Woe to Oppressive Jerusalem

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Zephaniah 3:1-20, Isaiah 30:18, Hebrews 7:22-28

Scripture Reading: Zephaniah 3:1-20, Isaiah 30:18, Hebrews 7:22-28

“Woe to the city that is rebellious and defiled, the oppressive city!” declares Zephaniah (3:1). Woe is a scary word, isn’t it? It is a word used to indicate deep grief and calamity. It is a declaration of impending ruin, tidings of bad times to come. Who wants to talk about woeful tidings? I’d rather talk about joyful ones (Isaiah 9:6). But here in Zephaniah 3, the word woe is offered as a relief because it signals the end of injustice and the dawn of righteousness and hope.

God’s rebuke of Jerusalem centers on its inversion of justice and injustice. Leaders, prophets, and priests are supposed to uphold justice, not instigate injustice, right? But that’s just what they are guilty of, and so God’s rebuke is followed by a series of specific indictments. The rulers of the city are characterized as lions who devour, rather than shepherds who protect. The prophets are reckless, not wise. The priests are profane, not holy. And when God confronts them, their response is not repentance, but increased corruption. All of this sounds a little convicting and familiar.

But God “applies his justice morning by morning; he does not fail at dawn” (v.5). He cannot abide continuing injustice, but restores righteousness. Woe to those who persist in doing injustice! The final fulfillment of God’s promise is found in Christ, who is the true King, Prophet, and Priest—just, wise, and holy.

His restoration, however, is not only a resetting of the social order; it’s also the transformation of a people, who will be marked by pure speech and wholehearted devotion to the Lord. Their sins will be washed away, and they will walk in humility, meekness, righteousness, and truthfulness before God. On His holy mountain, they will dwell in peace and security.

The contrasting images of woeful ruin and righteous security are often hard for us to grasp simultaneously, but we find them perfectly pictured in the image of God as a warrior who saves. His warfare is the warfare both of justice and of salvation. But He is not just a warrior who saves—He is a warrior who sings. In one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible, we read:

“The LORD your God is among you,
a warrior who saves.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will be quiet in his love.
He will delight in you with singing” (v.17).

You! With all your injustices and vices, and in spite of your failings—when God looks at you, He sees Christ’s perfect righteousness. He rejoices over you with gladness, delight, and singing. Thanks be to God for both His justice and His love. Hear His faithful promises today, and let your heart be quieted and calmed by His love.

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Rebecca Faires loves the gospel story and needs it every morning when she wakes up to her five little people. Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in German from Hillsdale College, and most recently worked as the managing editor and writer at She Reads Truth. She now works from her log cabin in the hills of Tennessee, writing and illustrating books with her favorite mountain man. There she enjoys porch-sitting as it rains, reading the Oxford English Dictionary, and getting in way over her head. She is expecting her sixth baby and her first book in February of 2019.

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38 thoughts on "Woe to Oppressive Jerusalem"

  1. Mari V says:

    Let my heart be quieted and calmed by HIS LOVE! Thank you Rebecca for a wonderful devotion, I needed to hear this today. Blessings to all of you this morning!

  2. Erica Askren says:

    Thank you all for sharing.

  3. Kelly Chataine says:

    “He will delight in you with singing.” Wow, not woe. Those words mean so much more to me as a brand new grandmother. I am a sinful human being and I am able to delight in my grandson with singing. I have already created three songs that I sing to him and only Him. How much more does our perfect, holy, Creator delight in each one of us with singing. What song does He sing over me? What are the words to the song He designed just for you?
    God is so good!

  4. Michelle Worthy says:

    Amen, thank you Tina

  5. Kathy says:

    Right now there is a part of my heart that is in such despair over the state of our country – mean, hateful, and divisive. Good Christian people that I love have spewed such unloving words about the people they don’t agree with. I’m sure there were everyday, ordinary people in Israel who felt the same despair over the state of the nation. BUT, then Jesus…Thank you, God, for Jesus. Woe is defeated and hope does reign. I don’t know what is going to happen in our country. (The cynical side of me thinks nothing good.) BUT, I serve a mighty warrior King who delights over me and all His children, regardless of their political, ethnic, socioeconomic, gender…with singing. He is a warrior who saves. I will trust in Him. I will rest in His promises and His love.

    1. Brandi says:

      ❤️

    2. Kelly Belvis says:

      ❤️

  6. Churchmouse says:

    Yes, Rebecca, I too prefer glad tidings over woeful ones. And isn’t that just what we’ve been given? We can lose sight of the Glad Tidings because of the corrupt world in which we live. Woe is what we deserve. Instead we were sent a Babe, a Savior, in a manger and angels sing!! Glad tidings of great joy! Woe is defeated. Hope reigns. May we never lose sight of that. Let heaven and nature sing. Come, let us adore Him.

    1. Jane says:

      Oh, Churchmouse! I love your writings, your words always clear up
      any confusion for me and give a perspective I haven’t thought of! Thank you & pray you have a blest day!

    2. Tina says:

      Love this my friend…
      Glad tidings of great joy!
      Woe is defeated. Hope reigns..
      Yes. Yes. Yes.
      Hugs always wrapped in love…x

    3. Momtomany says:

      Thank you for your ever faithful postings here. You have so much wisdom.

    4. Sue says:

      Love this!

    5. Mari V says:

      “Wow is defeated”. Love this Churchmouse!

    6. Cynthia Johnston says:

      Thank you,Churchmouse,for your comments!

    7. Sharon Willeford says:

      Yes! I agree. Woe is deserved, yet instead we got WOW & The Greatest Ever Christmas Story!

      God sent us unconditional LOVE in a baby ♥️♥️♥️
      Grace & Mercy from our Savior.
      Hallelujah our Redeemer❣️
      In Bethlehem a chorus of glorious angels sang as Heaven rang out the news so the world would know that The Messiah, Jesus Christ the Son of God was born❣️Joy to the World as the lowly shepherds with their lambs to the wisest of men on earth bearing gifts for a King celebrated. They had followed the new star in the East that also announced our King. They also bowed to the newborn King known as The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace, Bright Morning Star, etc,

  7. Tina says:

    The LORD your God is among you,
    a warrior who saves.
    He will rejoice over you with gladness.
    He will be quiet in his love.
    He will delight in you with singing” (v.17).

    Me! With all my injustices and vices, and in spite of my failings—when God looks at Me, He sees Christ’s perfect righteousness. He rejoices over Me with gladness, delight, and singing. Thanks be to God for both His justice and His love. Let me hear, with absolute clarity and deep, deep in my heart, His faithful promises today, and let my heart be quieted and calmed by His love.
    Overwhelmed and in awe that I, the rebel and sinner that I am.. is seen so differently as Jesus covers me with Himself, by the God who sees all.. knows all.., that I the sinner, being covered by Jesus’ perfect righteousness, am being sung over by God Himself in gladness and joy..

    Overwhelmed.

    Undeserved.

    Couldn’t earn it… no matter how hard I tried..

    Thankful.

    Totally and beyond words… Thankful…

    Thankful.

    Amen.

    HAPPY WEDNESDAY!

    1. Kristen says:

      Thank you, Tina! How amazing is His love for me! I definitely don’t deserve it, but because of Christ’s sacrifice, I am accepted and not condemned, chosen and not forsaken, saved, and redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb! I should be saying Woe to me, because of the punishment I deserve! Instead I get love and grace! Forgive me God, for not always remembering what was done for me! I heard Pastor Greg Laurie explain it so well! He related it to a disabled couple that appeared in front of a judge. They couldn’t get their full disability money, because they married. They owed the landlord and we’re going to be evicted. As a judge, he knew the landlord was right, but he felt for the couple. Therefore, he left the stand, got the money, and paid the debt himself. That’s what God did for us! His message is entitled: 3 Words That Can Change Your Life. Check it out at http://www.harvest.org. May I remember Your love God every day, and drop to my knees in thanksgiving to You! Praise Your Holy Name!

    2. Rose Holland says:

      Amen! Can I share this?

    3. Carol M says:

      Good morning, Tina, churchmouse, Kelly and all of SRT Sisters…
      I was just struck with a vision of all SRT Sisters congregating in Heaven, at Jesus’ feet!! what a Glorious day that will be… Just imagine, together, hearing our beautiful love songs from our Heavenly Father!!! I’m overcome with this thought!! Love to all!!

      1. Tina says:

        What a Glorious Day indeed…!
        Until then, Hugs for now Carol xxx

    4. Dorothy says:

      Amen