Why? Why, why, why? That’s the deepest and hardest kind of question. Why do we ask why questions? We ask why questions because there’s deeply ingrained in us a fundamental belief that somehow life on this planet should make sense. Something deep in our souls begs for meaning and purpose. I got an e-mail recently from a fairly new Christian, someone who’s just starting to learn and grow and ask questions about God and our world. “God created all and arranged all. God loves people. Why did God kill all people except for Noah’s family? Why did God allow terrorist to kill 3,000 people on 11/9? Why doesn’t God eliminate all bad things and leave only good things for people?” (Robin’s e-mail). He is like us, searching for meaning, trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense. Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Why does God allow bad things at all? Why? Habakkuk is our brother, he’s one of us. He asks why questions.
The first thing the first speaker said was that there’s not a single functional family in the entire Bible, not one. Every home we encounter in the Bible is dysfunctional. Sin has laid waste to every human family and all of us come from broken homes, some more than others, but all broken. And that definitely includes the one I came from and the one I created and have. Nothing like traveling 2300 miles with a couple of sons to remind a dad of his sins and the sins he has passed down from one generation to another. Without a doubt the most painful experiences of my life are seeing my sins in the mirror of my sons. What I want to do this morning is say some things I wish I had heard 30 years ago and not just heard but taken to heart and put into practice. If we want to know what fatherhood looks like and sounds like and smells like and tastes like, we should turn to the original designer, the first architect, the best example and model and look in the book He wrote. I’m serious about this. The older I get and the more I read and study the Bible the more amazed I am at how it really does have the answer to all of life’s questions and issues. It’s the most supremely practical book. It contains God’s wisdom for doing life. If there is a question we need to know the answer to, that answer will be found in Scripture. Scripture teaches us everything we need to know about fathering and mothering. When you boil it down to the basics, fathering and mothering is love and correction, tender and tough, grace and guidance, delight and discipline. That’s what I want to focus on this morning and the next time I preach, delight and discipline, or pleasure and pain. From Scripture I want to show every father here these two aspects of godly, Biblical, masculine fatherhood. By the way, this has broader application beyond sons and daughters, to grandsons and granddaughters, nieces and nephews, and to all the children we relate to in this covenant community. This morning we will stop with the first half of what I am calling the pleasure and pain of fatherhood, or the delight and discipline of being a dad.
I am taking a bit of liberty with Mark and skipping a passage in order to preach on Jesus sending out the twelve apostles on this Sunday when we ordain and install new elders and deacons. I will return to the first part of Mark 6 in July. Our purpose here this morning is to exposit this text, meaning to dig out the meaning of it and to do so in a way that finds the implications and applications for us today. We don’t just want to look at the foundation and build nothing. And we don’t want to just focus on building something nice without being sure it’s well grounded in the truth of God’s Word. As we work through this text I am especially aware that it has application for pastors, elders and deacons, past, present and future. But there are also applications here for all of us. In Mark 3 we read about Jesus going out to a mountain and praying all night for the selection of the twelve apostles.
Zephaniah begins with the longest genealogy of any prophet in the Bible. He traces his ancestry back to his great-great-grandfather, Hezekiah, king of Judah. So finally we have a prophet who is a somebody, a descendent of royalty, a true blue blood. Zephaniah prophesied during the time of the good king Josiah (640-609BC). He seems to be writing from Jerusalem, he has intimate knowledge of the city (1:4, 10-11). I wonder if people were expecting more of a party line from him, something more favorable to those in leadership, something that would tickle the ears of the political and religious powers. The first sentence out of his mouth dispelled every such foolish notion. “I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth.” And then as if that wasn’t enough, he ups the ante in verse 8, “I will punish the officials and the king’s sons.” Zephaniah was a contemporary of Habakkuk and Jeremiah, maybe just before Jeremiah. That means that they had the saddest of all the prophecies. Zephaniah and Jeremiah were called upon by God to announce the last warnings and final appeals to His remnant people in Judah, the southern kingdom, before God’s judgment came upon them. Zephaniah and Jeremiah both lived to see the fall of Jerusalem and the fall of the temple of God, the great temple that Solomon built. They saw the great and terrible day of the Lord in their own time and land. This book of Zephaniah has been called the whole OT in miniature. The OT is pregnant with the gospel, the OT is great with gospel. And the prophets are toward the end of the pregnancy. In the prophets things start getting clearer, both the bad news and the good news. Zephaniah is especially full of gospel. It begins with the most sober announcement of our sin against God. Then comes the announcement of judgment on our sin. Then finally comes the good news of mercy, hope for sinners. Zephaniah begins with no hope, then a glimmer of hope and finally a full display of a glorious hope. Zephaniah is the tale of two days, two days of the Lord, a day of judgment and a day of jubilee.
I read this week that down in the Silicon Valley the Porsche showrooms are empty. Penthouses and mansions are being snatched up for hundreds of thousands of dollars over list. Facebook billionaires and millionaires are on a huge spending spree. Life is good right now. But what about that day when their soul is required of them? What good will their money do them then? Jairus was the ruler of the synagogue, a high ranking official, he was somebody important. But status and rank didn’t insulate him from trouble. No one is beyond the reach of pain and sorrow.