Summary: The prevailing theme of Zephaniah’s prophetic message (610/15BC) is of coming judgement, the Day of the Lord. Which is two sided it brings punishment but it also brings praise and hope to a remnant of Gods people.
Zephaniah 3:1-8 Judgement upon Jerusalem and its officials
(1) Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah (640-602 BC) who was 8 years old when he began his reign and reigned for 31 years, he was a pious king who brought much reforms to Judah around 620 onwards ( 2Kings; 22:1-23; 2 Chr 34:1-35; Jer 1:2). But even his pious actions were not able to revert Gods judgement upon the southern kingdom of Judah its capital Jerusalem and its officials and inhabitants.
At this point in history the Northern kingdom is already exiled 722BC. So when Israel is mentioned in this book it refers (2:9, 3:13-15) to the remaining southern Kingdom of Israel which is Judah and its capital Jerusalem (1:4).
The prevailing theme of Zephaniah’s prophetic message (610/15BC) is of coming judgement, the Day of the Lord. Which is two sided it brings punishment but it also brings praise and hope to a remnant of Gods people.
Introduction & Background recap In spite of the pressures of the surrounding nations and the pious reforms of Josiah, which probably came too late, the people of Judah as a nation are refusing to return to her own covenant obligations towards God.
Through the prophet Zephaniah, God clarifies that the judgment that is coming before the surrounding nations (2:4-15), will also come before Judah and its capital Jerusalem (3:1-8) with devastating effect against those who continue to sin against God. Judah and its capital Jerusalem have shown herself sinful, and God is calling for her punishment, yet for the truly repentant there will be relief (2:3)
Zephaniah 3:1-8 Judgement on Jerusalem and its officials
Zephaniah is a lone voice ( in a time when the official prophets, priests, and civic officials have it all sown up and are the only the voices that count).
In this section of scripture Zephanaiah moves his attention away from the surrounding nations and dupon Jerusalem. He has cleverly drawn the people of Israel into his rhetorical argument of judgement upon the nations (2:4-18) because they agree wholeheartedly about their pagan neighbours and long time foes, they should be punished, but like an armoured tanks artillery barrel has now moved 180 degrees and is pointing right towards them in the capital of Jerusalem
They are totally oblivious to the fact ( what faced Nineveh, the Northern Kingdom) will face them. Its not until we enter into (v2) do we see it the sins of Gods people against Yahweh. Gods people will not come out unscathed on the day of the Lord if they sin (1-4) and are shameless (v5) they will be held accountable , especially if they lack repentance (6-7).
• Reminded of Jesus words as he taught the sermon on the mount to the disciples and the multitudes who had gathered Luke 6:42 about Judgement upon others; Before you take the speck out of your brothers eye you need to take the plank out of your own eye. (Luke 6:42)
1. The prophet diagnoses Jerusalem’s sinful condition v 1 -2
Jerusalem was to be a model city the capital of the covenant nation of God singled out a as a model of godly holiness and faithfulness in a Pagan world, instead its acting worst than her pagan neighbours, Jerusalem was sick and the prophet like a doctor on a house call diagnosis Jerusalem’s sinful condition (Yet Gods professing people are oblivious).
• V1 Jerusalem is rebellious; their hearts are rebellious, rebelling against God and his covenant (Jer: 4:17, 5:23) A covenant was made between God and Israel it was conditional upon their obedience they will be blessed, upon their disobedience judgement beckons (5:3-5). They failed to circumcise their hearts (4:4),
• V1 Jerusalem is defiled; rather than being a faithful holy and pure place she has become ritually polluted (Mal 1:7 offering polluted sacrifices ) through the sins of idolatry, syncretism & covenant breaking, Gods law: (Isa 59:3) hand defiled with blood, finger of iniquity, lips spoken lies, tongues that mutter wickedness
• V1 Jerusalem is oppressive; rather than nurturing the people how God intended it has become brutal and overbearing place (Jer 25:38) As a consequence a greater oppressor shall come fupon them
• V2 Jerusalem fails to listen and learn: when God’s prophets speak she fails to listen and learn as she will not accept any correction (Isa 30:8-12, read out) through his mighty acts in history of their nation (Isa 1:5-9,Jer:5:3) What voices are we listening too? Are we listening & applying the truth of God’s Word or do we desire to hear smooth words?
• V2 Jerusalem trust is misplaced: they fail to trust in the Lord the giver of the covenant promises, they fail to draw near to God. Rather trusting in themselves and all that is false.
• Consider our own condition do we manifest any of these symptoms? Recap above