IT’S A LONG STORY
It didn’t happen overnight; nor can all the blame or responsibility be placed upon one person or nation; however, if we view the world’s history through Bible spectacles, with the understanding that a major part of history and the role for world peace lies largely in the hands of God’s chosen people Israel, then we should realize that we can’t understand history or where the future will take us by ignoring God’s dealings with Israel.
Israel was the “apple of God’s eye” (Deut. 32:10). They were the “head” nation (Deut. 28:13) and as such, they were God’s “witnesses” (Isa. 43:10). The ball, so to speak, was in their court. It was their opportunity and calling to impact the world for God’s glory; but little by little they abdicated their responsibility and privileged position (Rom. 3:1-2; 9:3-4) in the world…because of sin and unbelief.
- Israel’s Military superiority was lost with the blinding of Samson (Jud. 16:21).
- Israel’s Political superiority was lost with the blinding of King Zedekiah (cf., Ezek. 21:25 w/ Jer. 52:11).
- Israel’s Spiritual superiority was lost with the blinding of Bar-Jesus (Acts 13:4-13).
At that time, Paul declared: “…we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46; 18:6-7; 28:28-29). The gradual growth of Gentile domination over Israel was complete. These “times of the Gentiles” (Lk. 21:24) will continue until the end of the Tribulation and Christ’s return to establish His Kingdom. Then, regenerate Israel will be restored to a place of power and glory (Isa. 2:1-5; Mic. 4:1-7).
Why ??? BECAUSE THEY HAVE SINNED AGAINST THE LORD
Our text (Zeph. 1:14-17) tells us plainly that Israel “sinned against the Lord.” It is not that the nations and peoples of the world have not sinned; of course, they have and they are accountable to God (Ps. 9:17; Prov. 14:34). Sin is man’s worst blunder; it must be punished no matter where it is found (Gal. 6:7-8). It is entirely possible that God’s judgment of the awful, wicked conditions of today’s world will prove to be the setting of the stage for the Tribulation Period – the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble.” However, the specific, pointed, simple reason for the Tribulation Period is that Israel, as God’s chosen vessel for the execution of His plan, had sinned through unbelief.
The “fire of God’s jealousy,” spoken of in our text (Vs. 18), is Israel’s “Baptism of Fire” (Mal. 3:2-3; 4:1; Mt. 3:11-12). God will use this fiery baptism to cleanse the land of sinners and to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.
Many people speak about a “Baptism of Fire” as though it were some spiritual experience to be desired for themselves and others. Well, nothing could be further from the truth! The Baptism of Fire is associated with judgment and is the Tribulation Period (Mt. 3:11; Lk. 3:16)! It would be foolish for one to pray, “O God, baptize me with the Holy Ghost and fire!” This is a foolish prayer. We are living in the Dispensation of Grace and Baptism of the Holy Spirit is already a present reality in the life of believers. However, He will baptize with fire (judgment) when He comes at the end of the Tribulation; fire means judgment. This prayer for that prayer, if answered today, would result in judgment! If that be doubted, run some Bible references to the “Day of the Lord.” It will manifestly prove just how terrible this “Time of Jacob’s Trouble” really is and how desirable it would be to avoid it.