization of the life of Deitrich Bonhoeffer. It took root in me deeply. I do believe that Christians should respect governmental authorities, but I also believe that our first and lasting allegiance must be to God. We must do as He says, even if this winds up meaning jail-time or death (as so many of our brothers and sisters in other, less comfortable countries experience today). I believe that following Christ will almost inevitably lead to civil disobedience in one way or another.

I have publicly stated that I will be voting for Gary Johnson, as he is essentially a moderate. I do not agree with all of his positions, but I am a moderate as well. I hold stances that are both “conservative” and “liberal.” The two major parties are basically the same at this point, wrapped up in a gridlock that does this country no good. It’s time our officials, who supposedly work for us, look past these allegiances and begin listening to each other. A president that is beholden to neither side of the aisle may help to accomplish this.

And yet…I grow increasingly uncomfortable filling in that bubble and sliding that sheet into the closed-topped blue box and hearing the election volunteer somberly announce that “Marie Gregg has voted.” With a little over two weeks before that momentous day, I wonder if I will vote at all.

If I do, I have a strong sense that this will be the last time.

The “Christianization” of society will not be achieved through votes or laws or strategy. In fact, this will never be achieved at all. Point blank: Read the Bible, people. Get over your laziness and your anti-intellectualism and start studying. Further, take a look at some world history. There never has been and there never will be any such thing as a “Christian nation,” either here in America or anywhere else. It is a concept not taught anywhere in Scripture.

Does America need to be made great again? Is it great already? Does America need to be saved?

Should we not be more concerned about those who may drown in a foundering ship of state than we are about plugging the ship’s holes? Should we not be busily engaged in throwing out life preservers to the passengers than in attempting to become the captain(s)?

I don’t know if I can in good conscience participate in this or any other election going forward. I really don’t. Something deep within, the strong heart-fluttering feeling I have come to recognize as the movement of the Holy Spirit, whispers that my eyes need not be on the person in the Oval Office but rather on the One who sits on the throne. That I must be about His business.

Is His business to overturn Roe v. Wade or is it to quietly invest in the life of woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant?

Is His business to worry about “religious rights” or is it to share the Gospel, heedless of the cost?

I leave you with these words from the apostle. Wrestle with them as I am.

…you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

– 1 Peter 2:9-17 (NKJV)

God, grant Your people wisdom.

Grant me wisdom.


Addendum: I couldn’t figure out how to fit this into the above, but I am hearing some say that, if Clinton is elected, that all those who do not vote for Trump are guilty of everything that happens following. This is both straying very close to idolatry (if not outright engaging in it) and straight-up illogical reasoning. Please, do abandon this line with all haste. Neither Clinton or Trump is the savior of the country or any person in it. Nobody is guilty of anything Clinton or Trump does, says, feels, thinks or believes other than Clinton and Trump.

They Call Us “Hypocrites” – They are Not Wrong


Gentle Reader,

My people.


What does the word even mean anymore?

Today, instead of pointing to those who are given over to the spreading of the Good News, the term appears to equate with jackassesHypocrites. Devastatingly so.

I’ll get to the point: If you are using David’s or Solomon’s adultery to excuse Donald Trump’s words and behavior, then you are wrong. You do not have a hermeneutical leg to stand on.

Does God forgive unreservedly all who ask in sincerity? Yes. Of course. No doubt.

This does NOT mean that there are no consequences.

Let’s look at David and the aftermath of his infamous affair with Bathsheba.

Consider the opening verses of Psalm 51:

Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

– vs. 1-2 (NKJV)

Contrast them with:

‘Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.'”

– 2 Samuel 12:10-12 (NKJV)

God did indeed forgive David.

But he lived out the rest of his days in strife.

Here’s a little Interpretation 101: Just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t mean that God is okay with it. What the honesty of Scripture reveals is the honesty of God. He inspired the authors to present the sweeping story in all of its terribleness. The breadth and depth of human depravity is on full display, showing our inability to self-correct and achieve righteousness. Against this dark backdrop splashes the pure brilliance of the Savior.

Mr. Trump has lived a life devoid of respect for others, particularly women. Edit: My friend Andrew pointed out the danger of generalizations. We do not know every thought Mr. Trump has ever had, every action he’s ever taken. My comment is based only on how Mr. Trump has chosen to present himself to the public. He has at least appeared to take great delight in shocking and demeaning others. Can this be corrected? Can his heart be changed? Can the same Jesus who saved me save Him? Absolutely.

Yet there are consequences. Lifelong ones, even. For as “they” say, whoever “they” are, sins always find us out. Those who cry that Mrs. Clinton should be charged for her crimes would do well to seriously ponder their defense of Mr. Trump. If her actions follow her, then so do his. If her character is attested to in every action and comment, then so is his. There cannot, should not, be a double standard.

Here’s what we’re really getting down to: a lust for power. Church leaders who continue to uncritically back Mr. Trump, sling mud at Mrs. Clinton and engage in fear-mongering over Supreme Court justices have lost sight of what the mission truly is:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)

Jesus does not say, “Be sure to vote for a candidate who might appoint justices who can possibly get through a Senate hearing so that Roe v. Wade will maybe be overturned.” He does not say, “Make sure that you do all that you can to ensure your political power and influence.”

None of that.

He speaks the above words to men and women who will immediately experience persecution for their obedience:

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

– John 15:18-19 (NKJV)

Jesus does not say, “Yes, do be afraid. Do worry about what will happen if someone you don’t like is elected to the position of President. Do lament and sigh with great woe. Do wring your hands.”

What is that you want, you who claim the name of Christ? To be the loudest voice in a screaming world? To place a thin veneer of morality over society, expecting those who do not have the Spirit of the Living God within to behave as if they do? If you choose to be a single-issue voter or a person who casts a ballot out of fear, that’s all you can hope to achieve – and that is not an achievement at all.

Or do you want to cast yourself fully upon the sovereignty of God, knowing that you do not belong to this world? Knowing that you are a pilgrim? Knowing that you have a job to do, and that you cannot complete it through natural means? Knowing that you are called to fix your eyes upon Jesus, no matter how the storm rages or how the environment shifts or how hostile people become?

If at the end of the day you wish to vote for Mr. Trump, then do. If you find his proposed policies and philosophies of government sound, then check that box. But please stop believing that he is anymore “moral” a choice than the others. He is not. Stop believing that the GOP is the “party of God.” It is not.

As this incident unfolds, I am appalled by the attitude of those who call themselves evangelical Christians. Again, God can and does forgive. We should hope and pray that Mr. Trump has genuinely repented. At the same time, our response to this should not be the error of eisegesis, to read into the Bible conclusions we have already made, to assume that “because David did it,” all is well. Our response should not be unflinching defense of this or any other candidate. Our response should not be to deflect and say, “But look at what Clinton did!”

And certainly our response should not be, “All men talk like that.”

They categorically do not, and no woman is required to put up with those who do.

Either we care about character or we do not. Either we focus on the Gospel or we focus on clawing and scraping for societal domination. The choice is ours to make. And it is a choice. A binary. This road or that.

We cannot travel both.

We cannot hold onto the world with one hand and hold onto God with the other.

We must do better.


Addendum: I know that someone is going to cry “foul” because I plan to vote for Gary Johnson and he clearly holds some positions that are contrary to Scripture. I do not pretend that Mr. Johnson is a perfect candidate and I do not pretend to agree with him on every issue. I choose Mr. Johnson because I find him to be the sanest candidate in an insane election cycle, even after the “Aleppo gaffe” and the “tongue thing.” I choose Mr. Johnson because, as a for-the-most-part Libertarian, I do not believe that it is the job of government to do what the Church is meant to do. I choose Mr. Johnson because the two-party system is irrevocably broken. I choose Mr. Johnson because I refuse to “vote strategically,” for that method simply doesn’t work. For more on this topic, please see “Laws & Hearts.”

If you are interested in reading an excellent argument for Evan McMullin, please see this.